Updated: Dec 2, 2022
As an scuba instructor you are teaching people to dive but also to love and respect the sea. Here are a few reasons why it's a great idea to teach conservation specialities. If you are planning to take the PADI IDC and are looking at gaining some specialty ratings, why not consider courses such as Project Aware or Dive Against Debris?
The Importance of Coral reefs
Most divers are well aware of the importance of protecting and saving coral reefs for the sole(?) (selfish?) purpose of loving to dive on them and seeing their inhabitants and pelagic visitors. As human beings, we actually also depend on them for our survival for some of these reasons:
they protect our coasts,
they have an important but as yet well-undervalued role in Co2 sequestration and nitrogen-fixing,
they provide habitat for 25 per cent of all marine species,
they provide nitrogen and essential nutrients for many marine food chains,
they provide a food source for countless coastal communities,
they are becoming an important resource in medical science… and much more.
Reefs are also extremely important for our economies, not only for the scuba diving industry and connected tourism industry that supports millions of livelihoods worldwide but also for the fisheries industry.
Coral reefs are also a thing of wonder and must be protected for their intrinsic beauty and spiritual value.
The threats to the reef
The coral reefs of our planet are deteriorating a little every year. The main threats reefs face are:
Coral bleaching events from changes in water temperatures due to climate change
Physical damage from destructive fishing practices, dredging, construction, land reclamation, anchor damage, etc.
Pollution, from trash to chemicals to sedimentation and more
Overfishing, disruption to the normal ecosystem equilibrium and altering of the food chain by removing some species
As an instructor, you are an ambassador for our oceans
As an instructor, you are not only well aware of the intrinsic beauty of the reef- after all, it’s part of your job to share your passion and awe for the marine environment- you are also in a very special position to be able to share your love and raise awareness as an ambassador for the worlds’ oceans. You may even be experiencing first-hand the deterioration of the reef. On debriefs, you will already be teaching people many facts about marine creatures; so why not take it a step further and start teaching people more in-depth about reef ecosystems and the threats they face. Your divers will in turn become ambassadors for ocean conservation.
What training materials and educational support are available to help you teach your divers about marine conservation?
Project Aware has a number of specialities you can teach from general info about the ocean planet, to reef conservation, to underwater clean-ups and the great part is that the instructor rating for several of them comes free with your OWSI rating. For student divers, many of the courses can be done dry so this may be one to consider if conditions don’t allow diving or if divers want to get stuck in before they do a course or keep the dream alive on coming home. Reef check also offers a very easy and fun monitoring method training that can be used around the world, like PADI, they have standardised the method completely. You can do reef monitoring with a structure anywhere in the world or even start doing your own monitoring and enter your data directly to the website, the beauty of citizen science. Here is a quick presentation of the courses on offer in Nusa Penida (that can also be done in a living room!).
This course can be done over 1 day with 2 dives and teach your students basic facts about shark biology and conservation. It is a great tool to raise awareness about the threats the sharks' population is facing everywhere.
Aware Coral Reef conservation
Coral reefs are amongst the richest ecosystems on earth and much-loved destinations for divers. This course which you can do from home, at any age, without in-water sessions, teaches how these complex ecological units function as well as their importance for the rest of the oceans' inhabitants and us humans. You will also look into the threats the world’s reefs face and how you can take on a more active role as a diver and ocean ambassador to help protect this fragile yet incredibly important ecosystem. This course is a great eye-opener on the mysteries of the reef and all its wonders, it comes with a great reference book and includes a power point presentation.
Dive Against Debris
Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to the health of the world’s oceans. This course will educate you on the grim reality of plastic waste in our seas but also show you some of the things you can do in your daily life to reduce your personal footprint; you will also learn to do reef/ underwater clean-ups safely and how to analyse the rubbish you pick up and enter it into the project aware database to be used by scientists for a greater understanding of these issues(types and localisation of trash in the ocean) and as data to support political change.
Reef Check‘s mission is to keep a database of the state and evolution of the world’s coral reefs. To do this they rely on citizen science, which means you and me and any lay person with an interest in coral reef conservation. The short 3-day course will go over the essential knowledge of coral reef ecology and introduce the concept of indicator species, which animals are indicators and how to recognise them, as well as how to input the data you collect into the worldwide database. You’ll get some hands-on training in the sea too. Once certified as an eco diver, you can monitor your favourite dive site on a regular basis and/or can join Reef Check teams around the world.
Understanding means caring, caring stimulates action
The reason it’s so important for divers to understand our oceans, their fragile ecosystems, incredible beauty and the threats they face is that the more people understand, the more they care and get involved in conservation. If more people take action, in their everyday life, in activist events and at the polling stations, there will be a more positive change in the way we treat our oceans and we can helpfully slow or even stop the damage our seas undergo every day.
As a dive instructor, your mission is also to be an advocate of ocean's conservation!