A FEW YEARS BACK, SURE, there was concern about plastics in the ocean, but there are so many environmental concerns for all of us to think about that ocean plastic wasn’t near the top of the list. Fast forward to 2018, when a heart-breaking video of a turtle with a straw injury went viral and somehow the whole country sat up and paid attention. To the surprise of the young marine biologist who shot the video, the issue of straws and ocean wildlife became one of the biggest environmental concerns of interest last year. So much so that companies as large as Starbucks are now taking action to ban plastic straws completely by 2020.
With all the hubbub over plastic straws, we’re wondering what’s next for the issue of plastic pollution and the ocean. One organization we’ve been following on the topic is making great strides toward ocean conservation by working closely with those who love the ocean in a deeply personal way: divers.
PADI is the world’s leading scuba diver training organization and their commitment to environmental conservation is not just admirable, but absolutely essential to sustaining the work that they do.
A Few Facts On Plastics In The Ocean…
300 MILLION TONS. Some 299 million tons of plastic were reportedly produced in 2013 — official reports vary, but the numbers have only increased since then. And recent studies estimate that as much as 250 million metric tons of plastic could make its way into the ocean by 2025.
TRASH CLASH. According to NPR’s Christopher Joyce, America has been selling millions of tons of used plastic waste to China for years. That trash was meant to be recycled. “Some 70 percent of the world’s plastic waste went to China — about 7 million tons a year,” said Joyce. “But last year the Chinese government dropped a bombshell on the world recycling business: it cut back almost all imports of trash. Now, a lot of that plastic gets shipped to other countries that don’t have the capacity to recycle it or dispose of it safely.”
ENDANGERED OCEAN WILDLIFE. Endangered wildlife like Hawaiian monk seals and Pacific loggerhead sea turtles are among nearly 700 species that eat and get caught in plastic litter each year.
PLASTIC IN SEAFOOD. In addition to environmental and wildlife damage, fish that ingest plastic can also cause harm to people who consume marine food. Plastic contains chemical substances that are hazardous when consumed. Even with impeccable sourcing, there is a high chance that fish that have been exposed to these harmful substances might find their way onto our plates. Studies have found that toxins in plastics cause an array of health issues including immune system problems and chronic illness.
What Does PADI do?
There are more than 6,600 PADI Dive Centers and Resorts in 186 countries, many of which support local and global conservation efforts for coral reefs, marine life and ocean health. The 137,000 PADI professionals and instructors around the world issue 1 million diver certifications each year, and are passionately sharing the organization’s values of environmental protection.
Throughout its long history, PADI has demonstrated a commitment to be a force for good by helping protect and preserve the ocean. At its core, the organization’s Pillars of Change℠ make up the framework for PADI’s corporate ethos from its course offerings to collaborations, events and dive education opportunities that enable divers to take real and tangible action.
The organization’s focus on conservation is exciting to see. Last month, PADI hosted Women’s Dive Day, an international celebration that promotes the conservation, preservation and restoration of ocean ecosystems. Providing an all-inclusive platform that has recognized and championed women who are historically under-represented in diving, Women’s Dive Day was celebrated at nearly 800 events around the globe, and provided an opportunity forfor all divers to unite their collective love for the ocean to inspire positive action on land and underwater.
How Divers Can Support Ocean Conservation
get involved in underwater cleanups. On June 15, 2019, PADI, Project AWARE, local dive centers and the dive community came together to take part in the Guinness World Record for the largest underwater cleanup event in Deerfield Beach, Florida. During the event hosted by PADI Five Star Dive Center Dixie Divers, 633 divers removed 9,000 pieces of marine debris, including 3,200 pounds of fishing gear and other plastics in the ocean, from the Deerfield Beach coastline. The dive community helped break the previous record held by Ahmed Gabr, who organized 614 scuba divers for a cleanup in Egypt on June 5, 2015.
PADI Dive Centers and Resorts regularly host cleanup events and lead Dives Against Debris. By taking part, you’ll not only remove harmful trash from the ocean, but also provide valuable data about plastic pollution to affect policy change and identify target areas where waste-prevention efforts are needed most. AWARE Week, September 14-22, 2019, provides an opportunity for ocean lovers around the world to join together for conservation activities and courses focused on tackling ocean pollution, raising awareness about marine plastics and empowering local communities to take positive actions for a healthier ocean.
visit eco-friendly dive destinations. New and experienced divers can find a wide variety of diving trips through PADI Travel, PADI’s global platform that hosts the largest selections of liveaboards and dive resorts in the market. PADI Travel offers eco-friendly adventure options for travelers to continue environmental and ocean conservation efforts, including trips focused on citizen science, reef restoration, marine animal research and education.
STAY INFORMED. Divers have a unique perspective, being able to personally witness the impacts we have on ocean environments, both the good and the bad. By understanding current issues affecting our ocean planet, we can get engaged, initiate conversations and educate others about what we see and know below the surface. We can make informed choices about how we live our lives.
How To Get Involved With The Issue
MAKE SUSTAINABLE CHOICES. Choose products that lessen our impact on the environment, like these from PADI Loves. Replace plastic water bottles with ones that are tempered glass or stainless steel. Ditch drinking straws or try toting along with a glass or metal reusable straw. According to Project AWARE, plastic bottles, food wrappers, bags and eating utensils are all on the list of top 10 items collected in underwater cleanups in 2018. The NRDC reports 80 percent of marine litter originates on land and is swept into waterways via storm drains and sewer overflows during heavy rain.
NEVER USE PRODUCTS CONTAINING MICROBEADS. Microbeads are tiny plastic pellets found in beauty products and household cleaners. The filters at water treatment plants can’t capture them because they’re too small, so they end up in our oceans and waterways. The microbeads are subsequently ingested by marine life (including fish, oysters and other animals that are later consumed by humans). For natural scrubbing power, choose products with oatmeal or baking soda instead.
IF YOU’RE NOT ALREADY, BECOME A DIVER. Learning to scuba dive will change the way you see the world, both above and below the surface. Diving allows you to witness the incredible biodiversity of the planet’s waters and truly understand the importance of ocean conservation. Once you experience the underwater world many never get to see, you’ll approach life with an entirely new perspective. From underwater clean-ups to coral reef plantings, there are ample opportunities to give back to our planet as a diver and build deeper connections with the ocean and the life within.