DIVE AGAINST DEBRIS was launched in 2011 by Project AWARE. A global survey of underwater rubbish in our ocean created for divers by divers that will help drive real change.
Divers have a proud history of removing rubbish from the ocean. Once removed it can no longer harm marine life or the environment. As divers, we are ambassadors for the ocean and we have the ability to make a difference.
When I first learnt to dive I saw my Open Water Instructor picking up garbage and from that moment I’ve been collecting rubbish ever since. It’s always what I’ve done on nearly every dive!
The ocean covers two thirds of our planet and encompasses a diverse range of habitats. We are the oceans guests and we should treat it with the respect that it deserves.
But the risk to this paradise and our little paradise of Koh Tao is increasing at an alarming rate as discarded rubbish is turning our once-pristine reefs into trash sites.
When it comes to marine debris, the adage “out of sight, out of mind” has never sounded more true. Hidden below the surface, the extent and devastating results of the problem remain invisible to many people.
As divers and ambassadors, we should protect what we love. We travel thousands of miles across the world to appreciate this vast underwater world and the incredible creatures that call it home so it’s time to make a difference with Project AWARE, Dive Against Debris.
Marine Debris is rubbish, trash, litter. Humans are the source of all marine debris either through accident, carelessness or purposeful dumping.
Many of our waste products, including plastics are not biodegradable, instead they break down into smaller pieces that remain a danger to marine life as they are easily mistaken for food.
Research has now shown that marine debris affects 693 different marine species. All known sea turtle species over half marine mammal species and almost two thirds of all seabird species have ingested or become entangled in marine debris.
Many deaths happen when animals and birds eat marine debris. Debris can choke an animal. If multiple pieces of debris have been swallowed, these can not be digested so the animal will feel full and possibly starve to death. Marine debris also gets wrapped around fins, flippers, throats causing injuries, suffocation and death.
MARINE DEBRIS DEFINITION – Any persistent, manufactured or processed material discarded, disposed of or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment. Items that have been made or used by people and deliberately discarded into the sea or rivers or on beaches; brought indirectly to the sea by rivers, sewage, storm water or winds: or accidentally lost, including material lost at sea in bad weather – United Nations.
250 million metric tons of plastic could be in our oceans by 2025. We often see marine debris washed up on our beaches but as much as 70 percent sinks to the seafloor.
By working together, whether it be locally, nationally and internationally we as divers can make a difference. More and more studies have surfaced outlining how widespread the effects of plastic are and have on marine life and seabirds.
When you Dive Against Debris you’re making the ocean safer for not only the environment and marine life but for humans too.
How recording pollution data helps
By separating the trash you’ve collected on a dive and by using the Marine debris identification guide you can report exactly what items you collect which is vital to determine what needs to be done.
The data you collect helps shape waste-management policy by helping convince individuals, governments and businesses to act on the problem of marine debris.
Divers are collecting data from all over the world. Based on their findings, companies and individuals are already making changes. Plastic bags, for example, face bans in many countries. Plastic straws and balloons have also come under scrutiny.
Project AWARE works with corporations, economists, waste experts, and other non-governmental organizations to identify ways for communities to profitably gather, separate, sell and store plastic waste and prevent it from entering the ocean. Other positive effects include:
- Changes in infrastructure to physically block trash before it reaches the ocean
- Changes in regulations to better manage the things we make and how we make them, from manufacturing to use, recycling and disposal. Examples include clothing and shoes made from recycled ocean plastic.
- Changes in attitudes and behaviours so we can rethink, reduce, reuse, and recycle
On Koh Tao we are urging people, bars, restaurants to ditch the plastic straws and use bamboo, metal or even paper straws. Biodegradable & compostable straws are widely being used but unless they’re recycled at a proper processing plant, they take a very long time to breakdown and could still possibly harm or kill marine life.
Seeing a plastic straw being pulled from a turtle’s nose always leaves a lasting impression.
How you can help
On a daily basis, if we all picked up a couple of bits of rubbish or spent a couple of minutes collecting rubbish on your way to the boat, the shop, when you’re walking into work or wherever you are going, it would make a huge difference!
The simplest thing that you can do is say ‘NO’ to that plastic bag, plastic straw when out shopping. It’s EASY!
Even if you don’t live near the coast you can Dive Against Debris in rivers, mangroves, lakes and quarries. All the data gathered is helping to make a cleaner planet and help save marine life from unnecessary suffering and death.
Dive Against Debris events will protect sharks, turtles, whales and many more of the marine creatures we love.
Project AWARE Dive Against Debris helps:
- Changes to policy to improve waste management, changes to infrastructure so rubbish is stopped before it reaches the ocean
- Changes to behaviours so we waste less and dispose of our waste with care
- Helps convince individuals, governments and businesses to act on marine debris.
- It expands our understanding of the types and amounts of rubbish found in our ocean
- Builds knowledge of the impacts on underwater environments caused by marine debris.
Project AWARE’s Debris Snapshot showcases almost 90,000 items of rubbish – weighing over 32 tons – that divers removed and reported in 2015 alone.
Worse still, it’s a massive danger to marine life. In many cases, divers are able to come to the rescue, but not all are as fortunate; 1,000 creatures were reported injured or killed as a result of marine debris in just one year.
There’s a wide assortment of debris floating around the ocean, including plastic, cloth, metal, glass, ceramics, rubber, wood, paper and cardboard. Some of the more unusual items found so far include a full set of golf clubs, false teeth and a pogo stick!
The sort of trash that’s especially dangerous to marine life includes cans and bottles, discarded fishing nets and carrier bags (mistaken for tasty jellyfish by turtles). It’s also a hazard to people who use the water and costs marine ecosystems billions of dollars each year.
Tackling Marine Debris
Not only do Dive Against Debris surveys directly improve the quality of local sites, but the data collected helps influence policies and drive change needed to stop trash from reaching the ocean in the first place.
Findings are also visualized on the Dive Against Debris™ Interactive Map to further highlight the quantity and type of marine debris littering our seas.
By joining a Dive Against Debris survey, or even starting your own, you can join the movement and take important steps to help protect the ocean that you care about.
Improve your skills on dealing with debris
If you’ve never taken part in an underwater clean-up activity before, or want some extra support when it comes to analysing and reporting on your results, then start by downloading the free Dive Against Debris Survey Kit.
If you want to take your Dive Against Debris skills to the next level (especially if you’re planning your own surveys), then take the Project AWARE Dive Against Debris™ Distinctive Speciality course. Available to PADI (Junior) Open Water Divers and above or equivalent, aged 12 years and older, the course:
- Educates on the topic of debris– what damage it causes, where it comes from and how you can help tackle the problem
- Equips divers with the skillson conducting a survey including dive profiles, photography techniques and decision-making skills on what to take, and what to leave
- Covers the 5 stepsto record and report findings: weighing, sorting, recording, disposing and reporting
- Helps you join your effortswith the wider Dive Against Debris movement across the globe
Ask your local PADI Dive Centre about the course for more information.
Get started with Dive Against Debris today!
Project Aware Dive Against Debris specialty course
The Project Aware Foundation has created a Dive Against Debris specialty course to help rid the oceans of trash.
To enrol in the course, you must be at least 12 years old and a certified PADI (Junior) Open Water Diver or equivalent with another agency. The class takes one day and includes a theory session and one Open Water dive.
The course aims to equip students with the knowledge and skills to complete Dive Against Debris surveys independently, including removing marine debris underwater and reporting the data online.
The surveys and data that divers submit are essential to help drive change and inform policy. Completing regular Dive Against Debris surveys at the same location over time is the best way to build a comprehensive database and identify hotspot areas where governments should prioritize waste management.
The course also teaches divers what trash they should remove and what trash they should leave, as removing it may cause greater damage.
Jenny Dowling – Eco Koh Tao