Marine Conservation Big on Earth Day and International Year of Reef

Story by Mallika Naguran

The 22nd of April 2008 was not like any other. Dive for Earth Day by Project AWARE saw thousands of divers, snorkelers and water enthusiasts volunteering with marine environment protection simultaneously at 122 events across the Asia Pacific.

Dive centres got into the act too with beach and underwater cleanups, fish and coral surveys, tree planting, children education on corals and fundraising.

Here’s a snapshot of what took place in three places:

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Raya Divers go deep in Andaman Sea to get trash out
Raya Divers, Krabi, Thailand

The Raya Divers Team comprising 52 people in three dive boats cleaned up Viking Cave. They also took part in the Cleanup Challenge to raise $300 for conservation.  
 
Hideaway Island Resort, Vanuatu
Afternoon rain squalls in the Pacific didn’t deter the volunteers at Hideaway Island in doing an underwater survey. Armed with their coral watch and fish ID charts, 16 students and four dive masters ran two 40 metre lines inside the marine sanctuary and the same again with two lines outside the sanctuary.

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Used lightbulb retrieved by Mermaids Dive Centre in Thailand

Twelve dive volunteers conducted a fish survey on a 1.8km coastline off the Kembali Coast Resort in Samal Island. There were five teams and each team covered an area of 400m. “Hopefully, the success of this activity will allow us to introduce this to other divers where the data gathered can be used to promote the sites as well as provide info to our government regarding the diversity of our marine life,” said Eugene Lara of Davao Scuba.
 
Take the International Year of the Reef Pledge
The first half of this year alone has seen thousands of divers and water enthusiasts from around the world taking the Project AWARE’s International Year of the Reef (IYOR) Pledge.
 
With 2008 only half way through, Project AWARE is urging more to come forward.  “Project AWARE calls for divers to take action for coral reefs and sign the IYOR Pledge,” said Mike Holme Associate Director of Project AWARE.

“Coral reefs have existed for 200 million years and are known as, ‘the rainforests of the sea.’ They are vital to maintaining the diversity and health of our world’s delicate ecosystems. However, our coral reefs are threatened from many human activities including, global warming, destructive fishing practices and pollution,” explains Holme.
 
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Local act is tops at Vanuatu in measuring reefs, assisted by Hideaway Resort
The IYOR pledge asks divers to sign their commitment to coral conservation and take action in five simple ways.  Divers can participate in Project AWARE’s activities to bring their pledge to life.
 
Five simple actions include:
 
1.    Tell three people how reefs enrich our lives and ask them to take the IYOR pledge.

2.    Take part in a coral conservation activity such as CoralWatch Monitoring. International Cleanup Day on 20 September 2008 offers good opportunity to take action for coral conservation.

3.    Be an AWARE Diver and follow Project AWARE’s Ten Ways a Diver Can Protect the Underwater environment and Ten Tips for Underwater Photographers to Protect Fragile Marine Ecosystems.

4.    Not to purchase souvenirs from coral or other threatened species.

5.    Reduce your carbon footprint. An example is to switch to compact florescent light bulbs.


Take part in Project AWARE’s IYOR Pledge or participate in conservation by visiting www.projectaware.org and join Project AWARE’s Facebook to stay up to date with future events.


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Balinese kids learnt how to care for marine life at Aquamarine Dive Centre
Get kids involved in Project AWARE’s art contest (closes 30 September 2008)