New! Environmentally Friendly Retail Options at Master Divers

As most of you reading will already know, we are incredibly proud to be an environmentally aware dive centre. It’s more than just lip service with us though, and its about more than running land and sea clean ups, conservation dives, cutting down/eliminating our plastic use and getting involved with local government initiatives. We will continue to do all of these things – and more! – though. However it’s also about passing on our passion to our customers, and helping them to find more environmentally friendly options and alternatives to help them live a more environmentally aware lifestyle.

With this in mind, we are excited to announce the arrival of two new environmentally focussed items available now in our retail section – Moskitover bands and Sun Bear Sunscreen.

 

 

Moskitover

Most people who have travelled to Asia have fallen victim to a few ravenous mosquito’s at some point or another. If you are one of the lucky ones, you’ll get left with an irritable bite marks that itch for a day or so each time. However if you’re not so lucky, your bites swell into unsightly large pink circles – not exactly flattering when you’re wandering around in the Thailand heat in shorts and a vest top, or tanning in your bikini on the beach! It could be worse though, as aside from the annoyance and lack of aesthetic appeal that comes with mozzie bites, they also carry viruses such as Dengue Fever and Chikungunya Fever. These viral infections can be very nasty indeed, with symptoms including feverish temperatures, flu like aches and joint pain, headaches, and intense pain behind the eyes. If you are unlucky enough to contract either of these illnesses, then you’d expect a stay in one of our local clinics – and probably a pretty substantial claim on your travel insurance. Worse still, in other areas mosquitos can also carry Malaria, which can be life threatening.

Knowing all of this, most of us take active steps to protect ourselves from being bitten. Some natural products are available, but most contain diethyltoluamide, which is more commonly known as DEET.  Even those that do not contain DEET all come in the same plastic packaging, which is bad for the environment. So when we heard about Moskitover bands, we were excited to get some in stock!

Moskitover bands come in recycled packaging, and are a wrist or ankle band fastened by velcro, into which you place a moskitover refill tablet. Protecting a 2m sqaure area, it can also be attached to fixed or mobile objects such as bedside tables, backpacks and baby slings. The bracelet itself is made of neoprene and a solid soft rubber, and is completely waterproof – as are the refill tablets, which are 100% organic and contain no harmful chemicals. Being exposed to water does not damage the pellet’s effectiveness – great news for our divers! Each tablet works continuously for up to a week at a time.

Moskitover bands are 350THB and come with 2 refill tablets included. Additional refill tabs are available for just 200THB each.

You can read more about Moskitiver online.

 

Sun Bear Sunscreen

We all need and use sun screen in Thailand on a daily basis to protect our skin from harmful rays. It is often difficult to find good sun screens here though, as few few are reef friendly. Sun Bear Sunscreen is the brainchild of an Australian couple, who’s love for travel and for conservation resulted in a desire to market a much needed product for a much needed cause, and Sun Bears seemed a logical option based on their own travel experiences.

Referred to as the ‘rainforest doctors’, Sun Bears spend their days dispersing seeds and protecting trees from pests. When they tear open tree trunks to reach the honey inside for example, they create nesting sites for the native birds and flying squirrels. Plus when they dig for invertebrates on the rainforest floor, they aerate and mix rich and poor soil together, boosting the nutrient cycle. So the forest needs them just as much as they need the forest. Now however thanks to deforestation and illegal hunting of their paws and body parts, they are under urgent threat – which means so are other species in the eco system that depend on their survival.

80% of all profit from Sun Bear sales goes to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, and the sun screen itself is palm oil free, Oxybenzone free, PABA free, rainforest derivatives free, vegan friendly, is not tested on animals, is produced using solar power, and comes in fully recyclable packaging. It is reef friendly which is fantastic news for us and our divers, although as always, we do advise applying 30 minutes before you enter the ocean to avoid any contamination or spread of oil/grease into the ocean ecosystem.

Sun Bear comes in small (75ml) and large (200ml) tubes and costs 350THB and 700THB respectively.

You can read more in detail on the Sun Bear website.

 

We hope you will enjoy these great environmentally aware products. If you use or know of any more great ideas or items that you think we could benefit from, please do drop us a line and let us know!

 

Dive Against Debris featuring Dive Master Interns

Starting our new professional divers on the right foot

There are many things that are important to the staff at Master Divers; great customer service, high PADI standards and our beloved shop animals. Up the top of the list is moulding excellent professionals at Dive Master and Instructor level, and our commitment to conservation. This month we were able to marry the two.

New DMC Niko cleaning up at Laem Thian

Throughout training our dive masters are encouraged to get involved with beach cleans, dive site clean ups, conservation events and to be ambassadors for good environmental practices. On this occasion we had our dive master interns organise a dive against debris from start to finish. They were responsible for the advertising, organising sign up and paperwork, briefing the Dive Against Debris, collecting the trash, organising other participants and collating the data.

Some serious lift bag action by Conservation Instructor Hayley

Our achievements

Everyone worked hard on the day, despite rain to start and rough seas on the way home, and we are incredibly grateful to everyone involved. A big shout out to our interns that worked so hard for the day to run smoothly. We collected a grand total of 146 kilos of trash!! 41kg from the beach (which Moritz bravely transported back via kayak) and 105kg from the sea. Largely made up from 2 huge tyres found in the coral.

Our team of Instructors, Dive Masters, Dive Master Interns and volunteers

Mother nature was very kind to us and we got a lovely visit from a black tip reef shark that was unusually interested in us. In fact the life we saw on the dive and snorkel was amazing! A baby Titan Triggerfish, possibly the cutest thing in the world (but camera shy), black tip sharks, scribbled filefish, and unicorn fish to name a few!

black tip

A welcome visit from a gorgeous black tip

If you would like to know more about Master Divers conservation efforts, or our professional training, please get in touch today! We are holding weekly beach cleans near the shop on Tuesday morning, monthly free of charge dive against debris, and have regular conservation presentations, films and eco related quiz nights.

Master Divers Life Contest Blog by Vanessa Witt

We are pleased to present our final Master Divers Life contest blog by contestant Vanessa Witt

I grew up in Minnesota, in the United States.  To say I’m a Minnesotan is an understatement. I’m 33 and a half years old, and though I’ve now been traveling for 8 months, and have spent some time traveling and living outside of the midwest for past jobs, I have lived 30 of my 33 years on this planet in the heart of the midwestern united states for 30 years.  For those of you who know a bit about United States geography, Minnesota is right smack in the middle, and next to Canada. It’s cold. I think it’s fair to say that in the world of divers, I’m a bit of a fish out of water.

But look, I think that’s a strength because despite spending my whole life far from the ocean,  I have, just recently, become so passionate about this whole world underground I never had experienced prior to beginning my diving journey. I want to connect people, both long time ocean lovers and divers, and those just dipping their toes in for the first time, to this entire underwater ecosystem under the sea.

A little bit about what lead Minnesota Vanessa to the sweaty beaches of Thailand and beyond: Last fall, my company was relocating and I decided to not move, also known as become (f)unemployed and put all my stuff in storage, also known as become homeless, and travel the world.  And I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty damn good. I tell you this, because the places I’ve visited and the things I’ve done in the last 8 months have really had a profound impact on me. They’ve shaped how I see the world and see my life, and basically see the meaning of life in general.  No big deal. Just a little impact.

So the trip started in Thailand.  I had this vision after my mom died (which kind of started the ball rolling on wanting to take this journey) that I wanted to practice yoga in Thailand. On a whim, before my yoga teacher training in Thailand, I decided to try scuba diving in Koh Tao. (The things you try on your way to following your plans are pretty cool, aren’t they?!) I never expected this experience would catapult me into getting my Open Water Diver certification, Advanced, and now here on a mission to become a divemaster in discovering this contest with Master Divers.

I LOVE DIVING now and am SUPER excited about the possibility to live on the beach and teach other people and share my love, which is why I’m here, duh.  Isn’t it awesome?!

anemone

vanessa witt diving

But I also want to take this moment to look at the need to save the ocean, why it matters, and how everyone can help save the ocean, and the world to improve upon their lives and improve humanity.… because I’m going to be honest, I knew this issue was a real concern, but I didn’t really understand it until I started to branch out more.

One of the reasons I entered this contest is because in the last year, I’ve realized how much associating my work and life to an organization that I share similar values with, is important to me. I love that Master Divers is invested in working to protect the marine habitat. I believe divers have a social responsibility to help advocate for our ocean and the need to protect it.

When I first thought about what my take on marine conservation and preservation would be, my immediate thought was reducing plastic consumption.  It’s an issue that I feel compelled by the universe to take action on, and in the past month and a half since I found out about this contest I’ve noticed so much more information and education about it. For example, National geographic just kicked off a year long campaign to driving awareness about it.

When I came across the article, Plastic or Planet, the images associated with plastic waste was startling: “Imagine five plastic grocery bags stuffed with plastic trash, sitting on every foot of coastline around the world…. [that is the] estimate of what the ocean gets from us annually…. Ocean plastic is not as complicated as climate change.  There are no ocean trash deniers, at least so far. To do something about it, we don’t’ have to remake our planet’s entire energy system… This isn’t a problem where we don’t know what the solution is… we know how to pick up garbage. Anyone can do it. We know how to dispose of it. We know how to recycle… It’s a matter of building the necessary institutions and systems… ideally before the ocean turns irretrievably and for centuries to come, into a thin soup…” (Plastic or Planet https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/06/plastic-planet-waste-pollution-trash-crisis/).

 

I urge you, reader, to PLEASE stop and take a second and think about ALL the plastic you throw away each day.  Especially plastic bags, packaging, serving utensils and straws. How easy is it to reduce that consumption? SO EASY.  Here are just a few small ways to help clean up your own personal footprint, and let me assure you, every little bit of effort helps:

Bring a reusable bag, or reuse or you bag.

Say no to a straw, or bring your own reusable straw (bonus points: aluminum straws are #trendy)

Don’t take disposable silverware.

Bring your own water bottle or Recycle the water bottle you do buy.

THAT IS NOT HARD.  IT DOES NOT TAKE A HUGE SACRIFICE. IT TAKES CARING JUST A LITTTTTTLE BIT.

As I’ve been traveling this last year, I really have learned SO much. I’ve been gone for about 8 months, visited 32 countries and 7 continents.  I’ve hiked mountains and jumped out of planes and danced the tango and pretty much everything in between… and the one thing that seems to always pop up for me, what I’m feeling in all these different environments, is gratitude.  Our world is just awesome and the people in it, well we all grew up in different places yet there are so many things we share, most notably our planet.

Some of my absolute favorite experiences involved nature who are so lucky that we can travel to exotic locations and have awesome adventures thanks to Mother Earth, I think that we need to carry a little more of the load in terms of advocating for and protecting Her.  In most of the places I’ve visited, I’ve gained a better sense for the people and the culture, and part of this what are their concerns and actions for protecting the environment.  It made me realize you don’t need to live in Costa Rica to think about conserving water or live in Australia to think about the ozone or be in Antarctica to think about the ice melting or live on the beach in Koh Toa to be mindful marine conservation.

Vanessa Witt

Skydiving

Whale watching

If you have another 5 minutes, read that National Geographic article and then think about what interests you from there.  Is it the animals dying with their stomachs full of plastic? Is it thinking that the fish we’re eating probably has tiny of bits of plastic in it?  Is it places in Asia just FULL OF TRASH? Look, there is so much information out there and there are so many ways to start trying to help. Maybe it’s reducing greenhouse gases with our energy consumption or the food we eat; or being advocates at our companies who are producing these plastic goods; or promoting research and legislation to protect the environment. I majored in social sciences at University, and most of my passion projects have been related to helping other people.  But the more I learn about our world, the more convinced I am that people and place are connected.  For most people, their food, their water and their job and essentially our well-being, is really tied into the environment.  I don’t have all the solutions, and neither do you. But the first step is action.  It’s engagement.  Let’s all try to do our part, big and small.  Because in this life, and for this world, it’s worth giving a damn. And Master Divers, thanks for caring and trying.

Master Divers Life Contest Blog by Matthew Lyne

We are pleased to present our next Master Divers Life contest blog by contestant Matthew Lyne

How to use less plastic when travelling

Going on holiday is one of life’s greatest pleasures, it’s something you look forward to for months or even years beforehand and have lasting memories for years afterwards. These memories can be great such as sights you’ve seen, people you’ve met or animals you’ve encountered, or sometimes you may have some bad memories such as if the transport breaks down or the mosquito’s decide to use you as an all inclusive buffet. Generally though the good outweighs the bad and you have a fantastic time. That’s been my general view of travelling and I find that most negatives are minor. However there’s one experience in particular that’s stuck with me and that’s when I went snorkelling and around me was thousands upon thousands of pieces of plastic. It was in startling contrast to the beautiful corals and fish underneath and left me feeling awful that such a beautiful ecosystem was ruined by plastic pollution.

water bottle

Taken during a dive, a starfish sits next to a discarded water bottle

Everybody has read that plastic is awful, and many individuals and organisations are making the switch to plastic free alternatives which is fantastic however when on holiday it appears that many of these commitments stop at the airport. The general attitude seems to be that it’s too hard to avoid things like plastic bottles when you can’t drink tap water, or that the little bit of plastic waste on holiday can’t do that much harm. Whilst it is true that it can be harder to avoid plastic abroad, it definitely isn’t unreasonable and everyone should do their part. With estimates at one million plastic bottles sold every minute globally and plastic bags at double that it’s a figure that is almost impossible to comprehend. With up to eight million tonnes of this plastic entering the ocean every year and taking hundreds of years to degrade it means that every piece of plastic ever made is still around.

plastic

Some plastic removed during a dive. Every little effort can make a big difference

Estimates suggest by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.

Swimming with plastic in the sea is not pleasant, and animals all over the world are reportedly washing up dead with stomachs full of plastic so any reduction in that will undoubtedly have a positive impact for the earth. This benefits your own holiday as when exploring a new country you won’t be seeing plastic waste all over or if you decide to go swimming in the you will see fish not plastic bottles.

Whaleshark

Whale sharks are just one of many marine animals to have ingested plastic

There are health benefits to humans too; a recent study has found that 83% of the world’s tap water is contaminated with plastic particles. Plastic micro particles have also been found in meat and fish sold in supermarkets; needless to say this is not on your recommended diet plan.

But how are you meant to reduce your plastic use when travelling? Here are six of the easiest yet most effective things you can do to cut down on plastic waste:

  1. Bring a reusable water bottle – Many hotels and hostels will allow you to fill your water bottle for free, plus many restaurants or friendly dive shops will do the same. This also has the added benefit of saving you money!
  2. Refuse the straw – Many bars will offer a straw to drink with, yet this straw will only be used for a handful of minutes before being discarded and taking up to 200 years to decompose. That means it’ll outlive you and many of your descendants!
  3. Bring a reusable bag – This is one thing that I almost didn’t bring travelling yet has seen frequent use. If shopping it’s sturdier than a plastic bag and also doubles up for other uses, just make sure you buy one that’s compact to use less space.
  4. Avoid the soft drinks – It’s great to have a soft drink every now and again but if it’s going to be served in a plastic bottle is it really worth it? Asking for free service water saves you money and the environment; you could supplement for a beer (who said using less plastic wasn’t fun?) or just ask if they do soft drinks on tap or in a glass bottle.
  5. Say no to unnecessary plastic – Often when buying something abroad they will include multiple plastic items such as spoons, sachets, lids, bags, etc. I’ve seen items put into a paper bag which was then placed into a plastic bag. Don’t be afraid to say no to certain items, or just take them out, hand it back with a smile saying you don’t need it.
  6. Go one step further – For every piece of plastic you use, try and pick up some form of plastic waste that you find such as a plastic bottle on the beach or a plastic bag in the sea.

It may not be possible to go completely plastic free during your trip, yet the important thing is to do your best and reduce your impact as much as possible. Remember, every bit of plastic you’ve used is still on this planet, whether in landfill, recycled (hopefully!) or in the ocean, it’s not difficult to avoid using plastic for the vast majority of time so just try it.

Master Divers Life Contest Blog by Tiffany Ayling

We are pleased to present the next Master Divers Life contest blog by contestant Tiffany Ayling

The sea was a perfect blue

the sea

The sea was a perfect blue. We dropped the tennis ball attached to our freedive equipment that would mark a depth of 30 meters. I was amazed to still be able to see that tennis ball. The warm blue sea wrapped itself around me and said: you’re home. Just the blue, two mates, our freediving rope, and tennis ball. A school of five fish buzzed over to us. We were something big that they could use as protection. I saw a large jellyfish off in the distance. I watched it pulsate and surrender to the strong current. More curious creatures drifted towards me… but we were in the blue where few creatures roam, so I knew that what was coming towards me was not a school of fish. It was a sea of plastic.

Over three days, we spent hours in the water. At least twice an hour, the current would bring a wave of floating plastic our way. We worked together to swim and dive into the rushing current of plastic and grab all that we could.

Freediving

Motoring back to the island, we could spot the currents carrying even more plastic. There would be a full moon that evening, so the tides were at their highest. Huge waves broke over the reef and onto the beach. We saw huge turtles popping up for a breath and even a mola mola leap out of the water. We hopped on shore and high-fived for today’s success in the blue.

Low Tide

At low tide, we walked the length of the beach to get dinner. We had walked this way the previous evening over clean sand. Now, plastic was everywhere. My partner said to me, “I reckon people dumped their trash on the beach.” Instead, it was the ocean that brought it in. Some of the restaurants had started sweeping it into large piles.

Nusa Lembongan

Every morning spent on Nusa Lembongan we picked up bags of trash. In front of restaurants, the trash was regularly taken care of but other sections of the beach had endless amounts of trash. This would seemingly create a lifetime of cleanup because the ocean would keep delivering.

Nusa Lembongan

Nusa Lembongan

Before the beautiful island of Nusa Lembongan, my partner and I had spent a week on the mainland of Bali in Canggu. Canggu was a surf, yoga, and detox retreat. I loved it, but I did not love the trash! The rivers and sewers were all connected, filled with overflowing amounts of rubbish, flowing into the ocean where we were surfing. When we walked down the street, we’d plug our noses as we passed burning plastic. There was always smog that prevented us from seeing the sun, the moon and the stars.

Simultaneously, Bali felt progressive. Locals (Balinese and foreigners) realized there was a problem and were trying to fix it. There were bags that say “I am not plastic” made out of cassava root. There were little grocery stores that sold goodies like bamboo and steel straws, reusable mesh bags, bulk nuts and seeds. Many cafes even served drinks with reusable straws.

Reusable straws

After Bali and a year of living in Australia, I flew back to America. I was shocked in the airport when I saw Starbucks giving out plastic everything and people accepting it without a second thought. I had become used to people thinking twice about single use plastics, to cafes offering biodegradable to-go coffee cups and cardboard to-go containers.

Home, on the shoreline of Connecticut, I was dismayed to find much of the same. I thought enough people in the world were aware of how harmful plastic is to the oceans that a greener mindset would be present on coastal Connecticut. Single use plastic was everywhere… “Can I have a straw please?” I was shocked to realize that people weren’t aware of the photos and videos that have gone viral online. One video in particular comes to my mind (which was filmed where I went diving near Nusa Lembongan) — a diver films himself at Manta Point amongst a sea of plastic that floats around him. After watching this particular video, it is very clear that we must make immediate changes regarding our plastic addiction.

I Pledge

The oceans are connected. A mate of mine in British Columbia recently posted a photo of a buoy with Japanese markings on it ending up on her shore. The way we live our lives and make decisions matter, especially those of us that live directly on the coast. We are all connected.

Now, I am home in Connecticut–thankfully living by the beach (I can’t imagine my life without the sea!). I see this chapter in life as an opportunity to make a change and start a movement here. I have seen the change beginning in other parts of the world.  It needs to begin here as well.

I am planning on working with small cafes and venues to host plastic awareness documentary showings and discussions. I want to work with cafes and restaurants to join “the last straw movement” by selling reusable straws at venues to see if people can get on the plastic-free train. I want to teach my local cafes and restaurants how to get involved. For example, using incentives such as a 25c discount if customers BYO cup/mug. The shoreline is our home and we must begin joining the plastic free movement. It all begins with AWARENESS and CHANGE. We must be the change and the voice of the blue. We have no time to waste.

Save Our Seas

The sea is blue. It will always be our home. Let us protect it so that there will be more fish than plastic. Say no to plastic. Please consider alternatives to plastic every time you shop. Everyone can make a difference individually and together we can raise awareness. Each individual action, cumulatively, can amount to enormous change. Be the change.

Clean up

Beach sunset

 

Master Divers Life Contest Blog by Rianne Poesse

We are pleased to present our next Master Divers Life contest blog by contestant Rianne Poesse

Be selfish, clean up some plastic!

……. a positive approach dealing with plastic waste by Rianne Poessé

Not a day goes by upon which we are not reminded about the problems we’re facing when it comes to dealing with plastic waste. Only last week a pilot whale was found, in Thailand, distressed in a canal. Whilst a veterinary team tried to rescue the whale, it died after throwing up 5 plastic bags. An autopsy showed afterwards that the mighty mammal ate over 80 plastic bags, as well as 8kg of other plastic junk.

Dolphin

You know what the first thing is that I do, when I scroll through my Facebook feed and find distressing content like the story about the pilot whale? I click the ‘hide’ post button immediately. It upsets me that much, it keeps me awake at night or literally ruins my day. I feel powerless, heartbroken. That being said, it’s absolutely fundamental, we hear about how plastic is destroying our ocean life and in extent our planet. Because only when we truly realize the consequences of our waste disposal, we realize we have to act. Which we can, in many different ways.

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Perhaps you’ve heard of the four R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. For example: refuse the plastic straw offered with your drink, bring your own shopping bag to the store and don’t buy water in single-use-plastic bottles. Reduce comes down to only buying what’s absolutely necessary and Reuse is for example buying a reusable water bottle. My colleague, Anke, brings her own glass jars to the market to buy nuts, she made her own bee wraps to bring her sandwiches to work and drinks her tea from a regular mug (opposed to using the available disposable cups). Her relative small adjustments have a big impact on the plastic waste. She inspires me. And when it comes down to recycling, Anke even runs a project at work to collect plastic bottle caps for a charity that trains blind guide dogs. The charity sells the plastic caps, gaining money to fund the training of the dogs, making recycling a win-win for nature and humans.

All of the earlier mentioned examples are ways that help reduce plastic waste today, but I doubt it would have saved the pilot whale in Thailand. For years, governments have barely given our (plastic) waste a second thought, but I’m convinced we’ve reached a state of awareness where we can actually undo a lot of the damage that has been caused. The reason for me believing this is for example the recent announcement that Europe is planning to ban a lot of single use plastic items within the next 3-4 years, setting an example for the rest of the world. And the American coffee company Starbucks just committed to spending 10 Million dollars to develop a recyclable and compostable cup. But also on smaller scale movement is happening, for example in the United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May announced the plan to set up ‘plastic free aisles’ in the supermarkets. All the food will be plastic package-free. Most likely inspired by the country wide “plastic attack protests”, where shoppers would remove all plastic packaging and leave it behind in the supermarket. Making a strong statement about how much unnecessary packaging is used for products.

Trolley of rubbish

A shopping trolley filled by “Plastic Attack shoppers” with plastic waste. Source: Bristol Post

Recover

There is a hidden R. One that I miss. One that I am fighting for, every single day. One that needs more attention. Recover! Even today , 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in our ocean every year and frankly, we need to get that out of our ocean. Whilst we work so hard on the front side reducing our waste, we need to deal with the mess already there. Have you heard of the Pacific Garbage Patch for example? If you’re like me, easily emotional by the sight of animal suffering, I’d advise against googling on the subject. Basically, the Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of plastic trash floating in the Pacific Ocean figuring 1.6 million square kilometres. That’s France. No wait. France, three times! Organisations like The Ocean Clean Up are working on developing technology to clean up the Garbage patch. On their website they’re saying they’re estimating they can clean up 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years. I believe our world needs more of these initiatives!

Now, does this cover the entire problem? Absolutely not. Everywhere in the world, plastic waste is laying around, in your street, the local park, the beach…. As long as there’s plastic waste we have a job at hand and with that actually also the opportunity to gain Happiness in the process. Winston Churchill formulated it like this: “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

When I’m 20m below the surface carefully removing fishing line from fragile coral, I’m literally at my happiest. I feel I’m actually contributing to the wellbeing of the fish, the ocean and the world. And when I’m not diving, I’m still picking up plastic whenever I can, like when I’m out jogging (the trendy plogging). It’s such a small effort, but with impact.

A positive attitude will lead to positive outcomes.

I truly believe I can make a difference and fortunately I’m not the only one who’s convinced they can make a difference. There are literally thousands of organisations out there fighting a war against plastic. In the dive industry this will mostly consists out of education (i.e. PADI environmental courses) and beach/ocean clean ups. Master Divers for example organizes weekly events to remove trash from the local beaches and also has a full time eco instructor in their team to educate and work with the local government and businesses. Everywhere over the world clean ups are organised and people invited to join. Usually it takes just a few hours or your time and you get to be outdoors, with likeminded people doing something good for the world. It’s rewarding to clean up. I personally think going to a clean-up event for example, is actually a great first date. I mean come on if he/she is not into it, do you even want to date them?

The point is, literally everywhere around the world there are these individuals and organisations that believe they can make a difference and get to work. They inspire people around them and invite them to join in their quest. Remember me telling you about my colleague Anke? She’s the perfect example. This kind of positive thinking combined with positive action can only lead to one outcome…. success.

Cleanup

October 2017, Boonsun wreck, Thailand.
PADI dive against debris dive with buddy Johnny

Focus on the solutions.

First of all I think it is of the utmost importance that the people and organisations that inspire get all the attention we could possibly give them. They deserve at least the same amount as the dead pilot whale, ideally even more. We need to learn about their ways. Also we need to get informed when there’s a clean-up event nearby. We will much easier help out if we know there’s an initiative nearby, but often we simply don’t know about it. It’s all about real people and real action.

Also, as a side note, have you ever thought about what you’re actually gaining yourself when you’re helping out? First of all, a sense of accomplishment and second of all a moderate healthy work out in a social setting. A few years ago I wrote my thesis on happiness economics, inspired by the Blue Zone Project, where the conclusion of my research was that the biggest challenges our economy faces today, is the mental state of people (depression/ mental health problems). People are often lonely and without a purpose, stressed out and as a side step also obese. Now imagine what cleaning up a beach with likeminded people can have for impact on the challenges we currently face in our society? So please be selfish, go clean up a beach.

Is the above solution too simple? I don’t think so. Usually the simplest solutions are the most effective. Our challenge is making sure people know about the local initiatives. Because, you’d much quicker help out an event relatively nearby you than at an event you’ve to spent an hour travelling to. So next time you see a great clean up event, a recycle initiative or have ideas how to reduce our plastic waste… share it on Facebook, Twitter… tell you colleagues. Spread the word. We need to start focussing on the solutions, because frankly … we have a huge problem to solve.

Setting up my own foundation

Behind the scenes I’ve been working hard in developing a platform (phone app and website) where clean-up organisations (and dive shops) connect with volunteers nearby. Making it easier for organisations to reach out to local people and making it easier for people who want to make a difference to find organised events. Right now there are so many great initiatives out there and even more willing volunteers, but often they don’t find each other. With my Business Administration background and modest IT skills, this is the perfect way for me to make a difference from behind my computer.

App

Name of the app will be announced once it’s finished and available in the Google Play and Apple store.

But if you think I’m the type of girl that wants to spend her days behind the computer, you’re absolutely wrong. I want to be out there on the beach and in the ocean. Educating and especially inspiring people to do the right thing. I believe the best way I can do this is by taking the next step and become a dive instructor. Whilst at the same time building my platform on the side, creating the biggest network of volunteers the ocean has ever seen.

Remember I mentioned in my introduction I felt powerless reading about the pilot whale’s fate? I do when it comes down to that specific poor pilot whale. But I do know I can make a difference for other whales and all the other amazing animals in our ocean and on our planet. I’m not powerless at all. I can make a difference and I absolutely will make a difference!

Master Divers Life Contest Blog by Mia Raghavi

We are pleased to present our next Master Divers Life contest blog by contestant Mia Raghavi

Only 9% of our world’s plastic waste has ever been recycled!

Over a hundred years ago came one of humanity’s greatest inventions – synthetic plastic. In today’s world, we cannot live without it. Plastic parts are found in almost everything around us and they have significantly reduced the utilisation of natural resources otherwise. Plastic replaces wood and metal in a myriad of applications for simple reasons: cost, versatility, and durability.

As the cost of its production is cheaper compared to other materials, plastic is being produced in abundance. Thanks to its versatility, different types of plastic have use in thousands of industries – from consumer goods, buildings, and factory machinery to healthcare, transportation, telecom, space, and the list goes on. With active ongoing research on polymers, plastic is becoming increasingly durable, thus fortifying its reign over the world for a long, long time.

In essence, plastic is not going away from Earth anytime soon. Sometimes, with great strengths come great snags. The single biggest problem with the cornucopia of plastic products is the disposal. In a worldwide analysis of all-time mass-produced plastics since 1950, it was stated that about 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste were generated (as of 2015). Of which, merely 9% had been recycled, 12% incinerated, and 79% i.e. a whopping 5 billion metric tons of plastic waste was dumped in landfills or in the natural environment[1]. Another study showed that an estimated 4 to 12 million metric tons of plastic waste ended up in the ocean in one year (2010) alone[2].

[1] SOURCE: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/7/e1700782

[2] SOURCE: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/768

Plastic waste

Plastic packaging – The main culprit

The consumer buying power in many developed and developing countries, in general, is on the rise. As a result, we acquire multitudes of products without second thoughts. And these items do not come alone. Packaging is perhaps the largest contributor to plastic pollution all over the world, as these plastics are often thrown away after a single use. But the issue is, the majority of them are meant to be recycled, which unfortunately doesn’t happen.

A recent European study depicted that nearly 41% of plastic packaging had been recycled across countries in 2016[3], which is great, but not enough. It could’ve been much more because 20% i.e. 3.4 million metric tons accumulated in landfills[3]. The solution to this begins at every household.

Simple changes in our behaviours can make a massive difference to the world around us. Here are three things each human being can do to reduce plastic and garbage pollution:

[3] SOURCE: https://www.plasticseurope.org/application/files/5715/1717/4180/Plastics_the_facts_2017_FINAL_for_website_one_page.pdf

#1: Don’t buy things

Most people can walk into their rooms at any given time and find at least one item that they do not need. Understanding the difference between ‘needing’ and ‘wanting’ a thing is crucial and learning to buy only those things that you absolutely need is important. Remember, no matter what product you buy, at least a part of it or its packaging would make it to the trash by default.

The easiest way to fight the shopping urge is to procrastinate. If you feel like buying something, wait for one day. If you survived the day without it, perhaps you don’t need that thing after all. Before you buy something, think about how you are going to recycle it. For instance, certain types of plastic, such as those used to make juice cartons, cannot be easily recycled and hence must be avoided.

#2: Reuse and recycle

Buy refill packs and reuse the shampoo bottles, detergent boxes, etc. as much as possible. When it is time to discard, make sure that you send them for recycling. The scope of recycled plastic spans decades across a lot of sectors such as packaging, clothing, construction work, etc. We need to find a sustainable way of recycling to avoid the risk of microfiber pollution. To gather insights on what happened to the waste we recycle, I recently visited a plastic waste management company that used recycled plastic for road construction. It was a great learning experience.

Once we grasp the impact of recycling on our world, we won’t think twice about doing it. With adequate support from the government, laws on recycling can be implemented to ensure that it is mandatory and not a choice. Recycling is not the panacea for waste management, but it is a vital process that cannot be ignored.

#3: Influence others

Read more about what can and cannot be recycled. Go out there and see what happens to the recycled waste for yourself. Get actively involved in conservation projects. Talk about them among your peer groups. If you see someone trashing things that they aren’t supposed to, stop them. Make them understand. Set an example for others. By following these, you can have a favourable influence on the world.

Conclusion

We are a society that uses up natural resources at paces significantly faster than they are generated. While running out of resources may seem like a menace for the future generations and hence may not seriously concern an individual at present, the pollution that comes with poor waste management is an imminent threat that is majorly neglected. Certain types of plastic and all electronic waste accumulated in landfills release toxic chemicals polluting the surrounding land, air, and groundwater.

Improper waste management is today’s concern and it is on us. Let us collectively make a positive change happen to conserve our beautiful planet.

Master Divers Life Contest Blog by Katie Woodroffe

We are pleased to present our next Master Divers Life contest blog by contestant Katie Woodroffe

‘No Man Is an Island’ – How to Protect Thailand’s Fragile Islands

Eighteen years ago, I first stepped out of Bangkok airport, hit by the dense humidity and bustle of Thailand’s capital. At eleven years old, I was completely oblivious to the tourism boom that Thailand was experiencing at the time and the pressure that this would eventually have on the pristine environment.  I was also unaware that sixteen years later I would find myself back in the country, working to protect its coastlines that had originally drawn my family, and millions of others, to the ‘Land of a Thousand Smiles’.

Thailand is well known for its beautiful islands with clear turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and an amazing variety of marine life.  They attract hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, tourists seeking to break away from the rat race of everyday life and experience a piece of paradise.  However, most that visit these islands are unaware of the fragility and importance of their ecosystems. Islands worldwide make up only 5.3% of the earths landmass but hold the greatest concentrations of biodiversity. Providing us with flora and fauna that are genetically distinct thanks to the vast waters separating them from the mainland.  It is in these locations that evolution can really show its ingenuity. Where mother nature can display her creative energy.

It’s a worrying thought that 75% of species extinctions take place on islands. A growth in development and tourism invariably places pressure on island ecosystems and this needs to be carefully managed to ensure the ecosystems, including those on land and in water, remain stable and productive. This is nowhere more true and immediately apparent than in Thailand, a country that survives on an ever-growing tourist industry and that has recently had to take drastic measures to protect its coastal environments from damage, something that I’ll mention later on…

Erupting from the sea, these islands that dot the coast are truly precious and ever so delicate.

Live like a Local

There are people that have lived on islands for thousands of years, that often know better than any scientists how the ecosystems function. They understand the importance of the islands health –   healthy islands mean healthy inhabitants.  These people cannot just pop to the supermarket for a tin of beans.  The island provides their food, their medicine, their building materials and handicrafts.

One example are the Moken tribes of Southern Thailand, who traditionally spent much of their lives out at sea, settling on islands when the monsoon season hits.  They continue to co-exist peacefully and sustainably on a few of the islands in the South, still putting much of their knowledge of the local biosphere to good use.  They do not have a language and, believe it or not, no words for “want”, “take” or “mine”.  They are a humble community who have complete respect for their environment.

Moken child

A Moken child and his father look into the water that plays an important part in their lives.

In mid 2016, whilst working for an international volunteer organisation, I had the opportunity to visit a marine biologist working on an island a few hours north west of Phuket.  Going by the name of Koh Prathong, this island is one of the few that have remained relatively untouched by tourism.  Put simply, I felt a million miles from anything familiar.  It had such a remote feel to it, with a landscape so varied, from savannah-like grasslands, to miles of uninterrupted golden sandy beaches, to the odd small patches of primary rainforest and beautiful mangroves. But it was the smaller, and extremely different, neighbouring island of Koh Rah that really caught my attention.  Surrounded by lively coral reefs and clear water, Koh Rah was mountainous. Its sharp outlines spoke of hostility, but its dense covering of rainforest gave it an aura of mystery and invitation. Only a handful of people lived on this island.

It was here that I met a local man called Aet.  He had great spoken English compared to the other people that I bumped into and he insisted on showing me around the island to give me some insight as to what life here was like.  Of Moken ancestry, Aet clearly had great knowledge, passion and respect for the island that raised him.  Aet acted as a much-needed translator, and I soon found myself looking through species ID guides with some of the other locals, hoping they could reveal what wildlife lived on and around these islands.  For most of these individuals, it was the first time they had seen their wildlife in photos and they eagerly gathered around the books, pointing at pictures of dugongs, small and medium sized cats, binturongs, wild boar and deer.  Drifting off to sleep that night, I remember thinking how lucky Thailand was to still have these remaining patches of undisturbed habitats, but how important it was to understand them, and the people that inhabit them, to successfully protect them.

Koh Prathong

The stunning savannah of Koh Prathong

Koh Rah

The island paradise that is Koh Rah

The following day we were able to take a look at some of the coral reefs surrounding the islands.  We hired boats from a local resort on Koh Prathong and paddled out the short distance.  The reefs had been studied briefly after the Indian Ocean tsunami had hit in 2004, but data was lacking in recent years.  I remember, on that first visit, we noticed a few areas that had obvious damage from the tsunami.  Snorkelling over areas of broken coral, we also noticed small patches of regrowth which gave us all hope.  We had recently developed a partnership with Greenfins Thailand, an organisation that encourages responsible diving practices and helps collate data collected in the region on the state of coral reefs. These reefs lining the seabed around Koh Prathong seemed perfect sites to collect data to submit to the Greenfins citizen science research project.  Unfortunately, like many coral reefs, there was also evidence of plastic pollution and discarded fishing gear.  Yet, we were sure that with a little manpower we could help the situation by removing any debris we see when we conducted surveys.

Kayaking

Kayaking out to the coral reefs

Koh Prathong reef

Just a small part of the beautiful reef off Koh Prathong

Hidden Gems

Realizing that these islands were hidden gems with huge conservation value, I soon returned to the mainland and, with my field staff, began writing up a project proposal to the organisation I was working for.  Setting up camera traps and conducting incidental land and coral reef surveys seemed like an exciting and highly valuable project to pursue. After several meetings with the Head of the islands native community, Na Yok Poo, I contacted various international organisations already conducting research with some of the species that were pointed out, including the Zoological Society of London who have several ongoing projects in Thailand.

Within a few months we began training up our small team of international volunteers on reef monitoring methods, biological survey skills and soon took them on three-day visits to the islands.  We stayed in homestay accommodation in one of the smaller villages and spent much of our time walking through savannah and rainforests with Aet and a few of his friends, gradually learning first-hand about the land, its inhabitants and its natural resources which the islanders rely heavily on.  Camera traps were set up in various locations, miles of mountainous rainforest and mangroves were explored, and many hours were spent within the local community, talking in broken English and Thai, and eating some amazing food.

Jungle food

The best jungle food ever!

(Here I have to mention my favourite meal, a tasty vegan dish, sourced from the forest containing banana flower, coconut milk and garlic.  The rest of the recipe will forever remain a mystery; our ‘Jungle Mom’ would not tell us any more of her secrets!)

Jungle Mom

Meet our beautiful Jungle Mom

Aet

Selfie time with Aet

Following Aet

Following Aet through the rainforest to find remote locations for our camera traps

Camera Trap

Sometimes we would hike 4 hours to get to locations not visited by people, just to set up a camera trap

Forest Fruits

There was always time for a munch on forest fruits! This one was one of my favourites, known as Snake Fruit, it is extremely sour but is so addictive!

Koh Rah’s coastline

Just one part of Koh Rah’s coastline.  It has an almost prehistoric feel, a feeling that is very apparent when you see the Hornbills flying over the treetops.

Moken communities live in such a sustainable manner and have done for hundreds of years.  They rely on the health of the ocean greatly and understand the importance of protecting at-risk areas.  On one visit they asked for our help in building and placing large signs in the sand bank when the tide was out.  The signs marked a community-initiated Marine Protected Area – showing that sometimes all you need is the power of the local community to ensure that areas are not exploited. If these islands are to be protected, these communities need to be well informed (if they’re not already!) of the changing pressures they may face in a modernising world and be empowered to take steps that will benefit themselves and their island home. Community engagement projects like these means there’s a meeting of minds and that we all learn from each other.

Helping the locals

Helping the locals protect their waters

As an interesting aside, before the first wave of the tsunami hit in 2004, the Moken communities on the islands in this area knew that something was wrong. Their close relationship to the sea and several old tales of large waves hitting islands centuries before meant every single Moken person survived the event.  They evacuated to higher locations shortly before the first wave arrived to devastate their villages and remained on the islands to help tourists and other Thais evacuate safely to the nearby mainland town of Kurabhuri.  Their intimate relationship with, and respect for, the ocean continues to amaze me to this day.

During the first year of the project, we gained some amazing photos of some of the wildlife living on the islands, including Sambar deer, Long tailed macaque, wild boar, along with a few other species which are listed as Critically Endangered.

Macaque

One of the many cheeky macaques that we caught on camera

water monitor lizards

A couple of water monitor lizards. Quite an interesting shot showing two individuals together.

Sambar Deer

Sambar deer are protected by law on the islands.  It is because of this that the population is extremely healthy.

Local children

Showing the local children who they shared the island with.

Homestay Parents

Our homestay parents were always interested in what we saw on the camera traps

Aside from seeing the animals on camera traps placed about Koh Rah, we got to see a lot of deer on night surveys and Oriental pied hornbills and Great hornbills during our day surveys, amongst many other reptiles, amphibians and primates.  And of course, the beautiful little critters we shared our beds with, like this guy, who posed perfectly for a photo!

Grasshopper

A cute little grasshopper that became my roommate one night

The biodiversity surveys, camera trapping and coral reef surveys and clean ups on these islands still continue to this day, with progress and new discoveries being made on every visit.  The volunteers also now visit the school on Koh Prathong and hold regular workshops there ranging from teaching English to conservation topics.  Although these are small steps towards understanding and protecting these islands, they are small steps in the right direction. Volunteers are experiencing the beauty of the islands and the species richness found on them, whilst also having the opportunity to integrate into an amazing community that understand the land and ocean like no one else. The native community of both islands are gaining an insight into the value of their home from a different angle, an angle that will allow them to combine their ancestral knowledge with modern-day conservation involving scientists and government bodies.

No Man Is An Island

So what’s with the title of this blog, ‘No Man is an Island’? A 17th century poet once wrote this, and it eventually became a much used proverb and a concept that is also shared in Buddhism. As with all poetry I’m sure it can be interpreted in many ways, but in the proverbial sense, it means no person thrives in isolation and shouldn’t be considered in insolation from the rest of mankind. The very same poet wrote of how the loss of one man, was therefore his own loss as he was, at his core, the very same ‘mankind’. Apart from being poetic, there’s also some little nuggets of wisdom and practical advice here!

Protecting these islands will always be a collective and collaborative effort – the educators, the scientists, the local communities, the Thai government, the tourist, conservation organisations and eco-tourist business. A single group can’t do it alone and we can all be conservationists.

Thailand has recently taken the big step to close some of its most visited beaches across the country, either permanently or temporarily, so that they have the chance to recover from the negative effects excessive tourism has.  Last year, an island known as Tachai, part of the Similans National Park, was closed until further notice by the Thai government and the Department of National Parks.  More recently, and probably more well known, the legendary Maya Bay, part of Koh Phi Phi National Park was closed, and will remain closed for several months per year.  Four thousand tourists a day would pull into this bay on boats that would carelessly smash into the reefs.  Less than four weeks into its closure, there is already a visible improvement in the quality of water within the bay and the degraded coral reefs in front of the bay now have a safe chance of recovering.

Protecting these islands is a collective responsibility. It’s my hope that I can help people see these islands and the life they hold with the same eyes as this poet saw himself, a part of a bigger, richer whole. What’s at risk is a loss for us all.

The next frontier for me (hopefully with the help of Master Divers!) will be the sea. Bringing people into the water and through experiential learning, give them a chance to see what life lies below the surface and why ‘out of sight’ should not mean ‘out of mind’!

I look forward to taking you on this journey of discovery with me in future blog posts!

Katie x

Sunset over Koh Rah

Sunset over Koh Rah

Master Divers Life Contest Blog by Karthik Prakash

We are pleased to present another Master Divers Life contest blog by contestant Karthik Prakash…

There is no particular conservation project that I would like to do. I wanted to take part as much conservation project as possible and make contributions towards saving our mighty ocean.

As far as observed in marine conservation projects the basic need is controlling of waste. Once our beaches are clean and people have consciousness while littering then almost 75% of the problem is solved.  This been said my participation towards the beach cleanup will be mandatory. I have mentioned few conservation projects that are taking place or had taken place which found to have positive results. I would like to work on all these projects or would like to start new projects to do my best to protect our ocean.

Reef protection conservation is a vital project that ensures the safety of the reefs. This includes having a keen eye on the reef while diving. People get carried away by the beauty of underwater be it seeing a triggerfish, turtle, whale sharks, rays and so on. This can make divers stamp on coral without knowing and you can disturb any marine life. So being aware of what happens underwater is a must. Reef protection activity involves collecting waste while we dive. Preserving coral reefs is necessary for generations to come in order to make them experience what we experience now as divers and also should save our oceans to have a balanced ecosystem.  Also underwater cleanup helps to protect our reefs from structural damage and improve the appearance of our beaches and dive sites.

Extinction of a particular species can take place due to few reasons. One of the major is overfishing. This may occur when a situation like the fish which is caught can be the only male/female that is left out in that particular species. Destruction of habitat and climate change can lead to extinction.

There was a project that took place in 2013 in order to create a new dive site called Hin Fai Bio Rock in Koh Tao. They implemented an idea of “New coral fragmentation to an artificial reef using low voltage electric current mineral accretion technology this can help coral to grow 3-5 times faster” this was a wonderful idea and seems to give good results. Scuba divers helped out to make this project a successful one. Their hard work and sweat were paid off when they could see coral growing faster with fishes making their way to the dive site, the place got its life. I think this is a visual treat for all diver who contributed towards this project and to the diver who dives into the dive site.

As Koh Tao refers to turtle island it is the nesting place for almost all the turtles which resided in the island. One of my favorite projects that I would love to get associated with is the sea turtle conservation project.

Few key points to know on why sea turtle is important.Sea turtle plays an important role in ocean ecosystems by maintaining healthy seagrass beds and coral reefs, providing habitat for other marine life, helping to balance marine food webs and facilitating nutrient cycling from water to land.

To talk about Green sea turtles, one of the large species that eat seagrass which helps to maintain healthy seagrass beds. When they graze, they increase the productivity and nutrient content of seagrass blades. Without constant grazing, seagrass beds become overgrown and obstruct currents, shade the bottom, begin to decompose and provide suitable habitat for the growth of slime molds. Older portions of seagrass beds tend to be overgrown with microorganisms, algae, invertebrates, and fungi.

Next, the hawksbill sea turtle equipped with beak-like mouths, they forage on a variety of marine sponges. By doing this, they change the species composition and distribution of sponges in coral reef ecosystems. Sponges compete aggressively for space with reef-building corals. By removing sponges from reefs, hawksbills allow other species, such as coral, to colonize and grow. Without hawksbills, sponges are likely to dominate reef communities, further limiting the growth of corals and modifying the very structure of coral reef ecosystems.

Sea turtle helps in maintain balanced food web, they provide food for fishes by carrying around barnacles, algae. Sea Turtles improves nesting beaches.

I was engaged in conservation projects with The Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network [SSTCN]. The Olive Ridley turtles that come to nest on the Chennai coast each January and are desperately in need of the help. We as volunteers help in the beaches of Chennai to save Olive Ridley Turtle eggs. Predators tend to eat eggs, human activity disrupting the hatching process, traders taking away eggs for sale as food, and climate changes, the numbers of hatchlings from each nesting is also falling. This is why the SSCTN’s process of hatching turtles in hatcheries and releasing them into the ocean plays a crucial role in keeping turtle numbers up. Olive Ridley numbers have been alarmingly declining in recent years. While the turtles are killed for their meat and the eggs harvested, the biggest threat they face is of adult turtles being accidentally caught in the fishing nets. What we do is we help her dig a hole and lay her eggs. After the turtles have laid their eggs and gone, we collect the eggs keep them in a safe place to let it hatch and release the hatchlings back into the sea. Working in this project helped me to understand more of the underwater world, problems that the creature face on daily basis. I am happy that I contributed a small amount from my side towards this mighty ocean.

As you already know I am a big fan of whales & sharks. I just cannot imagine a life without them in the ocean. As most of the people in the diving industry love to spend time underwater with these magnificent creatures. Who wouldn’t want to encounter a whale or shark on their dives? I hope everybody wants to, so keeping this in mind I think taking steps to conserve them is absolutely important not only to encounter but to keep our ecosystem balanced.

Sharks play a vital role in our ecosystems and are considered a keystone species. They help maintain a healthy ecosystem by eating the dead, dying and weak animals while regulating prey populations. Sharks are already down just in the last 20 years, shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy is threatening the survival of sharks as a whole. It is estimated that 100 million sharks are killed annually just for this Chinese dish. This horrific act involves cutting off only the fins of the shark while it is still alive and then throwing it back overboard to slowly die. This wasteful process leaves the shark motionless on the ocean floor unable to swim and breath. The health of our oceans depends on a healthy shark population. There are a number of ways you can help get involved in protecting our sharks. Don’t go to a restaurant that sells shark fin soup. Be aware of the ingredients in your cosmetics. Avoid cosmetics that are extraction from sharks.So make sure we all reduce using these products and could contribute towards increasing the population of sharks. Organizations that would help you in participating conservation for sharks and whales are “Project AWARE”, The Great Projects, Keiko conservation and lots more to get involved and bring a change to their population.

I got involved in a land project in Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS) to save animals. I was engaged in road kill survey. Our task is to take our bikes and then go on for a ride to find out where there are road kills took place. Be it a snake or frogs or any animal that lost its life in a road accident. The data tat needs to be collected is which place it took place, condition of the animal, did anyone happen to see and final a photograph of the animal. These data are collected and then given to analysis. After analyzing we then go around the resident and make them aware of what happened and ask them to be careful. Actually after this was carried out we were able to see less roadkill and the project is still being take care by the volunteers. I was also involved in a project on collecting data on mammals sighting at night. This helped saving people life and also their cattle.

Please do watch this small video below.

Now tell me does anybody want to destroy marine life. You can see how peaceful their world is and I have just taken you for a small ride to our ocean. There is more to see and experience in our oceans.

Karthik Prakash

To conclude I would like to say I am happy to make every day an “Eco day of Koh Tao. Eco day on Koh tao includes the beach clean up, reef clean up and much more activities. I think we should not wait for eco days to come, all day must be considered as eco day. One thing that is widely noticed is, many people wanted to experience scuba diving. We must make them aware that we people are destroying corals and fishes with or without our knowledge. If we pollute oceans then the expectation to do scuba diving decrease. If scuba diving decrease we miss out a chance to experience the beauty of our oceans and as well as we will lose what the earth has to offer in terms of underwater. I wish everybody in this planet can contribute towards saving our earth. You do not have to take your time out from your busy schedule and make your hands dirty. It just a simple act that can bring a change, like collecting a plastic waste from down and put them in a dustbin. I can promise one thing for sure I will make my contribution towards saving our mother nature until my last breath 🙂 🙂 – Written by Karthik P

Master Divers Life Contest Blog by Holly Allard

We are pleased to present our next Master Divers Life contest blog by contestant Holly Allard

Fish Are Friends Not Food

For all of you “Sex And The City” fans out there, have no fear. This will not be the written equivalence to Samantha getting fake blood thrown on her fur coat by an activist shouting MURDERER. This is simply an alternative perspective to look at the way you eat. It is for those of us who no longer wish to turn a blind eye to the damaging effects our everyday behaviours are having on oceans and marine life. If you feel like your current efforts to help the environment may not be making enough of a difference but you aren’t quite willing to go full on activist and chain yourself to a tree in protest, why not meet in the middle and make any number of small changes towards adopting a plant-based diet?

Samantha

A whole food plant-based diet (also known as a vegan diet) means you do not consume any animal products (meat, dairy, fish, eggs) and fill yourself up on veggies, fruit, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. This has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to help our largest shared worldwide resource, the ocean. It can be a daunting transition to do all at once though, so to create lasting changes it is best to start small and progress at your own pace. Below there are a couple suggestions on how to get started.

When I initially became vegan, the environmental benefits ranked third with ethical and health reasons topping my list for making the change. But the more I learn the more it has become an equally important reason to continue with this lifestyle. People frequently ask how I live without cheese but seafood was what I missed most. I, as many of you can probably relate, did not feel connected to fish the way we tend to towards mammals and birds so admittedly cared less about their well being and growing rates of extinction. Now it is clear though, that our lives on land significantly depend on the oceans health.

Everyone learnt in school that water runs in a cycle. Polluted water gets displaced around the planet and disrupts these cycles which then causes harmful effects to marine life. Researchers predict that by 2048 all fisheries will have depleted due to overfishing, pollution, climate change and ocean acidification. Approximately 80% of our oxygen comes from the sea (so if you enjoy breathing, the ocean’s health should matter a great deal to you). Social, cultural, political and economic variables make whole food plant-based diets less attainable for some populations of the world, but for the majority of us it is quite easy to achieve.

So how does a plant-based diet help our oceans?

By removing (or even minimizing) animal products from our diets we reduce the need for industries that supply us these products. Less demand = less supply. The environment-related harmful effects caused by these industries are:

  1. Animal agriculture produces massive amounts of waste that run off into rivers and oceans.
  2. Methane emissions from factory farms contribute to climate change and ocean acidification.
  3. Target marine life (tuna, salmon, lobster, crab) are being overfished and by-catch (dolphins, whales, sharks, sea lions, sea turtles) are killed in the process of catching the target fish.
  4. Plant-based diets decrease our water footprint as they use ~400 gallons of water per day while non plant-based diets use ~1000 gallons per day.
  5. Fisheries disrupt the ecosystem and cause extinction and dead zones (no wildlife or plants).

So where do you start?

  1. Educate yourself so that you are properly motivated to make lasting changes. There are loads of reliable sources that provide credible data and evidence on this way of eating.
  2. Understand the undeniable health benefits. Going plant-based has been proven to greatly decrease your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory arthritis, and erectile dysfunction (is this not reason enough gentlemen??). It has stopped progression and even reversed disease symptoms in some cases.
  3. Know that there’s no shame in not going completely plant-based from the start. Holding off on the “vegan” title will probably help you avoid some friendly harassment at family gatherings anyway! Small dietary changes really do add up to big health and environmental impacts.
  4. Ignore the myths about not being able to build muscle and being protein deficient. Gorillas, rhinos, elephants, bison and the strongest man on earth Patrik Baboumian (pictured) are all plant-based eaters.
  5. Collect fun and simple recipes. Despite the misconception, this lifestyle does not have to be inconvenient or expensive and it doesn’t mean you’ll be living off of salads the rest of your life.

To improve the environmental crisis, social change has been slow. Fortunately, unlike overpopulation, overconsumption and dependance on fossil fuels, moving towards a whole food plant-based lifestyle is something we can do overnight. When we don’t directly see what’s going on it’s a lot easier to maintain the ideology of there being no dire problems in the rest of the world. For example, people who live in the prairies, like myself, never see garbage floating in the oceans so it is harder to relate to the damages caused by that kind of pollution but we cannot deny it happening.

Taking control of your individual impact is not about doing what myself or others say is the right way to live. It’s about doing what makes sense to you and once you’ve done the research about what’s on your plate and where it came from it’s hard to ignore the facts. It is crucial that we stop neglecting those with whom we share the earth.