As divers we get to enjoy the magic of the ocean, but are we doing enough to preserve it so we can enjoy it for years to come? Ocean conservation allows us to give something back by dedicating our own resources to protect and preserve the ocean’s ecosystem.
So, for you ocean conservation newbies out there, we share some of the different types of ocean conservation, how to pick an ocean conservation project and what you can expect!
Types of ocean conservation
Marine animal conservation is probably the most well known and popular form of ocean conservation, but believe it or not, there are a range of ocean conservation activities that you can get involved in:
- Reef restoration – anything from planting new corals, to monitoring and documenting existing coral.
- Education – developing and presenting awareness material about marine issues such as overfishing, plastic waste, shark finning and a range of other issues in different forms of media to a range of people in the community.
- Ocean pollution – anything from cleaning up plastic in the ocean ways, to actions to stop drift net fishing.
- Coastal conservation – anything from removing items impacting the waterways, such as weeds and beach rubbish cleanups to dealing with the effects of erosion.
- Water quality testing – monitoring, testing and documenting the different chemicals present in the waterways.
- Animal conservation – anything from monitoring and documenting marine animals to rehabilitating and releasing them back into the wild. Note, as these programs are fairly popular, so get in your applications early.
How to pick a conservation project
There are a number of considerations to make when selecting an ocean conservation project:
1. Check that you meet the pre-requisites
Make sure the ocean conservation project is suited to your qualification level in terms of your diving and education. Some conservation projects may include an Open Water course (if you are not a certified diver), where others require you to have a minimum certification level and number of dives. Some positions also require science degrees, whereas others will provide on-site training. Remember, if travelling for your conservation project, you may also need to apply for a special visa. Often there are other requirements such as age and health that also need to be met, so check all of this before booking.
2. Pick a reputable organisation
Not all conservation projects are created equal, and there are a number of organisations out there that claim to do conservation work, when some of their practises may be questionable. When looking for a conservation project, do your research! Look for an organisation that is transparent about how the money is being spent and ensure they have clear objectives for their work. The best thing to do is check online reviews from multiple websites to see whether the organisation is legitimate and whether volunteers have had good experiences there. My husband and I recently visited a south east Asian island, where it was advertised that we could help with planting coral and releasing baby turtles back into the ocean. Unfortunately, this particular place seemed to be exploitive, instead of really caring for the marine life, it was a money making exercise. They kept the baby turtles in a small bucket and asked visitors to pay to hold/release the baby turtles.
3. Align conservation with your interests
If you love marine life like turtles, but are not so interested in water testing, then you are best to book a conservation project that aligns with your interests. It makes sense that if you are interested in the subject, then you are more likely to enjoy the conservation work, learn and contribute more!
You won’t be working 24/7 so pick a location which will be easy to get to and that you are interested to explore outside of the conservation work. Remember you don’t need to travel to work on a conservation project, you can pick a project in your own community!
Different ocean projects require varying levels of commitment from a day, to a week or two, to months. Make sure you pick one that you can commit to and complete the program.
Typically you will need to pay to be involved in a conservation project. I know this may sound a bit weird that you have to pay to volunteer, but if you are working on a conservation project there are a lot of overhead costs that need to be covered such as board (if your conservation includes this) and the running of the program. Before signing up to an ocean conservation project, check inclusions such as whether it includes: food, lodging, scuba gear, training, transfers and any other excursions.
What to expect
If you haven’t worked on a conservation project before, it can be a little daunting as you may not know what to expect. Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions:
- What are the living quarters like? If your conservation project includes accommodation, then set your expectations now – the living quarters are usually very basic. Don’t expect 5 star accommodation! This means you may not get your own room or bathroom. Typically you will need to share a room with someone else and use shared bathroom facilities.
- How are the people? – You will find that people who sign up to conservation projects are energetic and passionate about the cause. Otherwise why would they sign up? Making friends is fairly easy, as at least you share a common interest!
- What do I need to do? – your duties will differ project to project, but you may be asked (on occasion) to do some things outside of your official role (like cleaning/cooking). You will need a “can do” attitude and be eager to try new things. You won’t be expected to work 24/7, so don’t worry you can enjoy your own down time.
Now that you know a bit more about ocean conservation, take a look and see if there is something that interests you! Whether you combine it with your travel, or if you want to do something closer to home, everyone can make a difference and give something back to the ocean so that it can be enjoyed by all for years to come!
About the Author
Amanda and her husband Dean have been certified divers since 2009. Amanda has her advanced open water and Dean is a dive master. They have travelled the world and dived many sites in Australia, Asia, Central America and the Caribbean.
Amanda and Dean have a travel blog called Scatabout which details the fun and unique experiences they have had on their world travels. You can find them doing something adventurous like scuba diving, hiking or something strange like running down the side of a building.
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