Not long ago I had the opportunity to spend ten days exploring the clear green-blue waters of the Caribbean. Between North and South America lies some of the most beautiful water in the world inviting ocean enthusiasts to bask in a sea of colors that have an endless variation of hues, colors, and shades. Gliding along through the water, I was surrounded by thousands of breathtaking aquatic denizens; each skillfully weaving through the endless mazes of coral, rock formations, and sea fans.
Inevitably, I was given a view of humanity’s overwhelming ability to turn a thriving ecosystem into a sub-marine trash dump. Throughout my vacation I saw bits and pieces of human impact, but it was on the final day of diving that I was hammer slapped by a disgusting view. An entire 100 meter section of underwater habitat was covered with garbage. The growing community of the island caused an inability to handle the increased garbage. Instead of a sea filled with coral and fish I was in a cesspool of diapers, prophylactics, hygiene products, and many other undesirable items.
Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence throughout the world’s oceans.
One such place is the Caribbean gem of Curacao. Located just to the north of Venezuela in the Southern Caribbean, Curacao is surrounded by more than 104 square kilometers (40 sq. miles) of pristine coral reefs. Curacao is best described by Bruce Campbell in his Curacao dive guide,
“I had relatively low expectations for this dive because in my prior experience of diving “house reefs” they had been pretty beaten up by divers who had abused the reef, and with fish life being almost nonexistent. This dive was quite different. The reef was in good shape and the fish life although small was substantial. I was quickly immersed in looking for many of the reef’s small inhabitants. I quickly lost track of how many angel fish I had seen, and began to take photographs of as many animals as I could in the hour we were underwater.”
What has long been a wide-open secret is becoming the paradise sought by divers around the world for their next adventure destination.
Curacao’s island population is growing as well, reaching over 145 thousand inhabitants. Each of these inhabitants, plus the increasing number of tourists bring with them garbage and waste. According to Dive Curacao, just taking a drive around the island will expose views of, “trash on the sides of the road, at the beaches and even in the sea. As members of the greater world community and as divers enamored, even obsessed, with the ocean we have the power and responsibility to act.”
To assist in the creation of a sustainable diving community, Curacao CLEAN UP was founded in 2013, and works with the community help reduce the waste created by citizens and tourists. As divers we can aid the effort by developing habits and skills that encourage sustainable diving.
Project AWARE sets a great example of sustainable dive practice with “dive against debris”. As a SCUBA instructor and ocean advocate I have personally engrained the habit of filling my over-sized BC pocket with trash I find while diving.
While on my Caribbean trip I enlisted the three new divers with me in picking up as much of the garbage as they could. Each of us came out with two bags of garbage each. I even picked up a t-shirt and a towel from the grassy sea floor. Both the shirt and towel are used by my family to this day. Each piece of garbage we pick up is extra time given to paradises like Curacao to thrive and shine.
On June 8, 2017, Curacao will celebrate World Oceans Day! This, according to event organizers, hopes to become an annual event bringing together the leaders of the Curacao Sustainable Tourism community.
“This is an opportunity to honor incredible achievements, recognize the global challenges moving forward and to deliver a sustainable message: Our Oceans – Our Future… Get together with your family, friends, community, and the planet to start creating a better future. Working together, we can and will protect our shared ocean. We hope you will be a part of this growing global celebration!”
World Oceans Day – Curacao 2017
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The Carmabi Education School Programs & Marine Education Center together with the Curacao Sea Aquarium will be hosting "World Oceans Day - Curacao 2017" on June 8th, 2017 at the Curacao Sea Aquarium Park.
Photo's courtesy of Turtle & Ray Productions HD, Curacao CLEAN UP & The Dive Bus Curacao