Scuola D’Amare initiative at Messina and “All Together” project.

Messina September 10th 2017– The Dive Village event, organized by the PADI Aqua Element Center of Gioiosa Marea and the MessinAmare Association, was successfully completed within the framework of the Scuola D’Amare project in collaboration with the “Caio Duilio” Nautical Institute of Messina, PADI, Project Aware, DAN Europe and MARES.

The event began on Friday September 8th in the prestigious Forte San Salvatore location granted by the Italian Navy, with the award of the diving certificates to the boys and girls of the Scuola D’Amare project and the migrants of the project “All Together”.

The Headmaster of the Nautical Institute, Prof. Maria Schirò, the military authorities, the Vice-President of DAN Europe Guy Thomas, the Regional Manager of PADI EMEA Fabio Figurella, the regional representative of MARES Nino Alessi and the diving instructors of the Aqua Element diving center all attended the awarding ceremony.

The Headmaster Schirò gave special emphasis to the project “All Together”, a project created from the Nautical Institute’s will to open to unaccompanied migrants a series of activities in the nautical sector that one day could give these children the chance to find a job and a place in society. “All Together” is a project connected to the sea, that for these children is synonymous with “Death”, whose is to organize a series of activities like scuba diving and first aid courses that can bring the children closer to the sea, as a friend and resource for their professional future.

To get excited each time and get new proactive energy by watching the spark in the eye of those who come into contact with the wonders of the underwater world. A World that has no: borders, masters, diversity” are the words of Giuseppe Pinci, great organizer of the event.

These boys and girls have been introduced to the scuba diving world thanks to the collaboration with Aqua Element diving center through PADI courses and first aid EFR courses.

 

If all the Headmasters in Italy were like Professor Schirò, Italy would be a much more open country to students, and there would be important synergies enabling social growth for our country and for the future of young generations,” commented Fabio, Regional Manager of PADI EMEA.

The event continued on September 9th and 10th at the Gioiosa Marea diving center, with dives, MARES equipment testing, and lots of fun, with barbeques and a final evening at the disco.

Thanks to the valuable collaboration with DAN Europe, all dives were monitored by the DAN research team that included the dive profiles of the participants in their database for medical-scientific research.

Through the collaboration with Dr. Cosimo Muscianisi of DAN Europe free ORL visits were performed during the event.

Guy Thomas, the Vice President of DAN Europe, was enthusiastic: “It was great to see that thanks to the collaboration between the Aqua Element diving center and the Caio Duilio Nautical Institute there are projects that bring young boys and girls underwater. Also noteworthy is the project “All Together” that reveals to young migrants the wonders of the sea, the sea that they always feared”. Congratulations to all the people involved, especially Mario Aiello and Giuseppe Pinci who carry out important projects such as these with devotion and passion. The enthusiasm was certainly not missing during the event: “Dive Village 2017, an event which allowed us to collect useful data for DAN’s research on diving safety”.

The event has ended, but the activities of Aqua Element and MessinAmare within the Caio Duilio Institute at Messina with the activities of Scuola D’Amare and a project that will bring students to Malta to integrate scuba diving and English learning have already begun with the new school year.

Mario Aiello, owner of the Aqua Element diving center, commented: “The (DIVE VILLAGE) comes to an end, an event where we delivered certificates, we dived, tested Mares  equipment, analyzed our profiles and made OTO visits thanks to DAN, and why not “we had fun like crazy at the disco, all of which brings us together in this huge passion “the sea“.

 

Welcome to DIVE 2017

Once again, PADI Europe, Middle East and Africa will be exhibiting at DIVE, taking place at the NEC, Birmingham (UK) on the 21st and 22nd October. Visit the PADI stand, where the staff will be on hand to answer all your questions and show you our latest products and features. Get interactive on the iPads at our Touch stations.
2-4-1 Ticket offers for PADI Divers and PADI Pros!*

Good news! As a PADI Pro, you’re eligible for the 2-4-1 ticket offer. Simply go online and book in advance using the discount code PADI2-4-1INSTRUCTOR. Alternatively, you can book on the day and you’ll receive your complimentary ticket at the kiosk. Don’t forget that photo ID must be brought to the show to claim the offer. Any of your divers who completed a PADI Discover Scuba Diving Experience or a PADI Open Water Diver course on or after 1st November 2016, are also eligible, they can claim the offer using discount code PADI2-4-1NEWDIVER.

Find out what’s on:

For the first time in the history of the DIVE show, you now have the opportunity to attend two full days of great workshops and seminars conducted by PADI experts**. You will receive 1 credit for every 3 workshops attended as you develop your professional knowledge from a training and business perspective. Download and complete the Registration Form and bring it with you to the show to gain credits.

Date Time Seminar/Event Location
21.10.17 9.00 – 10.00 Emergency First Response – Boosting Your Business NEC Piazza Suite 7
21.10.17 10.15 – 11.00 Approved Youth Training Centres – Working with Children NEC Piazza Suite 7
21.10.17 11.15 – 12.00 My PADI Image – professional scuba imaging for the 21st Century NEC Piazza Suite 7
21.10.17 12.00 – 12.30 General Q and A NEC Piazza Suite 7
21.10.17 12.30 – 13.15 Leading the Industry -PADI’s Vision for 2018 NEC Piazza Suite 7
21.10.17 13.30 – 14.15 Organising Dive Trips – spotlight on South Africa NEC Piazza Suite 7
21.10.17 14.30 – 15.15 Go Pro in the Dive Industry NEC Piazza Suite 7
21.10.17 15.15 – 16.15 Risk Management for PADI Professionals NEC Piazza Suite 7
21.10.17 16.30 – 18.00 Member Forum NEC Piazza Suite 7
22.10.17 8.30 – 9.30 CDTC – your questions answered NEC Piazza Suite 7
22.10.17 9.45 – 10.45 Facebook Friendly – Using Social Media in the dive industry NEC Piazza Suite 7
22.10.17 11.00 – 12.00 Winter is Coming – business tips for working during the off season NEC Piazza Suite 7
22.10.17 12.00 – 12.30 General Q and A NEC Piazza Suite 7
22.10.17 12.30 – 13.15 Leading the Industry -PADI’s Vision for 2018 NEC Piazza Suite 7
22.10.17 13.30 – 14.15 Project AWARE® – Taking action against Marine Debris NEC Piazza Suite 7
22.10.17 14.30 – 15.15 Myth Busting – PADI Products and how to use them NEC Piazza Suite 7
22.10.17 15.30 – 16.15 Go Pro in the Dive Industry NEC Piazza Suite 7

We look forward to seeing you at Dive 2017!

*2-4-1 ticket offer is not valid with other ticket promotions. The two tickets will be charged at £14.50. All ticket offers are valid only when appropriate ID and proof of certification is shown on entry to the show.

** Spaces are limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Ustica is once again the leading actor in scuba diving with Italy Dive Fest by DAN and PADI

Ustica, 9 September 2017 – 320 scuba divers, 4000 dives in the Marine Protected Area, 84 medical visits performed, 36 official partners, 9 diving centers. And then professional workshops, conferences, themed evenings… The impressive numbers of Italy Dive Fest, an event organized by DAN Europe and PADI EMEA in Ustica, the Black Pearl of the Mediterranean, from August 28th to September 3rd.

Italy Dive Fest, a new format in the scuba diving industry that is strongly supported by PADI and DAN with the goal of revolutionizing the approach to diving by joining moments of celebration, fun, training and especially diving, is envisaged as an itinerant event that shall be repeated in the coming years around Italy is the comment of Fabio Figurella Regional Manager of PADI EMEA.

Italy Dive Fest has been a unique event and certainly one of the most beautiful and complex organized in recent years. It’s unique because it has allowed us to achieve a great goal: to create a real diving festival that brings together many of the largest companies and manufacturing houses of the diving industry, for the benefit of the participants, who have been able to see and test the latest news on the market. It was a one of a kind event also because of its rich content: in addition to diving and equipment testing, participants could choose from a broad spectrum of workshops, conferences and courses. Last but not least, this was made possible thanks to the support and collaboration shown by all the diving centers of the island. Our researchers, thanks to the collaboration of more than 300 divers, have managed to gather a large number of data and dive profiles that will become part of the database on which our scientific publications are based. States Laura Marroni, vice-president of DAN Europe.

The island quay, the meeting point of all the divers, hosted the Dive Village, where organizers and technical partners showed the 2017 news, interacting with the public and collaborating with diving centers.

Those who dived had the chance to conduct physiological tests performed by DAN Research – 125 monitored dives, with 105 Doppler and 80 echo-cardiographs – actively contributing to important studies on decompression mechanisms. DAN doctors have also conducted numerous free ORL visits, as part of an international campaign to prevent barotrauma.

After diving in the morning, divers could choose between a range of training and leisure activities. These included technical workshops conducted by Beuchat, Coltri, Scubapro, the PADI Business Academy, and even EFR first aid courses and DAN crossover instructors. The events were distributed in various locations, thus involving also the Island locals, while special conventions were signed with local hotels and restaurants.

This year Italy Dive Fest matched the 58th International Diving Expo (whose logo was sponsored by PADI through a scholarship), with its historical charm, exhibitions, guided hikes and, above all, Golden Trident and the International Academy of Underwater Sciences and Techniques Awards. The ceremony was hosted by the social event offered by PADI and DAN, in the striking coastline behind the lighthouse Punta Cavazzi. And here are the awards: Golden Trident to Dr. Danilo Cialoni, recognition of the research carried out on the immune pathophysiology; Academy Awards 2017 to DAN, in its 5 world components (America, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Japan and South Africa), for the tireless help provided to scuba divers since 1980; special Academy Award to PADI, for its effective action in promoting safety awareness in diving, diving sustainability and in particular for launching an international program (Scuola d’Amare, ndr) targeted to students of primary and secondary schools, to promote knowledge on the ocean and diving among young people.

However, the best show was enjoyed by the divers who dived in the breathtaking waters of the first Marine Protected Area in Italy: the sun, visibility up to 30 meters, barracudas, amberjacks, salemas, dentex, groopers in waters teeming with life.

Italy Dive Fest has been the climax of an underwater season full of events and initiatives, featuring the Ustica scene, with its history and tradition, and has reasserted the vitality of the Italian diving world.

This is a unique event – commented Massimo Casabianca (DAN Training Manager and PADI Instructor Trainer), a full and articulated one, where a training agency and an organization devoted to diving safety have involved key players of the diving industry. In so many years of experience, I had never seen anything like it.

Thanks to those who wanted and organized the event (PADI team, DAN team), to the numerous technical partners, the flagship of the diving industry (Aqualung, Beuchat, Coltri, FInclip, Mares, Nauticam, Scubapro, Suex, Suunto, Y-40 the Deep Joy), to the institutional partners (Soprintendenza del Mare-Regione Sicilia, Comune di Ustica, AMP Isola di Ustica, WWF, Università di Bologna/Sea Sentinel, Reef Check, Clean Sea, Green Bubbles), to the logistics partners (Gesap/Aeroporto di Palermo, Liberty Lines, PMO Travel), to the diving centers (Altamarea, Blue Diving, La Perla Nera, Lustrica, Mare Nostrum, Mister Jump, Orca, Profondo Blu, Ustica Diving) and to Claudio di Manao, who presented his book “Io sono il Mare”, animating an interesting round table on the protection of the marine environment and its future prospects.

Support Sea grass

We all could do with reducing our carbon footprint and one easy way is to support local and global sea grass conservation initiatives.

Known as the lungs of the ocean, sea grass can produce 10 litres of oxygen per 1m2 everyday! Sea grass meadows are also a fantastic carbon sink as they sequester carbon dioxide from the water and this can slow the effects of ocean acidification created by global warming. This beautiful plant could be the key to stabilising the negative effects of climate change.

Yet despite this, 29% of global sea grass beds have already disappeared with 7% more being lost per year. In an attempt to address this issue, the Marine Biology team at Gili Lankanfushi is conducting a sea grass regrowth experiment. At the resort we have sea grass growing in shallow lagoons around the island and in a 10m2 area on the south east side of the island, we have been collecting data on how fast sea grass regrows after it has been removed.

The experiment has currently been running for six months, so it is too early to be accurate, but results currently show that 10% of the area has signs of regrowth. To date, we are only seeing shoots of a robust species of sea grass called E.acoroides. This is a species found in the tropics in water depth of one to three metres with light wave action.

Aerial view of Lankanfushi Island and sea grass beds

In the beds we find nursery fish, crustaceans, worms and sea cucumbers using the leaves as a nursery and haven against the current. We also often see resident green sea turtles feeding on sea grass as it is their primary diet and they consume 2kg per day!

Marine Biologists are very pro sea grass because sea grass beds stabilise sediment and reduce erosion by creating a network of roots. They also increase the water clarity and quality by soaking up nutrients or chemicals that run into the water. If given the choice, we would regenerate the meadows surrounding the island as with an increased meadow size, the resort would benefit from cleaner and clearer water and an increased population of nursery fish species and green sea turtles. By regenerating the full size of our sea grass meadows we would also offset some of our carbon footprint.

We have been in touch with sea grass specialists from Seagrass Watch and SeagrassSpotter and hope to work with these global conservation projects in the future. We have learnt from their wealth of experience that it takes around 3-4 years to naturally replenish a small sized, single species sea grass meadow and around 10 years to replenish a large sized multi-species meadow. If we helped regrowth by planting sea grass seeds, the areas would be replenished in around 2 years.

This brilliant plant could be the key to stabilising the negative effects of climate change. We hope resorts in the Maldives consider regenerating their sea grass beds to help offset their carbon footprint.

PADI’s guest blogger Clare Baranowski introduces herself:

I am a marine zoologist from the UK who has worked throughout the tropics researching mega fauna and reef ecosystems in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean. I have experience monitoring and restoring coral and surveying manta, turtle and dolphin populations. I began my career as a science communicator before moving into research and management roles, this is why I incorporate outreach and education into every project I work on and I hope to continue this at Gili Lankanfushi.

Adaptive teaching with Just Scuba in Cyprus

Who says that people with a handicap are not able to dive..? The Adaptive teaching with Just Scuba in Cyprus opens a complete new world for people with disabilities. A few weeks ago the Dive Centre in Pernera took a remarkable young man with severe Cerebral Palsy on his first PADI Discover Scuba Diving Experience. 

Definition of Cerebral Palsy

While Cerebral Palsy (pronounced seh-ree-brel pawl-zee) is a blanket term commonly referred to as “CP” and described by loss or impairment of motor function, Cerebral Palsy is actually caused by brain damage. The brain damage is caused by brain injury or abnormal development of the brain that occurs while a child’s brain is still developing — before birth, during birth, or immediately after birth.

Cerebral Palsy affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. It can also impact fine motor skills, gross motor skills and oral motor functioning.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy is the result of a brain injury or a brain malformation. Individuals with Cerebral Palsy were most likely born with the condition, although some acquire it later.

It was once thought that Cerebral Palsy was caused by complications during the birthing process. While this does happen, it is now widely agreed that birthing complications account for only a small percentage, an estimated 10 percent, of Cerebral Palsy cases.

Current research suggests the majority of Cerebral Palsy cases result from abnormal brain development or brain injury prior to birth or during labor and delivery. Accidents, abuse, medical malpractice, negligence, infections, and injury are some known risk factors that may lead to Cerebral Palsy.

The young man is called Mohammad Alndies and comes from Goteborg in Sweden. He is 23 years old with severe Cerebral Palsy and could not speak any English. Filippos, the Assistant Instructor from Just Scuba is half Swedish – so he did the briefing with the family.

 

Mohammad´s mum and dad signed up for the PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience as well, so that they can get pictures together with their son underwater.

Just Scuba are having a great experience with Disabled divers from all over the world. Just recently they had a visit from Angie Hamilton from Royston in Lancashire in the United Kingdom. Angie is double amputee and she loved every second of diving with the Just Scuba Team.

 

Who is Just Scuba and why do they have such experienced Instructors who know how to handle handicapped Students?

Daryl Hales, the Partner of Just Scuba got into being with people with disabilities when he was 6, after his mother had a severe stroke, and became triplegia – losing the use of both legs and her left arm. His mother had to have years of therapeutic treatment that included “Centres”; places where self-minded people came together. This is where he became involved with Physical and mentally impaired people.

Daryl started his diving career with PADI back in 1994, and BSAC in 1996, stayed with both agencies for many years. 

He then retired in 2012, with the age of 50 (after selling his company) to concentrate on teaching recreational diving, but again he found very little has changed regarding teaching people with disabilities, so he went to Denmark and trained with DDI.

In March 2014, Daryl and his wife Jo – decided to move to Cyprus and took over the partnership with Just Scuba. This step released the restraints for his desire to introduce people with disabilities into the world of diving. Just Scuba is a PADI 5 Star IDC Centre and as such, Daryl wanted to maintain using the PADI system and use the “Adaptive training techniques” that allow instructors to teach people with disabilities….

With assistance from the wonderful PADI team in Bristol and with the continued support from the PADI Regional Manager, this had allowed Daryl and the company to help people with disabilities to achieve their dreams…

Daryl and the team from Just Scuba have only one dream; the hope to make Just Scuba, one day, a PADI Disabled Dive Centre.

Thanks guys for all your passion. The world needs more people like you!

Medications and Diving

Written by DAN staff

Few divers can claim to have never used over-the-counter (OTC) drugs before a dive. Whether it’s a decongestant to deal with allergy symptoms or aspirin to deal with sore muscle, OTC drugs are perceived be less of a concern than prescription drugs. As a dive professional, you know there are risks associated with using OTC drugs before diving. What you don’t always know, however, is when students are self-medicating to make it possible to complete a dive or finish a course. By being clear about the effects of OTC drugs and sharing that information with your student divers, you can help them make good decisions during and after training.

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Antihistamines

Antihistamines, like diphenhydramine, are most often used to provide symptomatic relief of allergies, colds and motion sickness. Antihistamines often have side effects that include dryness of the mouth, nose and throat, visual disturbances, drowsiness, or undesired sedation and depression. They can also depress the central nervous system (CNS) and impair a diver’s ability to think clearly.

Decongestants

Decongestants are vasoconstricting drugs that narrow the blood vessels of the nasal airways and often temporarily improve breathing. Common active ingredients include pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine. Decongestants may cause mild CNS stimulation and side effects like nervousness, excitability, restlessness, dizziness, weakness, and a forceful or rapid heartbeat. These drugs may have significant undesirable effects on divers, and should be avoided by individuals with diabetes, asthma, or cardiovascular disease.

Anti-Inflammatories and Analgesics

These drugs are typically used for temporary relief of minor aches and pains. Keep in mind that these may relieve symptoms, but the injury is still present. Limitations in range of motion due to an injury, swelling or pain can put a diver at risk of additional injury. Active ingredients include naproxen sodium and ibuprofen, with side effects such as heartburn, nausea, abdominal pain, headache, dizziness and drowsiness. These should be avoided by individuals with heartburn, ulcers, bleeding problems or asthma. They may also have interactions with individuals using anticoagulants, insulin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs).

While in many cases the use of these drugs is warranted and relatively low-risk, unwanted side effects, drug reactions and reactions to increased partial pressures of nitrogen can raise injury risk during a dive. Susceptibility to adverse side effects can vary greatly from person to person, and divers should refrain from taking a new medication for the first time before diving. Many medical professionals will advise anyone who requires medication in order to dive to wait until symptoms resolve to resume diving. If you have any questions about the safety of an OTC drug, seek an evaluation from a qualified healthcare professional.

For more information on OTC drugs and diving, or safe diving practices, visit DAN.org/Health

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Do Your Part – Dive Against Debris®

Written by Megan Denny

For most people, ocean pollution is out of sight, out of mind, but as a dive professional you know that in many places there are significant debris problems lurking beneath the waves. That’s why Project AWARE® created Dive Against Debris® as a citizen science program that empowers you and your fellow divers to deliver critically needed data about the marine debris found in underwater habitats.

Since Dive Against Debris began in 2011:

  • More than 30,000 divers have participated
  • 900,000+ pieces of trash have been collected and reported
  • Thousands of entangled marine animals have been discovered

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The marine debris data reported by divers is essential to addressing and preventing ocean pollution. For example, last year, 26 percent of all debris items reported through Dive Against Debris was abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG). ALDFG, also known as ghost gear, refers to derelict fishing gear that continues to capture fish and other marine animals long after it’s been lost or abandoned by fishermen). Ghost gear is devastating to marine habitats, entangling and killing hundreds of species including seals, turtles, dolphins and whales.  In a 2007 survey, NOAA estimated there are 85,000+ lobster and crab ghost traps in the Florida KeysNational Marine Sanctuary alone.

Through their Partnerships Against Trash, Project AWARE is committed to developing solutions with individuals, governments, NGOs and businesses including alliances such as the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI). Just this year, GGGI initiated ghost gear prevention and recovery programs in Alaska, Maine and the United Kingdom.

The ocean we love needs all hands on deck to protect it. By encouraging your student divers and customers to Dive Against Debris, we can improve the health of ocean ecosystems and provide valuable information about underwater debris to policy makers.

Reporting Marine Debris Just Got Easier

Project AWARE’s new Dive Against Debris app for Android and iOS makes it easy to report marine debris data. With the Dive Against Debris app you can:Open Water Manual (Redesign)

  • Quickly report debris by choosing from a list of common debris items
  • Easily add a dive site location using your mobile device’s GPS
  • Copy information from a previous submission at the same dive site.
  • No data connection? No problem. The app will store your data as a draft for you to complete and submit once connectivity is restored.

The free app is available for download after August 21 from the App Store or Google Play. Download it to report marine debris data and help spread the word.

Help Improve Our Oceans

Written by Megan Denny

National Geographic estimates 5.25 trillion pieces of trash end up in the ocean every year. That’s about 700 pieces of trash for every man, woman and child on the planet. And, a lot of that rubbish is plastic. The volume and types of trash in the ocean affects all marine creatures, from the smallest zooplankton to the largest whales.

Trash

As a dive professional, you’re uniquely qualified to help turn the tide toward a healthier ocean. There are many ways to make a difference including participating in year-round Project AWARE® Dive Against Debris® surveys or organizing a special event on Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup Day. Here are a few suggestions and examples of what other PADI® Pros are doing for International Coastal Cleanup Day this September.

Saturday, 16 September

International Coastal Cleanup Day is an ideal way to do important work for the local community and raise awareness about your business. Here are some tips for running a successful cleanup event:

  • Get the word out – Send a short press release to local news organizations (templates and tools are available on the PADI Pros’ Site).
  • Stock up – Encourage divers to get equipped with mesh collection bags, knives and gloves. Invite topside participants to bring gardening gloves, but bring extra gloves for those who forget.
  • Buddy up – Invite local environmental organizations to participate and help get the word out.
  • Create incentives – Jack’s Diving Locker in Hawai’i offers a free rental tank and half off rental gear to divers participating in their shoreline and underwater cleanup. Their 2017 event takes place on International Coastal Cleanup Day at the Kailua-Kona Pier from 9am – noon.
  • Document your activities: create a recap video or slideshow to share on social media and with local news outlets. Here’s an example from Eco Dive Center in California.

This year, Eco Dive Center is working together with two fellow clubs from PCH Scubaand In2Deep Scuba for the 13th Annual Underwater Santa Monica Pier Cleanup on International Coastal Cleanup Day.

Take Action Year Round

You don’t need to wait for International Coastal Cleanup Day to take action. Through Dive Against Debris surveys, divers can remove debris throughout the year at any dive location across the globe. If you dive at the same site frequently, why not adopt it? Project AWARE provides a suite of survey tools and a yearly report on the state of your local dive site. Simply conduct Dive Against Debris surveys once a month and report the marine debris you find. Receive special recognition for your efforts in addition to the feel-good benefits of helping the planet and local community. Learn more at: projectaware.org/adoptadivesite.

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Make Good Choices

While out of the water there are things you can do to support a clean and healthy ocean.

  • Donate to Project AWARE – Challenge friends, family and your student divers to do the same by creating a fundraising campaign. Get started at org/support. You can also peruse fundraising campaigns from fellow ocean-lovers at Finathon.org.

Save on Your PADI Membership Renewal

Every year members ask, “How can I save more on my membership fee?”

It’s easy! Sign up for PADI Automatic Membership Renewal by 6 November 2017 you’ll receive the lowest renewal rate for 2018.  Automatic Renewal will ensure you’ll maintain uninterrupted access to PADI membership benefits including:

  • Online certification processing
  • Training information and pro-development webinars on the PADI Pros’ Site
  • Access to your Regional Sales and Training Consultants and support from your Regional Headquarters

Sign up for Automatic Renewal before time runs out and the savings disappear.

Sign Up Now

Crown of Thorns Eradication

As the corals of the Maldives are already vulnerable our understanding and removal efforts of the crown of thorns starfish is paramount to the health of our reef.

Everyday Gili Lankanfushi has sightings of the voracious crown-of-thorns starfish (COT) Acanthaster planci. Native to coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific region and the largest species of starfish (Asteroidea), they are generally seen at depths of up to 30 metres. However, they have also been known to travel between Atolls at great depths of around 200m. There are four species of COT, but it is A. planci which is responsible for coral mortality in the Northern Indian Ocean and the coral triangle. COTS are corallivores and during optimal conditions can grow to over half a meter in diameter and have more than 30 arms.

Crown of Thorns

Generally COTS can be considered a keystone species because they can maintain healthy coral reef diversity by primarily feeding on fast growing corals, such as staghorn and plate (Acropora sp.) and enable the slower massive corals to establish and develop. When coral coverage is low, often resulting from COT outbreaks, COTS will eat PoritesMontipora, sponges, algae and encrusting organisms. One COT can consume all the coral in a 6 to 10m square radius annually, so the impact on an already vulnerable reef is catastrophic. The feeding behaviour is dependent on population density, water motion and species composition. COTS are covered in venomous spines coated with saponin which causes irritation and pain at a puncture wound. The spines are long, sharp and lowered to avoid drag.

Fossil evidence suggests that COTS developed millions of years ago. However, COT outbreaks have only occurred in the last 60 to 70 years and with increasing frequency and intensity. The first recorded outbreak occurred in the 1950s in the Ryukyu Islands off Japan. Combined with anthropogenic threats and other stresses outbreaks are greatly detrimental to coral reef survival and the fish associated with the reef.

Crown of Thorns destruction: 1 – healthy coral, 2 – freshly killed coral, 3 – recently killed portion colonised by algae and bacteria, 4 – long dead coral

COT outbreaks in the Maldives are relatively recent; the first recorded outbreak was in the 1970’s, the second in the 1990’s. Currently we are experiencing an outbreak which started in 2013. It began in North Male Atoll and has spread through to Ari Atoll, Baa Atoll, Lhaviyani Atoll, South Male Atoll and large densities have recently been documented in Shaviyani Atoll.

Outbreaks result for a variety of reasons. Firstly, when there is an excess of nutrients entering the water as a consequence of runoff from sewage, fertiliser and other island practices. The resulting eutrophication leads to increased plankton for the COT larvae and decreased juvenile mortality. Secondly, loss of COT predators; napoleon wrasse, lined worm, harlequin shrimp, starry puffer fish, titan and yellow margin triggerfish and triton’s trumpet (red and spangled emperor and parrotfish have been known to feed off young COTS before they have spines).

COT being predated upon by Triton’s Trumpet.

Loss of predators occurs due to overfishing for the souvenir trade, bycatch and habitat destruction. This leads to a drop in already low predation pressure and results in a COT population surge. Finally, COTS have excellent adaptations as they are resilient organisms with an selected life history (high growth rate, typically exploit less crowded ecological niches and produce many off spring). COT females can produce 65 million eggs annually between October to February. The eggs are released into the water column and are fertilized by clouds of sperm from nearby males. After fertilisation larvae are in their planktonic form and remain that way for weeks. After settling on the sea floor and developing into their adult form they develop their spines and start feeding off coral. This process can take around a year. COTS are most vulnerable before their spines are developed. Additionally, they can survive between 6 to 9 months without food, and body parts lost due to stress or predation can regenerate within 6 months.

Short and long term methods are being established around the world to minimise the effects of current outbreaks and to help prevent future outbreaks. The marine biology team at Gili Lankanfushi is focused on the removal of COTS. Our primary aim is removing these creatures from the overwater villas and jetty’s. Guests and hosts report sightings of COTS, and our team of marine biologists will remove them by injecting them with vinegar. This method is labour intensive and is carried out as regularly as possible by both the Marine Biology team and the Dive Centre.

PADI’s guest blogger Emma Bell introduces herself:

I am a marine biologist and scuba diver from England. I have had the privilege of working in Greece, Seychelles and Maldives. I have worked in an aquaculture research centre where I focused on hormonal manipulation of a pelagic fish species. In addition, I have experience with coral restoration projects including frames and ropes; habitat restoration – crown of thorns, drupella and invasive plant species removal; educational activities and social media updates including blogs. I have also monitored population dynamics of bird, turtle, shark and cetacean species to aid in their conservation. I started my career working in the Maldives and I have done a round trip via Greece, England and Seychelles, I hope to increase my skills set and knowledge further whilst I am at Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives.