How Can We Protect More of Our Oceans?

For more than two decades, scientists have been telling us that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are one of the keys to long term ocean health. While some debated their worth early on, today there’s little dispute. As reported by Smithsonian Magazine, MPAs with full protection have four times as much life (biomass). Species grow larger and reproduce proportionately more. MPAs and the areas around them recover more quickly from environmental damage, and (along with fishery management) have higher fish catches — so much so that commercial fishing comes out ahead despite the loss of fishable area.While established as big wins for everyone, global governments arenot on track to meet a U.N. goal to have 10% of the world’s ocean under full protection by 2020. Officially, we’re at just under 6%, but some say it’s really under 4% because some declared MPAs have no enforcement and nothing’s changed.

Moreton Bay Hope Spot Anemone Fish – Photo By Chis Roelfsema

But thanks to Hope Spots, we can help catch up and get ahead of the curve. Hope Spots, if you’re not familiar, were conceived by Dr. Sylvia Earle, with coordination and oversight by Mission Blue, a not-for-profit organization Dr. Earle founded to unite people and organizations for this cause. Hope Spots are unique marine areas identified as particularly distinct due to the diversity of species found there, the habitat’s importance for reproduction, threats from human activity, community economic needs or any other attribute that makes a location central to marine environmental health.

The idea is to conserve and preserve Hope Spots by leveraging public perception and attention so they receive appropriate protection (not necessarily becoming MPAs, and some Hope Spots are already MPAs). As you’d expect, the PADI organization formally partnered with Mission Blue in 2017, adding the weight of 26 million+ PADI Diver voices to the Hope Spot cause. Thanks to Dr. Earle, Hope Spots are a conspicuous example of how one person with a great idea can inspire millions to unite across borders and cultures for a common purpose.

Global Hope Spots map. Photo: Mission Blue

Today, there are almost 100 existing and proposed Hope Spots, and they are important, even though preserving them will not, in itself, halt global climate change, clean up the oceans, stop overfishing, etc. These bigger problems call for big, broad and deep social changes (that are not impossible), but we still need Hope Spots for several reasons:

  • By creating areas with proven biological productivity, they help us buy time addressing some of these challenges. For example, Hope Spots won’t solve overfishing, but by providing areas in which fish reproduction functions unchecked, we prop up fish populations as we sort through the management issues.
  • Hope Spots help preserve biodiversity. Some scientists see this as helping the ocean bounce back with as many species as possible as we make positive changes. Others, accepting that some change is permanent, see biodiversity as central to marine ecology. That is, some coral species tolerate heat better than others; having a diverse genetic supply of such species may be important in a warmer ocean.
  • Hope Spots are inspirational and visible. Hope Spots draw attention. They remind communities just how close and personal ocean threats are, but that we can (and must) act to offset them. As a source of local pride, Hot Spots inspire area divers and ocean advocates to speak up for and fight for them. Mission Blue, PADI and other supporters use social media to highlight Hope Spot stories to make and keep them in the broad public eye.

As a diver, you can support the PADI organization, Mission Blue and others united behind Hope Spots. You can nominate a Hope Spot, and you can participate in events promoting/protecting a Hope Spot (many led by PADI dive shops or instructors, and may tie in Project AWARE as well). Of course, you can contribute to Hope Spot funding – check out mission-blue.org. If you live near or visit a Hope Spot, talk about it in person and on social media – especially with those who may not be aware of it. Finally, get involved with Project AWARE and your local PADI dive operation to make every dive count. Millions of people like you and me passionately preserving, conserving and restoring the ocean is the best hope there is.

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

Selling Scuba as a Festive Gift

give-the-gift

Consumer behaviour and trends show that people increasingly prefer experiences over things. Your business should be capitalising on this by offering scuba diving to new and existing customers. But how?

In the Retailer and Resort Association Digital Marketing Toolkit, there are two sets of assets available to you: Discover Scuba Diving and eLearning. Despite the difference in promotion, the implementation is the same. Decide which promotion best fits your business model and then follow the formula below for a synchronised multi-platform campaign.

  • Alert your customers with an email. Use the specific campaign email header from the toolbox. Make sure your subject line and snippets are written with Open Rate in mind. You want to make sure as many customers as possible open the email and then click through to the specific promotion.
  • Users should be directed from this email to a specific landing page or blog post. Make sure you’ve implemented full width website image and blog post image for consistency.
  • In addition to this, update your social media channels with the optimised imagery. Update your Facebook cover, Facebook posts, Instagram posts and Twitter posts. Keep in mind the “80-20” rule for Facebook social media posts. You want to keep 80% of your posts engaging and fun, with the remaining 20% of posts being sales orientated. Don’t spam your customers with sales.
  • For full integration, use offline materials like posters to promote in-store & in local hot spots.

Digital Toolbox

Before implementing the marketing plan, make sure that the promotion fits with your business. Discover Scuba Diving is perhaps considered more affordable and in line with gift budgets, therefore you’d expect to see a higher uptake. With this in mind, be sure you have your conversion tactics in place. The aim here is not to sell 10 DSD gift vouchers over the festive period. The objective is to sell 10 PADI Open Water Diver courses, using DSD Gift Vouchers as a new diver acquisition tool. Emphasise that the Discover Scuba Diving experience counts towards the full PADI Open Water Diver course and consider taking deposits before even entering the water.

Using eLearning, you will know from the outset that your trainee divers are engaged and willing to take diving further. This will enable you to already sell the Advanced Open Water during Open Water training. The uptake of eLearning may be less than DSD gift vouchers, but the rewards could be greater.

PADI Awards Medal of Valor to Thailand Cave Rescuers Who Represent Diving’s Finest Hour

Leadership and rescue divers instrumental in the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand earlier this year will be the first-ever recipients of PADI’s Medal of Valor. This high distinction will be awarded to Rick Stanton, John Volanthen, Dr. Richard Harris, Dr. Craig Challen, Jason Mallinson, Jim Warny and Chris Jewell. The courage, strength, honor and dignity displayed during the rescue operation propelled the PADI organization to create the medal to formally recognize their contributions to one of diving’s greatest moments in history. Rick Stanton and Jason Mallinson will represent this distinguished group and accept the PADI Medal of Valor at the PADI® Social on 13 November during DEMA Show 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

In June and July 2018, the world watched as top cave divers and other experts from around the globe converged in Thailand to find and save the “Wild Boars” soccer team, which had become trapped deep inside the Tham Luang cave system. For 18 days, the international effort involved more than 1,000 men and women, who combined their collective talents for the extraordinary recovery of the team.

“It was an awe-inspiring example of humanity at its best, focused on a single noble purpose,” says Drew Richardson, President and CEO of PADI Worldwide. “This complex rescue operation demonstrated action and focus propelled by the unshakeable conviction that those boys would not die on diving’s watch. Rick Stanton, Jason Mallinson and everyone who was part of this effort faced and accepted the difficulties, dangers and risks inherent in the rescue. On behalf of the entire PADI family, it is an honor to recognize these heroes and extend our immense gratitude for representing diving’s finest hour.”

Rick Stanton and John Volanthen were a driving force in the Thai cave rescue operation. The pair was the first to discover the soccer team, which had been trapped in the flooded cave for nine days at the time they were found. Together, with Mallinson and Jewell, the divers led the dive rescue and carried the boys out of the cave to safety. Both Stanton and Volanthen are regarded as two of Britain’s foremost cave divers, with more than 35 years’ experience in extreme cave dives and rescues, having led a number of high-profile rescue attempts in the past.

Dr. Richard “Harry” Harris played a critical role in the rescue, administering sedatives to the boys to facilitate their extraction under extreme and complex conditions. Working in anesthesia and aeromedical retrieval medicine in Adelaide, South Australia, Harris has expertise in cave diving, wilderness medicine and remote area health. Dr. Craig Challen, an Australian cave explorer, early adopter of closed-circuit mixed-gas rebreathers and avid wreck diver, dived alongside Harris facilitating the successful execution of the rescue.

Jason Mallinson and Chris Jewell were integral to the mission, taking food to the those trapped and working alongside Stanton and Volanthen to carry the boys out through the flooded sections of cave. Mallinson is an exploration and rescue cave diver with 30 years in the field. His achievements have led him to set distance and depth records in caves all over the world. He has assisted in multiple rescues and is a member of the United Kingdom’s international cave-dive rescue team. Jewell is a UK-based exploratory cave diver with more than 12 years’ experience leading cave diving. Belgian cave diver Jim Warny, who currently resides in Ireland, was instrumental in the coach’s extraction.

 

“Their daring mission is a wonderful opportunity to show the world what the diving community is made of, and what can be accomplished through a combination of proper training, trust, courage, passion and perseverance,” says Richardson.

Industry stakeholders and PADI Members are invited to stand together to thank these heroic divers. Join PADI in honoring these men at the PADI Social on Tuesday, 13 November 2018, from 6:00-8:00 pm at the Westgate Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.

All are invited for a special meet and greet with Rick Stanton and Jason Mallinson at the DEMA Show in the PADI booth (booth 1524) on Wednesday, 14 November from 5:00-6:00 pm. Please join PADI in celebrating these heroes and thanking them for their courage and honor.

PADI Digital Core Courses Expand Reach

As part of PADI’s ongoing mission to expand independent study materials and enhance the PADI digital product suite, we’re expanding the number of language offerings for the PADI Open Water Diver, Freediver™ and Enriched Air Diver educational course materials. Making the PADI eLearning experience accessible to even more students across the globe.

Scuba diving is a sport/hobby/obsession that bridges borders and cultures, bringing people around the world together to enjoy the underwater environment. But people around the world have different needs and, more importantly, speak different languages.  PADI accounts for this when creating its eLearning products.

The PADI organization is making it easier for PADI Divers to access learning materials, with a digital suite of core courses that are easy to purchase, download and use. Now, these materials are offered in more languages than ever before too – further demonstrating that PADI truly is the way the world learns to dive.

What’s new?

  • PADI Open Water Diver – Open Water Diver now available in seven new languages: Czech, Croatian, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Russian and Turkish.
  • PADI Freediver – Along with the existing English, the popular Freediver program is now available in 10 additional languages: Arabic, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish, with Korean, Thai, and Russian soon to follow.
  • PADI Enriched Air Diver – 22 languages: English, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, French, Finnish, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, with Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Indonesian, Thai, Hebrew and Polish soon to follow.
  • Advanced Open Water Diver: Coming soon!

Important to note: The PADI Library app will reflect these changes. If divers have automatic updates turned on in their device settings, the app will update automatically.  If not, they will need to make sure they update their app.

PADI Dive Centers and Resorts, be sure to update your eLearning preferences in your account to reflect the courses and languages you support.

Keep an eye out as more updates to the eLearning experience are coming soon.

PADI Supporting the UK Dive Community

It has been a successful and busy summer of diving around the United Kingdom. As Regional Managers we have been out and about supporting Dive Centres and Instructors with a host of activities and events.

So, what has been happening? Member forums, charity events, EVE training seminars, business development workshops and AWARE Week, are just a few of the many events across the UK. We would like to thank you for your continued commitment and support at these forums, training days and events.

It has been particularly inspiring to see how many PADI Professionals have taken part in the PADI Adaptive Techniques Speciality Course this season. This focuses on increasing awareness of varying diver abilities and teaches PADI Pro’s student-centered and prescriptive approaches when adapting techniques to meet diver needs. This is a valuable course to enrol in during the winter months which can then be used for next year’s summer season of diving.

So, as we come into the winter months, we would like to see you all at Dive 2018 and offer our continued support and guidance to help increase marketing activity for all RRA’s.

Dive 2018

DIVE 2018 is coming to the NEC, Birmingham on 27th – 28th October. This is a weekend not to be missed. The show attracts a large range of exhibitors showcasing the latest diving holidays, training courses and dive gear. Not only this, but there will be presentations from inspiring speakers who are shaping the Dive Industry. As well as a TekPool, the event will feature a Try Dive Pool making it a great event to take friends and family to who are interested in becoming divers. PADI have teamed up with DIVE 2018 to reward our PADI Members and PADI Divers with a 2-for-1 ticket offer. Please see here for ticket details. Both Emma Hewitt and Matt Clements will be at the show on the Saturday, so get in touch or seek us out at the show as it would be great to catch up and run through anything that you would like to work on.

 

Marketing & Event Support

The winter months are a great time to work on marketing material ahead of the 2019 summer season. There is a range of support available as well as assets ready for your use. Be sure to use the PADI Dropbox account for access to the latest marketing materials. As well as this, the PADI YouTube Channel and the image library on Flikr is a great source of visual content available for use. One of the surprise findings from the Dive Centre survey was the lack of branded vans, so why not apply for a PADI designed van wrap? There is also a host of support available if you are looking to step outside your centre and run an event or take part in a show.

Please email Matt Clements or Emma Hewitt for any further information and support. Matt Clements – matt.clements@padi.com –  Emma Hewitt – emma.hewitt@padi.com 

The poisonous pufferfish: Their true story

A floating ball of spines drifts past. This ball of spines is actually the most poisonous fish in the world and is responsible for multiple human fatalities every year. But what are the facts? Should you be worried? No!

Pufferfish are a diverse family of fish. They are found worldwide and have over 100 species. Although some species have adapted to live in brackish and freshwater the majority are encountered around the tropics and subtropical ocean waters. In the Maldives we have 5 genera and 18 species. They have a distinctive appearance with their long tapered body and large round head. These pufferfish can range from two centimetres long to almost one metre. In the Maldives the largest pufferfish is the Starry Pufferfish which grows to almost one metre and the smallest is the White-spotted Pufferfish which is around eight centimetres. Pufferfish are mostly bottom dwelling, inhabiting either reefs or sanding flats. Larvae are pelagic and a few species are completely pelagic.

In the Maldives we also have four species of porcupinefish which are in a different family to pufferfish – they belong to the Diodontidae family. They are very similar to pufferfish; the defining difference is that the porcupinefish’s body is covered in visible sharp spines that become upright when inflated. Pufferfish spines are not so visible prior to inflation. Porcupinefish in the Maldives are uncommon and are encountered individually. During the day they take shelter at depth, at night they become more active. Sometimes large porcupinefish can be found hovering around shallow reefs during the day – the reason behind this is currently unknown.

Whilst some pufferfish species have distinguishing bright markings over their bodies to show off their toxicity, for example the Saddled Pufferfish others camouflage themselves to match their surroundings. They are a scale-less fish with rough or spiky skin, beady eyes and all four teeth are fused together to form a beak. Big pufferfish use their beak to crack open and consume clams, mussels and shellfish. Smaller pufferfish prefer algae and smaller invertebrates.

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Most pufferfish are highly toxic due to containing a toxin called tetrodotoxin. The fish obtain this poison from vibrio bacteria which is found in the animals they eat, specifically from eating starfish and turban shell. Tetrodotoxin is a neurotoxin which is flavorless, odorless, heat stable and causes nerve paralysis. The location of the poison changes between species and is generally found in the liver and ovaries. To humans this poison is 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide and there is enough poison in one pufferfish to kill 30 people. Additionally there is no known antidote. It is believed that pufferfish underwent a spontaneous mutation that caused structural changes in the fish allowing them to incorporate this bacteria containing the lethal toxin in their bodies to their advantage. Sharks are the only known animal to be immune to pufferfish poison. Although the toxin will kill, current research is testing whether low doses have medical benefits. Studies show that the toxin may relieve pain particularly with cancer patients. This could be an alternative to opiate use and it has also been shown to reduce opiate withdrawal pain.

Even though it is well known that pufferfish are highly poisonous and can kill it doesn’t stop people eating them! Pufferfish is popular to eat steamed, roasted, in broth or hot pot and as sashimi. In Japan and Korea it is considered a delicacy. A pufferfish dish, called Fugu which means swell up has been eaten in Japan for over 2000 years, although during this time there have been restrictions. For example, in the 16th century Japan’s supreme war lord ordered that the eating of Fugu was illegal. This was in response to some of his troops dying after eating Fugu whilst he was rallying them to invade the Korean Peninsula. Whilst some people continued to eat Fugu in secret prohibition did not end until 1887 when Japan’s first prime minister went to a restaurant. The local fisherman had not caught anything and only Fugu was available – the prime minister was served it and he loved it. The year after this the ban was lifted in that region. Other regions shortly followed.

In Japan there are now 22 different species that have been approved to eat. To serve pufferfish the chef must have a certification. Training for this certification takes seven to ten years and includes a written examination, together with the chef being able to gut and remove the poisonous parts of the fish within 20 minutes. Two types of pufferfish are very popular: Torafugu (luxury option) and Mafugu (cheaper alternative). Typically one kilo of Torafugu costs $200USD.

The process of toxin removal has improved over time with it now being possible to completely remove the poison from the ovaries of fish. The ovaries are pickled for one year in salt and then for a further two years in rice bran. During the pickling process fermented sardine extract is poured over the ovaries to mature them. This removes the poison and delivers flavour. The science behind this process is unknown and only a few places are permitted to produce it. Additionally in some aquaculture facilities poison free pufferfish are being bred. They are bred in sterile environments where no vibrio bacteria are present. Theoretically the pufferfish should not be able to store the poison because there is no poison in their diet. These facilities are focusing their research on the liver. They have sampled 4000 fish livers over a nine year period and none of these fish were found to have the toxin. Now in special places poison free liver can be eaten and it is said to be very tasty.

The poison is a major deterrent for predators, but this is not the pufferfish’s only defense. When the pufferfish is threatened they can inflate by 40% making them harder to eat since they become a large stiff ball. For a mature fish this process takes around 15 seconds. Inflation is as a result of the fish unhinging their jaw and rapidly gulping large amounts of water (or air if the fish is out of the water) which causes their body to expand/puff up. The ability to inflate is mainly due to the pufferfish having an elastic stomach – the stomach has a special large and folded lining which allows it to expand and accommodate a large volume of air or water. The pufferfish’s skin also has collagen fibers which allows it to stretch and not break. Additionally most pufferfish lack some ribs and have no pelvis which allows them to become a ball shape. It takes the pufferfish around six hours to return to normal size and during this time they are vulnerable due to their increased size and lack of mobility. The process of puffing up is also very exhausting and can be damaging to the fish. For these reasons it is important that divers and snorkelers are respectful of pufferfish and avoid triggering their inflation by scaring or antagonizing them.

We have a variety of pufferfish that can be seen around Gili Lankanfushi. So next time you’re here grab your snorkel and camera and take a look!

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.

 

Dolphin encounters in the Maldives Part – 2

The Maldives is a tourist hot spot for dolphin cruises. These majestic animals are found commonly around Gili Lankanfushi and never disappoint with their impressive aerial displays and playful attitude.

The Maldives is a dream destination for wildlife seekers and ocean adventurers. The ocean temperature averages between 27 – 31°C, contains plentiful fish and has incredible visibility. This makes it an ideal location for cetaceans: whales, dolphins and porpoises. They are aptly named as the word cetacean means huge fish.

Spinner Dolphins:

Spinner dolphins are a common species of dolphins seen in the Maldives and worldwide. They are easily identified due to their tricolor pattern, the upper side is dark grey, the middle a light grey and the underside white. They have a defined dark line from the eye to the flipper and an elongated nose. They get their name due to their unique jumping behaviour, they are the only species of cetacean to spin laterally in the air. The maximum number of spins recorded is seven. These spinning displays can vary, these variations are thought to be caused by habitat differences.

Spinner dolphins are usually found in coastal environments generally associated with island chains or atolls. Spinner dolphins have a high re-sighting rate which indicates high site fidelity. During the day they use bay areas to rest and socialise, at night they venture offshore to hunt. These resting bays are generally in close proximity to feeding grounds, have a flat and sandy bottom with a depth around 20m. These features allow the dolphins to use only vision (instead of echolocation) to keep a look out for predators. If visibility is poor the dolphins are unlikely to rest as they are vulnerable to predation.

Reproduction in spinner dolphins varies greatly between sub-species. Their calving period is year round with a gestation time of 10.5 months, after birth the calf will nurse for two years. The period between calves is three years. Females reach sexual maturity earlier than males (seven for female and seven to ten for males).

Spinner dolphins have predictable daily patterns but there social structure is variable. Group size varies with habitat, with some open ocean populations traveling in groups numbering thousands. Group size could be dependent on the size of the sandy bay bottom and activity, for example resting group size is smaller than hunting groups. Dolphins living in remote reefs and atolls have higher affinity to each other whereas coastal population are more changeable. In coastal environments individual groups rest separately during the day and can come together at night to hunt. These dolphins typically hunt prey that live in deeper water but migrate vertically at night following the plankton. Feeding occurs at depths between 200 – 400m and includes fish, shrimp and squid. The size of the prey is small (five – 15cm) with males preferring lantern fish and females cuttlefish. Spinner dolphins along with bottlenose dolphins are vulnerable to a variety of human activities and developments.

Potential Threats:

The majority of bottlenose and spinner dolphins in the Maldives reside in coastal environments which makes them highly susceptible to human activities. Coastal habitats are becoming degraded and as such management of coastal environments is critical for dolphin survival. Both species of dolphin are particularly vulnerable to human activities including dolphin watching, swimming with dolphins, pollutants including acoustic and chemical pollution, gillnets, by-catch, hunting, habitat degradation, boat traffic, sea planes, climate change, purse seines and trawling fisheries.

As awareness about the threats to the planet grows there is a shift from activities that degrade wild animal populations to activities that educate and raise awareness. The number of participants for dolphin watching activities is growing and highly profitable. Dolphin watching has many positives; less invasive than swimming with dolphins, reduced desire from aquariums, alternative employment, reduced hunting and by-catch. Unfortunately some dolphin watching activities have little or no regulations and can be conducted in a manner that is negative for the dolphins. These activities can alter feeding, resting and reproductive behaviours. Stressed behaviour can be exhibited as changes in swimming speed and direction, changes in communication, respiration rate and aerial behaviours.

It has been observed that cetaceans avoid areas with heavy boat traffic and it is thought that disturbances to dolphins could lead to increased injury rate, unsuccessful reproduction, increases stress and damages survival probability. Prolonged disturbance may lead to permanent relocation of dolphin populations. A common misconception people have with dolphins is that they can leave if they aren’t happy, dolphins can find themselves too stressed, confused and blocked in by boats to leave. Additionally, many dolphins are reliant on coastal environments, moving away from the coast can lead to diminished survival chances. As more research is conducted it has become apparent that dolphin watching can be executed in a sustainable way.

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.

Dolphin encounters in the Maldives – Part 1

The Maldives is a tourist hot spot for dolphin cruises. These majestic animals are found commonly around Gili Lankanfushi and never disappoint with their impressive aerial displays and playful attitude.

The Maldives is a dream destination for wildlife seekers and ocean adventurers. The ocean temperature averages between 27 – 31°C, contains plentiful fish and has incredible visibility. This makes it an ideal location for cetaceans: whales, dolphins and porpoises. They are aptly named as the word cetacean means huge fish.


The Maldives is home to 23 out of the 85 cetaceans species globally. The most common encounters are spinner and bottlenose dolphins. The cetacean species here are very diverse; they range in size from one metre with a weight of 50kg to 30 metres and weighing over 150,000kg. The distribution of coastal dolphins is thought to rely on a number of factors including temperature, prey concentration, location, salinity, depth, tides, habitat type, type of ocean bottom and predation pressure.

The closest living relatives to cetaceans are hippos and other hooved animals like camels and pigs. They diverged from this group over 50 million years ago. The ancestor that made the leap from land to ocean is Ambulocetus which translates to running whale for it could both walk on land and swim, although it wasn’t great at either. This mammal lived in Pakistan and was around three metres in length. Its home was the brackish waters that reside in mangrove ecosystems. Over many millions of years Ambulocetus evolved into the cetaceans that we see today. The changes include the streamlining of the body, the hind limbs regressing, a decrease in hair, increases in blubber content, expansion of the hand bones into flippers, the relocation of the nostrils to the back of the head and changes to the snout.

Bottlenose dolphins:

Bottlenose dolphins are a long lived and larger species of dolphin with a length between two to four metres. Females live around 50+ years while males reach their 40’s. On the upper body they are grey in colouration whilst the underside is paler with the belly being white. Stripes can be observed from their eyes to the blow hole, older dolphins can exhibit spotting on the underside. These dolphins live in a variety of habitats including the ocean, tidal creeks, rivers, lagoons and estuaries. Bottlenose dolphins are one of the most extensively studied species of dolphins as they inhabit inshore environments making them more accessible.

The main calving period for bottlenose dolphins is late spring/summer when the water temperature is at its peak, although they can give birth year round. These dolphins have a yearlong gestation period with an interval of three years between each birth. After birth the calves remain with their mothers for three – four years, this duration is dependent on nutrition and size. These years together are critical for development of social, foraging and courtship skills. These skills can vary greatly between habitats. Weaning of calves starts after three years and within 10 months of the mother’s next pregnancy. The age at which dolphins reach sexual maturity ranges considerably. Females are considered mature between four and 13 years and males at seven to 16 years, the difference in age is dependent on geographical and environmental differences.

Different species of bottlenose dolphins travel in different pod sizes, for example one species prefers travelling in pods between five – ten individuals whilst others in pods between 25 – 100. This variability depends upon food availability, activity, time of day and number of calves. Within these dynamic groups there may be an affinity between a few of the dolphins. These associations are hierarchical and depend on individual range and habitat type. These affinities usually occur between same sexes and mothers and calves. They have been known to last many years, with one association lasting 13 years. It has been observed that females have stronger associations and a larger social network than males.


When hunting bottlenose dolphins use the entire water column and feed on a variety of prey including fish, cephalopods, eels, small rays and sharks. Foraging methods depend on habitat, number of individuals and prey type. Dolphins are known to feed individually, in small groups and can use cooperative feeding strategies including circling, herding and bubble blowing. Dolphins are intelligent hunters, for example some have learnt to follow trawlers whilst others have been observed to use sponges on their nose for protection during hunting. These dolphins can make seasonal movements in response to prey location, water temperature and predation threats.
Bottlenose dolphins share their habitat with other dolphins including spinner dolphins. It is thought that the different species are able to live together due to differences in prey requirements and social behaviours. This co-existence is seen more commonly in the tropics and around coastal islands. This could be due to the higher concentration of nutrients compared to the open ocean.

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.

The importance of a good dive buddy

From the very beginning of a divers training, the importance of being and having a good buddy is emphasised, it is one of the key aspects of recreational scuba diving. As well as helping reduce risk, a buddy should enhance your dive from start to finish – a shared experience is always the best!

Benefits of buddy diving:

  1. They are an extra pair of hands when donning the scuba gear and taking it off again at the end of a dive – why struggle alone when a buddy can help?
  2. In the water, they can offer reminders about planned/actual depth and to check how much air is left – on a really exciting dive where sharks and rays are swimming all around, divers can be easily distracted and forget these basic checks – a good buddy means another chance to remember
  3. Should a diver need a little help such as with a cramp in their leg a buddy can help to alleviate the problem quickly and effectively – the divers can then get back to enjoying the dive
  4. In absolute emergency situations such as running out of air, a panic situation or entanglement, a buddy is an immediate source of life-saving help, without which the consequences could be life-threatening
  5. Navigational help – two brains are often better than one in navigational challenges!
  6. Someone to share amazing sightings with and most importantly, a witness to the countless sharks, super rare critters and giant manta rays seen – without a buddy the story just wouldn’t be believable!
  7. A second pair of eyes on the reef and in the blue – diving with a buddy presents double the chance of spotting something really amazing.
  8. Safety stops can be a time of quiet contemplation of the dive just completed and they can also be a time of funny faces and silly signals…and a lot of laughing bubbles drifting up to the surface – a buddy can be an excellent source of entertainment, diving is meant to be fun after all.


Divers usually find themselves travelling without a dive buddy in tow but this is not a problem at all – especially when diving with Prodivers Maldives. Buddy teams are agreed on the boats and the instructor guiding the dive is always very happy to accompany anyone who isn’t paired up. It’s beneficial for the buddy teams to stay with the guide anyway as they know the reefs like the back of their hand and can point out all the really cool stuff.

As divers get more experienced they may be tempted to go and dive on their own, they may think that they can handle anything and become quite blasé about the risks involved. The fact is that scuba diving is a high-risk adventure sport IF embarked upon alone, but when the correct procedures are followed and the buddy diving system is adhered to, the sport enjoys an excellent safety record. No matter how experienced a diver is a good buddy is as essential as the tank on their back!

Marine Science Workshop at Hurawalhi: The First of its Kind in Lhaviyani Atoll

Hurawalhi Maldives is proud to announce that the resort’s Marine Biology Center, a Manta Trust research facility, is set to host a Marine Science Workshop, the first of its kind in Lhaviyani Atoll.

The workshop, which will take place on Saturday, 14th July 2018, invites marine biologists, dive instructors, snorkel guides and tour operators in the region (Lhaviyani Atoll) to come and meet their fellow ocean advocates and to equip themselves with the knowledge and tools to provide their guests with the most up-to-date information; what’s more, the workshop will look to further instill sustainable tourism values and practices in the atoll’s community, and facilitate better research collection and collaboration in the atoll.

The workshop will be led by Manta Trust’s Project Manager and Hurawalhi’s Resident Marine Biologist, Kirsty Ballard, who will educate attendees about Manta Trust’s Maldivian Manta Ray Project‘s most recent finding. Kirsty will be joined by representatives from Atoll Marine Centre and Olive Ridley Project who will discuss their current turtle and clownfish research projects.

Event update and photo gallery

Marine Science Workshop Hurawalhi Maldives

The Workshop was a huge success! Participants from Hurawalhi, Kuredu, Komandoo, Kanuhura, Cocoon and Atoll Marine Centre had a fact-filled day. Hungry for knowledge, they were all ears during introductions from Kirsty Ballard who organised the event and Mohamed Solah, Director of Operations at Hurawalhi, and subsequent presentations: Kirsty further expanded on the Manta Trust research and findings, Dr. Stephanie Köhnk (Olive Ridley Project team member and Turtle Biologist and Educator at Kuredu) provided insights into sea turtle research, Atoll Marine Centre team shared knowledge on turtles, clownfish breeding programme and coral propagation, and CorAlive spoke about coral accretion methods.

Hurawalhi was pleased to have had the pleasure to host the Marine Science Workshop. We are certain that the resort’s Marine Biology Center will play an important role in educating marine users and providing tools to ensure tourism activities are conducted in a sustainable manner also in the future.

This was the first marine science workshop of its kind in Lhaviyani Atoll and both Hurawalhi and Manta Trust are confident in saying that it provided an excellent starting point for an even more increased and integrated research collaboration within the atoll.