In this week’s Community Spotlight, Project AWARE catches up with Josiah Mackin, a scuba professional who raised over $2k for shark conservation by just posting a picture of himself.
Tell us about your passion for ocean conservation.
My passion for conservation started when I joined the fight against invasive lionfish in the Caribbean and wrote the PADI Caribbean Lionfish Containment Diver Distinctive Specialty. Since then I've found the amount of ocean debris around the world to be quite troubling. So I started a strong effort to conduct Dive Against Debris surveys on a regular basis in the waters surrounding Utila. One of the efforts related to removing debris from dive sites includes joining Project AWARE’s “Adopt a Dive Site” campaign, through which I along with other colleagues adopted Black Coral Wall in Utila, Honduras.
Why and when did you get involved with Project AWARE?
As an active dive instructor, I have always been involved in different projects with Project AWARE. I feel my job brings with it a responsibility to be an advocate, including teaching others about Project AWARE and running local projects like beach cleanups, Dive Against Debris, and now even my fundraiser aimed at protecting sharks! I shared a photo of me looking relaxed underwater surrounded by sharks and asked my friends and family for their support. I asked for just $1 from everyone and the favor, that if they can’t donate, to share the message that sharks need our help. Before I knew it, I'd raised over $2k.
What are some issues that are affecting your local dive site or favorite underwater areas?
Where I currently work, Utila, Honduras, is a small island. But the local community’s daily activities revolve around diving. On this small 11km island, there are 11 dive centers, so there are a lot of ocean advocates that help our local dives sites stay quite clean! There is a positive attitude by most divers in my area to pick up rubbish that they see on a dive. One big issue that we do face is overfishing. The locals on the island have always been involved in this activity as a livelihood, in spite of Utila being a Marine Protected Area. You can see how this problem has been evolving for years now, and we see devastating consequences. For example, the major predators like sharks that keep the reef healthy have now almost disappeared. As a direct effect, we see quite a bit of alga overtaking corals as the populations of other fish have diminished from disease and an off-balanced ecosystem.
Tell us about your work!
Our divemaster program at Utila Dive Center focuses on environmental actions. Divemaster trainees are asked to be part of the CoralWatch program, and so they learn about coral reef conservation and coral bleaching. We also require them to complete Dive Against Debris dives, and other beach and underwater clean-ups, led by myself and other members of staff. As mentioned previously we have also recently joined the “Adopt a Dive Site” campaign, and we have adopted Black Coral Wall, where we have continued to go and monitor the debris in the area both on the surrounding shore and underwater. My biggest effort recently was to initiate the fundraiser with the intent of raising awareness and funds for shark conservation projects!
What has been the highlight of your Project AWARE experience?
One of the ways I feel my experience with Project AWARE is the most rewarding is when I get to work with new divemasters in these different projects. It opens their eyes to how our ocean is under threat and how much of an impact one person can have with small actions like not using plastic straws, bags or bottles.
What is the most important thing you tell others about Project AWARE?
I think the best way we can give back to the planet is through education, and creating awareness, and luckily for us, we have the different channels through Project AWARE to make it happen. It is organizations like Project AWARE that help unite people from different walks of life into working towards the same goal. That is why I think it is important for every diver and even non-divers to support Project AWARE!