The Weekly Dive Vol. 78



On Friday, May 30th, the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards took place in San Francisco. Often called the “Academy Awards of the Sea,” these awards honor the years’ seven leading ocean conservationists. The awardees may surprise you; they range from a former Secretary of Defense to a teenager who organized bake sales to benefit sea turtles. Royalty from Saudi Arabia and an everyday sailor were also recognized. As you can see, it doesn’t matter who you are, you can make a difference in the well-being of the ocean. What will you do to get nominated?

Dr. Jane Goodall and the Vancouver Aquarium recently met with opposing views in regards to the aquariums’ breeding practices of captive beluga whales. Goodall wrote the aquarium a letter, explaining that belugas, highly social, far-migrating creatures, require an environment more complex than captivity can provide. However, the Vancouver Aquarium’s director respectfully disagrees, and suspects that Goodall is basing her conclusions on pure activism, opposed to facts. He claims that the captive belugas are thriving under the care of the top veterinarians and their presence at the aquarium inspires thousands each year to be more conscious of environmental health and protection. Where do you stand on this issue?

A Los Angeles-based research team was observing a group of bottlenose dolphins feeding near the shore, when suddenly, the dolphins took off. Surprised by this unexpected detour, the researchers followed the group three miles off shore.  What they found shocked them. The dolphins were circling a young girl, struggling to stay afloat and suffering from extreme hypothermia. Once the team got her onto the boat, they found a plastic bag tied around her neck, containing her passport and a suicide note. The eighteen year old girl was on vacation from Germany. Thanks to the dolphins’ alertness and the research teams’ rescue, the girl recovered at Marina Del Rey hospital. It’s been debated whether dolphins actually save humans -- most evidence has been anecdotal -- but this story suggests our ocean friends have a watchful eye out for us in times of need.

Rory and Melita Hunter, an Australian couple, first visited Cambodia in 2005. Though in love with the natural setting, the Hunters were dismayed to witness destructive fishing activities, plastic pollution, and an absent waste management system. Inspired to do something about the problems they observed, they established a luxurious private island resort, called Song Saa. What sets Song Saa apart is its commitment to sustainable practices, such as supporting locally grown food, which has provided an example for the surrounding local communities. The Song Saa Foundation quickly followed the hotel’s creation. Due to the Hunters’ involvement, Cambodia’s first marine protected reserve was founded, destructive fishing practices were banned, education programs and marine research were initiated, and a much-needed waste management system was put in place. Ecologically and socially, Cambodia has benefitted from Song Saa’s development and influence. Who knew luxury could be so sustainable?

Benjamin Von Wong, a photographer known for his ambitious, large-scale photo shoots, decided to take things underwater this time. He chose a shipwreck in Bali as his backdrop. The actual production had to be stripped down considerably to work within the unique conditions of the ocean. For example, all the models and crew had to be licensed divers. Von Wong was limited to minimal gear and natural sunlight. Despite these aquatic restraints, Von Wong’s shoot went smooth as an ocean current and his images are a beautiful testament to the creative task he took on, as well as the wonders to be found underwater.

Fabien Cousteau, grandson of famed underwater explorer Jacques Yves-Cousteau, is setting out to beat his grandfather’s record of living underwater for 30 days in an endeavor called “Mission 31.” Jacques is famous for predicting that humans would one day live in underwater communities. Continuing his family’s devotion to ocean, Fabien, along with five others, will spend June in an underwater habitat, Aquarius. Located 60 feet below the sea off the Florida Coastline, Aquarius relies on a closely monitored oxygen feed. The health implications of this journey are potentially dangerous, but Cousteau says the venture gives him “a sense of bliss.” During their 31 days, the inhabitants of Aquarius will explore the surrounding environment with the help of rocket-packs and motorbikes. They hope to gather information relating to ocean acidification, pollution, and biodiversity levels. Fabien wants to create hype around his journey, and has invited celebrities, including the rapper, Will. I. Am., to briefly visit Aquarius. Mission 31 will surely make great strides in ocean research and hopefully garner excitement about conducting future discoveries. Learn more about Aquarius (and OWOO's mission to save the underwater labroatory from closure) from this infographic and video

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