Project AWARE®: Dive Against Debris™

Dive Downbelow

Dive Downbelow

The problem

Marine debris is one of the most threatening issues facing our ocean planet. Nearly 700 species of animals have been affected - either by ingesting or becoming entangled in marine debris. Abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear (ADLFG) - otherwise known as ‘ghost gear’ – is a major culprit, negatively affecting underwater environments and endangering marine animals. And for divers, the harm caused by ghost gear beneath the waves is an all too familiar sight.

The solution

To combat the damaging impact of ghost gear and other marine debris in ocean environments, Project AWARE® developed Dive Against Debris™, the world’s first and only underwater marine debris removal and survey that operates on a global scale, yielding  data about the types and quantities of marine debris items removed by scuba divers from the seabed. Through Dive Against Debris™, volunteer divers’ surveys capture quantitative data specific to ghost gear yielding insight on the effects and extent to which nets, traps, lines hooks, sinkers and lures are infiltrating the marine environment. Not only do divers have a natural affinity to protect the marine environment, they have the unique skill set required to accurately and effectively remove and report ghost gear found underwater. Over time, this information can help inform policy change leading to a measurable reduction of ghost gear and other trash entering our oceans. 

Dive Against Debris™ surveys not only provide an immediate relief to undersea habitats and marine life through ghost gear retrieval, they also provide the detailed information and evidence necessary to advocate for change. Through participation in the Global Ghost Gear Initiative and other partnerships against trash, Project AWARE® advocates for long-term solutions to prevent marine debris.

The outcomes

Since the inception of Dive Against Debris™ in 2011, more than 28,000 participants have submitted nearly 2,000 surveys conducted in dive sites across the globe. More than 564,000 pieces of marine debris have been removed.

In 2015 alone, one third of Dive Against Debris™ surveys across the globe reported ghost gear that amounted to 13% of all items reported.

Project AWARE® works with alliance partners to share Dive Against Debris™ survey information at international conferences, ensuring that marine debris and ghost gear remains at the top of the political agenda. By collaborating with governments, NGOs, businesses and individual volunteers across the globe, Project AWARE® is committed to finding long-term, measurable solutions to stop marine debris at its source.

The lessons

First and foremost, building evidence is an essential component to addressing the issue of marine debris, including ghost gear. Project AWARE® has developed a protocol that engages and empowers citizen divers to remove and report debris, demonstrating the significant benefits of engaging the global dive community in citizen-science. The extent of marine debris including ghost gear on the seafloor, is an area that has previously been disregarded as out of sight, out of mind. Enlisting the help of citizen scientists, Dive Against Debris™ aims to fill this gap – providing quantitative evidence and an accurate perspective about marine debris found on the seafloor that policy-makers cannot ignore.

Lastly, information obtained through Dive Against Debris™ surveys can be used to advocate for global change. Working toward solutions that address ghost gear and other marine debris requires strategic collaboration among a variety of stakeholders. Therefore, Project AWARE® is committed to working with partner organisations to find solutions to the marine debris issue.

Key contacts 

Hannah Pragnell-Raasch

Program Specialist, Project AWARE

Ania Budziak

Associate Director, Programs, Project AWARE

Participant Projectpb+j