• 4 min read
While François Sarano, oceanographer and former scientific adviser to Commander Cousteau, was traveling to Cape Verde, he witnessed a striking fact: scuba divers were wasting fresh water to rinse themselves, while the country is in dire need of it...
This was almost 20 years ago.
François thought: "So, if it is out of ignorance that people waste fresh water, damage the seabed, buy rare shellfish or eat endangered fish, they must be informed!"
François joins forces with Vincent Ohl, sports photographer and director, to create in 2002 Longitude 181 NGO, and the International Guidelines for Responsible Divers.
We asked Carole Kinnaert, in charge of Tour Operators members of Longitude 181, to tell us more about their actions towards scuba divers.
What can scuba divers do to support sustainable diving tourism?
The International Guidelines, available in 25 languages, gives divers keys to have respectful behaviors of the marine environment. There are advice they can follow while they prepare their trip, before, during and after diving, and on the boat.
For instance, the Guidelines recommend not touching or taking anything during the dive (except pictures!), using short fins, securing the equipment properly not to damage coral reefs, not bying souvenirs that co,e fro, the sea...
Scuba divers sometimes need to get some direction, especially when they are new to the sport. These Guidelines contribute to increase awareness of the impact (positive or not) scuba divers can have on the Ocean.
Nowadays, about 200 dive shops around the world are "Ambassadors" of these Guidelines. You can find them in the Eco Friendly Dive Shops Guide. This is very encouraging!
There're even some Guidelines for Sailing and for Freediving. French championsin freediving have adopted the Guidelines, and some of them are even Ambassadors, such as Morgan Bourch’is, Guillaume Néry, Stéphane Tourreau, Andy Cabrera, Pierre Frolla and Alice Modolo, among others.
How can Dive shops become Longitude 181 "Ambassadors"?
Ambassador Dive Shops self-assess using three dimensions: their knowledge of the marine world and education to scuba divers and the local community, the ecofriendliness of their operation (structure, boat, dives) and their long-term commitment to the environment preservation.
Longitude 181 then review their answers and gives a notation (between 0 to 4 planets) that reflects their level of engagement. We try to encourage good practices more than finger pointing.
What can you do to instill respect for the Ocean in people who've never had the opportunity to see it?
This is the most difficult. Most scuba divers, like me, become aware of the importance of preserving the Ocean as they discover the underwater world. What they witness underwater is so amazing that they want to protect it.
"Only 0.06% of the inhabitants of this planet have already put on a mask and snorkel" François Sarano, Longitude 181 Founder
People living far from the Ocean are equally affected by the impacts of the destruction of the marine environment. Climate change affects all regions of the world. The contamination the oceans undergo has impacts on the fish we eat - or rather that we will no longer eat if they disappear...
We use all media to educate broadly on these impacts, television, the internet and social media, we also attend events as much as we can.
Everyone at Longitude 181 is a volunteer, and we try as much as possible to share our knowledge with all generations, especially with the youngest.
What is the "Ocean Academy?"
We designed a program called "Raise Awareness to Protect". One of the actions we do is called the "Ocean Academy", a program dedicated to educate kids and young adults on the importance of the Ocean. They will be the adults of tomorrow.
We bring the Ocean Academy to schools - from primary to high school, and to events - we were at the Paris Dive Show in January 2020.
We use fun activities and games to generate interest in this amazing underwater world, and raise awareness about marine conservation.
Carole is volunteering at Longitude 181 - she's responsible for relations with Tour Operators members of Longitude 181. She has been scuba diving for 15 years, just started freediving, wears a manta ray as a pendant, and has a (wooden) shark in her living-room!