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SVG Environment Fund, Serenity Dive teach youngsters about the Ocean

SVG Environment Fund, Serenity Dive teach youngsters about the Ocean
Some recipients of dive and snorkeling certification gained through the “Ocean Awareness and Scuba Diving program” facilitated by Serenity Dive, and sponsored by the SVG Environment Fund, stand with the Owner of Serenity Dive, Vaughn Martin (middle back row) after receiving their awards on Saturday

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Seventeen young adults have recently been certified in scuba diving through the “Ocean Awareness and Scuba Diving program” facilitated by Serenity Dive and sponsored by the St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Environment Fund (formally known as the SVG Preservation Fund). 

In an official award ceremony last Saturday, held at the SVG Community College, some of these young adults were present to receive their hard earned certificates, as well as two children below the age of 10 years, who received theirs for snorkeling and ocean awareness. 

The Ocean Smart program, according to owner of Serenity Dive, Vaughn Martin, was his brainchild in 2016. He thought about ways of bringing meaning to the dive scene, Martin explained on Saturday, and came up with the idea of introducing diving to schools. 

Samika Mitchell, now a certified open water diver, was one such youngster who expressed an interest. “Growing up I’ve always loved the ocean, but I just didn’t know much, and last year, I did environmental science and that made me want to know more,” she told SEARCHLIGHT last Saturday. She learnt her theory in August last year, and the 18-year-old became enamoured with the idea of seeing what she was studying about, and therefore decided to do the practical in February. 

Mitchell encouraged persons to learn about the ocean from a young age. “Just start learning…because climate change is a major factor right now,” she stated, referring to the effects that climate change is having on the ocean and the fact that sea life is changing.

“The younger generation, they might not see what I got to see,” she mused, and advised emphatically that the time to start learning about the Ocean is now.

The program also decided to take two spear fishermen under its wing. One such fisherman, Lawson Bonadie, expressed gratitude for the opportunity. “We normally go down with one breath, spear our fish, come back up, but given the opportunity to get down there, have a look at some of the reefs, seeing some of the debris that we contribute to the ocean has given me a great appreciation,” he admitted. He noted that they are now more sensitive about what fish to not catch, such as the parrot fish.

Exposing youngsters to the environment in SVG and making certain that their knowledge was “not just limited to seeing them on a cellphone or an Ipad but actually experiencing them,” was one of the reasons for the project, according to Martin. “To see what damage is being done, from just the regular throwing of a plastic bottle in the road or in the drain,” was another aspect of the project.

The initiative caught the interest of the SVG Environment Fund about two years ago, and they have been providing sponsorship for the program. 

According to the executive director of the fund, Louise Mitchell, the Fund’s attention was first drawn by Serenity Dive’s activism with controlling the levels of the invasive species, the Lion Fish, and then they learnt about the dive outreach. 

The executive director commented to the audience on Saturday, “If you as Vincentians don’t know about life under water, if you haven’t seen it with your own eyes, if you haven’t experienced it, how can you really care about global warming? How can you relate to these concepts that you hear about?,” such as the United Nations sustainable goal No 14 “Life Below Water”, she noted.

“This program is all about getting young people to learn about the oceans, and so you become better custodians of it. You can only look after something if you really know what it’s about,” she stated. 

At least three additional spots remain open for persons between the ages of 13 to 16 years to learn about diving though the program.

A 20-minute film has been produced by local filmmakers ‘Diffusion’ which follows preparations for the monthly fish fry hosted by Serenity Dive.  

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