In this week’s Community Spotlight, Project AWARE catches up with Martin Ritter, scuba instructor at B&J Diving in Malaysia.
Tell us about your passion for ocean conservation.
The team at B&J Diving in Malaysia are scuba divers, ocean enthusiasts and environmental activists. The ocean is not only our livelihood but also the future of our planet and it needs protection. Every time we go diving we’re thrilled to see healthy reefs and saddened should we find any damage. We can’t just standby in these cases but feel the urge to act immediately instead.
Why and when did you get involved with Project AWARE?
We got involved with Project AWARE in the 1990s simply because we love our marine environment and support anybody who feels the same and does something to conserve it.
What are some issues that are affecting your local dive site or favorite underwater areas?
Tioman Island in Malaysia is blessed with very healthy coral reefs and not much debris underwater. We do however face a few challenges in protecting our oceans. There is drift debris on land and in Mangrove Bay on Coral Island, which we have made our adopted dive site. There are mooring buoys that needs replacing using sustainable methods so that no boat anchors and damages our reefs and then there are Crown of Thorn Seastars (COTS) – an invasive species.
COTS have been a major issue around Tioman Island since the late 90s. Several outbreaks were recorded and we lost large areas of Staghorn Corals (Acropora cervicornis) to their feeding habit. From around 2008 onwards, we have used the injection method to remove them, injecting them with bio-degradable solution of salt water and sodium bisulphate (aka dry acid). Today we have the COTS in check since we conduct multiple injection events annually.
What Project AWARE programs have you participated in? Tell us about your work.
B&J Diving has been participating in most of Project AWARE’s programs over the past two decades. We’re actively promoting Dive Against Debris surveys, offer the Dive Against Debris Specialty course in conjunction with our regular cleanup events and have adopted Mangrove Bay on Coral Island through Adopt a Dive Site.
What has been the highlight of your Project AWARE experience?
One highlight for us is working together with the Project AWARE team! They’re a great bunch who support us in any way they can! Apart from that, we enjoy educating locals about marine conservation and witnessing the changes they make in their daily lives as they learn more about. For example, one of our clients (a couple) removed shark fin soup from their wedding menu after diving with us and learning about shark conservation!
What is the most important thing you tell others about Project AWARE?
We tell them simply what Project AWARE stands for, what it does and that we all are responsible to do our part in protecting our fragile reefs and marine life.