In this ongoing series, we speak to the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer…
What is the name of your business?
What is your role within the business?
How long has the business operated for?
How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?
More than 25 years; PADI Master Scuba Diver Training and Freediving Instructor
What is your favorite type of diving?
Education diving – when we are teaching about the health and importance of the reef and its creatures. Or when I am learning about my own inner ocean peace on a freedive.
If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?
We legitimately love what we do. Barbados Blue is run by marine biologists and built from a crew of ocean-loving, happy people. As small island people we grew up at the beach and it means more to us than just a job or just a pastime. Our hearts are in the ocean and we consider ourselves lucky – even on those extra days – to be able to share what we do with you.
Uniquely we also have a sister dive shop, Grenada Blue, better known as Eco Dive in Grenada so we can offer a two island holiday, or a repeat Caribbean destination built on the same values, education and principles.
What is your favorite dive in your location and why?
Carlisle Bay Marine Park – an amazing series of wrecks and patch reef right off the beach, two minutes from the dive centre. This dive never gets old, with history, wreck swim throughs, the new MV Trident, great marine life including a hot zone for seahorses, frogfish, rays, turltes and more. This is a gem of a training site, an amazing site for photographers and the perfect location for Freedivers, beginners to advanced. I really do LOVE my backyard Marine Park.
What types of diving are available in your location?
Wrecks – Stavronikita, Bajan Queen, Cornwallis, Berwyn, C-trek, Pamir, Brianna, Trident, Friar’s Craig
Reef Diving – all over patch reef and bank reefs around our coral island
Adventure Diving – East Coast and North coast in calm conditions
What do you find most rewarding about your current role?
The ability to share my passion, to teach, and to help the next generation set the stage for a better Barbados to come.
What is your favorite underwater creature?
Sea Turtles – we have tons of them! But if that is too obvious I am going for a ‘Thumb Splitter’ mantis shrimp. With some of the most amazing eyeballs, colourings and their sneaky powerhouse, I love their stealth and the challenge of finding one.
Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?
Along with our sister shop Eco Dive in Grenada we are the only shops in the southern Caribbean offering the PADI Coral First Aid coral nursery specialty course. This is designed to give our juvenile corals at risk a fighting chance, a place to grow big and strong before being outplanted on the reef, while providing our skilled guests the chance to get involved and help make a real difference on the reef and in our marine parks. We need more marine parks and Barbados is just getting going. There are exciting chances in the works, stay tuned.
As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?
- Oxybenzone based sunscreens that prevent the corals from reproducing properly (please get your hands on reef safe – zinc – based sunscreens before arrival)
- Ocean plastics (help us reduce our plastic use by refusing single use bags, straws, cups and any unnecessary plastics.
Is your center involved in any environmental work?
Eco Dive (Grenada) got us signed up for Project AWARE’s 100% AWARE programme, with them as a sister dive shop challenge a number of years ago and we’ve never looked back. Between our sister centres we have donated over $12,000 US to ocean conservation efforts and are not done yet. Inspired by the progress we have opened our own non-profit NGO’s called Eco Blue that allow us to give back locally with learn to swim, mega fauna (shark and ray) marine education, permanent mooring, invasive species lionfish outreach and more. Within Barbados Blue itself, on top of the 100% AWARE, we are also running the Coral First Aid nursery specialty course, and we help the Barbados sea turtle project with turtle tagging and rescue.
How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?
Incorporate more conservation info as mandatory course info into training programmes. We would love to see an ECO Open Water that builds more conservation into the course from the first time you hit the pool. Many of our fellow centres are on board – but not all… and not all enable it to be easy or obvious. Our divers are our messengers. Divers that make a difference could be all divers (you did ask me to dream)… Remember the effect of a butterfly’s wings, all of our actions matter!
And we are LOVING the freediving. An amazing way to connect with the ocean on a different level, and a ‘greener’ way to dive.
What would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?
Welcome! We are here to help, here to build a connection with our divers and here to share the ocean love in beautiful Barbados.
Where can our visitors find out more about your business?
Caribbean Shark Coalition launched
Caribbean Shark Coalition launched to promote training, impact, and collaboration around shark protections in the Greater Caribbean Region
The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) and Beneath the Waves (BTW) have launched the Caribbean Shark Coalition (CSC), an innovative, new platform to bring key stakeholders, researchers, governments and funders together to better collaborate and scale the impacts of science and policy within the entire Greater Caribbean region.
Represented are over 45 new members from NGOs, governments, and local businesses from 24 countries, which have formally joined the CSC to build capacity around research, policy, and education efforts for these threatened species in the region.
The Caribbean plays a key role in advancing the global target of protecting 30% of the worlds’ ocean by 2030. Under this vision, the CSC has three primary goals, which will be carried out through collaborative work and CSC-member projects. Firstly, the CSC will foster collaboration in shark and ray research, policy, and capacity building for conservation among stakeholders, and provide opportunities for knowledge transfer and data synthesis. The CSC will also seek to explore ways in which transboundary protections can be made to better safeguard the long-term health of shark and ray populations. Finally, the CSC aims to promote a sustainable future for these species as well as the human livelihoods who depend on them, by engaging local businesses, stakeholders, and private sector corporations.
“This is a historic moment for marine conservation efforts in the Caribbean,” says Tadzio Bervoets, Director of DNCA and a founding team member at the CSC. “We have been calling for transboundary marine protections in these waters, as we know that these apex predators are connecting ecosystems, reefs, fisheries, and nutrients across Exclusive Economic Zones. The CSC will help us to find and address critical knowledge gaps around sharks and rays in the region, and support collaborative research projects.”
Dr. Austin Gallagher, Chief Scientist of Beneath the Waves, shares, “Over the years we’ve had so many stakeholders from throughout the region express their interest in getting engaged in basic research or education around sharks, but a lack of resources or technical or operational expertise limited them from taking action.
He adds, “We hope The Coalition can play a role in creating that friendly, open, and supportive community those voices have been looking for.”
CSC members represent a collection of experts from NGOs, local communities, intergovernmental organizations and governments, academia, and policy institutes, and local businesses, working together to advance the study and conservation of sharks and rays found in the waters of the Greater Caribbean. The CSC will provide cross-disciplinary training, region-wide assessments, and will issue grants to CSC-member projects. The CSC will represent the interests and goals of members and, more broadly, sharks and ray species of the Caribbean at the UN (UNEP-CEP and the Regional Activity Center for the SPAW Protocols of the Cartagena Convention), IUCN-Caribbean, CITES, CMS, CBD, and other international gatherings.
For information visit www.caribbeansharks.co
Photo credit: Sami Kattan (all rights reserved)
Ground-breaking Shark Research conducted in St. Maarten waters
In April 2021 members from the Nature Foundation St. Maarten, the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA), the Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF), and Beneath the Waves conducted multiple ‘scientific firsts’ as part of the “Shark Shakedown” project. The research expedition was a part of a wider research project into tiger sharks in the region funded by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-NL) through the Biodiversity Funds and the Dutch National Postcode Lottery. The researchers tagged eleven sharks, including for the first time a female pregnant tiger and endangered Caribbean reef shark in the Dutch Caribbean. The data will provide vital information for conservation strategies not only in St. Maarten, but for the wider Caribbean.
The expedition lasted five days in which three species of sharks were tagged, including tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier), Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi), and nurse sharks (Ginglymostoma cirratum) all ranging from sub-adults to adults.
Participants received hands-on training with experts from Beneath the Waves in preparation for the upcoming expedition to the Saba Bank in August 2021. The goal of this upcoming expedition is to determine whether the Saba Bank is a breeding area for tiger sharks in the Eastern Caribbean. The high-definition ultrasound technology the team used was created by E. I. Medical Imaging and pioneered by collaborator Dr. James Sulikowski, of Arizona State University. This technology has successfully been used to identify maturity state and the stage of pregnancy in various shark species, a first for shark science in the region.
The scientists successfully confirmed early pregnancy stage in a large female tiger shark, as well as placed a satellite tag on the shark during the workup process. Using satellite tracking over the next few months, the scientists hope to confirm evidence of Sint Maarten being a breeding location for these globally threatened animals. In another shark tagging ‘first’, Beneath the Waves’ Chief Scientist, Dr. Austin Gallagher, placed the first camera tag on a tiger shark in the Dutch Caribbean. The team successfully recovered the camera package during the expedition, and the animal has already shown promising results regarding shark behavior in the region.
Both the satellite tag and camera tag have shown that these tiger sharks prefer to travel in the area between St. Maarten and St. Barths; however, these are only the first detections. No assumptions can be made yet regarding the movement of these animals.
The information gained from this research will provide a better understanding of the importance of both the status of sharks in Sint Maarten’s territorial waters and in the Yarari Sanctuary and the role these ecosystems play in the life-cycle of tiger sharks in the wider Caribbean region. Tiger sharks are currently categorized as Near-Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature while Caribbean reef sharks have very recently been upgraded to Endangered. Sharks play key roles in maintaining the balance within local and regional marine ecosystems and maintaining biodiversity and therefore their protection is crucial.
Follow the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance’s Facebook, Instagram (dcnanature) or DCNA’s website (https://dcnanature.org/news/) to learn more about the shark expedition and other nature news from the Dutch Caribbean.
Photo credit: © Sami Kattan/Beneath the Waves (all rights reserved)