Many people see freediving solely as a leisure activity — just another one to tick off their bucket lists. But more than just diving for fun, it’s unknown to many that freediving is also an effective tool to conserve our marine life. One simple example is its ability to spread marine life awareness through photos and videos. For conservationists and freedivers, underwater pictures are not just for keepsakes and souvenirs. These are vital tools to spread awareness of marine biology and its needs, as visual promotion is always an important key in any campaign.
Additionally, freediving is pretty much an open platform where even novice divers can join and do their share. There are a lot of options for those who want to learn freediving, some of which are free — even for those who have zero backgrounds in the sport. From there, you can make your own contribution with coral reef check-ups, documentation, and many more.
Being a low-impact and low-maintenance activity, freediving is one example of a sustainable way of interacting with the ocean. With just fins and snorkels as equipment, or sometimes even just your (trained) body, you can briefly explore the underwater environment while leaving little to no impact. This does not only cut huge costs but also causes less disturbance/threats to marine life. This is why many organizations and conservationists dedicate their time to providing freedive training to people. They see how much of a sustainable tool freediving is in conserving the ocean.
One might think that since freediving is heavily time- and distance-constrained, it limits the potential of this activity as a platform to raise awareness of marine protection. While it holds true that longer and deeper dives can yield to a bigger understanding of the ocean, freediving has its benefits too. The most important one is that divers get to have their own personal connection with the underwater environment in a very natural manner. Personal awareness is very important in conserving marine life as it allows each diver to create an authentic story to share with everyone. Nothing beats an organic personal experience in fuelling desire and raising awareness in protecting the environment.
With freediving ever increasing in popularity, various prominent freedivers and organizations have made it a mission to save the ocean one dive at a time. They focus on educating the people and empowering them so that they can join in the cause of protecting the ocean. While these movements still have a long way to go, this exhibits how freediving has made its impact so far.
William Winram is a former world record holder and a renowned shark conservationist. His main campaign is to denounce the false perception that sharks are killing machines which the media has long imposed on us. This perception makes it a whole lot harder to promote the cause of protecting sharks as fear comes, first to a lot of people. In 2012, Winram founded a non-profit organization called The Watermen Project. It is dedicated to ocean conservation with a special focus on shark protection.
Hanli Prinsloo, a former South African record holder, believes that ocean conservation is best done through human experience. She founded the I AM WATER foundation as an effort to spread marine protection awareness and get people to build connections with the ocean. Much of their work focuses on low-income coastal communities, offering training and workshops for people who are underserved. They believe that through these training, they can ignite a movement where people learn to protect and love the ocean.
Launched in 2016, Kapit Sisid is an organization which focuses on empowering Filipinos to protect their marine resources through safe freediving. As the Philippines has abundant waters, marine life and its protection are always overlooked by its communities. Kapit Sisid provides free training and lectures, especially to coastal communities. Biodiversity, ecology and climate change are also discussed to provide more knowledge to these people so they can effectively monitor and conserve the ocean they find subsistence and livelihood in.
The unique experience freediving provides facilitates a connection between people and the underwater environment. It builds an understanding of how human activities heavily influence the dynamics of marine life. Additionally, as it is a highly-trainable activity, it gives any person a chance to be part of the growing movement of marine conservation. Indeed, freediving is a platform we can easily utilize to preserve our marine life. The once thought as just a leisure underwater activity now carries a much deeper message and purpose.