Jun 2015

Marine Conservation Projects

By Mike Waddington

Over 1 billion people around the world rely heavily on fish as a source of protein, with small scale fisheries supporting the livelihood of over 500 million people, mainly in the poorer parts of the tropics. With the world population rising rapidly, over fishing is a huge global issue and is set to get worse. Then take into account the negative effects that global warming, ocean acidification, pollution and all the other negative effects humans are having on the oceans, it is easy to see why 90% of global fish stocks are either overfished of fully fished.

Many organisations around the world have been established to try to help preserve the fish stocks and restore the reefs. These organisations may take part in many different projects such as, coral gardening, establishing proper local fisheries management, aquaculture alternative livelihood projects, and conducting reef surveys. The most successful organisations work with the local communities and put the responsibility in their hands, while teaching the community the importance of preserving the marine ecosystem.

Why Volunteer with a Marine Conervation Project?

Volunteering with a marine conservation project NGO (Non-governmental organisation) can be one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences of your diving career, and here is just a few reasons why;

1) Take your diving to the next level: You may already know how to dive, but learning how to conduct underwater surveys will give you experience working as a part of a team. You will need to learn precision buoyancy control, propulsion methods and perfect trim, as you will be spending a lot of time very close to the ocean floor or reef top.

2) Learn about the reefs: To be able to conduct proper surveys that provide accurate data about the health of the reefs, the divers conducting the survey need to understand exactly what is down there. You will need to learn about the reef ecosystem, food chain, and species identification. Although around the world species differ, many share the same families so you can take what you learn all over the world.


3) Get more adventure: If you want to travel, but don’t like the idea of following the well-trodden path. How does spending months in the deserts of south west Madagascar sound? Or the tropical waters of Mozambique, or how about living on an isolated island in Fiji? Most marine conservation NGOs are in isolated, low income parts of the world, where very few other travelers make it.

4) Go back to basics: NGOs get their money from the volunteers, grants, donations, or a combination of these. Most of this money will be put back into the local communities, so your living conditions will be basic, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Learning to live in a remote area, with limited access to luxuries such as electricity, running water and internet access really makes you appreciate what you have back at home.

5) Become a soldier: These organisations have the facilities and the knowledge to make a difference, but they are lacking time and troops! By volunteering with a marine conversation NGO you will be on the front lines of the battle to save our oceans!

6) Make a difference: Often NGOs work with the local community, helping with family planning and getting more children into school. By volunteering in marine conservation you can also make a huge difference in people’s lives at an individual level. I had the opportunity to work with an NGO in Madagascar, and one of the most rewarding moments for me was teaching a local aquaculture technician how to swim.

7) Boost your CV: It is becoming increasingly the norm to take a gap year between college and university, and many people are choosing to take career breaks so they can travel the world. Being able to say you have taken part in a marine conservation project shows future employers that you have life experience and a charitable mentality.

8) Fill your log book: Most organisations have several different projects going on at once, and most of them are based around diving. You will be diving almost every day (ones I have checked out online say between 25 – 30 dives a month). Some of these will be training dives, but you may also work with coral restoration, mooring placement, dive site mapping or anything else.

9) Experience the non-diving life: Although you are probably signing up to volunteer with marine conservation to dive, it doesn’t mean that is all you should do there. Often NGOs team up and plan trips to other local organisations, such as forest reserves, turtle sanctuaries, mangrove reserves etc. You will get the chance to see so many things that you would otherwise never see except on television. During my time in Madagascar we could walk for 20 minutes and find wild lemurs, or walk for 40 minutes to a spectacular forest of 2000 year old Baobab trees.


Whether you are a novice diver or you have been diving for years, there will be a project out there that will suit you. There are organisations offering programs all over the world, but developing nations usually have the most. If this is something that you really want to do then you should first decide where you want to go and what sort of projects you want to work with, and then do some market research. The prices can vary massively but so can the quality of the project. Look to see if you can find reviews of the organisation. A good one should have loads of independent reviews around the internet. If reviews are consistently poor, or reviews don’t exist at all then you should look elsewhere.

‘Marine Conservation Projects’ was written by Mike

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Mike Waddington

I first discovered diving in 2008 after going snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. After trying diving at a flooded quarry in England I decided to head out to warmer more interesting waters in Thailand where I ended on the Island of Koh Tao completing my Open Water course. Instantly addicted with money to spend and plenty of time on my hands I decided to continue until I became a Divemaster so I could live what seemed as the perfect life.

After that I headed to the Caribbean to an island called Utila to complete my instructor course, I spent several months out there completing the MSDT internship, teaching students and leading dives. This is also where I discovered my interest in the technical side of diving, taking part in equipment repair courses and learning about blending gasses and running compressors.

With all my new qualifications it was time to head back to where it had all started, Back to Koh Tao where I intended on living the dream. Once I arrived I quickly found a job and started teaching straight away. During my time on Koh Tao I took part in all many technical diving courses, learning how to dive with re-breathers, in caves and even going down to 90m/300ft!


PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer
PADI/DSAT Tech Deep Instructor
PADI/DSAT Gas Trimix Gas Blender
PADI/DSAT Trimix Diver
TDI Intro to Cave Diver
TDI Advanced Wreck Diver
TDI Inspiration rebreather Decompression Procedures
PADI Professional Videographer
BSAC Compressor Operator
TDI Equipment Service Technician

Dream Dive Locations:

Silfra, Iceland
Cenotes, Mexico
Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
Ice Diving in Russia