So far this partnership has resulted in the training of 25 Open Water Divers from the group of volunteers, 6 advanced certifications, 5 Rescue divers, 5 Master divers, and 1 Divemaster, creating future stewards of the oceans.
A scuba diving shop, a Boys and Girls Club, and a sea turtle conservation group formed a partnership. With one common goal in mind, that partnership grew into a family of divers who were proud to spread their cause: To promote and educate their local community, with the hopes of creating a group of individuals whom are dedicated to conserving and preserving the waters of our planet.
Rum Runner Dive Shop has been in the Greenville/Winterville, North Carolina, USA area for over 40 years. Throughout their many years in business Rum Runner has formed a very large and loyal customer base, which they would consider nothing less than family. Two members of that dive family, a father and daughter combo, created a local organization with the idea of informing the public about the alarming drop in sea turtle population off the NC coast. Their goal was to reduce the pollution in our local rivers, which run directly to the coast, by informing the citizens in the local community. What they’ve created since then, has been nothing shy of a savior for our planet’s waterways. That organization is the Love a Sea Turtle (L.A.S.T.) volunteer group.
When Rum Runner and LAST began working together things started to quickly fall in place, creating an ideal opportunity for expansion. The Pitt County Boys and Girls club started working very closely with both, resulting in one of the best summer camp programs in the state. The LAST volunteers dedicate at least 5 days a week for about 3 months each summer to run the many different camps. The camps are used to inform children and young teens about nature, land or underwater habitats, and outdoor activities for kids who wouldn’t normally have that opportunity. Each activity is taught with the goal of promoting conservation. Once each camp is nearing the end, Rum Runner Dive Shop and the LAST volunteers take each group of campers to the coast for a short boat ride to the Rachel Carson Nature Preserve. While there the campers are able to experience the undisturbed beaches, snorkel with the schools of fish, and even Try-Scuba in the pools of sea water at high tide. The state and national recognition of these camps have resulted in the appearances from famous guest speakers, special trips to help build reefs, and much more.
Rum Runner and Love a Sea Turtle continue to build on what they started, and in return help each other grow. So far this partnership has resulted in the training of 25 Open Water Divers from the group of volunteers, 6 advanced certifications, 5 Rescue divers, 5 Master divers, and 1 Divemaster, creating future stewards of the oceans.
Listed below are just of the few projects and/or opportunities that Rum Runner Dive Shop and the Love a Sea Turtle group have had the pleasure of being a part of:
Editor's Note: We thank Rum Runner Dive Shop for their continued support and dedication to cultivating the next generation of NAUI Green Divers. Learn more about RRDS by visiting www.rumrunnerdiveshop.com.
You can help support programs just like RRDS by making a donation the NAUI Green Diver Initiative - empowering individuals to conserve and preserve our ocean planet.
Thou shalt not disturb the manatee from its activity
It is often said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. Though many manatee swim-tour companies might use this phrase as an advertising gimmick, I have been developing it as a teaching philosophy since I arrived in Citrus County in 2006. I’ve worked at many tour companies since then, when I joined the team at Crystal River Kayak Company in 2015, I brought this philosophy with me. Newly re-branded, Crystal River Kayak Company and Dive Center has incorporated this philosophy to be more than just a way to convey a quiet demeanor around the manatees, it is an intentional presence in the water.
Let’s start with their intention. The intent is to passively observe the animals in their natural habitat and only interact with them if they initiate the interaction. The golden rule of manatee swimming is, “Thou shalt not disturb the manatee from its activity.” If the manatee is eating, or sleeping, or engaged with other manatees we need to be quiet spectators. From a biological standpoint, it is always best to “minimize your footprint” in nature, that is to say, the goal is to make the least amount of disturbance as humanly possible. So with that intention in mind, let’s focus on how to achieve that goal.
And while it is good to be very quiet and peaceful around this very sensitive and often shy animal, to truly be Zen means to focus on your water skills as well. If you think about marine mammals, they must breathe in an aquatic environment, and so must we. As much as we don’t want to cough and sputter for our own comfort and image, and let’s face it we want to look cool while we’re doing this, we really don’t want to disturb the manatees by our presence. So let’s start with our breathing. You can’t get any air into your lungs through your nose while wearing a mask. When you try to “nose breathe” you are just sucking against a vacuum and that can lead to a sense of claustrophobia and panic. This results in behavior that ultimately scares the manatees you’re trying to see. So we need to breathe through our mouths. Air is good. Air is calming. So if we’re breathing in and out through our mouths in a slow and deliberate manner, we remain calm and the manatees will be more comfortable sharing their home with us.
Once we swim into an area where manatees are present, we want to minimize our movement around them. They have sensory hairs on their body, which can sense minute vibrations. When we do need to move, make all movements slow and deliberate. Focus is important. We need to remember that this is about being good house guests in the manatees’ home. A good house guest doesn’t trample the hosts’ food source or spread dirt all over the living room, so we want to float with our feet off the bottom. Also, when a manatee sees people standing up, they see a picket fence of feet around which they cannot negotiate. All the more reason to float calmly and quietly around the manatee. At Crystal River Kayak Company and Dive Center, we are committed to not only keeping our guests safe and legal, we are committed to making sure that our manatees are safe and happy too.
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