by Hayley-Jo Carr, Training Director and Coordinator at PIMS’s Reef Rescue Network

On July 18th, 2020 The Perry Institute for Marine Science (PIMS) participated in PADI Women’s Dive Day, a day to celebrate female divers and to encourage participation in scuba diving. PIMS’ Community Conservation Education and Action (CCEA) program partnered with the Reef Rescue Network to assemble an all-female crew to offer four local Bahamian ladies the opportunity to Discover Scuba Diving. CCEA strives to promote conservation through enhanced community engagement while also building local capacity for work in the marine conservation field. What better way for local Bahamians to learn about the ocean than to scuba dive!

We ran a competition on social media for four local Bahamian women to tell us why they would like the opportunity to try scuba diving. Let’s introduce those lucky ladies and learn more about them.

Denielle Johnson

“Hi, my name is Denielle Johnson and there is no amount of words that I can use to explain how much I love the ocean. I have always been eager and passionate about wanting to learn more regarding marine life. Just being near the water brings me an overwhelming amount of peace. I want to be able to understand and interact with a variety of marine life and I’m willing to jump at any opening that provides me the chance to do so which makes me very grateful for this opportunity. I am an aspiring Marine Animal Specialist and I have an incredible passion fo   r shark conservation. My appreciation for our local marine biodiversity and their conservation is significant. Scuba diving is a major requirement in order to make it in this line of work to this experience will help me work towards my goals. To me, conservation and sustainability go hand in hand, it helps with the improvement, protection and maintenance of our native environment and its resources. I am 21 years old from Nassau and currently in my third year at the University of The Bahamas studying Small Island Sustainability with Marine Biology. I have never tried scuba diving before due to time and financial restrictions. I am looking forward to gaining a new perspective of marine animals in their natural habitat. My favourite marine animal is an Oceanic Whitetip Shark. I love sharks but the reason my family have never dived is because they are scared of sharks and scuba diving. I believe the main threats facing our ocean is pollution, climate change and dredging”

Ke’Nah Demeritte

“Hello, my name is Ke’Nah Demeritte and I’m a 20-year-old student from Nassau studying nursing at the University of Bahamas. I am happy to be afforded a chance at having a priceless experience. For as long as I can remember I’ve had a love for the water. Being in the ocean has a way of providing me an encircling sense of peace. I’m fortunate enough to have a father who also loves the sea and I fondly remember times in the past when he would take me snorkeling on the beach and teach me about the life that can be found in it. I have always been eager to learn more about its layout, inhabitants and marine conservation. Thinking about this opportunity provides me with an overwhelming amount of excitement.

I have yet to try scuba diving due to it being an expensive activity and not knowing where to go for information. My family do not dive as they are scared of drowning and shark attacks however these are not fears that I have and I am excited to try scuba diving. I am looking forward to seeing coral reefs and different species underwater. My favorite marine animal is a cuttlefish because they are intelligent and beautiful how they change colors”

Starr Cartwright

“Hi, my name is Starr Cartwright and I am 22 years old from Nassau. I recently graduated from the University of The Bahamas with a Bachelors in Small Island Sustainability and Marine Science and I am looking for a career within marine conservation. I love everything about the water either being in it and around the ocean and have always wanted to try scuba diving and one day get certified. I have yet to try scuba diving due to the financial costs involved. I really want to be able to see coral reefs up close and see how all the marine life interacts with one another. I think some of the main threats facing our ocean are climate change, pollution, overfishing and habitat degradation. My favorite marine animal is a sea turtle”

Caitlin Cooper

“Hi, my name is Caitlin Cooper and I am 22 years old from Nassau currently working in customer service with an interest in business studies. It has always been a dream of mine to scuba dive however it has been too expensive for me to try so I am happy to be given this incredible opportunity. My family and friends do not scuba dive as they are afraid of being attacked by a shark and think I am crazy for trying! I however am not scared and actually really want to scuba dive with sharks one day. I can’t wait to immerse myself in the underwater world. I know the ocean is facing threats from overfishing and pollution, the latter of which is affecting the wildlife, marine environment and coral reefs. I think this experience will provide me with a greater knowledge of the marine life in our ocean and why they need our protection. My favorite marine animal is a killer whale and I also love sharks.”

Back Row Left to Right: Shannen Miller, Hayley-Jo Carr, Starr Cartwright, Ke’nah Demeritte, Caitlin Cooper, Garbrielle Cartwright.
Front Row Left to Right: Danielle Johnson and Katie Storr

The day was not only about getting new divers introduced to the ocean but celebrating PADI women already in the industry here in The Bahamas. The all-female crew included PADI Course Director Hayley-Jo Carr (PIMS), PADI Master Scuba Diving Instructor Shannen Miller (Stuart Cove’s) & PADI IDC Staff Instructor Alex Frans (Stuart Cove’s), who led the discover scuba diving experience. Boat captain Garbrielle Cartwright (Stuart Cove’s) and Underwater Photographer Katie Storr were all on hand to assist the ladies and make it a memorable experience.

PADI Women inspiring and educating others to become divers and become actively involved in marine conservation here in The Bahamas

Shannen Miller

“Hi, my name is Shannen Miller and I am a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer at Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas.  My love for the ocean began back on Andros when my mum took me to see some whales which was a highlight of my life and inspired me to study marine biology at school after which I worked at the Atlantis aquarium. Now full time at Stuart Cove’s I actively encourage fellow Bahamians to learn to scuba dive as I believe our ocean is so beautiful you must see it from underwater. It is rare for me to see Bahamian women try scuba diving, so I am excited to be a part of this special event. I think it’s very important that PADI created a day to celebrate women as we are still very much underrepresented in the scuba diving industry. My favorite marine animal is a Stingray”

Katie Storr

“Hi, my name is Katie Storr and I am an Underwater Photographer, PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, Marine Conservationist and Chief Yacht Stewardess. Growing up in and around the ocean has made me a passionate ocean advocate and inspires me to guide others to our blue planet. I enjoy using my underwater images to spread knowledge and understanding. The main threats I witness to our ocean is plastic pollution and global warming, the ocean is certainly getting warmer and I often see coral bleaching which can result in corals dying. I love to encourage Bahamians to enjoy the ocean whether that’s exploring underwater either scuba diving or snorkeling or to visit the beach. Sadly, many Bahamians don’t dive because they are scared of sharks and this is something I am constantly working towards to help change perceptions of sharks from a negative to positive viewpoint. I’ll be taking photos and videos of the ladies during their dive today and I’m excited to see their reactions to this experience. My favorite marine animal is a hammerhead shark”

Gabrielle Cartwright

“Hi, my name is Garbrielle Cartwright, from Nassau, and I am a boat captain and PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor at Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas.  I got involved in scuba diving after answering an advert in the newspaper about cleaning up Nassau Harbor which led to me being certified as a diver and then being employed at Stuart Cove’s dive shop where I furthered my dive education up to professional level. I love being on and under the water and as such see first-hand the threats our ocean is facing including pollution, especially litter which is really sad.  I am fortunate to have many friends who scuba dive and encourage those who don’t that they must try it to see for themselves how beautiful the ocean is underwater. My favorite marine animal is a shark.”

Alex Frans

“Hi, I’m Alex Frans 26 years old from Seattle and have been a PADI IDC Staff Instructor here at Stuart Cove’s for the last six years. Growing up I was always around the water and while on vacation in the Bahamas I learnt how to scuba dive and immediately knew I wanted to pursue a career as a scuba diving instructor. I love taking new divers for their first experience, seeing their excitement when they first jump into the water and then the smiles after. Being in the Bahamas for 6 years now I meet many that are afraid of the water because they haven’t learnt how to swim and also, they are afraid of sharks. I try to encourage people by letting them know I was nervous at first too but once you try it you will love it! The ocean has many threats including pollution, we need to do our part such as pick up our trash, recycle and limit and single plastic use to protect the environment. My favorite marine animal is coral.”

Hayley-Jo Carr

“Hi, my name is Hayley-Jo Carr and I am originally from the UK but have resided in The Bahamas for over a decade teaching scuba diving and working in marine conservation. I am a PADI Course Director for the Perry Institute for Marine Science training divers from open water all the way to instructor and have trained many Bahamian Scuba Instructors. I am also Coordinator for the Reef Rescue Network and I love getting divers involved with coral restoration through our PADI Reef Rescue Diver Specialty course. I am looking forward to introducing our competition winners to the ocean and can’t wait to see their reactions. My favorite marine animal is a shark”

PADI Women’s Dive Day

 

The ladies first completed the theory session of their PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience by viewing a video and presentation on scuba diving and the skills they would be practicing. We then headed out on the boat to the dive site Nari Nari, which has a shallow sandy area off the beach perfect to practice some skills and get the ladies comfortable. The participants practiced some basic scuba skills and then enjoyed two scuba dives off the south west coast of New Providence. During the first dive they got to visit the worlds’ largest underwater sculpture, the ‘Ocean Atlas’ at the BREEF Sir Nicholas Nuttel Sculpture Garden and were surrounded by yellow tail snappers, sergeant majors and parrotfish. At the second dive, the famous James Bond Wrecks, they saw two wrecks from James Bond movie sets and a variety of marine life, including a southern stingray. The ladies were shown two Reef Rescue Network coral nurseries at both dive sites where corals are being grown to help restore local reefs.

Denielle Johnson, Starr Cartwright and Caitlin Cooper visit coral nurseries that are a part of our Reef Rescue Network during their try scuba diving experience. Photo by Katie Storr.
PADI Instructors Alex Frans & Hayley-Jo Carr guiding Denielle Johnson & Caitlin Cooper around the James Bond Wrecks. Photo by Katie Storr.
“This was one of the best experiences of my life!” (Starr Cartwright) Photo by Katie Storr
“It was incredible! I can’t wait to try diving again!” (Ke’Nah Demeritte) Photo by Katie Storr
“It was amazing! My favorite thing was seeing a stingray and blue parrot fish up close” (Denielle Johnson) Photo by Katie Storr.
“I loved every second of it! Seeing a tiny seahorse at the end of the second dive topped off a great day” (Caitlin Cartwright) Phot by Katie Storr.

This discover scuba diving program allowed the ladies to learn a new experience while being educated about marine conservation.  They all loved the adventure, and all would like to pursue scuba diving further, including obtaining their PADI Open Water Certification. PIMS is dedicated to helping local Bahamians discover the marine environment through active participation and to help dispel the fears and misconceptions that surround being immersed in the ocean. The better people understand the ocean, the more advocates we can create to help protect this important ecosystem.  For more information about our Community Conservation Education & Action program visit: http://www.perryinstitute.org/ccea/ or email ccea@perryinstitute.org

PADI Course Director Hayley-Jo Carr with Denielle Johnson & Caitlin Cooper.
Photo by Katie Storr.
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