Archive for the ‘Oris Watches’ Category

Kurt Lieber Named Sea Hero Of The Year 2015

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

Kurt Lieber, Scuba Diving‘s 2015 Sea Hero of the Year.

Ocean Defenders Alliance

When Kurt Lieber started California’s Ocean Defenders Alliance in 2000, he could barely find anyone who knew about “ghost gear” — equipment lost or abandoned by commercial fishermen — and its hazardous effects on marine life and divers.

“The Internet still wasn’t a tool widely used to gather or share information,” says Lieber, recipient of Scuba Diving’s November/December Sea Hero award, sponsored by Oris Watches USA. “Marine debris is a dismaying example of the old saying, ‘Out of sight, out of mind,’ as far as public
consciousness goes.”

“Fast forward 15 years, and the tide is changing,” Lieber says. “There is now a great deal of scientific information available. The problem is that every year the commercial fishing industry loses a staggering amount of gearlines, nets and traps. Consequently, our work is never done.”

Sea Hero of the Year Kurt Lieber pulls abandoned lobster traps from waters off Palos Verdes, California. Ocean Defenders Alliance divers and deckhands celebrate after removing 2,200 pounds of debris from Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, California.

Ocean Defenders Alliance

Never done, perhaps, but now maybe just a little bit easier. As Sea Hero of the Year, Lieber will receive a $5,000 cash award on behalf of ODA from Oris, which also awards each of Scuba Diving’s Sea Heroes an Aquis Date watch.

“This is very exciting for me because I’ve grown up reading Scuba Diving,” Lieber says. “It has always inspired me not only to get into diving but also turn that energy into a positive force for change. I’m in awe of each of this year’s Sea Heroes — it humbles me to think that I was selected out of such a dedicated group of individuals.”

ODA combines the efforts of hundreds of dedicated volunteers — more than 200 divers working underwater along with hundreds of topside deckhands — to pull 21,000 pounds of nets from the seas around California to date, along with 290 traps, 28,000 feet of trap lines, and 10,000 pounds of debris. “Computers, batteries, boat masts, rudders, space heaters, metal stairs, refrigerators, the list goes on and on,” Lieber says.

Last year, ODA purchased a used boat and has been working on upgrades and repairs to that vessel, berthed in San Pedro. “As anyone who has ever owned or been around a boat knows: Things are always needing maintenance, repair or replacement,” says Lieber. “We have the manpower and know-how, but we are constantly working to keep our boats running well and fueled up.”

Lieber intends to put the Oris cash award directly into the recently acquired boat in order to launch additional debris-removal expeditions. “This award allows us to travel farther from our home port and get to sites we haven’t been able to reach because of the high costs of fuel, oil and boat maintenance,” he says.

Why does the work of ODA matter so much? “Scientists have estimated that nylon nets can last 650 years in the ocean,” Lieber explains. “A net that is in the water for that long does no one any good. Animals are dying continuously — needlessly — and divers are losing what we all want to see: live fish! The fishing community loses as well because of decreased populations. I’ve been diving since the mid-’70s, and have seen a drastic decline in biodiversity, water quality and wildlife sightings and interactions. Having witnessed this loss firsthand is what drives me to do what I can, in my lifetime, to defend ocean life
and habitats.”

Celebrating and encouraging engaged, committed communities like Ocean Defenders Alliance is at the heart of the Sea Hero awards.

“We are excited to present this award to Ocean Defenders Alliance and its founder, Kurt Lieber,” says V.J. Geronimo, CEO, North America, at Oris Watches USA. “Each year, it’s difficult to single out just one Sea Hero of the Year, when all are doing such important work, from educators who have led the way for decades in assessing worldwide fish populations to videographers shining a spotlight on the work of scientists and volunteers alike to rangers defending the integrity of marine-protected areas and shark habitats. These heroes are real people who inspire everyday divers to get involved in protecting the marine environment, and for that we salute them all.”

September/October 2015 Sea Hero: Rick Morris

Monday, October 19th, 2015
Rick Morris Scuba Diving 2015 Sea Hero

Larry Cohen

Occupation Cinematographer, producer, aerial pilot

Diver Since 1969

PADI and HSA Instructor 20-plus years

Started in TV Production 1978

We protect what we love; through the Census of Marine Life, this cinematographer showed us 2,000 new reasons to care

Rick Morris has been invested in the ocean as long as he can remember. But the highlight was his three years as the cinematographer for the Census of Marine Life, which eventually documented more than 5,000 new species overall.

Tell us about the Census of Marine Life.

Working with 2,700 researchers from 80 different countries on a 10-year project to assess the diversity, distribution and abundance of all the creatures in the world’s oceans was mind-boggling. How can we regulate and preserve our oceans if we don’t know what’s in them? There has to be a baseline. During my tenure on the project nearly 2,000 new species were discovered, and more than 5,000 during the 10 years.

What was your biggest challenge?

Five weeks filming in the Arctic, where you pull all your gear across the frozen ocean on a sled with a rope around your waist, about 500 pounds of gear. When you get to the dive site, ¾ of a mile away, you hand-cut your entry triangle, and in two-person teams tethered together, you dive and collect specimens under the ice for up to 45 minutes in 28 degree water. Having conquered the Arctic, I know I can handle any challenge in life.

What are you working on now?

Sustainability has been the key and my focus. I am currently working on a project on goliath grouper aggregations off the coast of Florida, and a film on an amazing couple from New Jersey who started a shark conservation and diving operation in the Caribbean.

How can everyday divers help further your work?

Attend shows and festivals where our films are shown and watch our work on line. Contributions to nonprofits can really make the difference in the final product we create. No one has put it better than 2012 Sea Hero of the Year Jill Heinerth: “We are water.” Without healthy aquatic environments, the human species will perish. If we band together now we can affect change. My job is to make it real for everyone.

Each Sea Hero receives an Oris Aquis Date watch valued at $1,595. At the end of the year, a panel of judges selects a Sea Hero of the Year, who receives a $5,000 cash award from Oris to further his or her work. Go to scubadiving.com/seaheroes to nominate a Sea Hero today.

November/December 2015 Sea Hero: Kurt Lieber

Monday, October 19th, 2015

KURT LIEBER

Ocean Defenders Alliance Founder Kurt Lieber

Patrick Strattner

Occupation Founder/executive director, Ocean Defenders Alliance

Diver Since Mid-1970s

Helped Establish California’s MPA network, which protects 16 percent of state waters, nearly 10 percent in no-take zones

Founded in 2000 amongst friends, Ocean Defenders Alliance now connects hundreds of divers and “deck volunteers” in its mission to protect California’s ocean treasures, especially from the deadly effects of ghost nets, equipment lost or abandoned by fishermen. For his efforts, founder and executive director Kurt Lieber is our November/December Sea Hero.

You have been involved in a lot of projects with Ocean Defenders Alliance — which has been the most meaningful to you, and why?

I started this organization in the year 2000, with some friends. Through the years, Ocean Defenders Alliance (ODA) has turned into a dynamic union, and we’ve had over 200 divers and hundreds more deck volunteers go out with us on various projects. In 2013, I contacted the people at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS) to see if they would allow us to go into the sanctuaries and start removing ghost gear there. This area is a national marine sanctuary, national park and marine-protected area. As such, its biological importance — and sensitivity — is without question. After a lengthy qualification process, we were given a scientific collecting permit. We are the only all-volunteer group with this permit that I know of. That means a lot to me.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your fight against ghost nets and marine debris in general?

When I first started ODA, I couldn’t find anyone who knew about the damage that was being done by ghost gear. The Internet still wasn’t a tool widely used to gather or share information. So, I had a difficult time convincing the general public that this was a serious issue; marine debris is a good but dismaying example of the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” as far as public consciousness goes. Fast forward 15 years, and the tide is changing. There is now a great source of scientific information available that informs people with a lot of statistics. One that absolutely makes me cringe is that NOAA estimates that 330,000 whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and turtles die in ghost gear every year. The problem is that every year, the commercial fishing industry loses a staggering amount of gear (i.e., lines, nets, and traps). Consequently, our work is never done.

What’s been your most satisfying moment?

The vast majority of nets we locate and remove are made out of synthetic material, like nylon or mono-filament line. Scientists have estimated that nylon nets will last 650 years in the oceans. A net that is in the water for that long does no one any good. Animals are dying continuously, needlessly, and divers are losing what we all want to see alive, FISH! The fishing community loses as well because of decreased populations. To date we have removed approximately 21,000 pounds of these deadly nets. One of my most satisfying moments was pulling together a fantastic group of volunteers, and together we removed about 1,000 pounds of gill net from just one location. That does not sound like a lot, but think about that for a moment. What would a 1,000-pound pile of fishing line look like? Well, that is what some of these deadly derelict nets are made out of; it can be a huge, and hugely harmful, collection!

Tell us a little bit about what you are working on now?

It is a really exciting time for us right now. Not only are we continuing to clean more of California’s coastal waters, such as in the CINMS, we are also in the midst of establishing a new base in ODA in Hawai’i. As awareness expands through the dive community, we are getting a lot of interest from different areas of the U.S. that are inquiring about creating ODA bases all over the country — and we know that ALL coastal waters need the kind of service we provide. The Seattle/Portland area is looking promising for a future base as well.

How can divers and Scuba Diving‘s readers help further your work?

As anyone who has ever owned or been around a boat knows: Things are always needing maintenance, repair or replacement! We have the manpower and know-how, but we are constantly working to keep our boats running well and fueled up. So, to keep us at sea doing what we do best, donations are very welcomed. Another option is to start a removal project in areas where your readers come across debris. And I don’t mean only ghost gear. Plastics are a huge plague that we have got to address if we want to future generations to enjoy the wide variety of life forms that the oceans historically have supported. Want to know what the oceans looked like before the invention of the steam engine? Read The Unnatural History of the Sea by Callum Roberts for a good dose of reality. In other words: Get educated and get involved! If this problem is going to be solved, we are the ones who are going to have to make it happen.

What’s next for you and Ocean Defenders?

We purchased a new (used) boat late last year, and we’ve been working on upgrades and repairs ever since. It is currently berthed in San Pedro, California. As soon as we are finished with this phase, we’ll be moving the boat up to the Channels Islands Harbor, and resume our removal projects in the Channel Islands.

What would you do with the $5,000 Oris award if selected for Sea Hero of the Year?

If I am selected for this honor, I will put the money directly into our boat in order to launch additional debris-removal expeditions. I have recently received reports of several marine debris sites throughout Southern California that urgently need our removal expertise. This award would allow us to travel further from our home port and get to sites we haven’t been able to reach because of the high costs of fuel, oil and boat maintenance.

Is there anything we did not ask that you would like readers to know about? Tell us what’s important to you!

I’ve been diving since the mid ’70 s, and have seen a drastic decline in biodiversity, water quality and wildlife sightings and interactions. Having witnessed this loss first hand is what drives me to do what I can, in my lifetime, to defend ocean life and habitats. Over the last 15 years or so, I have seen what marine-protected areas (MPAs) can do to help marine species bounce back. I was heavily involved in the state of California’s decision to create MPAs up and down our coast. While the scientists recommended that 30 percent of our waters be set aside as no-fishing zones, when all was said and done, we ended up with 16 percent of our state waters having some kind of protection, and only 9.4 percent of that is no-take. A far cry from what the science dictated for species’ survival. But it is a start. I would love to see our no-take areas expanded, not just in California but throughout the world. The effort we are putting into aquaculture as a “work around” for our diminished fish populations is like putting Band-Aids on a cancer patient. We must attack the root cause, which in this case is the threat to wildlife species and habitats caused by overfishing. Nature has proven time after time that she can heal herself if we leave her alone. MPAs are one of the few real remedies for our dying oceans.

Lastly, I want to leave readers with hope. Each of you reading this can make a difference; you must simply choose to become involved. You can educate yourself and others. You already possess the power to influence things for the better through your votes, your buying decisions, what you eat and where you invest your time and resources. All you have to do is join our alliance and be an Ocean Defender!

Eah Sea Hero receives an Oris Aquis Date watch valued at $1,595. At the end of the year, a panel of judges selects a Sea Hero of the Year, who receives a $5,000 cash award from Oris to further his or her work. Go to scubadiving.com/seaheroes to nominate a Sea Hero today.

August 2015 Sea Hero: Laura James

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015
Scuba Diving Magazine's August Sea Hero Laura James

John Keatley

LAURA JAMES

Occupation Explorer and videographer

Diving Since 1990: Now a technical mixed-gas-diving instructor and certified rebreather instructor

Director Tox-ick.org, which focuses on seven simple solutions to reduce polluted runoff

This two-time Emmy-winning filmmaker has devoted her life to the health of her beloved Puget Sound, and to teaching others to cherish our most precious resource: water.

You have been involved in a LOT of projects involving Puget Sound and the health of the overall marine environment — which has been the most meaningful to you?

That is a really hard question to answer. I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of so many projects. The most meaningful to me personally has been the discarded battery removal, where we removed over 1,200 pounds of discarded marine batteries from the most popular dive site in Seattle. It was something I’d turned a blind eye to just like everyone else for so long; I’d basically taken those batteries being there for granted. When I go out to that site for a dive now it fills my heart with joy to no longer see dead batteries laying about, and know that WE DID IT! What meant the most to me was how the community came together. We were joined by divers from British Columbia and Oregon who journey hundreds of miles to help out. A friend who owns a recycling facility gave us double the going rate on lead so we could afford more lift bags, and dive shops filled our tanks for the dives. It really was the work of a village. Seeing the sense of accomplishment on people’s faces and how engaged the whole community got with the removal gave me hope for the future of our oceans.

Topping it off was getting nominated for and then winning the 2012 Cox Conserves Heroes Award. It wasn’t a slam-dunk because the battery removal was up against some other amazing conservation projects. I think we only won by 40-something votes. This was quite special because it meant that the general public was able to connect with a project that went on beneath the surface of Puget Sound, something they couldn’t see personally unless they became a diver. The $10,000 prize was donated to Sustainable West Seattle where it helped support a grassroots Stormwater Education program (www.tox-ick.org) that teaches the general public simple ways that we can all help stop the flow of polluted runoff into Puget Sound.

The citizen-science work with Sea Star wasting syndrome was also exceptionally rewarding. My dive buddy helped build a website so that the general public (beach walkers and divers) could be a part of documenting the spread of the wasting disease by utilizing social media via a hashtag on an Instagram photo (#sickstarfish), and in doing so contribute to the work that scientists were doing. Watching reports come in on the real time map www.sickstarfish.com from numerous people and in some cases ahead of the researchers was exhilarating. It was proof of the potential power in crowdsourcing for science when it comes to both fast and slow response: Fast-response science because we were able to mobilize a large number of eyes to watch the beach for immediate changes in sea star population, and slow-response science because many of those same citizen scientists have continued to report and we are seeing how the population (hopefully) rebounds over time.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your advocacy for marine health?

The biggest challenge we all face in the realm of marine advocacy is learning how to reach the “non-choir” and make the problem real to them. It is so easy to speak to a bunch of people at an outreach event who are nodding in agreement — it affirms your belief and gives you a proverbial pat on the back. I think it is more important when looking at threats such as polluted storm-water runoff to build a connection with a broader audience. One way to do that is to actually stop talking for moment and listen to the people who disagree or are on the fence, and enter a dialogue that allows both parties to find some middle ground, and in doing so allow the overarching health of Puget Sound to trump politics.

The challenge is also finding a way past the compassion fatigue, which is generated by ongoing bad news about the environment. With the www.tox-ick.org program we focus on seven simple solutions to reduce the flow of polluted runoff (storm water) into Puget Sound. These simple daily actions are ways that each and every one of us can help make a difference. The non-profits, government agencies and municipalities are working hard on problems such as storm-water runoff and shoreline armoring, but they need our help. The solution to the threats facing our oceans begins in our hearts, in our homes, in our own backyard.

What’s been your most satisfying moment?

It was an incredibly satisfying moment hearing that Congressman Denny Heck saw our story on Sea Star Wasting Syndrome and it inspired him to craft a bill, the Marine Disease Emergency Act. The proposed legislation would establish a framework for declaring and responding to a marine disease emergency, and to provide the science community with the resources to proactively protect marine ecosystems from being irreparably damaged by cascading epidemics. The idea that footage that I shot might be instrumental in such a legislative process is incredibly rewarding.

Beyond that, I think its kind of a tie between watching our Sea Star Wasting Disease story reach No. 6 on the PBS news hour Youtube page of most watched videos (ahead of Kate and Williams wedding!) and winning regional Emmy Awards for both “Solving the mystery of dying starfish” and “Sea Otters v. Climate Change.”

They are both stories about marine ecology, the food web and climate change. Making the decision to leap from a stable, secure career in the hospital and become a filmmaker with an underwater focus was a tough choice and I’ve made some sacrifices. I did not go to film or journalism school, and got my start shooting underwater — not just any underwater but in our cold, dark green emerald sea. I sometimes find myself worrying if I’m good enough to tell the stories that need telling, and if people really want to hear about the underwater environment (and not just about pretty fish and coral reefs).

Winning these awards makes me feel like the time is now, that the general public is ready for real stories about our underwater world.

I’ve been very lucky to connect with an amazing husband/wife team of environmental photo-journalist/producers (Katie Campbell and Michael Werner), along with several other brilliant filmmakers who have helped mentor me along the way, so a quick shout out, because without them none of this would have been possible.

Tell us a little bit about what you are working on now?

BtLG Project: “Know What’s Below”

With the help of volunteers both divers and non-divers we are building a multimedia website to help kids of all ages connect with the underwater world. The primary vehicle of this education will be a library of 100+ narrated one-minute videos featuring the amazing marine life that calls Puget Sound home, and the diverse marine habitats that lead to such bountiful life. As we continue to develop the site, we hope to include videos that discuss the issues faced by our local waters in “real English,” which parents and educators can use to share and communicate, and offer simple solutions that everyone can do in their everyday life to help save our Ocean Planet. It is my dream to be able to offer live dives via the Internet to enhance the material already available on the site. It is a slow process, all the equipment needed to make that happen (underwater communication systems, etc.) cost money and the videos take time and resources to produce. www.btlgproject.com

OpenROV Builds and OpenExplorer micro-expeditions with local after-school programs: Thanks to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and OpenROV (www.openrov.com) I’ve been able to build small ROV’s (Underwater Robots) with students. We will be using the robots to explore local underwater habitats, follow the students curiosity and hopefully make a connection for kids who had previously given minimal though to exploring a career in the filed of marine science.

How can divers and Scuba Diving’s readers help further your work?

One of the most important things that divers can do is help encourage non-divers to take an interest in what lies beneath the surface. Be an ambassador for the underwater world. You can do this by taking photos or videos and sharing them with anyone and everyone, or sharing the videos and photos shot by your friends. Photography and video equipment has come so far in recent years, it is much easier to show and share what you love about diving, and one of the reasons people get into diving is because someone they know is an enthusiastic diver.

Get involved in local underwater and beach clean-up efforts. Divers — both scuba and breath hold — are the last stand against underwater marine debris. Make a pledge to pick up two pieces of trash or marine debris on every dive. Help encourage others to get involved!

Get involved in your local issues. Never ever take water for granted. Please feel free to contact me if you want to be a part of any of the projects described here, or would like help setting something up in your area. Reach out to your local advocacy groups and elected officials. Don’t just sit by and wonder, ask questions, ask tough questions, ask what you can do.

The most powerful agent for change is an activated, involved public, so… get involved!

What’s next for you?

The next environmental story I’m working on is about underwater marine debris, the stuff that sinks. People are aware of the plastic gyres floating around the oceans, and microplastics that are being consumed by marine life. Those are both very important issues, but are being well documented and covered. I would like to shed some light on the massive problem surrounding the heavy marine debris, the stuff that doesn’t wash up on a beach, the trash that vanishes, out of sight out of mind. As a scuba diver who has visited sites around the world, I can confidently say that I have see human made items at every dive site I’ve visited in over 5,000 dives. There is no place underwater that I have visited that remains untouched. I realize prevention is a huge part of what will prevent the problem from getting any larger, but that prevention will only come with awareness. The general public needs to be aware of the fact that directly off shore from their favorite swimming beach, if there is a storm water outfall, then there is very likely a giant underwater garbage patch growing. That garbage patch is full of anything that doesn’t float, cigarette butts, heavy plastics, cans and bottles, toys, Christmas ornaments, I can actually tell what season it is or if a house is being built or remodeled by the contents of the storm drain debris trail.

I would like to see the narrated video series from www.btlgproject.com made into a web series where we bring the viewer with us on weekly adventures, complete with guest scientists historical narratives and local explorers who can help build a broader understanding of our undersea world and the people and creatures who make their lives in and on it.

In collaboration with the Environmental Science Center in Burien, I hope to help build an early outreach marine awareness program for young children. Based on Tidepools for Tots and inspired by the Best Starts for Kids initiative in King County in which emerging neuroscience shows that the first five years of a child’s life are particularly critical for brain development. It would then hold true that if we want to inspire the ocean stewards of the future, we need to start young.

We are also in the beginning stages of a campaign to make the site Seacrest Park, Cove 2, the most popular dive site in Seattle (where we removed the discarded batteries), into a Marine Reserve and divers park.

What would you do with the $5,000 Oris award if selected for Sea Hero of the Year?

I would use the funds to help continue to build our outreach and curriculum extension program. We are in need of a communications system so that we can share the underwater world in real time with viewers. We already have a video system capable of streaming video to the surface, but the next step is full-face masks and underwater comms so that we could have two-way communications, therefore creating a more immersive experience for the viewer.

Is there anything we did not ask that you would like readers to know about? Tell us what’s important to you!

People protect what they love, but they must know it to love it. I remind myself of this when the weather is cold and the visibility is low. All the creatures, great and small are worth filming and sharing, and that next bit of video I shoot may make the difference for one elected official, or inspire one little kid.

**Each Sea Hero receives an Oris Aquis Date watch valued at $1,595. At the end of the year, a panel of judges selects a Sea Hero of the Year, who receives a $5,000 cash award from Oris to further his or her work. Go to scubadiving.com/seaheroes to nominate a Sea Hero today.