1) Tell us a bit about you
We are Sara, Alanna, and Jenn – a group of scuba divers who love exploring the underwater world in Nova Scotia and around the world. Within the Nova Scotia dive community, we are known as the “nudi girls” due to our love for nudibranchs, which are shell-less sea slugs. Known as the clowns of the ocean, nudibranchs come in all sorts of shapes and colours and get their scientific name, Nudibranchia, from their characteristic gills and sensory organs that many have on their backs. Our love for the ocean and passion for scuba diving has led us on some thrilling adventures to hidden corners around Nova Scotia, which we are super fortunate to share with the general public through an Eastlink Community TV series called “Jump In”.
2) What inspired you to start getting involved with the issue of plastic pollution?
As scuba divers and ocean explorers, we are in a unique position to witness the impacts of plastic pollution first-hand. It is not uncommon for us to directly observe plastic pollution in our dives, whether it be fish hooks stuck in a shark’s mouth, lobsters that have made an old tire their new home, or the toxic leaching of chemicals from a car battery thrown off a fishing wharf. When you are underwater and see how much debris there is and how it is impacting marine life, it raises a lot of concern about the state of our environment. The ocean is vastly unexplored and only a small percentage of people scuba dive and get to see what is under the layer of blue. We have traveled to many countries and have seen so much plastic and pollution on the surface, you can only imagine what is underneath and how it has just accumulated.
3) What specific actions/steps do you take to help the environment?
We make every dive a dive against debris! We do this by bringing a mesh bag with us into the water and collecting debris as we come across it. We are always educating the community about the impact through a variety of methods. We organize an ocean education event each June during Ocean’s Week, document our dives against debris on the TV series ‘Jump In’, arrange ocean & shoreline clean-ups for everyone to participate in, and talk about it within our workplaces. We really try to use our role as scuba divers to educate and pass on the knowledge of how plastic is impacting our environment through our clean-up efforts and video footage that we gather during our dives. This is something we can be confident in saying we talk about every day!
4) Why is a plastic-pollution-free environment important to you?
Since we directly witness the abundance of ocean plastics and the impact it has on marine life, we believe we have a responsibility to be stewards of the environment and take care of our ocean. It has been very rewarding for us to participate in clean-up efforts through the Nova Scotia dive community and know that we are making a positive contribution to our oceans. One thing I think we are proud to see is the progress that Canada has made in managing and reducing plastic pollution compared to other countries we have traveled to for dive trips. It is not perfect, but we can all work together to do our part and help improve the areas we live in.
5) What challenges or obstacles do you face when pursuing your goals?
We face many challenges, with a lack of education comes a lack of caring. If people can’t see it, they think it isn’t there. The debris under the water isn’t visible to many people so they don’t think the pollution is that bad. However, there is more debris located under the water than there is on land since most land-based pollution ultimately ends up in the ocean.
6) How do you keep yourself motivated?
We keep ourselves motivated by setting goals for finding the most unique item, weighing how many items we have collected, and reporting the debris to PADI Aware & Mind Your Plastic. We also stay motivated by taking about the problem and having as many people help as possible. Even one new person each time we go collecting is a win in our eyes.
7) Who inspires you in terms of activism and making a difference?
We are so lucky to be part of such an impressive and engaged community of scuba divers here in Nova Scotia. Seeing the number of divers that show up week after week to participate in ocean clean-ups is inspiring and keeps us motivated to stay involved and continue giving back to our community!
8) What has been your favourite experience on this journey so far?
We love seeing how much debris that has been collected on clean-ups and being part of the Nova Scotia Underwater Council, which is a registered not-for-profit organization that represents the diving community in Nova Scotia and has been organizing clean-up events across the province. When we see what we are collecting out of the ocean we really feel like we are making a difference. Our favourite thing it the many relationships we have built within the dive community and ocean industry it makes you want to be out in the community and doing your part.
9) What was something that surprised you during your journey?
Something that surprised us was the lack of knowledge that people had about the amount of garbage and plastic in the ocean! As scuba divers, we witness plastic pollution every day, which gives us a fairly accurate impression of the magnitude of the problem. However, when we post pictures of the amount of debris we have collect in 45 minutes, the response from people is shocking! They really don’t realize how much debris is underwater right outside their own backyard since it isn’t visible to most people. Although many people are unaware of plastic pollution, it has been incredibly uplifting to observe the amount of curiosity that people have around our clean-up efforts. When people see us come out of the water with debris, they often want to help and ask a lot of questions! Many times, they thank us for doing what we do! We just want to do our part and volunteer our time to make our world a better place for everyone!
10) Do you have any recommendations for people wanting to make a difference in their community?
One simple thing anyone can do to help with plastic pollution is to keep bags handy in your car or bring along a bag when you are walking. Even picking up a little debris and making sure it is put in the proper disposal unit is helpful. People think that one person won’t make a huge impact, but one action is a positive step in the right direction and can inspire other people to start doing the same. You can inspire others to make a positive difference by raising awareness on plastic pollution and sharing your experiences in helping the environment with other people around you. Sharing experiences and stories can ignite a fire in someone else and cause a ripple effect of positive change in your community.
Finally, PLEASE DO NOT THROW DEBRIS IN THE WATER! You may think “out of sight out of mind” or that your debris will deteriorate quickly, but that really is not the case! We have seen everything that you can have in your house in the ocean, and this is a simple first step to confronting the issue of plastic pollution in the local community.
Follow the NudiGirls on their diving adventures on Instagram!