David Martin Recognized As October's Sea Hero
COURTESY OCEANS FOR ALL
A portrait of David Martin
YEAR DIVE CERTIFIED: 1985
AGE WHEN CERTIFIED: 14
DIVE CERTIFICATION LEVEL: PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor and Master Scuba Diver Trainer
WORDS TO LIVE BY: “Greed and selfishness are killing the Oceans. Science and technology can’t fix this. Only a moral and spiritual change in each of us can make a difference.”
In Phuket, Thailand, where nonprofit Oceans for All is based, tourism and the ocean go hand in hand. But the disconnect between the hospitality industry and marine conservation here and at dive destinations all over the world led underwater cameraman and OFA co-founder David Martin to look for ways to collaborate with industry leaders and spark change to benefit the oceans and businesses alike. Martin believes that through unique partnerships with resorts and businesses, marine conservation can be at the forefront of tourism and everyday life. OFA runs several projects supporting its goal of combating climate change and educating vacationers and locals of Thailand, specifically children. OFA partnered with J.W. Marriott to open the Bamboo Shark Nursery and Education Center at Khao Lak. The nonprofit operates five catamarans that operate around Phuket, collecting floating trash. Local students are given opportunities to join captains for the day and see the impact they are making in their community. The boats themselves can even be recycled at the end of their 40-year life span. For Martin’s dedication to educating others and forging beneficial partnerships throughout Phuket, he is our October 2023 Sea Hero.
Q: Where did you get the idea for Oceans for All?
A: From looking at the hospitality industry, like tourism, yachting and beach clubs, for example. They use the oceans as a business asset without protecting it. As an industry, they bring millions of vacationers onto their shores to use the ocean, without educating them. The idea of OFA is to bring ocean conservation principles and ethics to this industry.
Q: What is the significance of the many resort partnerships OFA has throughout Thailand?
A: It gives us the opportunity to bring awareness and knowledge about marine conservation to millions of vacationers, allowing them to physically take part in conservation during their holiday here and hopefully elsewhere. I believe the hospitality industry should function as the spearhead of ocean conservation because they use the ocean as a business asset, and therefore should be the first to maintain and protect it.
COURTESY OCEANS FOR ALL
Martin releases juvenile bamboo sharks alongside locals and international visitors as part of Oceans for All’s effort to repopulate a reef.
Q: Which of OFA’s projects do you think most helps to bridge the gap between tourism and ocean conservation?
A: Our shark nursery projects. OFA’s latest shark nursery and conservation center at J.W. Marriott Khao Lak has demonstrated the most connection between conservation and tourism. It regularly allows us to repopulate the surrounding reefs with juvenile sharks, and it also allows us to educate vacationers on the importance of sharks in marine ecosystems. Tourists and hotel guests can take part in daily workshops and shark-release events.
Q: How does your work as an underwater cameraman tie into Oceans for All?
A: My work as an underwater cameraman has brought me the means, both in terms of knowledge, experience and finance, to dedicate myself full-time to the Oceans for All foundation. It has allowed me to meet like-minded people all over the world who are working in ocean conservation, enabling us to share project ideas and work toward the same goal. My underwater camera skills have allowed me to put into pictures the foundation’s missions, in hopes that they reach and inspire as many people as possible.
COURTESY OCEANS FOR ALL
Martin collects the sorted trash collected daily by Oceans for All’s License to Clean eco-friendly coastal cleaning catamaran, which itself is 100 percent recyclable.
Q: What do you view as the greatest challenges in marine conservation today? How are these challenges reflected in your own work?
A: What I have found somewhat difficult is collaborating with other organizations. In our fight to protect the oceans, focusing too much on individual goals can prevent us from moving forward together. It is imperative to remember that there is no exclusivity in saving the oceans, and we all want the same thing at the end of the day. Convincing big players in marine pollution and carbon emissions, such as yacht or hotel owners, to donate for the cause has been a challenge. Ocean conservation is, unfortunately, a lengthy process, being that the vast majority of people are not willing to participate or contribute, regardless of how much their livelihood depends on healthy oceans.
Q: What’s been your most satisfying moment?
A: Being able to share my knowledge and passion for ocean conservation with kids in schools and to see their growing interest in saving the oceans. We have a project called EducOcean, which is dedicated to educating, sharing and involving kids from different backgrounds. We collaborate with underprivileged kids, as well as local and international schools and universities, conducting regular workshops on various themes like seagrass, sharks and plastic. One of the highlights is having the kids actively participate in planting seagrass and releasing baby sharks, which is an incredibly enriching experience for them.
Q: What’s been your most surprising moment?
A: That kids care a lot more about the oceans than their parents do…
Q: Who are your sea heroes?
A: From my childhood, of course, Jacques Cousteau and his dedication to explore and share even if the ways were not always the right ones. Paul Watson is today the sea hero most inspiring for me.
Each Sea Hero featured in Scuba Diving receives a Seiko SRPD43 watch valued at $525. For our December issue, judges select a Sea Hero of the Year, who receives a $5,000 cash award from Seiko to further their work. Nominate a sea hero at scubadiving.com/seaheroes.