"Fins into the water - Ocean Literacy into practice" is a field-based initiative aimed at introducing Ocean Literacy in the daily practice of the diving sector, turning into concrete actions the too often theoretical approach characterizing the research and academic world into something valuable also for the daily routine of the diving professionals, who are engaged daily in the marine environment. All the activities have been performed in collaboration with different representatives of the SCUBA diving sector and acted on favour of different teaching agencies sharing the same standards at European Union level (RSTC standards).
From the very beginning, this initiative conceived as a personally-driven contribution, acted at the interface between science and recreational diving. It has been driven till the end as a bottom-up initiative where the contribution of experienced diving professionals has been considered as the driving force of the final outcome. The added value of this initiative is that, even though it was finalized in an historically well-managed Marine Protected Area (MPA) that is renowned at national level for a quite long tradition in marine conservation and citizen science education, it occurred in a period in which the MPA Director role was vacant. As marine scientists and conservation practitioners, we know how delicate a transitional period can be from a management perspective and how illegal activities contrast actively pursued by locally-engaged people (abandoned fishing lines removal, fishing activities in the wrong MPA zones, unauthorized fishing activities, etc.) can represent an urgent priority in these circumstances ensuring a long-lasting protection. Empowering some representatives of the most long-tradition local enterprise in the diving sector in the role of marine stewardship, acting a crucial role in a delicate transitional period, has been a challenge, exactly keeping these needs in mind!
During the field experience a delicate liaison work has been finalized also toward the local authority of the MPA. On this perspective, some preliminary data have been shared officially with the MPA representatives after the end of the field work season and the diving professionals became coauthors of this contribution, actively providing some information to the local authority as a proof of the performed actions. From these preliminary observations, upcoming restoration interventions will come in the near future, engaging also other marine professionals active across Europe. It is a really rewarding achievement both from a social and scientific perspective, since it is a once in a lifetime occasion to demonstrate how the change can come even from unexpected contexts and experiences sometimes.
Additionally, the main characteristic of the finalized work is the central role of the Local Ecological Knowledge in the project goal achievement.
A printable manual is the final outcome and the most tangible result of the field-based mission. This product aimed mainly at diving professionals and recreational divers is part of a personal commitment in the field of marine education and Ocean Literacy research. The outcome of the personal work is the result of a multi-perspective field-based commitment and is part of a wider multidisciplinary approach to environmental research. The main goal of this work is the educational dimension in line with the purposes of Sustainable Development Goal 14 and is conceived in line with the Ocean Literacy principles, at the basis of the wider outreach mission, promoted under the leading supervision of the IOC-UNESCO in the framework of the UN Decade 2021-2030 for Ocean Sciences.
The manual, due to its nature, won't be commercialized in the traditional workflow of educational manuals of any SCUBA diving teaching agency. This is a precise choice to make it possible for diving professionals to extract from this "model publication" only the essential information which can be usefully introduced in the daily briefing practice. On this perspective, still recognizing the driving role of the Sardinian diving center as the pilot site of this method, the manual will remain as a reference publication conceived in an educational perspective which can be adapted locally even by other SCUBA diving community stakeholders according to the locally-identified needs.
The manual has been recognized also as a UN Decade publication and, in its English version, will be shared on the UN Decade Forum website soon.