What You Do Matters! PADI Save Our Ocean Pledge


Happy Earth Day! What you Do Matters!

Join with PADI in the Save the Ocean Pledge, learn more in my interview below with Katie Thompson, Global Director, Corporate Social Responsibility at PADI

“The pledge is a personal commitment to say YES! I’m going to help create balance between humanity and ocean. I’m going to respect the ocean or the underwater world when I travel. I’m going to respect the cultures that take care of the ocean when I travel, when I’m diving, when I’m on vacation, and even in my own community.

PADI’s mission is to create a billion torchbearers to explore and protect the ocean. Local action from an individual person can make a difference. What you do does matter.”


Lisa Niver:

Good morning. This is Lisa Niver from We Said Go Travel, and I am so honored to be here today with Katie Thompson from PADI, which is one of my favorite and most important organizations on the whole planet. Hi, Katie.

Katie Thompson:

Hi, Lisa, and I’m honored to be here as well, and that’s a great introduction. Thank you for saying that about our brand, I appreciate that.

Lisa Niver:

Many people know I’ve been speaking at the Travel and Adventure Show this year, and it was my great honor to be able to speak on behalf of PADI, which for anybody that doesn’t know, we’re talking about scuba diving, not a person named Patty. PADI is the professional association of dive instructors, and that’s how I learned to scuba dive, and scuba diving changed my whole life. I really feel so thankful for everything that you do to save the ocean and help people get in the water.

Katie Thompson:

Thanks, Lisa. PADI has been around since 1966 teaching the world to dive, and that actually was our tagline until a couple years ago. We changed it to Seek Adventure, Save the Ocean to show that…we are enhancing and expanding our commitment to the ocean, to ocean conservation, to ocean preservation.

We really like to think of PADI…P-A-D-I, I love that you said that…as a deeper purpose brand. Our PADI dive centers around the world and instructors have issued nearly 30 million certifications. We want to mobilize those divers to take action for the ocean! We’re not only teaching them to dive, we’re teaching them to protect what ultimately they end up loving at the end of the day.

That’s our purpose and what we’re trying to do —to save the ocean– that’s where it all kind of stems from.

Lisa Niver:

It is amazing. I love being under water, I love being with the fish, I love being with the creatures, I love being with my buddy, but it is really important that we take care of our planet, and that’s why we especially wanted to talk about your big project for Earth Day.

Katie Thompson:

PADI’s mission is to create a billion, with a B as in boy, a billion torchbearers to explore and protect the ocean. We are reigniting the ocean torchbearer campaign. If you look at our logo, there’s a diver carrying a torch, and that’s what they used to carry under water when they were diving so they could see.

In Jacques Cousteau’s Silent World, that’s where you can actually see them diving with a torch under water. It’s pretty amazing. When you look at the logo, it’s really awesome and it’s just, it seems so serendipitous that we ended up where we are after all these decades that a diver’s carrying a torch.

And now we have this campaign for any person and they don’t have to be a diver, someone that’s an ocean advocate, an ocean lover, someone that wants to protect what’s below the surface of the water. And even because the ocean is tied to everything, it’s really someone that just wants to protect our blue planet. For Earth Day, we’re reigniting our Ocean Torchbearer campaign with a Save the Ocean Pledge.

Lisa Niver:

Everybody can make a difference, and everyone can spark change. I like that I could spark change just like my candle could light the next candle. Through the billion torchbearers, there’s a lot that’s already happened, right? Aren’t there almost 60 thousand actions that have already happened?

Katie Thompson:

We definitely measured a lot of actions, including people that have taken conservation courses, divers that have taken conservation courses, people that have reported data. We have with our PADI AWARE Foundation and we created an Underwater Citizen Science curriculum, and we created the largest database about marine debris on the planet.

What’s so valuable and important about that database is there’s over 2 million pieces of debris reported,. There are many reports about the millions of tons of plastic in the ocean, but what’s so critical about this database and being a diver that collects debris and reports it is that that data is used to influence policy.

The database tells us what kind of debris it is, where it’s coming from, the concentration of that debris, and having that data is critical, and that’s really where all the policy change comes from.

Other actions include protecting sharks which we have been doing for several decades. We are involved with programs like CITES to protect sharks. Now, we’ve protected over a hundred species of sharks and rays, and anybody can participate in these actions.

Our pledge starting on Earth Day is not only that you are making a commitment to be part of this bigger community, but it’s also your gateway into conservation with PADI and we will be able to communicate with you and provide you a pathway to take clear actions that ladder up to this global picture of protecting our ocean.

Lisa Niver:

One of the things that I love the most about PADI is the focus on how local action has a global impact. Could you talk about the new shark legislation that will protect sharks around the planet?

Katie Thompson:

Local action from an individual person can make a difference and collectively it helps protect sharks. We sent out communication about a petition to all of our torchbearers, and we asked them to sign the petition for CITES, the governing body that helps protect species.

Because sharks and rays have been in our wheelhouse for so many years and we’ve worked so hard to protect sharks, we have a Shark Conservation course which we are updating, and we are going to be releasing a new Global Shark Census, so that’s exciting, so stay tuned for that. But so, what the consumers do, or what our fans, what our torchbearers do, they sign this petition. Now, we can segment that database of where those signatures are coming from digitally, and then we have people on the ground at CITES, at the convention for Biological Diversity. We have people taking the petition to the different government officials saying PADI’s collected 30 thousand signatures.

When we talk about the individual local action leading to bigger or global impact, it’s that collectively, when the signatures are taken and provided to the elected official or the Minister of Tourism, the Minister of Trade, whoever that person- that is at that convention -that we’re trying to change policy, those signatures are very influential.

We are able to make a significant difference this year and every year. We protected 54 sharks and ray species, so now we’re up over 100. PADI has helped protect over 100 shark and ray species, which is really exciting because sharks are the apex predators of the ocean and if they’re in balance it helps keep the rest of the ocean in balance.

Lisa Niver:

The PADI reach is so AMAZING! You have so many different conservation projects — helping the coral, helping the turtles, helping the sharks, but tell people about the Save the Ocean Pledge–how do they sign up and what does it do. What happens?

Katie Thompson:

There’s so much happening. We launched the PADI Blueprint for Ocean Action, which focuses on five different areas- marine debris, vulnerable species, which includes sharks and rays, marine protected areas advancing the amount of ocean that’s protected. There’s coral reef restoration and recovery. And then, the fifth one will be restoring blue carbon habitats, so blue carbon would be things like seagrass, mangroves, and kelp.

We narrowed it down to five critical or key threats to the ocean, and what’s important there too is that divers especially can take actions under water. We’re creating programs and curriculum where divers can learn specific skills. They can take a course, and then on the Marine Debris app, the Dive Against Debris app, they can upload all that data, and that data is then used to change policy. We’re going to have a course for each of those key threats.

Our one billion torchbearers will be essentially one in ten people on this planet that can take action for the ocean, whether you are signing the CITES petition to protect sharks, or taking marine debris datat, that is an action that counts.

All of the courses are tied to the global agenda to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030. Of course, we’re looking way beyond 2030, but we want to make sure that the work that we’re doing is connected to that bigger picture because what you mentioned, the scale that PADI has, we can indeed make a significant impact with millions of people around the world taking action.

Lisa Niver:

In order to have one billion torchbearers and protect 30% of the ocean by 2030, we want everyone to sign the Save the Ocean Pledge. Tell us about the ocean pledge.

Katie Thompson:

The pledge is a personal commitment to say YES! I’m going to help create balance between humanity and ocean. I’m going to respect the ocean or the underwater world when I travel. I’m going to respect the cultures that take care of the ocean when I travel, when I’m diving, when I’m on vacation, and even in my own community.

There’s a set of commitments that you can see on the pledge page that you’re saying, yes, I’m going to do all of these things, and then I’m going to pledge to save the ocean, and I’m going to stand up for the ocean, and then be part of the world’s largest community that we’re trying to build to create ocean change.

What makes this pledge unique is that it is backed by three decades of the PADI AWARE Foundation and with PADI members and operators around the world taking action, and now we’re inviting more people to stand with us.

Once you sign up as a torchbearer, once you join this community by taking this pledge, you are going to be kept informed of these opportunities. Because if you think about the ocean conservation space or any conservation space, it’s a little overwhelming and I think a lot of people, they almost get apathetic or they just feel overwhelmed. They think what they do doesn’t matter or that their little contribution won’t change anything, and that is not true at all. It completely does matter, and we have all these examples to prove that it does matter. What you do does matter.

We feel like this pledge is a way to reach people all around the world that care about the ocean, ocean citizens I like to call them, that want to do something but maybe don’t know how to get started, they don’t know what they can do, so we’re trying to connect, make a bridge between the ocean change and people around the world so they have a clear pathway to action.

Lisa Niver:

I think it’s so important, and I love that PADI has certified almost 30 million people. When you think about most of those people, their children, their parents, their sisters, their siblings, their cousins, they work somewhere, so it’s a really huge community, and so this is a great way to get connected.

I’ve been a diver since 1990, and I know one of the big projects you’ve done is to encourage women in diving. When I first started diving, I’d go in the dive shop and they always thought I was someone’s girlfriend, and I aid no, no, I’m the good diver. I’d be with someone who was brand new and they would focus on that person. But I’m the divemaster.

I’d love if you could talk about Women’s Dive Day.

Katie Thompson:

I love to talk about Women’s Dive Day. We started it, me and my team here at PADI, I can’t believe it, but it’s been nine years. Next year we’re going to celebrate our 10-year anniversary of Women’s Dive Day, and it’s just been an incredible journey.

On the day of Women’s Dive Day on social media, I love to see all these women posting and saying diving changed my life, I took my first breath under water, and we always say it’s for everyone.

Even though our mission is to create these billion torchbearers, our true deep down mission is to increase access to the underwater world for everyone. This idea of inclusivity is really what Women’s Dive Day is about. It breaks down those barriers to diving to make them feel comfortable. It has happened to so many women that they would walk into a dive shop and they just felt like they didn’t have the confidence to ask about equipment, or they weren’t treated with respect.

And this happens in a lot of different sports and activities, but that’s why we do these things, we can dive just as well as anyone else. It makes them feel comfortable and gives them the confidence to be diving together in a group on a special day.

We need all those women to be part of the community. We need women divers. We need women ocean advocates. We need people to take those same actions.

So, really, Women’s Dive Day is about inclusivity, it’s about inviting everyone in, creating access to the ocean, and giving everyone this opportunity to be part of this to experience nature and the beauty of this planet.

Lisa Niver:

This year Women’s Dive Day is July 15, and I believe last year were there over 4,000 events?

Katie Thompson:

There were over 4,000 events with all of our PADI dive centers around the world the first year. We really wanted them to adopt this concept and this initiative of women and diving and they did!

Women are often the decision makers in the household for vacations, for lots of different things, so there’s a lot of benefits to including women. Every year we have thousands of events taking place all around the world, and our dive centers love it. It’s just incredible to see the diversity of the events themselves. You have everything from women doing yoga days and diving to doing wine afterwards, to people doing incredible conservation work, bringing in the community together, so it’s turned into something that’s really incredible. I want to plan something pretty significant for the 10-year anniversary.

Lisa Niver:

Beaches and Sandals Resorts used underwater footage of me scuba diving and dancing in Turks and Caicos for Women’s International Dive Day. It was really funny!

Katie Thompson:

They always do a great job down there with Women’s Dive Day, so that’s good to hear.

Lisa Niver:

Tell us a little bit about the women that are behind you in these beautiful murals.

Katie Thompson:

Thank you for asking about that. The murals are from when we launched the PADI Pillars of Change corporate social responsibility framework. It’s the roadmap for the actions that we take. Our three pillars are ocean conservation, dive industry sustainability, and people and humanity which includes Women’s Dive Day and our adaptive diving services.

We have amazing PADI instructors and PADI dive centers around the world that are teaching divers with adaptive needs. There’s one billion people on this planet that have a disability, and diving has shown to be an amazing healing opportunity for people that have a disability, people that are paralyzed, people that have some kind of spinal disorder, people that suffer from PTSD. There are many veteran programs that are scuba diving-based. So, all of that falls under people and humanity.

And the other part of people and humanity is the healing and wellness aspect of being in the water for anybody. You don’t have to be necessarily suffering from anything, but that immersion therapy is just such a powerful drug. It’s the same with surfing. If you talk to a surfer – when we’re out there on the water, it’s the same feeling that you get.

Being in the water is healing, and diving offers people in this crazy world that we live in that you can go under there and it’s quiet, and all you’re doing is just blowing bubbles with the fishes, as we say.

Our pillars provide guidance, and focus us in a direction that is meaningful, impactful, that strengthens our core values and shows the deeper purpose that PADI has.

Lisa Niver:

The murals beautiful to look at, and the meaning is beautiful as well. I agree with you, it’s really magical to be under water. I have a special connection with my buddies and being with the creatures, and you really sense how we all are connected on our entire planet.

Katie Thompson:

Yes. The water definitely does that for people. I’ve worked for PADI for 10 years, and I’ve been really lucky to work with a lot of people, especially on the Three Pillars, people that have a disability and taking them under water and seeing firsthand what happens to someone when they feel for the first time like a whole person again, being under water, and it’s just such an incredible transformative experience.

For Women’s Dive Day, we’ve had women in the Middle East that previously didn’t have the ability legally to dive, and now we’ve had the first PADI instructor there. We’ve helped open doors for people and helped them break down barriers and it’s inspiring to see other people that have overcome their fears to get under the water and find that connection.

And if you can’t scuba dive, there’s other things you can do. You can go free diving, you can go snorkeling, you can experience the ocean in different ways. And now mermaiding is a really popular activity around the world. PADI offers courses in all these things.

Lisa Niver:

During this time of the COVID coaster with everyone managing issues with health and illness and wellness that many people that were adventurous have gotten a little less. And for myself personally, I actually was pretty hard to teach to scuba dive. I had a near-drowning as a child, and so I’ve spoken to a lot of people that are afraid, and I know it can be scary. The thing I always tell people is we never go diving without our buddies, so you’re never alone.

Katie Thompson:

Yes. That’s true. That’s a really good point because I think people do worry that under the surface they will feel claustrophobic because you’re breathing out of this device that you’re not used to breathing out. But once you get underwater, people love it.

And when you’re learning you’re never alone absolutely, you have someone there with you every step of the way, your instructor and most oftentimes a divemaster or another instructor helping you. So, there’s lots of opportunity for encouragement.

And there’s no pressure and you don’t have to be done in a certain timeframe. There’s no requirement that you have to do this in one day or seven days. You can take time and get comfortable. And your PADI instructor is making sure you’re comfortable and confident under water before moving you forward.

Lisa Niver:

It is such a great experience. And there’s so much now with technology. You can do the e-learning class. You have PADI Reactivate. For people that have been out of the water, it’s a great pathway back.

I had been out of the water quite a while in 2020 to 2021 due to COVID and I took a reactivate class. I love PADI. The instruction is excellent, and a huge focus obviously is on safety, and I think it’s amazing.

Katie Thompson:

Yes, it is amazing. And you’re right, there are so many ways to learn now. Since the pandemic, what you call the COVID coaster, I love that, a lot of people did choose to do e-learning, and it was easier for people because people had more time to do something.

You can do the academic portion at home, and then you can really dive into the material and take the time to understand it, and then your instructor is there to help support that, and there’s knowledge review questions to make sure that you understand the material.

30 million people can’t be wrong. So, if it’s something that you want to do, you should just go try it. Grab a friend, grab somebody that you know that might be interested or is already a diver and just have them help you along and go do it.

Lisa Niver:

It’s Earth Day or Earth Month, and we now say every day is Earth Day and we will put in the show notes the link to sign the Save the Ocean Pledge and become part of the one billion, with a B, torchbearers. Any last thoughts you want to share with us from PADI and yourself about Earth Month/Earth Day and the ocean?

Katie Thompson:

Go to padi.com/savetheocean to sign the pledge and you can read all about it. You can learn about torchbearers, you can learn about all the things we’re doing in conservation and why what you do matters, and that’s what I want people to remember is that what you do matters. Get engaged in your local community in some way. There’s lots of opportunities out there for you to engage. It doesn’t have to take a ton of time. Just find out what you’re passionate about and take action.

And I want to say thank you for letting me speak about all of this today, and I hope people really enjoyed it and they want to come stand with us to help save the ocean.

Lisa Niver:

Thank you so much. It’s so important right now. What you do matters. We need to save the ocean. And I hope people come diving with us. I love scuba diving.

Katie Thompson:

Thanks, Lisa.

Katie Thompson about PADI Women’s Dive Day: Celebrate July 15, 2023

In time for Earth Day, PADI is reigniting our Ocean Torchbearer initiative with a Save the Ocean Pledge, asking for a personal commitment from everyone to sign on to protect the ocean and join the world’s largest community creating ocean change.

The purpose of the Save the Ocean Pledge is to expose more people around the globe to tangible and realistic ways to engage in ocean conservation by providing a clear pathway to action in what can often be an overwhelming experience, leaving people feeling what they do doesn’t affect the big picture, or worse, doesn’t matter.

But what we do individually, and collectively, does matter, and this shared optimism and conviction that change is possible, combined with tangible PADI AWARE actions, makes the Ocean Torchbearer Community a viable solution to creating a more resilient ocean and brighter future for all.

What happens when I take the pledge?

Upon taking the Save the Ocean pledge, you begin, deepen or reignite your conservation journey with PADI. As part of the Torchbearer Community, you will be kept informed of opportunities for conservation action – like conservation courses, citizen science opportunities and policy advocacy campaigns, both above and below the surface.

Ocean Torchbearers also receive quarterly newsletters and notifications to participate in conservation campaigns throughout the year – this allows everyone (not just divers) to be part of the solution. Immediately upon taking the pledge, you will receive a series of emails onboarding you to the Torchbearer Community, informing you on the various opportunities available to you. 

Here are some recent examples in which Torchbearers created notable impact:

Above the Surface Actions

  • By signing an online petition and sharing images on social media, the Torchbearer Community helped protect over 50 new species of Sharks at CITES.
  • They supported Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef by analyzing thousands of reef photos to allow scientists to better understand the health and state of the reef.
  • Fundraising and generous donations have enabled over USD $200,000 in grant funding for local marine conservation projects that tackle marine debris, habitat loss, vulnerable species protection and climate change.
  • Through PADI’s Partners The Ocean Foundation’s SeaGrass Grow Program, Torchbearers have helped restore critical and endangered seagrass and mangrove habitats in Puerto Rico.
  • During the upcoming Plastic Free July, Community members will be asked to support a call to action to demand the world’s governments agree on a legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution by 2040.

Below the Surface Actions

  • Through Dive Against Debris®, divers around the world have helped collect and report more than two million pieces of debris, resulting in the largest underwater citizen science database and movement for marine debris on the planet. 
  • By early 2024, divers will be able to participate in the AWARE Global Shark Census and Conservation Course, further advancing protection of vulnerable shark and ray species.
  • Together with PADI dive operators, PADI Divers are engaging in conservation activities all around the world

What makes the Save the Ocean pledge unique? 

Backed by three decades of conservation achievements through PADI AWARE Foundation and PADI Pro-led initiatives, PADI Members and Divers have implemented more than half a million discrete ocean actions. These include protecting more than 100 shark species, removing and documenting tons of ocean debris, and rescuing more than 13,500 entangled animals.

To date, PADI Mission Hubs and Eco Center Members, through Adopt the Blue, have adopted more than 1,000 dive sites for monitoring and preservation, with 10,000 dive sites set as the goal over the next few years. The PADI AWARE Foundation’s grant program has funded more than 200 local conservation projects directly related to the PADI Blueprint for Ocean Action (below).

PADI’s global community of 6,600 dive centers and resorts, 128,000 professional members and more than 29 million certified divers to date provides the scale to drive meaningful impact for the ocean.

Why should you take the Save the Ocean Pledge?

In 2020, PADI and AWARE Foundation announced the Blueprint for Ocean Action, a comprehensive strategy to empower local ocean-conservation actions for a global impact. This Blueprint addresses the five biggest issues facing our oceans: key habitat destruction (corals, mangroves and seagrass), vulnerable species loss (including apex predators), marine debris, the effects of climate change, and lack of marine protected areas. 

This framework is adopted across the global PADI network and provides a roadmap for consumers connected to the global picture – meaning, the goals under the blueprint are tied to the global agenda that is followed by most organizations in order to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030.  By connecting PADI’s conservation blueprint to PADI Mission Hubs, PADI Professionals, divers and Ocean Torchbearers internationally, we are taking scalable and meaningful action to help restore balance between humanity and ocean.

When you take the pledge, you are raising your hand to say that you want to be involved in being part of the solution for a healthier planet, including:

  • Taking individual and collective action to tackle the ocean’s greatest challenges and protect 30% of the ocean by 2030.
  • Acting as an ocean steward, exploring with care and leaving ecosystems in an equal or better state than I find them.
  • Respecting culture, traveling with an open heart and mind, showing consideration for all. 
  • Sharing my passion to explore and protect the ocean with friends, family and my community. 


You ARE part of the SOLUTION.

In 2018, PADI instituted a new global brand vision to create balance between humanity and ocean and thus the new mission of “create a billion torchbearers to explore and protect the ocean” was borne out of the necessity to bridge the gap between ‘teaching the world to dive’ and teaching them to protect the underwater world they were exploring.

From the beginning, PADI Co-Founder John Cronin knew that we – as divers – had a responsibility to protect what we love:  “We want to feel that our children, their children and generations to come will be able to enjoy the underwater world that has given us so much. There are so many significant problems facing mankind, but as divers this is truly our cause. If scuba divers do not take an active role in preserving the aquatic realm, who will?

Female Divers that inspire PADI: 

  • PADI AmbassaDiver + PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer Nouf Alosaimi from Saudi Arabia who founded the Pink Bubbles, a female diving community that encourages women to connect with the ocean
  • Ehdaa Al-Barwani who is the first female PADI Instructor from Oman and runs women-only dive courses through PADI Dive Center Aura Divers.
  • Here’s a round up of amazing PADI Women from around the world we highlighted for IWD on Scubaverse
  • Here’s a great feature in The Sun on PADI Diver Tara Roberts and how she is diving with a purpose 
  • Here’s a feature story in the Bombay Times on how AmbassaDiver Parineeti Chopra is inspiring more females in India to dive
  • Here’s a fun story on iNews that highlights how Professional PADI Mermaids are being a voice for the ocean+

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries on six continents. This University of Pennsylvania graduate sailed across the seas for seven years with Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Renaissance Cruises and spent three years backpacking across Asia. Discover her articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site WeSaidGoTravel. On her award nominated global podcast, Make Your Own Map, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors, and as a journalist has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty-two times. Named a #3 travel influencer for 2023, Niver talks travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, her YouTube channel with over 2 million views, and in her memoir, Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty.

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