Don't let your dives go to waste

For lovers of the underwater world, Baja California’s sparkling Sea of Cortez is simply a pot of liquid gold. Baja is home to some of the richest biodiversity in Mexico, with one-third of the world’s marine mammals passing by the peninsula and plenty of endemic species calling the region home. Jacques Cousteau even famously called the Sea of Cortez the “world’s aquarium” so all the more reason to protect it!

It was a beautiful morning in Cabo San Lucas when I set out to explore the underwater world with Dive Ninja Expeditions, a team that is actively and passionately bridging the gap between tourism, science and conservation in Baja California and around the world.

Shortly after sunrise, the Ninjas and I (an honourary Ninja) set out on a mission to find the schools of flying mobula rays that had been seen frequenting the Pacific Ocean that borders Cabo. As wildlife experiences are left up to fate, the rays had other plans that morning, but we did have an incredible encounter of a dozen bottlenose dolphins riding the bow that may or may not have brought a tear to my eye (wildlife magic makes me emotional, OK?).

After this excursion, we set out for our main mission of the day: a dive. This scuba adventure was set around Pelican Rock, the area that draws tourists from around the world to snorkel and take in views of Cabo’s iconic arch. The setting is stunning, with the impressive granite rock glittering under the sunlight, pelicans dive-bombing into the water to grab a sardine lunch and the golden stretches of sand fringing the azure waters of the Sea of Cortez.

Above the surface, the scene was busy with boats, snorkelers and pelicans—but the reason I came to Cabo was to get beneath the surface.

The underwater world here is home to incredible marine animals, but their lives are at stake due to the neglectful actions of humans just like you and me, and the consequences are felt everyday in these waters.

Our dive wasn’t an ordinary dive—it was a clean-up dive. As part of the Project AWARE Adopt a Dive Site program, Dive Ninja Expeditions takes care of three dive sites in the local UNESCO marine park, Pelican Rock being one of them, and that day we set out to collect trash that was accumulating in the sea and posing a threat to the incredible marine creatures that live there.

under the seaWe split into three teams to tackle different areas of the dive site. A couple Ninjas went technical diving down to 60 metres, another group was surveying the 20-40 metre range and my group set out for a more shallow dive down to 20 metres. While gliding through the sea looking at the beautiful fish, we picked up any trash we could find along the way.

We found a range of items including an old GoPro, hat, cigarettes, plastic bottles and a ton of fishing line. Jay Clue, the founder of Dive Ninja, informed me that the line was likely left here by illegal fishing in the protected area while the marine park was closed during the height of COVID.

After seeing the mounds of trash washed up by the hurricane a couple of months earlier, I was already on high alert to the extensive amount of waste floating in the sea and the threat it poses to the marine world. A plastic bag gets mistaken as a jellyfish, microplastics from disintegrating plastic bottles get caught in the gills of fish and fishing line entangles and chokes creatures to death.

“It’s heartbreaking to see the havoc our garbage wreaks on all the inhabitants of our oceans,” shares Jay. “I’ve seen everything from pelicans wrapped in fishing lines to fish trapped in bottles, as well as whales and turtles entangled in discarded nets and ropes. This is one reason why at Dive Ninjas we have built conservation into every level of our company. We want to do our best to help protect these incredible creatures that invite us into their homes everyday, in hopes of somehow paying back the beautiful experiences and memories they give us. We keep fighting so that future generations will hopefully be able to experience the underwater world in all its beauty.”

There is so much work to be done and it starts with our own actions: avoid single-use plastics, remove all litter, educate yourself and others of the damage of ocean trash and invest your tourism dollars and time into organizations that are working towards the protection and preservation of our planet.

ocean wasteI was grateful and inspired to be in the company of the team at Dive Ninjas, whose every action is centred on conservation—from their local dives and courses to their citizen science and conservation expeditions, which fund research, educate and protect the marine species and their ecosystems. It’s encouraging to know people like these Ninjas who care about the planet, and there are so many ways to get involved and do our part.

For more information about Dive Ninjas and how you can get involved in their ecotourism experiences, visit this link.