Where are you from?
Southern California, I lived most of my life in Costa Mesa.
When was the first time you experienced the ocean?
I grew going to the beach. I remember as toddler my parents having the crib in the sand for me and playing in the water while wearing a diaper.
What about the ocean attracts you and why?
The ocean is my sanctuary and my church. When I am in the ocean, whether if it’s diving or surfing or playing at the beach with my kids, I feel alive. It’s the one place on earth I can go to and completely forget about everything else in daily life, and literally submerge myself and lose myself.
How long have you been diving?
A little over 15 years. I stopped counting dives at 500, but I’m estimating I have somewhere around 700 dives.
What have you learned about the ocean and what’s changed?
It’s declining, and declining fast. We are over fishing the ocean at an alarming rate. There is only 10% of large predatory fish left, compared to the 1960s. That’s just what we wiped out in the last 50 years. There was a study released a few years ago that said if we keep our current increasing pace of overfishing, there will be no edible fish left in 37 years. That’s in my kids lifetime. We are also polluting the water and the remaining fish. There is so much mercury in fish now that most of them are unhealthy to eat. A lot of people don’t know that or realize it. They are still finding PCBs in fish, and that’s a plastic that was banned in 1979.
Is there a message you would give to the youth that interact with the ocean?
Enjoy the ocean and explore it. The more you see and learn about it, the more special it will become to you. The ocean can change your life if it hasn’t already. And we still have time to make a stand and make a change and save our oceans and the precious life in it. The ocean and fish can make a comeback if we allow them to.
What decline have you seen in marine life, corals etc?
Just locally in California I have seen a steady decline of local marine life. There is simply just less life to see. I’ve been diving all over the world and have seen coral bleaching and dead reefs in Australia, the Red Sea and all over the Caribbean. Our reef system is sadly dwindling away. In places like Bonaire that have been several times, I’ve noticed more and more reefs in trouble. Even if it’s not bleached and dead yet, I’ve seen algae spreading across and strangling the reef.
When did you start to notice it?
I noticed dead reefs the first time I was diving on the Great Barrier Reef in 2000. But I know it’s going on a lot longer than that. And then slowly over the years I became keener and more sensitive to it with each dive. Now I can’t dive without noticing something that is in trouble as direct result of what we are doing as humans. I keep a bag with me when I dive, and I pick up trash on every dive.
What is your favorite part about diving?
Diving is a soulful experience to me. When I dive, I am at peace. I am not thinking about bills or work or anything. I experience Single Mindedness. I am completely in the moment and enjoy everything around me. When I watch the marine life interact with each other it is amazing. When see something like a Pederson Shrimp clean the inside of a grouper’s mouth, I am blown away that I am lucky enough to see that and hopefully get a picture of it. There is a motto that I live by, Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Bubbles and Kill Only Time.
What has been your most memorable moment?
When I saw Great Whites for the first time at Guadalupe Island, Mexico. I have been fascinated by Great Whites all my life ever since I saw Jaws as a kid. It was a dream come true and I would like to say it was a once in a lifetime experience, but I know I will be back and see them again. They are so beautiful and so graceful. Watching them swim is memorizing and a soul moving experience. Sharks are not the monsters that everyone loves to believe they are.