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Diving to help save the oceans

Winnipeg woman in the Bahamas on special expedition

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Mavis McRae is part a prestigious group of divers currently on an international expedition to help preserve the world’s oceans.


The River Heights resident is the only Canadian among 10 divers that were chosen to join the week-long Sylvia Earle Alliance (SEA) expedition in Staniele Cay in the Bahamas — that began on May 21 — to help promote education and awareness about the importance of sustaining marine biodiversity.


The location is one of several Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) — or "Hope Spots" — identified by the organization as unique places critical to the health and preservation of the world’s oceans.
"Think of it as a national park system underwater. It’s important to protect an area where fish can flourish and corals can continue to grow," said McRae, who has been diving since visiting Australia almost 20 years ago and calls the expedition a "dream come true."


"Corals grow for hundreds of years, yet people snap them and use them to make jewelry. It’s like cutting down a redwood tree. The problem is that so few people get to see (it) underwater, it’s easy to forget these issues exist."


"If you dive down you’ll see fishing lines with dead fish attached or plastic bags wrapped around corals," she added.


Speaking days before leaving, McRae — a business consultant and entrepreneur-in-residence at the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Manitoba’s Asper School of Business — said her mandate will include exploring the area and participating in educational lectures and seminars.


On top of that, the avid diver was excited about working with one of her heroes. Earle, 76, is a former chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. and a current explorer-in-residence for National Geographic.


"I love everything about the ocean and Sylvia’s book Sea Change: A Message of the Oceans really opened my eyes to working to preserve and protect the oceans," McRae said.


"And the other divers on the trip have also spent their lives dedicated to the cause. I stand to learn a lot from this trip."


Tessa Diack, owner of Underworld Scuba & Sport on Portage Avenue and supplier of McRae’s expedition gear, said the importance of such expeditions cannot be understated.


"Regardless of where you live, the ocean directly and indirectly affects each and every one of us," Diack said. "We need to raise awareness and mobilize people to protect the oceans for future generations."


For more information, visit blog.sylviaearlealliance.org. To learn more about Underworld Scuba & Sports, visit www.underworldscuba.com.

simon.fuller@canstarnews.com

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