“Sea Turtles don’t dwell in desserts. So why are you here?” – A comment the conservation and marketing team heard routinely throughout their time at the 2016 Dive Equipment and Marketing Association show (DEMA). Our fellow attendees had a point, sea turtles reside a long way from Nevada, so why did we travel to Las Vegas for this show? DEMA attracts dive operators and ocean enthusiasts from all over the world – an opportunity our conservation team could not pass up.

In 2016, Loggerhead Marinelife Center officially launched the sea turtle-safe diving component of Project SHIELD, which is a program designed to offer viable conservation solutions and pollution prevention projects to fishing piers, recreational boaters, beach-side hotels, snorkel and SCUBA operators, fishing charter operators, and beach access points. At the show, our team searched for dive operators to partner with on our sea turtle-safe diving initiative. This initiative asks dive operators to follow a set of guidelines, including staying a safe distance from sea turtles, and teach their students or guests how to create a safer experience for sea turtles and divers. In addition, our team provided a pledge wall for attendees to pledge to live out a “blue” lifestyle of ocean conservation. Several attendees posed with signs pledging to go #PlasticFreeWithLMC and spread their own conservation ideas.

After a long week at DEMA, our team left having met ocean enthusiasts from all over the world and establishing several new partnerships. For more information on becoming a Project SHIELD partner, please contact Tommy Cutt at tcutt@marinelife.org.

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Sea turtle-safe diving is just one component of the multi-faceted program.

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Outreach Coordinator Demi Fox met Linda who is a dive operator in Belize. Linda is looking forward to becoming a Project SHIELD partner.

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Through Project SHIELD, partners have the opportunity to install educational signs at their facilities.

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One of our current Project SHIELD partners, Kathy O’Hara of the Virginia Aquarium, stopped by our booth and requested to hold all of our pledge signs. Kathy’s team is dedicated to spreading conservation ideas.

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Safe sea-turtle diving Project SHIELD partners will receive special BC tags. We provide our partners will all of the necessary materials to let guests know that they are a sea turtle-safe diver.

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Throughout the week DEMA attendees stopped by our booth to take conservation pledges.