“we have to be part of the solution and not part of the problem” ~ Doug McNeese
Doug McNeese believes that today there are certain training practices for new divers that the dive industry has abandoned, and as a result of this poor training these new divers have a greater impact on the marine environment.
Recalling his scuba diving experiences in the 80s, Doug explains that “a lot of attention was put on dive training. A lot of time was spent with customers to make them very comfortable in the environment ..with weight control and … how to use your fins.” Without this control divers can do a lot of damage to coral reefs
“I guess everybody thought that the beauty of the oceans and the fish …would always be there. We took it for granted” Now, Doug says that we realize that the marine environment is much more fragile and endangered and that it is imperative for divers to be better prepared to do no harm while diving. This requires adjusting the dive certification process to accommodate a greater span of education and to create a less invasive diver, one of Doug’s priorities.
Doug McNeese has been involved in the diving industry since the age of 10 when his family opened up their first dive store ‘The Dive Shop, Inc’. Today it has four locations in the Southeast United States. Doug has two passions – retail and training. His second passion led him to purchase NASDS and in late 1998 merge with Scuba Schools International (SSI).
Responsible for sales, including training and marketing, Doug is still the President of SSI USA and will continue to be a driving force to promote SSI worldwide and strengthen its growth through retailers and manufacturers. Doug strongly believes that the “doorway to diving” is the retailer and to bring more people into the sport and to make scuba diving a lifetime sport.
We Love the Ocean and We Love Diving
At this point in the interview Doug is joined by Sage Donald from Ocean First Divers and Sage describes a turning point in the attitude of both of their retail dive businesses. “It all started with the owner Graham Casden who challenged us because we’re all in this business for the same reason. We love the oceans and we love diving. He really challenged us to say we don’t want to just create a business that’s profitable or creates a lot of divers. We want to create divers that are actually engaged and aware. We’re confident that when we issue them the certification, they actually have the necessary knowledge about the oceans … and what type of impact they’re having when they’re go diving. He challenged us as instructors. He challenged us as retailers. He challenged me as a manager to create systems and educational programs that will move that information to the divers before they leave us and go out and become active members of our industry.”
One of the things that both SSI and Ocean First Divers is doing is requiring students to spend more time in the water and in the classroom. “we get them more excited because we all know people that are excited about the environment are much more likely to want to protect it.”
See Global Warming For Yourselves
age says “I not only think we have a responsibility but I think we have an opportunity because the oceans are being affected by ocean acidification at alarming rates and it’s blindly obvious.” Sage says, part of being a sustainable business is we have an opportunity to send out millions of observers to see for themselves the phenomenon of global warming and climate change and ocean acidification. “we have all of these witnesses and so we have an opportunity to be the voices for the rest of the world who don’t have the opportunity to actually witness this event happening”. “I think we can be on the forefront of positive change”.
“Is it too late? I don’t believe it is. I believe that everything that we do will impact the future of our oceans and all environments, but we’ve got to all start working together to make that happen.”
Join Doug and Sage to learn more about their marine education initiatives at SSI and Ocean First Divers and how to turn new divers into sustainable divers and ocean activists. Find their complete interview at Blue Ocean Summit 2015: Doug McNeese and see the marine education programs at Scuba Schools International or Ocean First Divers.
Our next speaker is an expert on guiding dive operators through programs that get their businesses on the path to sustainability. See our very informative article Sustainable Standards for a Profitable Dive Business by Dr. Mikki McComb Kobza at Ocean Profiles: Dr. Mikki McComb Kobza.