United Nations
Addressing the global marine debris crisis from an underwater perspective - citizen science and community engagement for global solution
by Project AWARE (Non-governmental organization (NGO))
As an international not-for-profit marine conservation organisation, Project AWARE works for a clean, healthy ocean focusing on reducing underwater impacts of marine debris and preventing trash from entering the ocean.

Marine debris is a primary threat facing today's ocean choking, suffocating, entangling and killing precious marine life and destroying ocean habitats.

At least 817 different species have ingested or become entangled in marine debris and its estimated that more than 250 million tons of plastic will make its way into our ocean by 2025. The cost is also vast plastic debris alone is estimated to cost US$13 billion per year in environmental damage.

Although its believed that over 70% of marine debris that enters the ocean ends up on the seafloor, little quantitative information is available regarding the types and quantities of this rubbish. Recognizing the power of the diving community as citizen scientists to help fill this void in information, Project AWARE developed Dive Against Debris - the worlds first and only underwater marine debris survey operating on a global scale, yielding data about the types, quantities and impacts to marine life that marine debris inflicts on the ocean.

Since the inception of Dive Against Debris in 2011, more than 25,000 divers have conducted almost 4000 surveys, removing and reporting over 800,000 debris items from shallow ocean environments. Data collected so far consistently shows that the majority of items are plastics (currently accounting for 63% of all items reported).


1. Building evidence to advocate for change
Dive Against Debris provides an immediate relief to underwater habitats and marine life through the direct removal of debris, whilst also building the evidence necessary to advocate for change and work towards solutions in the long-term.

2. Empowering scuba divers to be agents of positive change
To further support the program, better equip divers with the skills and knowledge necessary to independently conduct their own Dive Against Debris surveys, report data accurately and become true debris activists, Project AWARE launched the Dive Against Debris Distinctive Specialty Course available in 12 different languages. The Adopt A Dive Site initiative capitalises on the commitment demonstrated by our most dedicated Dive Against Debris leaders, empowering community leaders and dive businesses to take ownership of their local dive sites to conduct monthly surveys at their adopted site as well as implementing changes to reduce the waste their business generate.

3. Bringing change through strategic partnerships
Marine debris is a complex problem with both local and global effects requiring strategic collaboration. Project AWARE is committed to developing solutions through partnerships with communities, governments, NGOs and businesses. The underwater perspective on the marine debris issue that scuba divers help shape through Dive Against Debris data is unique. Marine litter is also one of the clearest symbols of a resource inefficient economy. Project AWARE is working with partners toward a much-needed transition from a linear take, make, dispose model of economic growth to a circular economy where products are designed to be reused and recycled continuously.
Progress reports
April 2018
Compile and deploy location-specific data reports for 150 adopted sites across the globe to empower local community leaders to work with relevant authorities to address marine debris issues locally
August 2017
Maximize innovative technology capabilities with the release of a mobile application to streamline the marine debris data reporting system and increase data submissions globally. By doing so, we hope to yield more, high quality data further enhancing the global dataset.
December 2020
Dec 2020 : Project AWARE will continue to collaborate with multiple stakeholders, forging strategic partnerships to work towards solutions to prevent debris at the source - sharing an accurate perspective regarding the underwater marine debris issue. This includes contributing to the deliverables identified in existing alliances including the Trash Free Seas Alliance, Global Ghost Gear Initiative, Seas At Risk, and the Global Partnership for Marine Litter.
Other, please specify
As a registered charity in the United Kingdom, America and Australia, Project AWARE relies on donations - from individuals to foundations, in cash or in kind - to fuel conservation initiatives from grassroots action to tackle marine debris in communities
In-kind contribution
Our work would not have been possible without the extensive, direct involvement of volunteers - recreational and professional scuba divers and other ocean activists - who not only participate in but also organize data collection activities and reporting
Staff / Technical expertise
Project AWARE has 11 staff globally (full- and part- time) facilitating full program management including data assurance and quality control, technological advancements, program development and evaluation, and on- and offline community support
Basic information
Time-frame: June 2011 - December 2020
Project AWARE (lead entity - Non-governmental organization); Volunteer scuba divers and community leaders (other relevant actor); Dive stores & resorts (private sector)
Ocean Basins
  • Global
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
Contact information
Hannah Pragnell-Raasch, Programs Specialist, hannah.pragnell-raasch@projectaware.org,
Other SDGs
United Nations