Annie Crawley inspires youth to have a passion for protecting the ocean.
In the heart of the Pacific Northwest, just north of Seattle, Washington, divers flock to a local marine protected area (MPA) called Edmonds Underwater Park. With some of the most pristine diving in the Puget Sound area of the Salish Sea, this MPA has giant lingcod, fields of plumose sea anemones, and colorful crabs and nudibranchs. Among the divers who frequent the park are Annie Crawley and her dive team of kids and teens. With drysuits on and cameras in hand, the young ocean explorers document the underwater world with Crawley as their mentor and guide. Their mission: be a voice for the ocean.
Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Crawley didn’t see the ocean until she was in college. Her life changed forever when she took her first breath underwater. She is now an award-winning underwater photographer, filmmaker, author, environmental speaker and master scuba diver trainer. She travels the world to document giant Pacific octopuses and humpback whales in their birthing grounds and to dance with turtles, dolphins, mantas and seas of jellyfish. But she has also witnessed alarming evidence of ocean pollution and destruction.
Using storytelling, Crawley changes the way people view their relationship with the ocean and gives them tools to protect it. “The ocean is responsible for more than 50 percent of the oxygen in every breath we take,” she said. “It contains 97 percent of our planet’s water, and 3 billion people rely on the protein from the sea to live. We protect what we love.”
Crawley embodies the ocean’s energy through her passion and love for all. United by a love for scuba diving and exploring the ocean, her dive team members are also junior storytellers. Using their own photos, videos and essays, they created a website for the MPA (EdmondsUnderwaterPark.com) with the hope of enlightening the community about what lives just below the surface of their Pacific Northwest backyard.
Teaching young divers is not an easy task. From making custom gear to extensive training, the hard work pays off. Crawley trains some of the most competent divers in the world, some as young as 10 years old. The young divers learn life lessons such as responsibility and teamwork. The students are always willing to lend a hand, whether that is doing buddy checks, helping each other don drysuits or supporting divers as they walk into the water with heavy gear. Their dedication to the team and the ocean extends into the community.
Inspired by their diving experience, many of the young people lead environmental groups at their schools. The stories they write about the underwater world often appear in local newspapers. The dive team hosts underwater cleanups, where families, friends, volunteers and divers help them remove hundreds of pounds of trash from the local harbor. The team even traveled to the Washington state capitol in Olympia in 2019 to support a bill banning single-use plastics.
Crawley and author Patricia Newman featured the dive team’s activism in their latest book, Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean. The book informs readers of all ages about the wonders and perils facing the ocean and inspires them to use their imagination and take part in solving our ocean’s problems.
You don’t have to be a diver to join the Annie Crawley Dive Team. You just have to commit to being a voice for the ocean and talking about it every day. Raising awareness about the ocean will inspire passion for protecting it.
Crawley recognizes the value of community action. “Public awareness drives political and corporate change,” she said. If we can make small changes in our lives and demand action from big polluters, we can protect valuable and vulnerable ecosystems.
As she says in Planet Ocean, “We cannot be healthy without a healthy ocean.”
To learn more about Crawley and her dive team, visit OurOceanAndYou.com.
Visit Edmonds Underwater Park with Annie Crawley in this video.
© Alert Diver — Q3/Q4 2021