The future of scuba diving in the Cayman Islands and the prospect of young Caymanians taking up the mantle in the currently foreign dominated marketplace is looking more and more palpable. That was the message one took away from Friday night’s International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, 2019 Induction Ceremony.
With attendees from a broad cross section of Cayman’s social demographic represented at the gala, five young Caymanians were recognized for their efforts in the area of diving.
The young men are all part of a special group, who received the Bob Soto Scholarship, which is a program that identifies promising young Caymanians who express an interest in the diving as a profession and trains them to become Dive Masters and ultimately instructors.
The pas two recipients of the scholarship - Rickeem Lashley and Joshua Weaver had the distinct honor of announcing this year’s awardees - Kameron D’Hue and Shaun Jackson.
Suzy Soto (Wife of the late Bob Soto) gushed with pride as the young men received the hounor noting, “These young men come from a rich seafaring background and their grandparents were seafaring people”.
As part of the program, over the next six months, the young men will be getting their accreditation and going through various levels of training; after which time they will be assisting in replanting the reef around Grand Cayman and further the Cayman Islands. The program is paid for by Bob Sotos in conjunction with Red Sail Sports.
Eco Divers - The company providing and facilitating the young men’s training - has partnered with The Cayman Islands Department of Environment and other local dive operations to bring coral restoration to the Cayman Islands.
Our team has worked closely with Seas of Change, The Central Caribbean Marine Institute and the Coral Restoration Foundation to develop a thoughtful and detailed process to collect, develop, and replant our local reefs.
Aaron Hart of Eco Divers noted, “We actively seek out Caymanians for this programme. When I came here ten years ago there were no Caymanians in the Dive industry… None!
“Now we have a program put together around protecting the reef while training these young Caymanians to be a part of one of the biggest industries in the Cayman Islands.”
Mr. Hart also revealed that according to official numbers, the Caribbean has lost 95 percent of its coral reefs.
“In the Cayman Islands it’s about 80 percent,” he explained.
During his remarks at the event, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell did not mention the controversial port project being proposed by the government which would see much of George Town’s coral reef disturbed.
In his remarks, The Minister lauded the awards as being a special part of Grand Cayman’s splendor as a dive destination and noted that he hoped to see a permanent home here for the Scuba Diving Hall of Fame such as a scuba diving museum.
The Minister also congratulated this years Hall of Fame Inductees whom included Dr. Mohamed Taher (Egypt); Jonathan Bird (USA); Hussain ‘Sendi’ Rasheed (Republic of Maldives); Lee Selisky (USA); Fenimore Johnson Early Pioneer (USA)
“This year’s inductees into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame family represent the best in the industry. Their contributions and dedication to the industry close match the mission of the ISDHF - which is to recognize those who have contributed to the success and growth of recreational scuba diving….”
Other honorees included Caymanians Dr, Carrie Manfrinoe, Dr. Croy McCoy, Steven Tippets and Emerging Caymanian Nakai Coni, a young Caymanian, who is a true ambassador of the Cayman Islands, snorkeling and diving Grand Cayman’s waters as a child. He became a certified Dive Master and dive instructor in 2012 and his since introduced numerous people to scuba diving.
As a dive guide, he has led hundreds of dives showcasing Grand Cayman. Nakai has also experienced diving in the British Virgin Islands and Scuba diving with Tiger Sharks and Hammerheads in the Bahamas.
At only 26 years old, this young Caymanian is a Certified Ocean Yacht Master Boat Captain and has navigated boats arose the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.