Meet Marine Conservationist Lad Akins
Lad Akins is the founding Executive Director of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation and worked there for many years. He is currently the Dive Safety Officer and research vessel Captain at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science and the CEO of Blue Earth Conservation. Lad grew up loving the water and has been diving for 37 years with more than 12,000 dives. He discovered new species of fish, solo-piloted submarines to 500' and authored a best in the world sustainable food cookbook. He's been honored as a NOAA Environmental Hero, an Oris Sea Hero and been inducted into the Scuba Diving Hall of Fame. Lad still dives as often as he can.
Lad has also worked tirelessly to combat the invasive lionfish issue in Florida and the Caribbean.
Thanks to Lad for sharing his shark story with us!
1. What is your favorite shark and why?
My favorite shark is the one I happen to be diving with at the moment! Different sharks have their own traits and personalities and its great to get to know them all.
2. What is one species of shark you like to snorkel/dive with?
There are a few... Whale sharks - are like gentle giants, Hammerhead sharks are so oddly evolved and Caribbean reef sharks are just fun to dive with...
3. Why did you start scuba diving? Shark diving?
I love watching fish and being able to sit on the bottom or hover underwater and watch what goes on is amazing. When you spend time in the water you are bound to end up seeing a shark and they captivate you with their strength, grace and beauty.
4. What has been a really cool/favorite underwater moment with sharks?
Once in the Turks and Caicos islands, on an early morning dive at the edge of a drop-off wall, three Caribbean reef sharks came around four of us and just kept weaving slowly in and around us for 45 minutes. They never got any further away than about 20 feet and they were just beautiful as they cruised around.
5. Do you think diving and divers can help ocean conservation? How?
Absolutely! Divers and snorkelers are the few people who see firsthand what is under the surface. If we learn about it... the names of the marine life, their behaviors and their ecological roles, we can report back on what we see. By learning about and visiting the underwater world, we begin to love it and want to protect it from harm.
6. What do you love most about diving with sharks?
I love seeing a large, graceful, animal that has evolved so successfully. And, being in the water with it, sharing the experience of discovering each other and in some ways learning more about ourselves in the process.
Lad teaching a lionfish handling workshop. Credit REEF