Amy Slate grew up around Miami and loved to watch Flipper and Jacques Cousteau. She was about age 6 and taking a swim with a dolphin on a trip to a Florida Keys marine park when a light went on. It’s still on.
“Not everyone can live their passion but if you do what you love the rest will follow,” Slate said.
Slate, a University of Florida grad, opened her first dive center in in Key Largo in 1978 and runs Amy Slate’s Amoray Dive Resort, a heralded divers Shangri-la (Geraldo Rivera approves) that stresses marine conservation and education. Underwater weddings also fit in.
Slate chipped in Thursday at the Blue Ocean Business Summit, a global online forum for ocean health and business. The BOB started June 8 – World Oceans Day – with a mission to face “the elephant in the ocean,” according to host Laurie Wilson of the Blue Ocean Network.
“A healthy dive industry is fundamentally linked to a healthy ocean,” said Wilson (at right). “Up until now, the mainstream won't talk about the state of our ocean – it's considered bad for business but the summit speakers we've assembled are going to change all that.”
A lineup of 32 speakers from 13 countries includes eco stars Dr. Sylvia Earle of the National Geographic Society, conservationist and filmmaker Jean-Michel Cousteau, cave explorer Jill Heinerth, celebrity free diver, educator, and artist Sharon Kwok (above left), and writer/anti-whaling activist Jose Truda Palazzo.
The BOB debuted last year with 21 speakers for 1,425 mostly online participants, Wilson said.
Slate joined a panel called "Protecting Our Partner." She said she visited dive operations worldwide to refine her vision for Amoray.
"When I first got into diving it was a different mindset," Slate (left) said in a 38-minute video. "People were into hunting and spearfishing. There was no concern for the corals ... it was just a totally different mindset than it is thankfully today.
"Very early on I wanted to [teach] conservation, not touching the corals, not polluting the oceans. All those things were in my briefings [for dive students] when I first started Amoray in '93."
Coral reef disorders are increasingly acute in the Caribbean, according to NOAA. Island economies depend on "billions of dollars from visitors to reefs through diving tours, recreational fishing trips, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses based near reef ecosystems."
The summit features nine panels recorded on video and wraps Friday and Saturday with “Business with a Bigger Purpose” and “Leadership in Unknown Territory.” The forum is free this weekend and registration is required."A lot of the teaching we do right now is encourage our children to go clean this stuff up,” said Dianna Cohen of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. “That’s not the solution, turning future generations into garbage-pickers on the beach. Clearly it needs to be cleaned up but how will we ever clean it up if we continue to create these enormous amounts of [plastic].”
Cousteau, son of ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau and a founder of the Ocean Futures Society, headed a discussion on changing business models for ocean-based industries. "The concept of countries, borders, and so on is an absurdity. There is one system, which is the water system. There are no borders.”
Slate’s Amoray is involved with the Reef Environmental and Educational Foundation, Coral Restoration Foundation, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and Everglades National Park. In March Slate was inducted into the Women’s Diver Hall of Fame.
» Captive breeding may be the last chance to save Florida's grasshopper sparrow, North America's most endangered bird. (Via Audubon)