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Over 100 Diving Doctors Visit the Great Barrier Reef

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Over 100 Diving Doctors Visit the Great Barrier Reef
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Over 100 diving doctors visit the Great Barrier Reef for the 2023 ‘SPUMS’ Conference.

Cairns, Queensland: This week Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef played host to the South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society’s (SPUMS) 51st Annual Scientific Meeting. The conference, held at the Crystalbrook Riley Hotel, attracted just over 120 delegates and guests.

Speakers at this year’s conference covered a range of topics, embracing a central theme:

Diver health and ocean health amid the storm clouds of climate change. A shared vision for underwater medicine and marine science.

Over 100 Diving Doctors Visit the Great Barrier Reef

Keynote speakers at the five day event included Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Professor of Marine Studies at The University of Queensland, who is recognised internationally for his work on the impacts of climate change, especially those that affect coral reefs.

Says Professor Hoegh-Guldberg, “This is a really important time in terms of understanding the implications of rapid climate change and it’s great to have the doctors behind us, helping to spread awareness.”

Also speaking at the event, Professor Craig Johnson, Ecology & Biodiversity Centre, IMAS, University of Tasmania, whose research has largely been focussed on the effects of climate change on temperate and deeper waters of the in the Southern Ocean.

Over 100 Diving Doctors Visit the Great Barrier Reef

Says SPUMS ASM scientific convenor Professor David Smart, “A wide range of scientific papers presented at the conference covered topics such as the medical consequence of climate change and reef resilience, such as decompression illness, paediatric diving, and the spread of tropical disease in the age of climate change.”

While many delegates come from Australia, New Zealand, and nearby Pacific nations, some came from as far away as Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The five-day conference included practical underwater sessions on the Great Barrier Reef, with scientific meetings on alternate days.

Over 100 Diving Doctors Visit the Great Barrier Reef

Day trips and pre- and post- dive liveaboard trips have been organised by dive specialist travel agency, Diveplanit Travel and involve several Cairns-based operators including Passions of Paradise, Divers Den, Spirit of Freedom, and Reef Magic with the opening event held at Cairns Aquarium.

According to Diveplanit’s Deborah Dickson-Smith; “Many delegates have taken advantage of the conference timing and booked liveaboard trips to the Ribbon Reefs to swim with dwarf minke whales – a marine encounter found nowhere else in the world.”

Over 100 Diving Doctors Visit the Great Barrier Reef

One of the biggest days out during the week was an exclusive charter with Experience Co’s Reef Magic, visiting the Great Barrier Reef up close. The Reef Magic and GBR Biology team facilitated a range of immersive and educational activities for the large group of delegates, including scuba diving, snorkel tours with Marine Biologists and interpretive presentations from Reef Magic's cultural guides.

Diveplanit’s Simon Mallender said, “It’s been great to be able to deliver a Great Barrier Reef experience for this large group of influential diving doctors, to highlight the Reef’s significance and ocean health in general.

“The conference was a year in the planning, and we have already begin planning next year’s conference, just announced, which will be held in Pacific Harbour, Fiji.”

Over 100 Diving Doctors Visit the Great Barrier Reef

About South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society:

The South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society (SPUMS) arose out of informal discussions between two doctors in the cluttered shed which served as the Royal Australian Navy School of Underwater Medicine. They decided to create a medical society with a focus on matters significant to recreational divers. Being Australian, they opted to be both flippant and accurate and called it the South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society. SPUMS was founded in the wardroom of HMAS Penguin on Monday, 03 March 1971.

The purposes of the Society have not changed since its inception. These are:

  • to promote and facilitate the study of all aspects of underwater and hyperbaric medicine.
  • to provide information on underwater and hyperbaric medicine.
  • to promote communication between members and to publish a journal.
  • to convene members annually at a scientific conference and to hold meetings and other activities to inform, and to develop fellowship and friendship amongst members.

About Diveplanit Travel:

Diveplanit Travel is a specialist scuba diving travel agency and wholesaler. It’s founders, Deborah Dickson-Smith and Simon Mallender, are scuba divers and passionate ocean advocates, whose main mission in life is to encourage more people to see first-hand how incredible the underwater world really is, and hopefully care more about looking after it.

Specialising in tailor-made diving holidays – the Diveplanit Travel team pride themselves on finding the best travel combination for each client, taking care of everything along the way, from airfares and accommodation to dive equipment and transfers

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Picture of Adrian Stacey
Adrian Stacey
Scuba Diver ANZ Editor, Adrian Stacey, first learned to dive on the Great Barrier Reef over 24 years ago. Since then he has worked as a dive instructor and underwater photographer in various locations around the world including, Egypt, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico and Saba. He has now settled in Australia, back to where his love of diving first began.
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