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:: Dee Scarr - Distinguished Service - 2007

Dee Scarr   No one has guided divers in Bonaire's waters longer than Dee Scarr, who first came to Bonaire in 1980 and began Touch the Sea in 1982. Since then she's logged thousands of dives and introduced hundreds of divers to dozens of marine animals. Most of these individual critters meet divers for years, a testimonial to the gentle nature of the interactions. The impact is great: once introduced to Scarr’s very personal perspective on marine animals, divers feel a sense of belonging in the sea rather than simply visiting. Their instinct to protect marine ecosystems is enhanced. Non-divers also respond enthusiastically to Dee’s critter interactions. Scarr’s current project is her first that is primarily educational rather than hands-on. She created Action in Behalf of Coral in 2005, when she realized that dive training agencies don’t provide critical information about living coral to their students: the information that explains why coral is fragile. Dee’s website,, provides more information about the ABC Project, as well as the Living with a Razor Sharp Skeleton sticker and Coral Glimpses.
Between 1988 and 1991, Scarr and her buddies tied more than 600 sponges back onto pilings beneath Bonaire’s Old Pier (aka North or Town Pier) in Touch the Sea’s Sponge Reattachment Project. In the mid-90’s she surveyed Bonaire’s harbor area (from the marina to the piers), removing recent trash, establishing which areas were being misused, and communicating this information to the Bonaire Marine Park for the education of the misusers. She promotes the carrying of a small net bag she calls a Pocket Cleaner Station, so on the occasions divers see trash, they can bring it up right away rather than waiting for a dedicated cleanup dive.

Scarr has written three books: Touch the Sea, about interactions with marine animals, The Gentle Sea, a personalized look at the undersea creatures divers are likely to encounter, and a children’s book, Coral’s Reef, about two children and what they learn from snorkeling – and from an octopus named Oliver. Dee wrote monthly about marine animals and their behaviors for Dive Training magazine for more than a decade, and currently writes about marine animals for The Bonaire Reporter. Dee was the photographer for the original Guide to the Bonaire Marine Park and contributed to the second edition of the Guide. Her work has appeared in numerous publications.

The first major recognition of Scarr’s work was in 1991, when she was the second recipient (after Jacques Yves Cousteau) of the PADI/SeaSpace Environmental Awareness Award. Her most recent recognition is this 2008 Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences NOGI Award for Distinguished Service. She’s received the Boston Sea Rovers Diver of the Year Award, the Beneath the Sea Diver of the Year Award, and the Underwater Club of Boston’s Paul Revere Spike (2007.)

Dee was an inaugural member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame and SSI’s Platinum Pro Divers (those with more than 5000 dives; Scarr has logged over 7000 dives). She received Captain Don Stewart’s Accolade Award in 2006 for “making knowledge of the sea fun and spreading desire in others to learn and become themselves part of our sea”.

Captain Don’s assessment of Dee’s role is piercingly accurate. By presenting entertaining and very personal tales of the underwater world – such as the time her octopus friend jilted an octopus suitor in favor of Dee’s hand -- Scarr gives people personal reasons to protect the world’s oceans and their inhabitants. Through her, they meet octopuses, flounders, and even blennies as individuals and friends rather than statistics or photo models.

Scarr’s presentations teach about marine animals in an entertaining way. She speaks weekly on Bonaire at Captain Don’s Habitat; she has spoken before dive clubs, dive symposia, and even non-diving audiences – including school groups – in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Curacao, Antigua, etc.

Scarr received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English and Rhetoric and Public Address from the University of Florida. She taught high school English, public speaking, and debate before beginning her diving career on the Bahamian island of San Salvador. Dee became a SCUBA instructor in 1974. In 1985, she married David Batalsky; they adopted Sweetie Pie, a very special Bichon Frise, in 2005.

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