A marine biologist with a passion for scuba diving is going deep with a new venture which aims to unlock the underwater tourism potential of Cork Harbour.
Dave Quinlan, 31, who grew up on the shores of one of the world’s greatest natural harbours, has secured grant-aid to expand his dive school business in a bid to introduce more people to the underwater wonders of the harbour.
And he said he hopes that by introducing young people to the beauty of and the challenges facing our oceans and marine life and educating them about it, he will create a new generation of advocates for Cork’s underwater world.
Growing up on the shores of Cork Harbour, I always had a great appreciation and fascination for our diverse marine world. Cork Harbour needs to be showcased more,” he said.
As a marine biologist and professional diver, Mr Quinlan has spent the last decade working all over the world, including in Thailand, Madagascar, Indonesia, Mexico and the Seychelles.
He said this experience has fuelled his passion for the marine world and his desire to share it with others.
He launched his Oceans of Discovery dive school last year, operating out of a converted ambulance.
However, he is now one of several people to secure a slice of the Fisheries Local Area Group Development (Flag) funding for coastal projects. The grants are co-funded by the Government and the EU.
Eighteen coastal community projects in Cork, from Baltimore to Fountainstown, will benefit from an estimated €241,100 in FLAG funding this year.
Mr Quinlan has used his grant-aid to buy diving gear, including tanks, wetsuits, regulators and masks, to open his dive school to larger groups.
My aim is to introduce people from all walks of life and ages to scuba diving, while also showcasing the amazing underwater world that is right on our doorstep,” he said.
“I am of the belief that you don’t have to travel halfway across the world to learn to dive when we have such a great resource right here. Once people get trained up here, they also become advocates that help further promote Cork’s underwater world.”
Mr Quinlan is offering courses for children aged 10 and up and says they can be diving in depths of up to five metres within an hour.
“Sure, people are slightly nervous at the start. But we start at the beach and it’s all very gradual. Once you get them into the water and practice a few basic skills, you can see them growing in confidence, and before you know it, they’re diving,” he says.
Most of his courses are run in the sheltered waters of Robert’s Cove which he says provides the perfect conditions and abundance of marine life to get people into the sport.
Cork Harbour is home to some well-known wrecks, including the Aud and the UC42 submarine.
Others to benefit from Flag funding include Bantry Inshore Search and Rescue Association, which received €40,000; Clean Coasts Ballynamona and Passage West Maritime Museum, which got €15,000 each; as well as ZT Fish, O’Driscolls Fish and Eire Bass.
Funkytown Adventure Centre, Castletownbere Rowing Club, Courtmacsherry Rowing Club, Baltimore Seafood Festival, Schull Regatta, Ellen Hutchins Festival and Cobh Summer Swing will also benefit from Flag grant aid.