The Early Adventures
As a young child, Andre would be fascinated by tales of the sea, relayed to him by his dad who was a fisherman. “He would return from long trips at sea with tales of the whales and dolphins he saw. I knew that I could not stay on land too long — I wanted to see those animals too!” Andre said.
Describing the shores and seas as an “adventure”, Andre remembers being an elated six-year-old when he was given his first set of snorkelling equipment. “At six years old, my mum gave me my first mask, snorkel and fins.” His exploration of the water at such a tender age fueled his desires to know more of all the life that lay far beneath the surface.
For the next decade, Andre spent his time snorkelling, diving and learning the ways of the waves. Upon the realisation that he wanted to be a scuba diver, Andre interned at a dive shop, under the mentorship of George Hurley. Under his tutelage, Andre successfully received his certification as a PADI Open Water diver at just 16 years old. With this training, the young diver was able to see new depths- and unfortunately, he saw much damage. “Even in my short lifetime, from the time I was six until I was sixteen, I could see the decline of coral reefs I loved as a child,” Andre noted.
Upon completion of his studies in marine biology, Andre got to work as a member of the Barbados Coastal Zone Management Unit. It was here that once again he was horrified by the rapid decline of the numbers of sea creatures and the negative effects of poor boating practices which wreaked havoc on the island’s coral. “As soon as I started diving and got to see reefs closer and for longer periods of time than before, as a snorkeler, I started to witness anchor damage, the effects of fish pots on reefs, and the devastating results of overfishing on ocean ecosystem health.” Supported by his boss, 2007 Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Leonard Nurse, Andre vowed to get more people underwater in efforts to save and restore the island’s oceans.
Andre’s Work & Mission
Supported by a highly trained and passionate team, Andre got to work. Their first mission was to repair damaged reefs and execute the delicate task of coral transplantation. “Coral restoration and transplantation have become our specialities,” says Andre. “Often we can restore a reef damaged by a boat or hurricane by seeding it with small fragments of coral.” Andre’s team has been very successful in their efforts. “I head a team of scientists who move the threatened corals, while submerged, and then we reattach them in a new, protected location. We have a 92% survival rate.”
One of Andre’s crowning moments was his role in the creation of the Carlisle Bay Marine Park. In 2002, Andre was instrumental in the sinking of the famed party boat, ‘Bajan Queen’ as a way of creating a habitat for endangered marine life. This protected area is also home to five other sunken ships, which provide quality experiences for divers to become familiar with the diversity of Barbadian marine life. The Carlisle Bay Marine Park has now become the premier dive site in Barbados. Andre describes it as, “the best textbook example of how marine parks can benefit the islands.”
In 2016, Andre further pledged his support of the conservation of Carlisle Bay through his work with Project AWARE and the ‘Adopt a Dive Site’ initiative. One of the goals of this initiative is the removal of debris from within the site, which if left untreated could lead to rapid deterioration of the reefs. Through the work of volunteers on this project, Barbados has seen an increase in underwater clean-ups, which has reinvigorated marine life around the island. “I always collect debris on every dive and all around my island. It’s cool to see this habit spreading,” Andre said proudly. The marine biologist shared that his aim for Project AWARE is simple, “My goal is to get more people to slow down and smell the ocean.”
His Legacy in Motion
Andre and his team have happily roped in scores of eager Barbadian children in efforts to further the conservation of one of the island’s finest resources: our oceans. “I try to pass on what my first instructor taught me,” he said. Through working with mainstream and special needs schools, the team is successfully planting seeds of knowledge and endearment as they safely allow the children to explore the water. “We get them comfortable in the water, teach them to swim and then progress to basic snorkelling/freediving in the Carlisle Bay Marine Park.”
Andre added that he is especially heartened as these youngsters themselves seek to pass on what they have learned to those around them- opening doors for a new generation of Barbadian conservationists. “Many of the children I taught years ago are now adult divers, passing down their love of the ocean to their siblings and offspring – and going off to university to study marine science or ecology!”
Andre’s contagious passion for marine conservation does not end here. He is always on a quest to learn more; to be even better for his country. His dive shop, Barbados Blue, has welcomed visitors from all around the world in efforts to find out more about practices that can be implemented here. “ We take on interns from around the world, we learn from them. As a result, we have changed the types of suntan lotion and soap we use; all of our boats have less-polluting four-stroke engines and we recycle plastic.” From here the cycle continues as customers and employees of Barbados Blue happily enforce these measures in their own homes. “our employees bring plastic from home for us to recycle, and we often hear from parents that their children instituted recycling at their homes after they took a class with us.”
Andre Miller is a man on a mission. With a burning desire to restore his country’s waters, he has spearheaded an island-wide marine movement of massive proportions. From the creation of marine parks to the transplantation of coral, Andre and the team which so ably support him have provided incredible and selfless service to the island of Barbados while inspiring the island’s youth to get on board and do the same.
Fun Facts About Andre
- Andre initially wanted to study medicine.
- Call him ‘captain’. Andre is trained to navigate a number of marine vessels.
- Andre was instrumental in the establishment of water sports regulations in Barbados.
- “The Coral Island” is one of Andre’s nicknames for Barbados.
- Andre also carries out conservationist work in the neighbouring island, Grenada.