As divers, it is important we make informed decisions, both when organising our trips and while we are on them, to help ensure we limit our environmental impact. The following 15 tips shared by Environmental Officer for Suba Junkie SEAS, Cat Cassidy, will help you to ensure your next diving holiday is as environmentally-friendly as possible.
BEFORE YOUR TRIP
1. PICK AN ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE DIVE CENTRE
When making enquiries about your stay, you should ask about their conservation ethos. You want to make sure that your dive operator has responsible diving guidelines and takes a proactive approach toward conservation.
2. BUY REEF SAFE SUNSCREEN
NOAA estimates that 4,000– 6,000 tonnes of sunscreen washes off our bodies and onto coral reefs every year. Certain ingredients in sunscreens are toxic to corals and reef fishes, and can cause coral bleaching. There are now reef safe varieties that use alternative compounds that are much less detrimental to the marine environment. To note, you should look apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you enter the water.
3. PURCHASE PRODUCTS SUPPORTING CONSERVATION
Some of the major dive companies actively support marine conservation, and some actually generate their gear from ocean waste and recycling. This is a fantastic initiative because it not only acts against marine debris, but it also involves and supports local communities.
4. ASK THE EXPERTS HOW TO DIVE WITH CERTAIN SPECIES
When encountering marine animals, it is essential that they are respected. Find out what species you are likely to encounter and check with the experts for appropriate behaviour. Following their guidelines will not only ensure you do not disturb the animals, but it will also enhance your encounter with them.
5. SUPPORT MARINE CONSERVATION NGOS
Many major marine conservation organisations rely directly on donations and outside sources to carry out their work. You can support them by donating funds, by volunteering or by offering your skills.
DURING YOUR DIVE
6. BE STREAMLINED/PRACTISE NEUTRAL BUOYANCY
Make effort to ensure that all of your equipment is tucked in before and during your dive. Do not leave hoses or gauges dangling because they can easily catch on corals. Make sure that you are correctly weighted too, since this will make it easier for you to control your buoyancy.
7. DIVE SLOWLY AND DO NOT TOUCH MARINE LIFE
In order to improve your encounters and to give yourself the opportunity to witness natural behaviour, you need to relax, dive slowly and not try to chase the marine life. Also, whether it is for personal enjoyment or to show others, touching or harassing marine life is completely unacceptable behaviour. If the current is too strong or if the creature you want to look at is not in an ideal position, you should wait for a better opportunity to present itself before proceeding.
8. DO NOT TOUCH CORALS
Corals grow slowly and are fragile – they are easily damaged and take a long
time to recover. Corals have a natural barrier that protects them from disease. If you touch the coral, you break this natural biofilm, leaving them open to infection. Many divers think gloves give them free reign to touch everything – gloves do not protect coral.
9. TAKE PHOTOS RESPONSIBLY
Don’t take a photo at the expense of the natural environment – don’t move animals around in order to get a better shot, and don’t chase after or stress the animals out. Take photos according to your skill level and remember that for some animals, flash photography is a big no-no because it can stress and kill the animal.
10. BE A GOOD EXAMPLE FOR THE OTHER DIVERS
“Be the change you want to see in the world” – set an example to others and show them what it is to be a responsible, considerate diver.
11. TAKE NOTHING BUT PHOTOS
If it is found there, it should stay there. Do not collect shells or corals. The same applies for shells on a beach. These provide homes for a wide variety of marine life including crabs and octopuses. You should also dispose of litter properly – leave only bubbles in the ocean and footprints on the beach.
AFTER YOUR DIVE
12. PARTICIPATE IN HANDS-ON CONSERVATION ACTIVITIES
If an opportunity presents itself, you really should try to get involved! There are a range of activities you can do, from reef and beach clean-ups, to coral transplanting as well as data collection.
13. DO NOT SUPPORT THE TRADE OF MARINE SOUVENIRS
All species of marine life have a role to play in the marine ecosystem. If some are removed, it will disrupt the natural balance on the reef.
14. DO NOT CONSUME UNSUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, 85% of global fish stocks are “overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion”. If you want to continue to eat seafood, it is important that you make an informed decision. Find out where it 121 came from, how it was caught and what it is. You should avoid supporting indiscriminate commercial fishing practices, like long-lining or trawling, as well as destructive fishing practices such as dynamite or cyanide fishing. You should also avoid supporting the trade of endangered species.
15. SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Share your experiences of conservation and marine encounters online to help raise awareness of eco- friendly operations.
Cat Cassidy is an Environmental Officer for Scuba Junkie SEAS. After stints at Nature and Greenpeace NZ, she joined Scuba Junkie. Her current work involves running conservation outreach programmes and a turtle hatchery and rehabilitation centre in Sabah, Malaysia.