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Every year scuba diving is becoming an increasingly popular hobby worldwide, but sadly there is a lack of environmental education that can lead to divers leaving a negative impact on the natural landscape or underwater critters who live there.
With atrocities like coral bleaching, overfishing, and invasive new species, scuba divers get a front row seat at watching what is eco-friendly and eco-damaging. (Not to mention the harm ghost nets and dynamite fishing have caused). By learning ways to become environmentally friendly, we can become more conscious divers and hopefully play a hand in reversing these recent negative trends in our world’s oceans.
One of the most important things for new divers to learn is how to be environmentally friendly and respect the ecosystem to leave a positive footprint after you go from a dive site, preserving the gorgeous habitat for future generations to appreciate.
Diving carries risk to yourself and to the environment you enter, so it’s important to acknowledge the impacts you may have on the ocean. But tourism and diving are sustainable with the right eco-friendly divers!
Here are a few of the many ways you can negatively impact the underwater environment you mean to explore, which should be avoided if you want to become an eco-friendly diver:
Touching, Kicking, and Bumping
It’s important to remember that, as a diver, you are visiting the underwater world. You want to conduct yourself with manners and leave the scenery and wildlife safe from harm.
Even if you accidentally touch the physical environment around you while you’re diving, you can upset the delicate ecosystem in a way that causes long-term damage. Avoid crashing into the coral and any marine life by learning to maintain your buoyancy control. The better your buoyancy control, the less damage you are sure to cause.
Buoyancy control is mastered through practice, and you shouldn’t wait for your big diving vacation to learn how to control your buoyancy. Inexperienced divers can destroy hundreds of years’ worth of coral growth in just one touch. Make sure you never become one of these divers by practicing in a controlled environment where you are not in the way of marine life.
When trying to improve your buoyancy, most novice divers take some time to tackle this skill. It requires the development of feel or ability to sense what’s around you in the water that takes time and experience to master. The more comfortable you feel, the less you’ll feel the need to hold onto something underwater.
Never stand on coral reefs no matter how safe and sturdy they seem. Even if you’re adjusting or regaining your composure, you want to make sure you don’t touch the coral. A proper buoyant BCD or life jacket may be able to help you avoid feeling anything you shouldn’t.
You will also need to watch out for fin kick or when your fins hit the corals. If you bump anything, make sure you stop fining and look to find a way you can stroke using your hands to move away.
Some divers wear gloves to protect their hands from anything they may encounter. However, you should not touch the coral even with gloves on. This can be tempting for beginner divers, as they provide a false sense of security and make people more likely to touch the reef without thinking.
Even the plastic of the gloves themselves can cause unwanted damage, so many shops today take on a no glove policy for this reason. If you want a glove to hold the line when you descend and ascend, you can take one glove and keep it in your pocket while you’re exploring.
Never, ever touch marine wildlife not only for your safety but the animal’s safety as well. You never know which species may become scared and attack. Some creatures are dangerous when they become alarmed while others can become aggravated if they feel you’re disturbing their environment.
One of the best things you can do as a scuba diver is to keep your hands to yourself. No one wants to deal with an emergency while 50 feet underwater!
While protecting your skin from the harmful UV rays and inevitable sunburn, some sunscreens have an ingredient called oxybenzone that kills coral and can cause coral bleaching. One diver putting on sunscreen may not be a big deal, but you’re recommended to buy one of the many sunscreens on the market without this toxin.
This small action can help you quickly learn how to be environmentally friendly and protect both your skin and the coral reef, so make sure you are thinking of the environment when you shop.
Environmental diving is all about preserving the wildlife and landscape, safeguarding it from harm. Shells and other things you find in the ocean are often made by mollusks, which play a vital role in marine ecosystems. Not only do they graze the algae to prevent an overgrowth on coral reefs, when broken down, but the shells also replenish the sand and can help maintain the chemical balance necessary in the ocean, called acidification.
By deciding not to buy or take souvenirs from the ocean, you can make a huge difference. Demand for shells often lowers in people who learn how to be environmentally friendly in diving, which will hopefully continue.
Feeding the Fish
You might want to lure fish near you for a closer look but doing so may cause more harm than good. Feeding fish and other marine life disrupts their natural nutrient balance. While a small change in diet might not seem like a big deal, it could ultimately disrupt aquatic habitats.
People in Southeast Asia, for example, have a habit of feeding fish bread, which may seem harmless. However, by making an easy meal for the fish, you are making them less reliant on earning their food. Eventually, fish can forget how to feed themselves. Plus, there’s no nutritional value in bread for the fish, which knocks their diet balance out of whack.
Also, never chase and species. Dolphins, whale sharks, jellyfish, and turtles face a great deal of stress that can lead to disease or death when they are frightened like this.
Sadly, people litter in even the most gorgeous oceans. Whether or not trash winds up in the water intentionally, littering needs to be avoided at all times. Plastic items, which are primarily harmful, can be lethal to marine life if consumed and can tangle up other wildlife.
Always clean up any garbage, especially plastic, that you may have with you and throw them away in a proper container on land. Plastic is especially harmful to marine life, so avoid disposable plastic bags or water bottles in favor or reusable options as well.
When it comes to being environmentally safe, cigarette butts are a severe problem. Millions of cigarette butts are collected every year. Most dive shops and boats will have ashtrays for smokers to use with a lid to prevent them from blowing into the water.
If you see any trash, also pick it up. Imagine how clean our waters would be if every diver picked up one piece of litter each time they dove. We can all easily contribute to building a better, cleaner future and preserving our oceans.
While taking photos is fun, you must remain cautious. Don’t get too close to any animals, especially if you are using an underwater flash. The burst of light can terrify some species and chase them from nesting grounds or often cause blindness that impairs the animal.
Clean Your Kit
Research the environment you plan to dive before you head out, as you may want to clean your kit beforehand. Cleaning your scuba equipment will help avoid any harm to the environment, and streamlining your equipment is also crucial for improving your buoyancy.
While diving, you’ll also want to be sure to keep cleaning products, soaps, and shampoos away from your boat in case it was to spill over into the water. Chemicals are harmful to salt water.
Choose an Eco-Friendly Dive Shop
If you don’t have your own equipment with you while you travel, pick a dive shop that attempts to minimize the impact on the ocean environment and prides itself on sustainability. Research locations before diving and look into which shops genuinely are eco-friendly.
Project AWARE, Green Fins, and Blue Star Operators are just a few helpful resources to help you find an environmentally conscious shop near your resort. Choose an operator with appropriate environmental credentials.
It’s not enough to hope that nature can rebind from the years and years of damage it has sustained. Start being the change you want to see by taking care of our oceans to keep them jaw-dropping and wonderous for future generations. The time is now, and you can keep these tips in mind each time you dive.
Don’t forget how lucky we are just to witness the wonders of the depths our ocean’s hold!