Diving is one of the most exciting, inspiring & exhilarating activities you can do whilst traveling. But in order to maintain the beauty it’s really important that you follow some simple guidelines to prevent damaging the precious ecosystems you're visiting.
Written by Dive Master and Marine Biologist Lee Hankinson.
1. Don’t touch anything underwater. Not only is it detrimental for underwater life that might be fragile or sensitive to the chemicals in our hands, but it’s dangerous to you. Underwater life can bite and sting, don’t risk ruining your holiday.
2. Don’t take any animals. This includes coral souvenirs in the shops. The reef is an ecosystem that remains healthy by relying on all of it’s occupants. Everything has an important role to play, including dead or dying organisms as well as the shells they leave behind. By removing things from the reef you are removing a piece of an important life giving jigsaw.
3. Don’t aggravate or crowd animals. It can cause stress to animals living on the reef that might see crowds of divers visiting everyday. Things like chasing seals into or off of rocks, following turtles and not giving them space when they come up to breathe, using muck sticks to coax animals out or using too much flash photography on one seahorse. Respect marine life and give it a bit of space.
4. Don't load up on non reef safe sunscreen or DEET before a dive. Benzoate is a chemical found in most sunscreens that is known to cause bleaching in the reef, or coral disease. Use a hat and sunnies, and reef friendly sunscreen. Our number one recommended choice is People 4 Ocean sunscreen. It's developed by coral conservation biologists and is reef safe and biodegradable.
DEET found in mosquito repellant can easily end up in waterways where it can harm marine and terrestrial life. Mosiguard is a great easy alternative, as is citronella. But even so, you won’t need any on the boat so keep it for the evening.
5. Don’t feed the fish (or any marine life). Feeding fish promotes unnatural feeding habits and bread is bad for the fish. It also allows algal growth in the water below where any scraps manage to fall to the sea floor.
1. Do take plastic and rubbish home. If it’s safe to do so, if you see plastic underwater stick it in your BCD pocket. If you are an advanced diver you can take fishing line and tins. Just be careful and make sure your dive buddy is close to ensure you don't get stuck on any debris. It’s always handy to have a dive knife with you which can both help remove rubbish and help free tangles. If you’re really into reef cleaning, find your nearest dive against debris event, or something similar.
2. Do some homework before choosing your dive centre. Check out their reviews to see that they are practicing proper diving etiquette, including anchoring correctly, not handling animals and not feeding the fish. Ask if they are not using single use bottled water and also check out if they are certified through Green Fins.
This picture shows a Flamboyant Cuttlefish, being goaded by a dive rod behind, an act that some dive centres do to liven up the creature for photos. Try and choose dive centres that don't promote or conduct this kind of activity.
3. Make sure you know where your buddy is. Also make sure you don’t corner each other into the reef. Practice good diver etiquette, don’t crowd divers, especially near corals. Give your buddy an opportunity to swim away and be conscious of where your fins are. I have seen many photographers battling currents to take a photo of something stunning like a gorgonian fan, or hovering perilously close for a macro shot, to turn and find divers behind them, cutting off their escape route.
4. Be a positive ocean advocate outside of the water too. Being a good environmental diver doesn’t just involve what you’re doing in the water. It’s also important what you do on good old land. That means reducing your plastic use and being a role model in reducing your impact on our Blue Planet.