Whether your a seasoned diver, or brand new to the sport, being environmentally friendly whilst in the ocean is important. Scuba diving is such a rare opportunity to be among wildlife in their own environment. As such, we need to respect and give back as much as we can. Most divers, by their very nature, care about the environment. There are always more ways we can improve and help keep our reefs healthy. We all need to pay our part in keeping the fragile ecosystems, animals and reefs healthy.
1. Perfect your buoyancy skills
There are a myriad of reasons why mastering buoyancy is so pivotal to scuba diving. It helps your finning technique, reduces your air consumption, and makes you a safer diver. However, there is also an environmental reason why Instructors always want you to work on your buoyancy. Nothing pains us more than seeing divers drag their fins along coral or hop along the sea bed. Mastering buoyancy and avoiding disturbing the marine life underwater means it will be preserved for others to see in the future. Beautiful coral can take years to grow, and with one swift smack from a fin is destroyed forever. It is also one of the reasons you are taught to streamline your equipment. This means no hanging gauges or regulators catching on the reef.
2. Don’t touch or take
To some of us, the idea of touching marine life doesn’t even enter our minds. Unfortunately, some people see the underwater world as a petting zoo. I was once asked by a student if they could stroke the stingrays! It may sound funny, however the touching animals can be extremely harmful. For some, it may scare them and even alter their behaviour. For others, it may actually cause yourself to be injured. You also shouldn’t take anything from the ocean home. I know it can be tempting to pocket a pretty shell, but what would happen if everyone did that? A shell may seem harmless, but for an animal, that could be their next home. Just this small action can have knock on effect on the eco system.
3. Do not feed the fish!
Again, it can seem harmless, but feeding marine species is a big no-no. First of all, it is highly unlikely what you feed a fish, shark or other creature would actually be part of their natural diet. This upsets their natural eating pattern, and at worst could even kill the animal. Furthermore, the animals may even come to rely on humans for food. This changes their whole behaviour. Think of the practice of feeding and baiting sharks. This happens in several dive resorts. Many see it as a great way to guarantee shark sightings. However, for the shark, they have now come to rely on this food. What will happen when the feeding stops? Also, they now associate humans with food – something which will lead to more accident among sharks and humans. These accidents get blamed on the shark, but ultimately, it is us humans that have caused them by messing with the sharks natural behaviour and habitat in the first place!
4. Research your dive operation
Like many things in life, it can be all to easy to go for the cheapest option. Diving as a hobby varies greatly on cost. Some of this is down to different geographical areas. However, there are some dive centres, particularly in tourist resorts, who care more about money than the underwater environment. It is always worth doing research about dive centres you intend to visit. Huge groups of students per instructor is often a bad sign. As is any kind of feeding offered as standard. Look out for operations who offer clean up dives. Do not always pick the cheapest option, as the price on the environment will inevitably be higher.
5. Pack the right things
Most of us partake in diving whilst on holiday. What we pack in our bags, even if it is not diving related, can have an impact on the marine eco system. There has been a big focus in recent years on sunscreen. It can have a devastating effect on the reef. I highly recommend Stream2Sea as the best reef safe sunscreen on the market. The brand is regarded highly among those in the dive world and is a great conversation starter for those who do not yet know about the dangers of sunscreen. It is also always a good idea to bring your own water bottle. This can be used on dive boats, or just in life, and saves hundreds of plastic bottles. I also love my metal straws, after seeing far too many washed up on beaches.
6. Help litter pick
Ok so I know I said don’t take anything from the ocean, but that does not apply to litter. I am sure everyone has seen their Divemaster filling their pockets with trash during dives. There is no reason you too should not be helping. If you see any trash whilst you are underwater, grab it! You can throw it in your BCD pocket, or tuck it up your wetsuit sleeve. This behaviour is catching too. I always notice when teaching if I pick rubbish up, my students then do the same. It may only be a few bits of trash per person, but collectively it makes a huge difference. A lot of dive centres will run clean up dives or beach cleaning activities. This can be a fun an meaningful day, and a great way to make friends!
7. Educate yourself and others
Seek to learn more about sustainability, over fishing, and the delicate balance of our oceans. Consider reducing your sea food intake. At the very least, source sea food responsibly. The simplest way would be give up sea food altogether, but I appreciate that wont happen. If you can just make a few tweaks, you can learn how to eat a much more eco friendly diet. Eating organic, buying local, or avoiding over fished species are just some of the ways you can eat fish sustainably.
This is not a definitive list of ways to be a more eco friendly diver, but it is a great start! Just a small change can make a world of difference. Please do let me know if you have any of your own tips to add to the list!