With everything that is happening in today’s current news and society, it is hard to ignore the impact that climate change is having on our planet. From our cities to our oceans, the scientific community has made it clear that humans have greatly contributed to greenhouse gas emissions. Now, it is our turn to “turn back the clock,” so to speak. As we make our daily decisions, it is important to consider the impact we have, however small.
The same goes for when we dive. There are several ways we, as humans, can reduce the harmful impact we have on not only our oceans but the planet overall. This is where the term “eco diving” comes in. It is our responsibility as divers to choose companies that prioritize sustainability and do their best to ensure a clean and healthy ocean.
Companies like this exist around the world and are dedicated to responsible social and environmental business practices. This includes things like water conservation, energy reduction, proper waste disposal, use of mooring buoys, and respect for local cultures, laws, and regulations.
So what does it mean to be an eco diver?
Though businesses themselves have a responsibility to help protect the planet, we as divers can also do our part! People are diving now more than ever before, and our community is fast-growing by the day. The problem is, despite the best of intentions, divers can ultimately have a negative impact on the environment we love. Becoming an eco diver is not only important for us, but also for future generations. If we want to enjoy diving for the rest of our lives, and maybe one day share our favorite dive sites with our children, then we need to become eco-friendly divers.
David Attenborough explains it best when reminiscing about his experience diving the Great Barrier Reef as a young man. In his Netflix documentary series, he says, “The first time I visited the Great Barrier Reef was in 1957 when I was on my way to New Guinea. Suddenly, this amazing world with a thousand things you didn’t know existed is revealed right in front of you, all wonderful colours and shapes.”
He then goes on to explain how things have changed since his first visit. Uninhabited islands that now boast huge holiday resorts, and the impact that humans have had on the reef. He says, “But the dangers the reef faces are not specifically from [humans] because it is almost independent of the human population – it is quite possible to sustain the large number of visitors and holiday makers on the reef if they behave in a proper way.”
As Attenborough says, we can still have a thriving tourism and dive industry, as long as people behave responsibly. This goes for us divers, as well as businesses.
How can I be an eco diver?
There are two types of choices to make when deciding to be an Eco-diver. Firstly, there are the personal choices we make outside the water, and then there are the many choices and practices we make in the water.
The first step is buoyancy control. This is probably the single most important skill that will make you an Eco-friendly diver. One of the biggest issues affecting our reefs is the damage done when divers and snorkelers bump into delicate pieces of choral and break them. I have witnessed this myself with new and inexperienced divers.
Many people erroneously believe that it is okay to stand on the choral because it is strong. If every diver on average broke 1g of coral per dive, tons of coral would be destroyed by divers alone. The simplest way to avoid this is by being fully in control of your buoyancy. By doing this, you can avoid accidentally bumping into a piece of the reef and breaking off chunks of coral.
Another way to become an eco-friendly diver is to be aware of the products you are using when in the water. Choosing a reef-friendly sunscreen is very important, as many brands contain chemicals that actually damage reefs over time. Always try and go for the environmentally friendly, biodegradable products, especially when diving in less developed locations. In less developed countries, waste management is not always well maintained, and raw sewage will regularly be pumped directly into the sea.
As divers, we need to do our very best to avoid adding any harsh chemicals or plastic waste into the oceans. The same goes for marine life! Never harass or try to touch marine life, and discourage other divers from doing this if you see it.
Reduce your environmental impact
One very important way to reduce your environmental impact is to choose responsible dive operators. Research companies and their policies make sure that they prioritize an environmentally friendly agenda and are active in encouraging divers to do so as well. You want to keep an eye out for companies that practice water conservation, energy reduction, proper waste disposal, and respect for local cultures, laws, and regulations. Doing so will encourage other dive companies to step up their eco-friendly game when they see that divers support it!
At the end of the day, there is something every individual can do to reduce their impact on the environment. We are living at a crucial point in time where every decision we make can make a positive difference. We recommend visiting sites such as Project Aware to learn more about marine conservation and how you can get involved.
When it comes to protecting our environment, it can be daunting to know where to begin. It may seem like the small changes we make are not enough, or the list of things you need to change is too long. What we need to remember is that to start you don’t have to do everything at once. And just taking one step towards becoming an Eco-diver is better than taking no steps at all!