There is an old saying when you visit a natural place “leave only footprints and take only memories.” In a world where we see some of the greatest natural wonders, the reefs, eroding before our eyes, conservation becomes a necessity to ensure that our wonders can be shared with future generations. Despite whether you believe in climate change or not, the fact is that reefs are dying; each year becoming less and less viable as coral, which makes the foundation of the reef, bleaches and dies due to changes in the water conditions. We can argue about climate change all day, but at the end of that day, we need to deal with the problems we can scientifically prove. If you are avid about diving and snorkeling, then it falls on you to be a conservationist, for while others argue about the meta-data on our changing climate- those of us who live in the real world need to do something about it.
1. Prevent damage to the coral reef’s protective layer
One of the greatest dangers to coral reefs is losing its protective layer. Coral and even some aquatic animals have a layer of mucous covering them. This layer has anti-bacterial properties, which keep them safe from the ever-present petri-dish of bacteria that are in the ocean. When you touch a part of the reef or one of its denizens, you are brushing away that protection and opening the reef up to infection. In a world where coral is already fighting to stay alive, humans should not contribute to the problem by touching it. This is one of the golden rules of being a conscientious diver, look but do not touch.
2. Clean up your trash
All too often, people bring baggies of food for the fish or food for themselves and let the baggies float in the water. Leaving trash behind is a disgusting habit. The problem is compounded by the nations around the world that allow waste to flow into rivers and lakes which eventually empty out into the ocean. While California fights a war against plastic straws, these straws are an infinitesimal part of the problem. If you want to stop plastic from getting into the reefs, make sure you take with you everything you bring and get rid of the “excess” plastic in your life. If each person reduces just a little of the “comfort” plastic that just makes our lives easier, we would see a massive decline in plastic pollution in the ocean each year.
3. Fight against longline fishing or drag nets
While I fully support a person’s right to fish and make a living and love to eat fish that I have caught or even out at a restaurant, long line and drag nets destroy the ocean floor. Without even talking about the habitat loss in the open ocean, drag nets and long lines can break coral and uproot reefs that have been present for thousands of years. Each reef is a unique ecosystem and a magical world. If we fight for sustainable fishing habits, we can have our fish and eat them too.
4. Find good guides
Guides who drop anchor anywhere and are not careful with the seabed are the same as long line fishers, they are in it for a buck and do not care about the future. Just because the ocean is a big place does not mean that it can heal itself instantly. Always look for guides that find a safe place to drop anchor where it will not affect the reef. Yes, accidents do happen but most good guide services make an effort to check the bottom before they drop anchor. By simply “voting with our money” we can make a big difference in how the industry looks at preservation.
Most companies on the market today are good companies and will follow rules and try to preserve the reef, it is their livelihood. However, there are those companies who will try to make a buck any way they can, which can mean doing damage or dumping waste on the reef. Research the companies you are using. The more research you do, the more you can help conserve the reefs so that your kids and grandkids will be able to see the wonder that is the coral reef.
About the Author
Dr. Smithmyer is the Vice President of International Affairs for Brāv Online Conflict Management, an international consortium of conflict resolution professionals. Dr. Smithmyer is also a columnist for NRN doing mostly political and international business columns. When Dr. Smithmyer is not working with people to make the world a better place, he enjoys snorkeling the waters of the world.
Dr. Smithmyer has traveled extensively in the United States, Australia, Vietnam, and the Bahamas. He has also presented in the U.K., India, Brazil, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia. Dr. Smithmyer is one of the most lettered men in the world with nine degrees. As an adjunct professor in his spare time, Dr. Smithmyer uses his business experience and travels to help bring the world to his students and even brings the students to the world through experiential learning trips.
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