SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 11, April 2016 - Page 24

As divers, what can you do?

Be ocean literate – once you start learning about the reef it becomes even more alive and worthy of a little extra effort to protect

it. Corals aren’t rocks, they are living breathing condominiums for thousands of individuals. They are the barracks shared by reef species on day and night shifts. They are the salons for cleaner wrasse and the algal farmlands for damselfish. The barrel sponge is one animal, the sea whips are colonies of soft coral. The mantis shrimp can see colours we can’t even imagine and some nudibranchs take the stinging cells of their prey, and install them in their gills for defence. An index finger balancing on a boulder coral might be crushing ten coral animals, a fin kick breaking off a piece of staghorn coral might be setting years of growth back to square one.

Once we understand the intricacies and complexities of a reef, we better understand how errant actions can cause damage and are less likely to do so.

Learn your underwater manners – get familiar with the do’s and don’ts for environmentally responsible diving.

Green Fins, a conservation initiative providing environmental standards for diving and snorkelling has several materials free for download (www.greenfins.net/downloads) including diving and snorkelling best practices. Take buoyancy courses, ask your guide to give you feedback or hold you steady whilst you take a photo instead of leaning on the reef.

Choose responsible operators - Choose dive shops that champion environmental protection. Look out for

guides giving environmental briefings asking you not to touch or harass marine life. Look out for good trash bins and ashtrays that don’t add to the marine debris problem. Look out for those that teach you about the reef. Green Fins certified active

members have had training, evaluation and consultation to improve their environmental practices. You can even find the Top 10 environmental dive centres in the world on the Green Fins website! (http://www.greenfins.net/top-members)

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