When diving, we’re blessed with the opportunity to see what only few others see; a whole world underwater, with an extraordinary biology, geology, and a life cycle all of its own. But we’ve also got a front-row seat to the negative impact humans have on that world; coral bleaching, underwater debris and garbage, and declining populations of marine animals.
Divers can have a remarkably positive effect on marine ecology, but in this article, we’ll focus first and most important on sustainable diving, known as the practice of diving in a way that has little or no negative effect on the habitats we’re diving in.
Take only pictures, leave only bubbles
This is an old motto and has been used by many organizations in many variants, but it still goes.
As a responsible diver, don’t pick up rocks, shells, or anything else when you dive. Not to sound all Butterfly Effect-ish, but even the smallest change can have huge consequences. Maybe that shell you pick up doesn’t make much difference, but if every diver does it, the repercussion can be enormous.
And of course, leave nothing behind; no garbage, no dropped kit, no “I was here” reminder left on rocks. If you bring it in, take it out.
Watch your fins
Find and practice your finning skills, then pick the one that suits the environment you dive in.
Good finning technique means less disruption of the underwater habitat and less risk of accidentally wrecking delicate coral reefs.
Choose well your diving tour operators
When diving, choose a dive operator that has a sustainable policy.
Ask them if they support local or global marine environmental organizations, ask them about policies for anchoring (dropping an anchor negligently can cause a lot of destruction, especially on coral reefs).
Ask them about any other activities they undertake to stay a responsible diver, including what they do to inform their diving clients. The more we as diving customers demand conscientious actions by the dive industry, the more the industry will respond.
Be picky about gear
By now, we don’t have an environmental certification for dive kit, but there’s still a lot we can do as consumers. More and more fabricators have a policy of minimizing impact, so if possible, choose these.
And make more environmental choices whenever possible. Several dive watches feature battery-less operation, being charged by light or movement.
And while there is some dispute over the merits of rechargeable batteries, the majority of organizations still point to them being the smarter choice.
When diving, take one piece of debris
Whenever you dive, alone or in a group, try this rule: every dive, every diver brings back one piece of debris or garbage found underwater.
This is using the dynamics of the “take only pictures…”. If every diver everywhere brought back one piece of garbage for every dive they do, we’d clear up that Pacific Garbage Island in no time.
Dive like an 18th-century philosopher
A final word on sustainable diving can be made by referring to the 18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant. His Categorical Imperative states that we should all act in a way that could work as Universal Law.
Essentially, act in the way you’d want everyone to act. Do not accept the notion that “it’s only me doing this, so it’s OK”. Be the agent of change you want to see, and be the responsible, sustainable diver you’d want everyone else to be.
Are you doing your part to be sustainable when diving? Tell us what you do for the environment on your dives!
Also see! 10 things every diver should know!