When it comes to exhilarating pastimes, it goes without saying that scuba diving is right there at the top of many a bucket list, and it’s not hard to see why. Scuba diving is a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the world’s most beautiful aquatic environments. It comes attached to a wealth of incredible emotional, psychological, and physical benefits. It’s definitely an experience that you’re guaranteed to remember fondly for the rest of your life.
Even so, it’s important to understand that every diver has a responsibility to help preserve these beautiful environments and protect the wildlife that makes scuba such a magical experience. A large part of this means knowing how to conduct yourself responsibly on a personal level. However, it’s also about knowing which companies to support when it comes to choosing a scuba operator. Although it would be nice if every company cared as much about the plants, animals, and environments as they should, that’s not the case anywhere near as often as it should be.
Here we’ll give you a crash course in what it means to be an environmentally responsible scuba diver. We’ll tell you what to do and what to avoid in order to reduce the potential negative impact you have on the locations you visit. We’ll teach you how to tell whether or not a scuba operator you’re considering deserves your business as well. Not only will you be able to rest easier in regards to the decisions you’re making, but the marine ecosystems you visit will be better off.
Why Is Environmentally Conscious Diving So Important?
If you’re one of the many millions of people focused on living a cleaner, greener lifestyle, then you should be congratulated on an excellent decision. You’re doing your part to make sure our beautiful planet stays beautiful, healthy, and balanced into the future. However, it’s important to realize that while you may know what to do on land to be environmentally responsible, it’s a little tougher to know exactly what to do underwater. This is especially the case if you’re relatively new to diving.
Irresponsible diving can lead to a number of tragic consequences for delicate marine ecosystems. The evidence of that is all too evident when you visit some of these wonderful locations. If you’ve ever seen footage of gorgeous tropical beaches marred by garbage and litter, or dying coral reefs destroyed by careless divers, then you know exactly what we’re talking about. Unless all divers start taking their responsibilities seriously, these environments are at risk of disappearing altogether one day. What a tragedy that would be.
What to Consider When Choosing a Scuba Operator
When it comes to environmentally responsible diving, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is in regards to the scuba operator you choose. Just as you wouldn’t want to buy everyday products or services from a company that’s in the habit of damaging the environment with its business practices, you don’t want to support a scuba operator that could be contributing to the problems touched on above.
It’s important not to assume that just because someone’s in the scuba business that they also do their part to protect the ecosystems they count on for their livelihood. That said, when you make a pointed decision to give your money to operators that do practice ethical business, you’re
- Doing your part to make sure the right companies stay in business.
- Making a definitive statement that the wellbeing of these environments is more important than money.
- Ensuring the continued maintenance of the ecosystems, as you’re giving your support to those who are taking care of them.
- Making yet another eco-friendly decision of the caliber we all should be making as often as possible.
However, knowing you want to make the right choice is one thing. Understanding what to look for is another. The following are some important things to consider when making your decision. It’s not as straightforward as you might think.
The Company’s Contributions to Sustainability
There are a lot of things a given scuba operator can and should be doing to make sure dive sites remain in tip-top condition. To begin with, how do they run their operation in general? They should be doing everything you already know businesses should do to be responsible. For instance, they should recycle and make it a point to use biodegradable options in regards to products like soaps and detergents. Attention should be paid to fuel and equipment choices as well. Do a little homework here before you put your money down.
The best operators also go out of their way to educate everyone they come in contact with about the dangers of irresponsible diving and living practices. What is the company you’re considering doing to make sure everyone is in the know as far as how to keep marine ecosystems healthy? Do they make efforts to keep both the local community and the customers that use their services informed?
The Company’s Dedication to the Community
An important part of environmentally responsible travel is making sure the benefits of your being there in the first place come back to the local community in some way, shape, or form. Plenty of sought-after dive sites are located in poor or struggling communities. Sometimes a given diving operator and its employees might be part of that community, but not always.
That said, make sure you have an understanding of how the operator is giving back to the community they’re profiting from. Good choices will make it a point to offer locals proper training, and then hire them as instructors, office employees, and so forth. Others might be making efforts to give back in other ways. Just make sure the operator you choose is indeed giving back in some way.
The Company’s Dedication to Preserving the Environment
A good rule of thumb to follow when it comes to visiting natural areas like parks and nature preserves is to keep any potentially negative impact attached to your visit to a minimum. Enjoy the area and admire it all you want, but do your very best to leave it unharmed and unchanged to the greatest extent possible. Definitely follow any and all rules set by local or national conservation authorities. The same code of conduct applies to our oceans, seas, and underwater habitats.
That said, look into whether or not the dive company you’re considering supports and participates in established conservation efforts and focuses on low impact business practices. As touched on above, if they are making an effort to educate the community it is a great start. However, ideally they are also participating in underwater trash clean-ups, conducting reef checks, and participating in wildlife watch surveys.
If you’re diving anywhere there’s coral, it’s important to understand how guides should be treating reefs. Coral only grows about an inch per year and, once reefs are destroyed, it takes them an extremely long time to recover. No one – not divers, and not guides – should be standing on or kicking the coral. This can cause them to die instantly, so it’s obviously not environmentally responsible behavior.
If you see someone else engaging in behavior that might potentially damage coral reefs, speak up. Educate them in regards to what they’re doing, and make sure it’s clear that you don’t appreciate or approve of that kind of behavior.
Definitely evaluate individual scuba companies in advance to get a feel for the way they do business, operate tours, and exist within the local community. A thorough visit to the company’s website will probably yield most of the information you need.
In the event something in particular isn’t clear, you can easily find out what you want to know by asking a few astutely pointed questions. Ask about company practices in regards to the points detailed above. If they don’t have the right answers for you, keep looking.
If you do find yourself needing to move on for reasons like those, it’s a good idea to let the company know why you’re choosing not to dive with them. It’s possible they may not be fully aware of the impact of what they’re doing (or not doing), so speaking up could encourage them to make some changes in the future. The more people who make it clear they want to give their money to eco-conscious companies that care about the environments they depend on, the more commonplace eco-aware business practices will become.
More Tips for Being an
Environmentally Responsible Diver
The following are some additional things you can do on a personal level to make sure you’re only impacting the environments you visit in positive, non-harmful ways.
Choose Your Gear Carefully
Thanks to the rise of environmentally responsible living, it’s usually not difficult to find products built with minimizing impact in mind. However, it’s still important to know how to identify wise choices, and make those choices when and where possible. Choose a battery-free operation when you can. Alternatives are charged by movement, light, or a combination of the two. If you don’t have this option, consider choosing batteries that are rechargeable.
Also make sure your gear is as streamlined as possible. This not only makes your dive more efficient, but it minimizes the likelihood of your gear dragging on the sea floor or inadvertently damaging sea life or natural structures.
Take Nothing, Leave Nothing
The beauty and majesty of the underwater world is irresistible, to be sure. However, it’s important that you resist any and all urges to take back souvenirs from the environment. Limit your memory-making to taking beautiful photos of the sights you see, instead. Never remove shells, coral, starfish, or anything else that’s part of the environment. Even if something seems insignificant, keep in mind what would happen if every diver did what you’re thinking of doing.
It should also go without saying that you should leave nothing, either. Granted, it’s pretty difficult to litter while you’re underwater, but many divers will throw their trash overboard while on the surface or at other points during the journey to or from the dive site. Every single bit of trash that winds up in the ocean harms the environment. Wildlife can eat the rubbish or become entangled in it, leading to infections, starvation, or even death. Please don’t contribute to this problem.
Educate Yourself and Pass It On
Last, but certainly not least, take it upon yourself to learn everything you can about not only conservation in general, but the specifics of the areas where you dive. Teach your friends, children, and fellow travelers what you’ve learned at every opportunity. Don’t be afraid to gently correct behavior that’s out of line – even in strangers. It’s more than possible that the person making the mistake doesn’t understand how or why it’s a problem.
Most importantly of all, make sure you’re walking the walk 100% of the time. People tend to mimic the behavior of those around them, so ultimately your actions will speak much louder than your words. It’s up to you to make sure your actions are saying the right things!
Always behave the way you’d want everyone else to behave. Don’t touch anything. Dispose of refuse properly, and leave the environment you had the privilege of visiting the way you found it. Not only does being responsible help minimize the impact you have on the places where you dive, but it sets a good example for everyone else as well.
At the end of the day, one person’s choices do make a difference when it comes to preserving our beautiful environment and protecting all of the wonderful creatures that call the oceans home. Be mindful of the environments where you dive, and make sure to dive with a responsible dive operator like UNEXSO that offers only eco-conscious dives and interactive experiences. Imagine if everyone made the choices for which you’re now equipped. We’d be living in a very different world, indeed.