Thursday, August 13, 2009

10 Ways to Conduct Eco Diving in the Riviera Maya

Eco Diving is not a new principle, it is a principle we hope held by most scuba divers who choose this as a sport. Being conscious of the fact that you are privileged to view and experience the world beneath the sea is one fact why most divers become divers. It is our personal responsibility to conserve the ocean if it is that we want to continue to see the wonderful ‘cities’ down there. Coral, fish and plants interact in the ocean like we interact on land. They have patterns, places to live, things that they eat and have a cycle of life and death. As guests, we need to respect their natural laws and make sure that we do not interfere in this delicate balance.
As divers we have an environmental responsibility to do the following when going into the depths of the ocean or any water body for that matter:
1. Practice good buoyancy. This is probably one of the most important items in eco diving. Good buoyancy and buoyancy control means that you are not touching, intentionally or by accident, any of the coral, plants or the natural bottom of your dive site. If you can maintain control then you can hover over and around things without having to touch or accidently disturb something. Touching is what creates the damage and this we do not want to do. It is like learning to drive a car, if you have good driving skills you will not hit a tree, you will roll the car into the forest or a flower bed or into people for that matter. Buoyancy provides the same safety principal for divers.
2. Practice good fining techniques. Most divers forget about their fining, and because their feet are behind them they do not realize the trail of upset they can leave. Kicking up sand due to poor fining technique can create as much damage to the coral and the fish as touching. When sand lands on the coral, it actually suffocates it, with the result being a slow death over time. Coral needs to filter the water for food, and sand clogs the filters that complete this task.
3. Ensure equipment is secure. Dangling hoses, dangling anything off of your scuba equipment not only is dangerous to the diver but it can drag and break plants, corals while stirring up the bottom.
4. Feeding of marine life is prohibited. Feeding of marine life can upset the balance of the underwater world. What else can be said but don’t do it!
5. Use of dive gloves in the ocean is not necessary. Having dive gloves on while in the ocean or the caverns and caves for that matter, leaves you, the diver, in a vulnerable position. For ocean divers it gives you a sense of false security where if you are tempted to touch, the gloves will be a barrier to the reaction of sealife and corals that have natural protective and stinging devices to ward off touching. In the caverns and caves, gloves put the diver in a dangerous position as they need their fingers to feel for the cave line in case of an emergency or light failure.
6. Take all garbage out of the ocean. The reality is some people do not get it and there is land garbage in the ocean, bottles, bags, string, metal etc. It is our responsibility as divers to remove this from the ocean floor and get it into the proper recycling post or land garbage site. But this is not a license to remove anything which naturally belongs in the ocean. After hurricanes we see ocean garbage, naturally created garbage from coral, plants etc. though it does not look nice, it is important to let nature do it job and recycle these broken plants and coral bits. It has been doing this for thousands of years and it is not our job to remove anything unless humans put it there.
7. Avoid all contact with the bottom. This point leads back to other diving points on fining, buoyancy and control. Disturbing the bottom is as damaging as disturbing a nest. It can ruin the natural balance of the underwater environment.
8. Look for diving areas that promote and have boat drift diving. Drift diving is one of the best diving practices as the boat does not anchor. Drift diving has the boat following you and your group or buddy so there is little contact and no need to through an anchor out to secure the boat. If you do have to anchor, it is best to have a permanent mooring line so that anchors are not on the ocean bottom each time you have to secure your boat.
9. Use dive operators that have a no touch policy. Nothing more needs to be said….learn and live by example.
10. Share your knowledge with other divers. As with any eco policy or information, many people are aware that actions have impact on our environment. Teaching others about eco friendly dive techniques can save the oceans that we love so much. Being the eco nazi, or dive nazi is not at useful as being an educator. If you see someone with poor buoyancy offer to help if you are dive professional, or offer information about buoyancy classes if you are their buddy….
Eco diving for us is natural. But we do understand that for some it is new, and a reminder that we are visitors is always a good thing. If we damage our diving environments we are hurting not only our sport and the underwater environment but 73% of the world. Everything is connected and everything relies on one another. So think next time when you are diving, are you being the best diver you can be and are you diving without an impact on the reef.


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