Practice responsible diving and sustainable snorkeling

by Ale Werner
Scuba Diving in Coron

Practice responsible diving and sustainable snorkeling … it probably does not sound like much to you. It is not something new that the oceans are dying slowly, but dying.

Coral reefs are increasingly weakened by the toxins that industries throw into the sea, but this is not the only reason. In reefs near the coasts, the practice of diving is common. Whether you practice snorkeling or diving, surely if you are close to the sea you would want to get a mask and see what’s down there.

diving in Philippines
Be a responsible diver! / Philippines

There are several tips to follow for practicing responsible diving and sustainable snorkeling. These will help you not only to take care of the seabed, but also to enjoy it more.

1. Responsible diving: Do not scare the fish.

Yes, those little creatures are fantastic, but the fact that they live in water and not on land does not make them very different from you. They feel what is happening around them and they get scared. Have you tried to touch a fish? It’s a fact that they will get scare and swim away from you.

When swimming, you must become one with them at sea. Do it calmly, just move your fins and look as close as you want, but without disturbing anyone or anything. You will see how they will also approach you and you can enjoy more; while they will continue their normal rhythm of life.

Shoal of fishes - Gili Trawangan - Indonesia
Fish live quietly, do not disturb them / Gili Trawangan – Indonesia

Larger animals also get scared. A turtle is not ready to carry your weight while swiming if you hold on to its shell, and manta rays should not be touched because they lose their protective layer. Practice responsible diving respecting these animals and taking care of them at all times.

2. Responsible diving: Do not feed the animals.

If you give them bread, they will come closer to you. If you give food to whale sharks, they will surely come back for more as it happens in the Philippines. Feeding animals not only can cause problems in their behavior, but the ecosystem they live in can also change.

Maybe a single person does not make a difference, but we need to start changing this behavior at some point, or not?

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Among the problems of feeding marine animals we can find:

  • Behavioral changes: Animals may stop hunting or trying to find their own food, as has happened in Cebu with whale sharks. Feeding them makes them dependent, and if you stop doing it maybe they will die.
  • Increase in pests: Nature is intelligent, and what some creatures eat helps others not multiply. For example, turtles eat jellyfish … if they stop eating them, there is no control over them. Imagine a beach full of jellyfish because they have no predator… and you can’t get into the water anymore.
Diving with Birostris Manta Rays (Giant Mantas)
Giant Manta Rays / Komodo – Labuan Bajo – Indonesia

3. Responsible diving: Do not touch anything while diving or snorkeling, just look.

Any contact or hit to a coral can get to kill them because the toxins and germs in your body cannot be fought by them. Do not touch anything, just be a spectator of what is happening down there.

Corals are especially sensitive to contact. If you didn’t know they aren’t plants, but invertebrate animals. They house a huge amount of other organisms and microorganisms that are necessary for their subsistence in their bodies, and you could kill them if you touch them.

If you are diving, worry about controlling your buoyancy so as not to crash into living beings. Look where you flutter and be careful when you turn around.

Buoyancy is the most important thing during diving and snorkeling – Philippines

4. Responsible diving: Leave the sea as you found it.

Here we do not talk about just trash, which is what comes to mind first.

In addition to littering, garbage can affect the health of animals and their safety. We’ve all seen pictures of animals trapped in sixpack cans collars of cans, or with tangled bags or meshes. Other animals can ingest non-digestible waste. For example, turtles confuse plastic bags with jellyfish and eat them.

The fact that you see locals throw garbage into the sea does not make you feel good, it’s just lack of education. If you would not do it at home, do not do it in another country.

Turtle in the reef - Alona Beach - Bohol Island - Filipinas
Plastic bags can kill turtles / Alona Beach – Bohol Island – Philippines

On the other hand, creams and sunscreen can also affect our fish friends. Many beauty items contain microplastics, which small animals can confuse with plankton and ingest. Then the big fish eat the little ones and all of them go through digesting these harmful elements.

If someone asks you not to put on sunscreen before entering the sea, it is not to bother you, it is for the good of the fish.

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5. Respect the rules of diving and snorkeling.

All places have their own rules, and as a responsible tourist, you must respect them. There are periods of closure because it is when the fish reproduce; there are places where we can not swim or snorkel because they are protected; and there are rules like do not enter the sea with a blocker or do not do x, y or z thing for your safety and that of others.

Respect your guides, respect the locals and respect the environment.

Bluespotted Stingray - Diving - Similian Islands - Thailand
Manta Raya / Similan Islands – Thailand

6. Ecotourism: Make an effort in cleaning the seabed.

If you are a regular diver and have done it a lot of times, more than once you must have found yourself within nets or garbage on the seabed.

Illegal fishermen leave their nets if they see someone approaching and this can break corals and catch fish. If you find this situation and your guide decides to spend time on removing the trash, help him. If you see a bottle or a plastic bag in the bottom, pick it up and throw it in the trash back in the boat or on the shore.

They are small actions that can help us all.

Coral reefs in Fiji
A clean seabed means happy fish / Fiji

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