Scuba divers are uniquely positioned to experience the wonders that the sea has to offer. Things like sunken shipwrecks and thriving communities of sharks can only be experienced on their level. But there is also a need to be responsible. Unfortunately, bad diver behavior often leads to many of the sensitive undersea destinations we love being damaged. The continued viability of diving as a sport depends on all of us doing our part to limit our impact. But what behaviors pose a problem, and what can be done about them?
Damage to Coral
One of the most common issues caused by divers is destruction to coral reefs. Now, most people should know not to touch coral so there’s no reason for a diver not to know that. Usually, damage to corals is done by accident. But even accidents can be devastating. Many corals only grow an inch or less a year, so simply grazing against one can damage years’ worth of growth. Therefore, if you notice that someone’s fin tips or camera dragging too close to a coral, alert them immediately with a hand signal. Raising your hand palm face-up should indicate to them that they need to raise up a few feet. Neutral buoyancy is very important and we can train you to be perfect in this skill.
Touching the Wildlife
Although it should be common sense to avoid harassing the wildlife, many divers will poke or prod fish and other sea life to try to get a better look or better framing for photographs. Many animals like starfish are more fragile than they look, so touching or picking them up to pose for a photo can injure or kill them easily. If you spot someone doing this, signaling them with a wagging finger will indicate for them to stop it.
Even without touching the sea life, it is still possible for careless divers to cause harm. Some marine life will be sensitive to sudden bright lights like a camera flash. There are ways to take pictures that won’t harass wildlife. Alternatively, just being forced into close proximity with a human can cause undue stress. If it appears that your diving buddy is getting too close to the sea life for comfort, signal to them with the “stop” hand sign, or shake your head “no”.
Managing Bad Diver Behavior is All of Our Responsibility
In can be difficult to broach the topic when you notice another diver behaving in a way that they shouldn’t. But bad diver behavior has the potential to cause decades’ worth of damage if left unchecked. Therefore it is the responsibility of all of us to minimize any harm that we, or our companions, may cause. Of course, not everyone causes damage out of maliciousness or carelessness. Panic can be just as destructive and dangerous, if not more so. Our rescue diver classes, can prepare you for this. So in addition to treading carefully, it is equally important to know how to recognize and manage panic before it leads to an incident. To help prevent panic, check out our guide on avoiding it while scuba diving. Also, cold water diving can be challenging. We are known for preparing you for this.