Why should we protect coral reefs?
Coral reefs are made of tiny minuscule animals secreting calcium carbonate extracted from their surrounding sea water. These rainforests of the sea, coral reefs represent less than 0.1% of the world’s ocean surface yet provide a home for more than 25% of marine species in our oceans! Incredible that out of nutrient poor water can come such an impressive ecosystem!
Coral reefs are not just important for us scuba divers the world over but are an integral part of other industries such as fishery and also provide coastal protection from the sea! The annual economic value of coral reefs in 2002 was estimated to be over $350 billion! Yet, no matter they great value and service coral reefs remain some of the most endangered habitats on our planet with variable stress factors taking their toll on these marine ecosystems.
Climate change and the acidification of our oceans aswell as blast, chlorine and cyanide fishing aswell as water pollution from agricultural runoff harms coral reefs by promoting algal growth blocking valuable solar rays from reaching the developing coral!
It is clear that our future on this planet might well depend on these carbon dioxide scrubbing machines called coral reefs! What can we do to protect them?
What can a scuba diver do?
1. Buoyancy is Queen!
Maintaining neutral buoyancy is tricky at first, but probably the most useful diving skill – you’ll enjoy your dive more, use less air, and be able to get closer to the reef without harming it or yourself. Make sure you’re properly weighted (ask our staff to help you conduct a weight check if you’re not sure), and practice maintaining neutral buoyancy. Why not consider doing a peak performance buoyancy dive course?
2. Go slow
While scuba diving remember to go slow. Moving slowly through the water not only conserves energy and therefore oxygen making our dive time longer but you can control your course much more easily and avoid bumping into the reef and corals avoiding damage to yourself aswell as the reef! You will also tire less easily and take my word for it, you will be amazed at the things that you will see simply by taking the time and slowing down! Be lazy! Its the scuba diver way!
3. Keep your distance
Combining the above previous two rules with keeping your distance from any and all reef structures whether scuba diving or snorkeling is paramount! Never touch or stand on the reef. Coral as much as it is sharp, is very fragile. You might therefore just as easily hurt yourself aswell as destroy nearby coral. If you need to take a breath, hover next to an outcrop so that you have visual reference of depth so that you can regulate your buyoancy without much trouble. While scuba diving take great care of your fin strokes remembering that the tip of your fins is well behind you and might cause damage further back than you realise whether directly by hitting coral. The same goes for any equipment you might be wearing. Take care and mentally know where everything is so that you avoid them dragging onto the coral destroying everything in their path! Secure hosed onto your BCD and keep nothing loose! Make it a point to swim at least 1-2meters away from the reef at all times and stay out of kicking distance!
4. Don’t touch
How does not touching protect coral reefs? Well, simple, although not all marine life is dangerous to us, we can easily damage many things without realizing it. For example, by touching coral, even gently, you are scraping away the protective layer of mucus that protects the coral from picking up an infection. Never touch anything while diving!
5. No souvenirs!
Removing anything from the reef (except garbage) destroys it. If you feel that you need to take something, take 1000 photos or buy a book showcasing local species and landscapes if you do not have an underwater camera. Keep in mind that sea shells sold in shops might not have been gathered sustainably or laws in the country you are diving might not regulate their import. So buy only from where you are sure that you do not create demand for over exploitation of coral reefs around the world! Stop – Think – Act!
6. Responsible Photography
Never damage the reef in the process of capturing a timeless photo. Relax, go slow and if the perfect moment arises the shoot to your heart’s content but don’t lean or anchor yourself to make your shot more stable or composed. Remember, perfect buoyancy is a key photographer’s piece of equipment! Never harass or chase after marine life for that perfect photo!
7. Stop – Think – Act
Protect coral reefs by thinking for yourself! Just because someone else is doing it does not mean that it is a good thing or to be emulated! Do only what you are comfortable doing in the water and if the person behaving badly is your dive guide or instructor do not be quiet, voice your concerns and cut their tips!
8. No littering
Many marine animals die every year because of rubbish found in our seas. Plastic bags, bottles, cigarette eds and many other pieces of rubbish can do a lot of damage to marine life either by restricting growth, blocking their alimentary canal or choking them! Recycle and Never EVER dump in the sea!
9. Don’t feed the animals
Our food like bread and meat is not a suitable food for coral reef fish or other marine life and may harm them. Fish feeding is also a bad idea because it makes fish more aggressive towards scuba divers expecting to be fed at the first sign of bubbles! Never feed fish guys! You will get the same effect of fish gathering if you knock two pieces of rock together! Just you see! Try this over at Green Bay Dive Site at “The Table” rock! There is lots of loose rocks around and it works every time!
10. Report injured animals
Even though at the current state of affairs there is no official authority in Cyprus where reporting injured animals will have any sort of result it is always good to spread the word so that follow up divers at your Dive Center might get the chance of monitoring these animals in the future in case an intervention might be warranted. Although tragic you might come across left-over killed animals in your dives. Make a note especially if they are predatory fish. This might effect the quality of the dive site in future years to come.
11. Have Fun, Spread The Word & Apply The 11 Ways To Protect Coral Reefs!
There is nothing that spreads more like wildfire than good hardy fun scuba diving while at the same time we protect coral reefs! Have fun during your dives and if a dive center or group of people you dive with usually behave responsibly then spread the word that they apply the environmental ethical code as outlined roughly above and more people will follow your example in having fun while protecting the marine environment. To protect coral reefs we need to be responsible and experienced divers in the first place to avoid doing damage to reef as a whole. Remember always that scuba diving is a lazy sport and should never be about speed! Take your time and go slow staying at an average distance of 1m from delicate structures and never touch coral or wildlife for their safety and yours aswell! Keep in mind that taking souvenirs disturbs the natural balance in some form of other and also that buying sea shells from souvenir stores does not absolve you from your ecological responsibilities as a diver! There is no way of knowing how those shells were collected! Be responsible in your photo shooting activities! Perfect buoyancy is key! Avoid throwing anything in the water. Just keep it in your BCD if need be until you go back to your dive center to put it in the trash! Never feed the wildlife during your dives. This maintains the food chain instinct of all the marine life on the reef and keeps it healthy for the time of the year that tourists dont visit! Report injured animals to your local dive center so that they will keep an eye out for them if an intervention is necessary!
Have a great day…hopefully diving!