Take only photographs, leave only bubbles.
If each diver refrains from taking a souvenir home from the deep, there just might be something left for the next diver that’s worth seeing.
Shop for sustainable seafood.
Some fish stocks are well-managed; others are being fished to the brink of extinction. Some farmed species offer hope for meeting humanity’s rising food demands; others are destroying coastal environments around the world. It’s tough to know what’s the right thing to buy or eat; luckily, several environmental groups have committed much energy and research to these very questions.
Join a cleanup.
Each September, hundreds of thousands of people around the world gather on beaches and below the surface for the International Coastal Cleanup. But at least as important as the debris that’s picked up off the shore–last year, more than 450,000 people collected more than 7.55 million pounds of junk–is the valuable data on ocean currents and marine pollution that researchers glean from the notes of volunteers.
Give reefs a checkup.
Volunteers in more than 60 countries record their observations of coral reef health for Reef Check. The information that divers gather helps international and local agencies plan for preserving and restoring coral reefs; for more information, go to www.reefcheck.org. Similarly, ReefBase, a comprehensive global information system with a vast amount of online information about coral reefs, has volunteers compile reports that help monitor the phenomenon of coral bleaching. When corals expel the algal cells that live inside their tissue, they bleach and look dead, but are often still alive. A wide range of environmental factors can cause bleaching, but high sea temperatures cause the worst episodes–and as such, might be the “canary in the coal mine” for climate change’s effect on marine life. Divers can help scientists
Be an underwater vacuum cleaner.
Fill your BC pockets or the cuffs of your wetsuit at your ankles or wrists with trash. It won’t slow you down much, and your simple action will leave the reef cleaner than it was when you found it.
Keep your hands off.
Don’t touch anything on a dive, not with your feet, not with your hands, not with your regulator. Even slight contact can damage coral; some can sting you back.
Educate your fellow divers.
Spread the word about coral reef bleaching and enlist fellow divers to care for and preserve their environment.
Talk to your fellow divers.
The more they know, the less likely they are to damage the reefs.
Learn a new species each time you dive.
Take a cue from birders and keep a “life list” of each fish, creature and coral you see on dives. You’ll impress your friends and fellow divers with your knowledge, and you might encourage other people to care enough to preserve the biodiversity we love.
Leave Marine Life Where It Belongs.
Avoid buying souvenirs made of coral, turtles and other marine life, and don’t bring anything home for your fish tank, either. It’s often illegal, but it’s never smart for someone who likes to see these things under water. The U.N. Environment Programme reports that the aquarium trade snatches more than 20 million tropical fish and as many as 10 million other marine animals each year. When fish are caught using sodium cyanide, coral reefs suffer as well. If you do buy pet fish, look for certification by the Marine Aquarium Council.