divers and fish

Ursula Keuper-Bennett howzit at turtles.org
Wed Oct 31 11:56:49 EST 2001


You wrote:

>I make the point in my book ('Neutral Buoyancy; Adventures in a Liquid 
>World') that I am constantly amazed by diver attitudes to
>(a) coral damage - not just immediate physical impact, but a general lack 
>of awareness of what coral ecology is all about and how anthropogenic 
>activity on a wider scale affects the reef

Why would that amaze you?  I was told once that the average "diver" makes 
no more than a couple dozen dives his entire life.  Many "divers" get no 
more than ten dives in a year max.  These aren't divers any more than I'm a 
musician because I plunk on my guitar when I have nothing better to do.

And those kind of "divers" know no more about coral ecology and 
anthropogenic activity than I know about major/minor chords and tempo.

You wrote:

>why do divers so readily tuck in to things like 'conch' in the Caribbean 
>an hour after surfacing from a dive, or happily chow down on 'coral 
>trout'/ grouper while lamenting the presence of large species at dive sites?

I have a question of my own.  Why would you expect the average diver to be 
any smarter or responsible than the average tourist?

You wrote:

>On a wider level - when will divers start voting with their feet/fins and 
>start boycotting destinations where poor reef management is evident.

Won't happen.

I can offer a long term perspective on poor reef management.  The west 
coast of Maui (a Hawaiian island) has suffered classic and dramatic 
degradation of its reefs over the last dozen years.   Corals have been 
smothered with repeated algae blooms.

Repeated algae blooms by the way, that management/newspapers DENY existed 
except in 1989 and 91.


I wrote a reporter and asked him what in the world they'd define as a 
"bloom".  And here was the response.

"In the case of defining what is a "bloom," we rely on what we consider the 
technical experts,"

So you can be a diver underwater up to your armpits in green slime and it 
isn't a bloom.

For example, this from Summer 2000 is NOT a bloom!  The technical experts 
say so.  Can you see my husband?


Next, this summer one of the most popular dive sites on Maui --a place 
called "Airport Beach" had algae smothering its corals.


And here's what the corals look like right where divers and snorkelers get 
in and out of the water


And you know something?  Most people come out of there thinking it looks 
great.  Cool fish around.  They might even see a hawksbill (we did when 
there).  They're happy.

They don't know what Airport Beach looked like before and besides, it's WAY 
better than anything they have at home.  And the ocean from the beach is 
still blue and beautiful.

The people who should be squawking are the tour master-divers there.  That 
is, the dive industry proper.  Yet, far as I can tell they're mute.

Back in 1991 when I first complained about the massive algae problem in 
this area:



I warned people that the slime would affect tourism.

But I was wrong.

This summer I actually watched two couples sit with their lounge chairs 
directly in the Cladophora algae on the beach (thick and slimy) allowing 
waves to rock them.  They were laughing up a streak while drinking 
beer.  From the intensity of their laughter I suspect that in addition to 
alcohol, their moods were also "enhanced" by Maui-Wowie as well.

And when I saw that?  Them sitting in slime like that?  I concluded that 
people can handle all manner of coastal decline.  Humans will swim in their 
own swill.  So long's the destination swill is better than their home swill.

And the tourist industry knows this.  And so do the politicians.

You wrote:

>  Without recreational divers the academic community has NO hope of 
> spreading the word about the plight of the world's reefs.


you wrote:

>It was noted in the South of France in the 1930's that fish a hundred 
>yards away from where spear fishermen hunted were totally unaffected by 
>divers while those where the spearers dived exhibited clear 'recognition' 
>of men acting as predators. Fish are not as stupid as we persist in thinking.

Unfortunately too many people ARE.

Best wishes,

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