[Coral-List] Diver damage thread

Jay Burkos jayburkos at gmail.com
Thu Aug 1 07:48:50 EDT 2013

Good morning everyone,

A few quick thoughts on divers...

Sadly, many novice divers get certified then travel to places with
sensitive biomes and still have little concept of proper buoyancy,
finning, control, etc.   some shops, including mine stress these
skills as essential and focus on the damage that a wayward diver can
inflict on a reef.

However, most dive operations in the tropics focus on specific dive
sites, leaving 95% of the reef free of divers.   Dive masters and shop
owners are not explorers, per se.   They create dive adventures for
guests and minimize liability for themselves by diving the same well
known locations on a daily basis.   To suddenly dive a less known part
of the reef would violate the risk management and emergency response
plans created by operators.

Many divers, either through organizations or independently, promote
good diving practices, coral restoration and conservation activities.
I personally use the "don't leave the water until you bring up some
trash" rule.   Corals face severe challenges to survival, from pH
acidity, pollution, phosphates and nitrites, parasites, storms, etc.
As divers, we can help rather than hinder.

I recommend that governments and shop owners work in tandem to create
"no tour dive zones" and that shops adopt parts of the reef to
monitor, conserve and restore.   That's why I recently started
Conservation Divers International.  The website will be up in a month,
still in development. Feel free to provide scientific input.  I will
rely on your experience and knowledge.


Jay Burkos

Sent from my iPhone

On Aug 1, 2013, at 7:35 AM, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net> wrote:

>   Lad,
>   I donât have a comprehensive study available for statistical analysis, but I
>   find something particularly onerous about marginalizing diver damage as it
>   compares to the natural consequences of storms or turtle grazing. Somehow I
>   am more at ease with turtle or parrotfish behavior than I am with the direct
>   impact of human intruders including myself. As for storms, damage may be
>   beginning to be affected by higher ocean temperatures, rising sea levels,
>   disappearing  wetlands, and increased coastal development but thatâs a
>   discussion best left for another thread.
>   I wish it were fact that divers and snorkelers are the truest supporters of
>   coral reef conservation efforts. While many are, I know too many that reject
>   what the science is telling us. And while its true that we could all stand
>   to better communicate with the diving public at large, my efforts to do so
>   are  consistently  met  with skepticism and denial already hardened by
>   political dogma reinforced by the apparent disinterest on the part of the
>   leadership within the diving industry.
>   The bottom line is rather plain and simple. . . Is climate change among the
>   credible threats to coral reefs ecosystems worldwide?
>   If so, is it finger pointing to call attention to the fact that on this
>   important issue our industry is ostensibly equivocating by refusing to take
>   a stand?
>   Regards,
>    Steve
>   -----Original Message-----
>> From: Lad Akins
>> Sent: Jul 31, 2013 12:40 PM
>> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>> Subject: [Coral-List] Diver damage thread
>> HI All,
>> I've been reading the diver impact thread over the last few days - it seems
>> to flare up every year or two and I'd like to throw in another slightly
>> different point of view to consider. In most parts of the world, especially
>> the Caribbean, diver damage is an undetectable signal compared to natural
>> disturbances and other human induced impacts (storms, bleaching, ocean
>> acidification, overfishing, etc). Yes, it's easy to point a finger at a
>> diver touching the bottom or a wayward gauge, but look at what happens in
>> one winter blow, not even a hurricane, or from turtles grazing on sponges
>> and you'll see more damage than divers cause in a year. I'm not saying we
>> shouldn't encourage good behavior, proper buoyancy control and a better
>> understanding of the marine ecosystem, but realistically, putting
>> significant time and effort into diver regulation is not going to solve any
>> problems.
>> Thinking more broadly about conservation of coral reefs, divers and
>> snorkelers are the true supporters of conservation efforts. If it were not
>> for them (us - if you venture into the sea to conduct your research, for
>   you
>> too are a diver), who would provide public support for protection of this
>> resource unseen to most? How many of us reach out to the public to help
>> them better understand the issue? A few on the list preach communication of
>> scientific research to the public, but most on the list are content to
>> conduct research (often diving to do so), and publish the results in a
>> journal read only by peers. Protection of coral reef ecosystems is only
>> going to come with broad public support. And public support is not going to
>> come from those who don't have the opportunity to learn about the sea
>> first-hand. Restricting divers to distant viewing of marine life is only
>> going to reduce the intimate connections with the reef system that are
>> necessary to build support for difficult decisions that do matter.
>> I caution the easy finger pointing towards an industry who brings the vast
>> majority of stakeholders into the conservation family. I would encourage
>> the discussion of regulation on water quality issues, protection from
>> overharvest and clean energy. Tough issues, but ones that will make a real
>> difference.
>> Lad
>> **************************
>> Lad Akins
>> Director of Special Projects
>> P O Box 370246
>> 98300 Overseas Hwy
>> Key Largo FL 33037
>> (305) 852-0030 w
>> (305) 942-7333 c
>> www.REEF.org
>> Lad at REEF.org
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