[Coral-List] Diver damage/distance ...

Peter Hughes peter at divencounters.com
Thu Aug 8 14:32:36 EDT 2013

Greetings All,


I had the privilege & pleasure to first dive the Caribbean (Speyside,
Tobago) in the summer of 1957 and have made my living in the recreational
dive business since the summer of 1968 - I have seen lots of change over
these past 45 years!! Unfortunately, very few of them, good!


Divers can contribute significantly to overall conservation as well as to
local economies but the more restrictions we place on ourselves, the less
positive impact we will have on either and yes of course, it goes w/out
saying, good diver practices & skills are essential!! 


The Caribbean's ecological health is facing significant challenges that go
far beyond what these suggested regulations can ever address - beyond over
fishing via nets, pots & whatever else, beyond the loss of the sea urchin
population in the mid 80s and beyond the present & growing danger of the
lionfish invasion - the Caribbean, as I see it, is generally an unhealthy
body of water that does not sustain  re-growth as it once did, and as
healthier ocean (Indo-Pacific) environments still do . my point, the
Caribbean is a relative small body of water (almost a lake) bordered on the
west by Central America and on the east by the Windward & Leeward islands -
the Greater & Lesser Antilles - and w/ a further sealing off to the north
east by the Bahamas over lapping the Greater Antilles etc . all of the
Central American & Caribbean nations surrounding this body of water might be
considered as "third world" so their populations still unfortunately, see
the sea as their personal garbage dumps and their farming practices &
development projects are not nearly as carefully thought out or monitored as
they need to be . furthermore, most tidal change throughout the Caribbean is
little more that 12 - 24 inches resulting in minimal water flow (current)
and the prevailing winds blow 90% of the year between north east to south
east w/ maybe a 30 - 45% deviation in direction at best . this blows
"everything" deeper into the Caribbean (along the coast of Central America)
allowing for no real flushing of the entire area and hence, in my totally
uneducated opinion, creates an imperfect (and steadily deteriorating)
environment for healthy fish or coral population and/or re-growth!


Divers are an economic necessity and dive tourism offers one of the most
easily accessed alternate ways of life over the destructive fishing
practices that have been the backbone of Caribbean life "forever!" 


Divers may be the ones that can get the attention of uneducated (or more
likely corrupt) Caribbean politicians that sell fishing right to foreign
fleets - did you know that the tiny, independent nation of Trinidad & Tobago
(combined population of approx 1.3 million) is number 19 (I just learned
yesterday it might have moved up to # 6) on the list of the world's major
exporters of shark fins - and it is not the traditional fishermen benefiting
from the catch!!


Divers are the forefront, through our eyes underwater and our love of the
ocean, we can bring attention to the powers that be to the deteriorating
conditions of our coral reefs and all that they sustain.


I cannot believe the regulations now under consideration are the answer we
need . and I have never understood why, as divers, we always seem so quick
to point fingers at ourselves . have a look at a feeding a sea turtle or
follow a parrot fish around for a dive and see the "damage" they cause in
their normal course of existence as compared to diver carelessness? Dive on
sites that are rarely or never visited and see their overall condition as
compared to the sites regularly visited - not any significant difference.


There is a much grander factor at work against us that will not be deterred
by "diver distance from the reefs" regulations.


Thanx and as always . keep an ocean mind,


Peter A. Hughes


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