[Coral-List] NGOs, Corals and Dive Industry

Steve Mussman sealab at earthlink.net
Wed Nov 20 14:24:23 EST 2013

   Dear Martina,
   To you points: my criticisms are not aimed at the average diver, but at the
   institutional  leadership  who in my opinion are becoming complicit in
   perpetuating many of our coral reef ecosystems' problems as a result of
   their equivocation and inaction. To further the point, it is knowledgeable
   and insightful divers that will likely provide the impetus that hopefully
   changes the paradigm.
   As for the characterization of divers following agency edicts with something
   akin to religious fervor, that was perhaps overstated, but I am often put
   off by dive instructors telling me that I must have a snorkel attached to my
   mask or that it must be attached only on the left. I remember a documentary
   in which Jacques Cousteau was snorkeling in the Amazon with a tube attached
   to the right side of his mask . . I was waiting for an overzealous diver to
   lecture him on his impudence.
   The diving industry and certification agencies can not avoid the fact that
   divers follow their lead. When I teach new divers I don't have any choice
   but to accept the fact that in a sense I'm imprinting their minds. Not in an
   attempt to control them, but with the hope that they may embrace a similar
   respect for the ocean. Some do and some don't, but there is no denying the
   fact that divers and the diving industry could be invaluable resources in
   any effort made to conserve the world's coral reefs. What is wrong with
   asking them to fulfill a more responsible role in this endeavor? For after
   all, they are benefiting from having access to healthy marine ecosystems and
   as you said, it is a two-way street.
   -----Original Message-----
   >From: Martina Milanese
   >Sent: Nov 20, 2013 1:17 PM
   >To: Steve Mussman , "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov"
   >Subject: Re: [Coral-List] NGOs, Corals and Dive Industry
   >Dear Steve,
   >I refrained from writing but over the past few months I have read enough
   >posts about diving and this last finally convinced me.
   >I am a diver since 1993, and have been working in the diving industry since
   >1999. And yes, I am also a marine scientist. During my years in the
   >university world I often heard things like "all divers are monkeys, they
   >not able to dive and don't understand anything about the marine
   >environment". This especially applied to the instructors and dive masters.
   >Ironically, those who were speaking from the academic ivory tower would
   >hardly dive more than twice per year - if ever - and would never use a dive
   >center (so how would they know?). To me it was nonsense. At that time I was
   >already collaborating with some schools and could clearly see that:
   >1. Not all divers or professionals were dummy or ocean illiterate.
   >2. Some knew much more than me and I could just sit and learn.
   >I did not have a scholarship for my PhD, hence paid my bills working as a
   >diver. I worked with thousands of different people and yes, not all divers
   >are aware, careful, thoughtful, literate and so on. But a sentence like
   >average diver follows their edicts with something akin to religious fervor"
   >is simply unjust. Also, the overall idea that you can (or maybe shall?)
   >manipulate their mind to imprint whatever belief (for good it may sound)
   >makes me shiver.
   >Now grown and wiser I realise the potential of divers. They belong to any
   >layer of society, cut across cultures and have families and friends. What
   >audience in reach! As for data sources, and apart from citizen science
   >examples, believe me: an instructor that dives the same place 200 times a
   >year is an invaluable person to team up with, when you want to know what's
   >going on down there.
   >Also, and that's something that we (marine scientists) should think about
   >more often, without a diving industry we would hardly do our job as we are
   >used to. If we can dive within statistically safe boundaries, rely on easy
   >and cheap gear (including very nice and handy cameras and the likes),
   >everywhere in the world with no need to plan for a dedicated expedition...
   >well that's because we benefit from the services of a global diving
   >Just to be clear: I am not saying it's all fine and perfect. I also see the
   >dark side of it, as in so many human endeavours. But I think the million
   >divers  (including  professionals) around the globe deserve some more
   >As someone just wrote, it's a two ways road.
   >Sincerely yours
   >On 20/11/13 16.56, "Steve Mussman" wrote:
   >> This pertinent question was raised off-list: Can't the diving industry
   >> acknowledge the problems and speak out
   >> on the need for action without someone requiring them to pony up money?
   >> That was exactly the point I was attempting to make. What we are looking
   >> for
   >> from industry leaders is not funding, but acknowledgement, leadership and
   >> guidance. In fact, there suddenly seems to be a groundswell of support
   >> proactive engagement derived from divers and business leaders who have
   >> studied and understand the issues at hand. At least those who are not
   >> predisposed to reject scientifically-based findings because they may
   >> contradict some core beliefs. The way that the diving industry works
   >> provides mystifying powers of persuasion to certification agencies (and
   >> DEMA
   >> directors). The average diver follows their edicts with something akin to
   >>  religious fervor. If divers can simply be encouraged to follow the
   >> rather than rhetoric designed specifically to discredit conclusions based
   >> on
   >> methodical studies, we might be able to make progress by
   >> implementing actions designed to mitigate the blighting impacts currently
   >> anticipated.
   >> Steve
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