[Coral-List] Reassessing Coral Reefs

Dennis Hubbard dennis.hubbard at oberlin.edu
Fri Apr 3 13:33:50 EDT 2015

I have been lurking on the thread related to the dive industry and reef
conservation for a epoch now. I agree that there are lots of things we
might suggest that could make a difference even though this will probably
differ from reef to reef (from everyone's descriptions of the Keys, "don't
touch the (non-existent) coral" might not have the same effectiveness as
somewhere in the Coral Triangle). I also agree that, even if a particular
strategy might be more or less useful at particular sites, building a sense
of conservation is still a good side effect.

Having said this, I see an impediment that nobody has mentioned. The diving
industry seems to be struggling to maintain adequate standards just
teaching the basics. I am sure that there are folks on this list who do a
great job and I thank them. However, I am constantly aghast at the skill
sets that most divers bring to projects, trips, etc. that I am involved me.
Their buoyancy skills are abysmal (as in, "they'd be in the abyss if there
wasn't a bottom to stop them") and no amount of awareness is going to help
with a diver flailing to keep off the reef and sending fish, corals and
buddies alike running for cover. Likewise, I'd guess that less than 10% of
the divers I've been with have any idea of how do dive without a computer.
In fact, I've seen (more than once) a diver whose computer had flooded just
be given another one and told to "be careful".... by a divemaster.

And, the list goes on. I've discussed this with several friends in the
industry and been reminded that it just isn't financially possible to give
a new diver the same training I got (oh, crap!!!!) 50 years ago. So, given
the frequency with which divers are not leaving their basic course with
what they need, I have to wonder where all these great ideas are going to
fit in. Teaching "reef conservation" as part of a course is a great idea.
But with so many basic things have been set aside - and the idea that
"that's what advanced courses are for", I'm not hopeful that implementation
is going to go the way we'd all hope. This is NOT to say that we shouldn't
try, but rather to point out the reality that we need to overcome if our
efforts are to produce positive results.

So, what would I suggest we teach new divers about conservation.....
buoyancy. And, it might help to do this over a large patch of fire coral.

The "designated curmudgeon"

On Fri, Apr 3, 2015 at 9:31 AM, Pauliina Ahti <pauliina.ahti at hotmail.com>

> Hi,
> I certainly endorse Steve's idea to incoporate conservation issues into
> diver training. The dive industry has a huge potential in being part of
> marine conservation but a lot of this potential is going to waste, often
> simply due to lack of knowledge (or financial initiative?). To get the
> potential out, I think relying on individual dive centres or instructors is
> not enough, the change must be brought in through the training agency. The
> agency must train environmentally aware instructors to train
> environmentally aware divers.
> How? That'll need some brain storming but perhaps an entertaining video
> format suggested by Steve is a good start. Videos are easy to ignore though
> if you're not interested, so to really sink the message in, perhaps some
> hands-on activites could be useful. In water: more buoyancy training,
> picking up rubbish, identifying stuff (a couple of weeks ago I was asked
> 'what is a reef fish?'), knowing dead from alive, knowing invasive from
> native, not collect organisms (sea cucumber is not a toy...), not feeding
> toast to fish? Out of water: Discuss how climate change/ plastic/
> microplastic/ fishing/ feeding/ breaking corals by kicking, anchoring,
> etc./ something else affects coral reefs and why this matters even if
> you're not a diver? This stuff would be good to get into the final exam too
> so it would not be just something go through if time allows. Project Aware
> is a beautiful idea but it does little to the average open water diver
> getting their training. These issues should be inco
>  rporated into diver training starting from open water course all the way
> through to instructor and beyond, and not separately only as part of
> Project Aware.
> A couple of things for the dive centres to consider, too: In busy areas it
> would be good to understand that it is not
> necessary to park 25 boats on the same dive site. This also brings about
> the issue with buoy lines, the lines cannot take an infinite amount of
> boats, they will either snap or if attached to a loose block on the bottom,
> drag it around. And when the line snaps,
> instead of throwing anchors around the buoy line should be fixed. There
> are dive centres that are responsible about all of the above, but also ones
> that really are not.
> This is not going to save all the reefs but it's a step in the right
> direction. Awareness never hurt anyone.
> Just my two cents. (I'm relatively new here, please be gentle...)
> Regards,
> Pauliina Ahti
> (Marine bio MSci student & dive instructor)
> > Date: Wed, 1 Apr 2015 09:42:57 -0400
> > From: sealab at earthlink.net
> > To: alevizonws at cofc.edu; gulmonb at seattleu.edu
> > CC: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> > Subject: [Coral-List] Reassessing Coral Reefs
> >
> >
> >    Good idea William. I like the coalition approach.
> >    Lots of lists of environmentally-friendly diving practices abound,
> but how
> >    about everybody throwing out one suggestion. Identify yourself as
> scientist
> >    or diver or both (Alex) as you see fit.
> >    Propose one simple suggestion for regulating local and global impacts
> of the
> >    scuba diving industry.
> >    Challenge or endorse if you prefer.
> >    Here is mine: Diver.
> >    Require marine environmental issues information be part of all open
> water
> >    diver certification courses. It could even be presented in an
> entertaining
> >    video format.
> >
> >    As Ben mentioned, it is our responsibility to inform new divers as to
> how
> >    baselines have changed. I am working with others within the diving
> industry
> >    to develop just such a list. We would be willing to start from
> scratch so
> >    that we might benefit from the insights of the scientific community.
> We
> >    understand  that  even  if  every diver adopted and adhered to certain
> >    eco-standards this in and of itself would not solve the problem. But
> it
> >    would certainly signal a move in the right direction. One that is long
> >    overdue.
> >    Regards,
> >    Steve
> > _______________________________________________
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Dennis Hubbard
Chair, Dept of Geology-Oberlin College Oberlin OH 44074
(440) 775-8346

* "When you get on the wrong train.... every stop is the wrong stop"*
 Benjamin Stein: "*Ludes, A Ballad of the Drug and the Dream*"

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