How to be an Eco-Friendly Scuba Diver

Let Sustainability Lead the Way as you Explore the Underwater World

As scuba divers we are given the good fortune to see what few others have; the magic of an underwater world. But times are changing and the ocean is becoming more accessible than ever before. A sea of change is in the air and sadly divers are getting a front row seat at the the human destruction that is plaguing our waterways. Lately, it seems like the greatest wonder of the ocean, is how it’s still alive after everything we are putting it through.

A Scuba Diver in Albania Collection Pieces of Trash from the Bottom of the Harbour

With coral bleaching, plastic whirlpools and invasive species at the forefront of environmental news, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that our lakes, rivers and oceans are in dire need of help.

Even though scuba divers are some of the most eco-conscious people on the planet we aren’t perfect and there is always room for improvement.
 

Here are 10 simple ways you can become a more eco-friendly scuba diver:

1.Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Bubbles

The age old saying: “take only pictures, leave only bubbles” is probably the single most important rule of scuba diving.

There is so much beauty in the underwater world it is tempting to want to collect and bring home memorabilias. What most people easily forget is that we are visitors to the marine realm and as such we should act accordingly.

Scuba diving is not a place for souvenir shopping. Diving and collecting trophies has long become thing of the past. The only thing you should be taking with you when you leave your dive is photographic memories recorded on your underwater camera.

Ali on Zakynthos Island in Greece Photographing a Flapjack

2. Hunt Smart

As beautiful as they might look, lionfish are a big invasive problem. I’m not an advocate for hunting, but when it comes to these destructive fish, something needs to be done to contain the population.

Lionfish originally come from the Indo-Pacific region of the globe and first made their appearance in the Atlantic during the late 1980s when someone mistakenly introduced them to the ecosystem. Having no natural predators in this new area, the species has exploded and taken over much of the Atlantic and Caribbean waters, out competing and even preying on the native fish species.

Lionfish have become such a menace to the North and South American continents that there are dozens of sustainable organizations that sanction hunting events and group collections trying to keep the blooming population at bay. Most of these environmentally friendly organizations even go as far as to train divers on how to harvest lionfish in a safe and responsible manner.

Dive with a purpose, dive to get rid of lionfish!

An Invasive Lionfish Swimming over a Bed of Seaweed

3. Practice Makes Perfect

First learning to scuba dive can be tough (especially if you are not incredibly comfortable in the water). There is so much bulky gear to get use; buttons to tinker with; gauges to keep track of… and then there’s that ever elusive neutral buoyancy.

Every year, tonnes of rookie scuba divers destroy countless decades of coral growth in a single fin kick without knowing any better.

Don’t wait until you’re hovering above a coral reef to perfect your buoyancy. By practicing your scuba skill in a controlled environment free of currents, waves and seemingly endless depths, you are setting yourself up for diving success. Pick a pool or shallow sandy bottom lake where you can spend the time and figure out how your body moves, floats and responds to the water.

By practicing for perfection you are not only minimizing the risk to the critters around you, but you are making yourself a safer scuba diver.

Joey's Silhouette Showing Off Neutral Buoyancy

4. One Dive, One Piece of Garbage

In the big spectrum of things a single piece of garbage may not seem like much, but when multiplied by thousands of divers all over the planet, picking up one piece of garbage on a single dive could actually change the world.

Let’s get every scuba diver into the habit of leaving the dive location better than the way they found it, because when it comes to keeping the ocean clean, every little bit counts!

Joey with Some Trash After Cleaning Underwater in Albania

5. Voluntourism

Take your scuba one step further and make every dive count. In this day and age people love to combine travel with volunteering. It’s a fulfilling and rewarding experience that allows travelers to explore a new country, while giving back to the community at the same time.

Given that 70% of the globe is covered in water there is always so much to do in the realm of ocean conservation and never enough hands to do it. By spending your vacation reef monitoring, animal tagging, fish counting, you can aid scientists in the gathering of important information that can contribute to groundbreaking restoration efforts in our lakes, rivers and oceans.

Dive Buddies Volunteering with a Open Water Diver Course in Canada

6. Join Coastal Cleanups and Other Great Initiatives

Tonnes of environmental initiatives have be launched all over the world. WWF shoreline cleanup, Project Aware, Earth Hour… there is a pretty long list of great things happening in the ocean and often scuba divers are the ring leaders.

Now more than ever divers need to take a stand. Knowing what is eminently happening to our lake, rivers and oceans, try to become a part of this blue movement and join a local initiative. Even a simple hometown marina cleanup can tip the scales towards a better and more eco-friendly tomorrow.

Scuba Divers Undertaking a Harbour Cleanup in Canada

7. Education is Key

When a person falls in love with an animal they will forever want to protect it. By teaching people about the wonders of the underwater world, through aquariums, documentaries and photography, we help them fall in love with some cool critters and instill a sense of respect for the ocean.

Knowledge IS power, and by educating non-divers, we can captivate people’s hearts in the same way we were captivated the first time we tried scuba diving.

Ali and an Aquarist Feeding the Fish During a Shark Feed at Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

8. Be a Plain Jane

When people think of being and environmentally friendly diver, they think it only happens once you are geared up in a wetsuit and heading under the waves, but being a sustainable scuba diver happens as much onland in the pre dive prep as it does in the water.

Anything that we put on our bodies before diving inadvertently makes its way into the water column. Sunscreen, lotions, conditioners and other beauty products are very toxic to marine plants and animals, especially corals. Steer clear of these products before diving and opt instead to embrace a natural salt hair, wear a hat to keep the sun off your face and lotion up after your finished playing in the water.

Joey Looking Angry with a Bottle of Sunscreen Because it Hurst the Ocean

9. Scuba Locally

You don’t need to book a 10 hour flight and stay at a resort down south to be able to scuba dive.

There are plenty of diving adventures just waiting to be had in your own backyard (…unless you live in the middle of the desert). Consider staying close to home next time you get the dive bug and wet your gills in some local watering holes. You’d be surprised at all the neat things you might discover around your home country.

Discover your home country and help save the environment at the same time; sounds like a win-win to me.

Joey Holding Up a Canadian Flag While Diving in Ontario

10. Keep your Hands to Yourself

It’s no longer appropriate and often frowned upon to touch, grab or handle underwater creatures.

Not only is touching marine life dangerous for the environment and species itself, but it can also be dangerous for you. There is a smorgasbord of marine animals that are venomous, poisonous and just downright aggressive. If that is not enough, there are also marine creatures that are uber sensitive and susceptible to disease and sickness when poked or prodded.

Be a friend to the fishies and enjoy a hands free dive!

Don't Touch The Sea Creatures While Scuba Diving

The Situation is Grim and We Need to Take Action – NOW

It ain’t easy being green in a day and age where everything is plastic and it’s cheaper to throw something out than actually repair it.

For scuba divers who live and breathe underwater, it’s easy to forget how privileged we are to enjoy some of the most astounding ecosystems on the planet. Given the state of our oceans, it’s not enough anymore to sit around and hope that nature can rebound. If we want to save the marine world we need to start taking action – NOW.

The silver lining? Not to make light of a bad situation, but in general scuba divers are some of the most eco-friendly people on the planet. Can you blame us, I mean some of our favorite pastimes involve getting up close with dainty little creatures and fragile ecosystems. Let’s find that drive and passion to start the blue movement. Let’s get people diving in symbiosis with the underwater environment.

Ali Showing She Is OK

Writers Note: A big thank you my fishy friend Daphne Tai who contributed some photo’s for this green article.

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