How to be Guardians of the Ocean
As divers we are charged as custodians of the ocean. We do everything we can to protect it; from controlling buoyancy to collecting ghost net, making responsible food choices to planting new coral gardens, minimising plastic use to safe-guarding wildlife. As a community we are standing together as one, for the ocean.
Where possible try to purchase products that aren’t in plastic packaging. Hold onto things like vegetables trays and large tubs with lids, you can re-use them as plant pots or storage for dry goods bought at re-fill stores. Could you reuse that delivery bag as a bin liner? Every piece of plastic that doesn’t go to landfill is one less piece that may not accidentally make its way into sea, polluting waterways and harming wildlife.
There’s many steps you can take when it comes to eating habits to decrease the carbon footprint of your food. Buying locally grown means a lower footprint for your ingredients as well as choosing items that are in season in your area. Even better? Grow your own! Plus this is hugely satisfying. Meat farming has one of the highest environmental impacts of all food production, so reducing your meat consumption, even by a little can make a big difference. You don’t have to go full vegan, meat-free Mondays and fish-friendly Fridays are a step in the right direction.
Learning more about the issues that threaten our oceans will help you become part of the change. Add underwater documentaries to your watchlist on Netflix or Amazon, or follow ocean activists like Sylvia Earle or Madison Stewart on social media. Join forums, ask questions, become inspired to take action. And then tell your friends!
If you’re walking on your local beach or along a riverbank, can you pick up pieces of litter or plastic debris as you go? When it’s appropriate to do so, maybe join a local beach clean group and turn it into a social occasion. Every piece of plastic that you remove from the marine environment is no longer a danger to the animals that still live there but be sure to put your own safety first and don’t forget to wear gloves.
Did you know that certain ingredients commonly used in sunscreen, cosmetics and soaps are highly toxic to corals and marine life? When these chemicals are introduced to our waters, the coral can expel their life-giving algae, without which the coral may ‘bleach’ (turn white) and may even die. Choose sunscreen and skin care that has been rigorously tested to ensure the safest possible ingredients for you, your family and our waters.
Not all ‘beached’ marine life are in need of rescue, so be sure to observe from a distance. If you think a seal or other mammal is in distress, contact the British Divers Marine Life Rescue or an equivalent local network for assistance. If it’s a whale or dolphin, keep the animal’s skin wet to stop it cracking and to keep the animal cool. Keep other people and dogs away as these can cause stress to the animal. Meanwhile, don’t chase it back in the sea – try to stand between it and the sea until help arrives.
Diving the reefs is an amazing experience, but watch your feet and fins – stepping on or kicking the coral can break it (and can cut your feet). Try to keep your trim steady, as fins can easily stir up sediment and debris, leading to coral diseases and upsetting habitats, leaving small marine life more susceptible to predation. If you are snorkelling, wearing a life jacket at the surface helps you avoid kicking shallow corals that can take many years to recover.
Carry a dive debris bag with you on your dives to help clean up ocean debris. If you see large areas of discarded ‘ghost’ fishing net, you can report it’s location to your local ghost diving chapter. Want to get more involved? Train as a ghost fishing diver, and learn how to help free trapped marine life and bring lost equipment back up to the surface.
Fancy becoming a gardener on your next dive trip? Many dive sites are encouraging divers to get involved with protecting the reefs by planting coral and learning more about protecting this vital ecosystem. Coral reefs are the oceans’ lungs, they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and transform it into the oxygen we breathe. They also provide habitat for a quarter of all marine species and as divers, we are in a unique position to help reverse the damage to the reefs.