Responsible diving, responsible living
Written by by Ernesto Soriano III, PADI Divemaster Candidate
Responsible diving, responsible living: How we can all help protect the ocean.
Diving on Koh Tao is an unforgettable experience, and a hugely popular one. Each year, thousands of new PADI Open Water students take their first breath underwater - a little scared, slightly confused but mostly truly excited at the prospect of discovering an entire new world under the sea.
Scuba diving allows us to experience a world not often seen or appreciated by the rest of us. But threats to that world have accelerated rapidly in the last few decades, and it’s up to all of us to protect it for generations to come. The ocean is vast and deep, but as PADI scuba divers (or, really, as anyone who loves the sea), it’s up to us to ensure its future.
Whether underwater or on shore, here are five ways you can make a difference:
1. Practice Safe Diving Practices.
As a 5-star PADI Dive Center, at Coral Grand Divers we maintain the highest level of diver safety and standards. This includes a heavy emphasis on the safety of marine life, as well as our students. Learning and practicing neutral buoyancy, for example, is a thrilling weightless experience. It’s also a skill which helps prevent accidental bumps into sea-life. Some coral grow less than 2 cm per year; a runaway descent or accidental fin kick can destroy decades of growth in an instant!
The underwater life on Koh Tao is beautiful to look at - but not touch. There are countless species which are poisonous or dangerous to humans. But beyond this very sensible reason for not touching corals, any contact by humans can significantly affect or damage the very balanced ecosystem we are there to enjoy.
2. Choose a responsible dive operator
As divers, we have influence over ocean conservation by selecting those shops and destinations which demonstrate responsible diving practices. Some local shops may promise close interaction with fish by feeding them. Some may feature images of their divers in contact with sharks or dolphins. It’s important to remember that disrupting the ocean’s ecosystem through artificial feeding or using food as bait to latch onto passing marine life are unacceptable.
Many dive shops support Project AWARE, a global movement for ocean protection. These shops and their staff are passionate about ocean conservation, and run their operations accordingly.
3. Reduce single-use plastics
Koh Tao is home to the first 7-11 shop in Thailand to ditch plastic bags, and the rest of the island is following suit. This matters for the simple reason that plastic is incredibly deathly to the underwater world:
● At least 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans each year. That’s similar to emptying a garbage truck of plastic into an ocean every minute.
● There is more microplastic in the ocean than there are stars in the Milky Way.
● More than 50 percent of sea turtles have consumed plastic.
● The amount of plastic in the world’s oceans cold increase by a factor of 10 in the next decade.
By simply refusing a plastic bag at other shops or bringing a reusable water or coffee mug with us on our next dive trip, we can all help reduce the amount of plastic entering our oceans.
4. Think about what we eat
Did you know that eating less meat and dairy may be the single biggest way to reduce your impact on the Earth? Without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland and freshwater use, water pollution, and climate change emissions could be dramatically reduced (source).
Every day we can start to make more responsible decisions which help protect our oceans. These can be small - like the popular Meat Free Monday movement. Here on Koh Tao, one of our favourite spots which provides delicious vegetarian and vegan options is Coconut Monkey - try the rainbow buddha bowl, or the Burmese tea leaf salad! Darawan at Barracuda also does a Buffalo Cauliflower and vegan ranch starter which you’ll barely realize isn’t the real thing ;)
5. Educate those around you
If you witness reckless underwater behaviour, don’t be afraid to remind divers of our shared responsibility to the ocean. Next time you’re headed out for brunch, try a cafe which features vegetarian or vegan options. Next Christmas, make re-usable mugs your gift of choice. These are all small and simple behaviours which help raise awareness of today’s challenges with ocean conservation.
As thousands of new divers take their first breath each year, it’s up to all of us to make sure that the underwater world we’re all their to enjoy is protected for the generations to come.