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Putting aside for one moment, the beauty of coral reefs and their surrounding sea life, we are realising more and more how important the reefs are to the general well being of this planet. They have been re-named "The Rainforests of the Oceans" and this is so true. They contain a wealth of life that has barely been discovered and while the reefs remain healthy and thrive, so will the planet. In the long run, if we continue to destroy this vast source of life and energy, we run the risk of damaging, if not destroying, life globally.
We have already seen the damage that has been wreaked by the gradual rise in temperature of the sea, with coral bleaching occuring across swathes of reef in the tropics. Global warming is no longer a theory, it is real and happening before our eyes. We can help by living a slightly more conservative life. We all know what can be done: conserve energy, recycle our waste, plant trees. Remember, every little counts, just like every grain of sand contributes to the beach. We are also finding that due to our excessive carbon dioxide emissions, the seas are becoming more and more acidic. At this rate the demise of our reefs could happen within the next 30 years or so… just a little food for thought there!
On a totally trivial level… without the reef and sea-life, there would be little reason for many of us to dive! (OK we know that you Tech Wreck girlies may not be into the pretty stuff, but many wrecks were caused by reefs in the first place) It wouldn't be so inviting down there, if there was nothing to see, which may be where as divers, we can encourage others to be more aware. As visitors to this world, it is our individual responsibility to dive carefully. The reef already has to deal with natural disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis, so there is no need for us to add to that stress, even if it is minor by comparison.
We can all check that we are properly weighted and in practice with our dive skills, which helps us maintain neutral buoyancy, as well as keeping our trim nice and horizontal in the water. This will make it easier to avoid knocking or bumping things accidentally. Moving slowly will also lessen accidents.
Watch your fins, any sand or silt that you stir up not only affects the visibility, it has to land somewhere, which often ends up being on top of the coral, thus suffocating vulnerable polyps.
We can get rid of those dangling bits and bobs that can drag along the bottom, hook everything up with clips to keep your profile nice and tidy.
And please remember the golden rules…
touch anything, take anything, feed anything or leave anything behind.
Remember merely touching a fish or coral can damage their protective mucus, leaving it vulnerable to infection and disease and even death. Oh yes… and there's the risk of a nasty sting to yourself. Touching something that looks dead means that that portion of coral will remain dead. In fact in Sharm, research has suggested that an average diver accidentally makes 8 hits on coral in a normal dive. Of those eight hits, four result in the death of that portion of coral. Multiply that by the sheer numbers of divers we get here every day, and it all starts to add up.
Taking even an apparently empty shell is removing one more potential home for a hermit crab. As well as the fact that every shell gets broken down eventually into sand or reabsorbed into the system in some way.
Feeding fish can harm the delicate balance between predators and prey in the area, not to mention the fact that fish are not designed to eat bread or fruit as is occasionally suggested by the less enlightened guides in the world. And let's face it, there are some fish that we really don't want to start associating food with humans. We all know that litter can take years to break down, often releasing poisonous toxins into the surrounding waters in the process.
We are the visitors in their world so should behave as such, there is no need to harass or interfere with any of creatures we meet. Behave as an unobtrusive observer, and at least you won't personally become a cause of the reefs' demise.
Find out how you can help your environment by visiting some other Conservation organisations:
On a another serious note, here is a site that is well worth taking a look at. Weeeelll, in an ideal world, there would be no need for this to even exist. However, we do have a few less caring individuals on this planet, and for those of you that want to help preserve our amazing oceans you can take a look at the cool Bite Back web-site. There you can find out all about those mystical creatures sharks. You can actually make a difference too by adding your voice to the chorus of people begging supermarkets and restaurants to amend their tastes in fish stock (shark and Marlin etc, really should be off the menu). They have already had some considerable success with some stores, so you know we can have an impact.
Share your news and views in our Message Board tell us about your clean up event, or let everyone know about a project or area that could do with a little help.
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Diving advisor: Clare Wilders PADI MSDT.
©Clare Goodma (now Wilders) n of GoodieGoodie, 2003 all rights reserved