The World of Sustainable Scuba Diving

Scuba diving can make the ocean feel like a magical playground. But being underwater makes you a witness to the atrocities that human activity can have on marine environments–be it ocean plastics, coral bleaching, or habitat destruction.

Diving in a way that has little or no impact on the environment should be of utmost importance for any excursion. Divers are merely guests in the ocean world, so it’s important to respect natural boundaries and do what you can to learn them.

“Take only pictures, leave only bubbles”

This age-old adage represents a common theme for any outdoor activity: you should not leave a place worse than you found it. While it seems obvious, tourists can sometimes be oblivious to this idea. We’ve all been there–you get too excited on vacation and accidentally do something a bit silly or inappropriate, simply because you didn’t understand. Being aware of the fragility of your surroundings while in nature, and how you could harm it, is an underrated part of sustainable tourism.

Like the Hippocratic oath says: first, do no harm. When diving, take only pictures with you, leave only bubbles behind! Even taking pictures, especially with flash, can be harmful to marine animals. Before bringing camera gear underwater to test your skills, research best practices in underwater photography.

There’s also no need to take any ‘souvenirs’ with you. Avoid picking up or touching any shells, rocks, plants, or other wildlife. While this should go without saying, we’ve been trained as humans that nature is usually ours to take and touch. Even the smallest change in fragile coral reef habitats can have huge consequences.

If you avoid touching the habitat in any way, your impact on it will be essentially zero. Understanding important diving techniques like buoyancy should help you to avoid any accidental collisions with coral reefs, as well.

Choose your tour operator carefully

Unless you are an incredibly talented and experienced diver, it’s impossible to understand all there is to know about diving sustainably. There may even be regional differences in best practices depending on where you’re diving. To truly ensure your diving experience is as environmentally-friendly as it can be, research your tour operator carefully.

Do they seem aware of sustainable practices? Do they give back to conservation efforts in any way? Do they list any policies for things like anchoring near coral reefs or bringing plastics on board? Do they educate guests about sustainability? It’s good to do a gut-check and see if the tour operator you’re choosing seems like they care deeply about protecting ocean habitats, and know what they’re doing about it.

Friend of the Sea, an NGO which aims to protect marine environments, suggests several criteria for the most sustainable scuba diving:

  • No-touch and no-take policy
  • No shark feeding
  • Correct use of the flash camera
  • Training programs for operators and crew
  • Scientific data collection
  • No single-use plastic on-board

They even provide a sustainability audit for certification as a truly eco-friendly scuba diving operation. Tour operators can use this as a guide to ensure they are diving responsibly.

Get as Educated As Possible

Before embarking on your diving journey, do as much research as you can! Read the best tips and tricks for sustainable diving. Learn as much as possible so that when the time to dive does come, you feel fully prepared and confident to dive sustainably!

Join SEA live on Instagram this Wednesday, February 16th at 13:00 UTC where we’ll interview Michelle from Coconut Odyssey on sustainable diving practices. This could be a great way to open your mind to the world of ecotourism and sustainable travel! To read more on our SEAstream #28, read our blog on it here.

Read more about sustainable diving practices here:

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