THE IMPORTANCE OF PASSIVE INTERACTION WHEN DIVING

As soon as we descend beneath the waves, we begin to interact with the underwater world. It's up to us to try and minimise our effect while we're down there. We must be eco-conscious to preserve the marine life we love so much. To do this, we need to use passive interaction when diving. 

How do we use passive interaction when diving to minimise our effect on the ocean?

    • Watch your buoyancy.And on that note... DON'T TOUCH THE REEF! Buoyancy isn't just about who can hover in a budda position, it’s about having complete control over your body when underwater.It's important to know where we are in the water column at all times and to be conscious of the environment around us. If there's ever an occasion where I'm not 100% certain I can hold my position, I make sure to stay a good distance away from the reef, just in case. I'd be mortified if I came into contact with it.This also applies to keeping tabs on the current. We need to make sure we have full control over our movements, and knowledge of the environment definitely helps with this. There's nothing worse than being pushed towards a beautiful sea fan because you didn't notice the effect of the moving water.

 

    • Don't kneel on the bottom.
      Just because a patch on the sea bed is sandy, or covered in pebbles doesn't mean it's a dead spot! Each area has its own unique ecosystem.There's lots of aquatic species who are experts in camouflage and they love areas just like this. Unless you're really paying attention, you may kneel on a scorpion fish or some other hidden marine creature, harming them as a result of carelessness. If this creature is a stinger or a biter, for example, a Stone Fish, you can also hurt yourself!Passive interacting when diving also means that we're careful to not stir up bottom sediments. If we lift particles into the water, they will be moved by the currents and settle elsewhere. This is particularly troublesome if sediment lands on coral. It smothers the reef and blocks out sunlight which is essential for the coral's survival.

 

    • No touch!
      Underwater creatures are not pets! They simply do not depend on us for affection or survival. Therefore, not touching them is absolutely essential.Fish and other aquatic organisms have a mucus layer on their skin to help protect them from infection (and in some cases from predators). If we touch them, we rub off the mucus. We put the animal at risk of infection and leave them vulnerable.However... there are some occasions where the marine life didn't receive this no touching memo! Here at The Fifth Point we often have encounters with friendly seals in Northumberland that just wanna have fun. They are super curious and incredibly playful. They may nibble at our fins, tickle with their whiskers or even glide past us making contact. As tempting as it may be, this doesn't mean touching them back. We have to remember that although they look like big underwater doggos, they are wild animals. Even though we've never seen a seal be aggressive, we're very conscious of their big sharp teeth and as with all wild animals, there is always the chance of unpredictable behaviour so we give them the respect they deserve!

 

    • No chase!It's important that we don't start chasing marine life, even if it means passing up on that perfect photo opportunity. Keeping our distance and not hassling marine life allows us to observe them going about their normal day. The last thing we want to do is stress them out. Unfortunately, there is still a craze of ‘riding’ marine life. This is simply unethical. There have been many occasions where humans have ridden on sea turtles and caused them to drown because they were unable to surface for air. We've witnessed thoughtless divers hold on to sharks and manta rays which undoubtedly stresses the animal.In my opinion, and I'm sure yours, using passive interaction when diving is the best way to observe the underwater world! We are entering their habitat, so... respect them and they will respect you!

 

    • No take! (Unless it's trash of course!)Although hunting lobsters, crabs and scallops is not illegal in the UK (as long as you stay within the rules), it always makes me sad to see divers entering the water with their hooks and grab bags. I never catch marine life because I'd much rather see them again on my next dive! The majority of divers recognise that tropical coral reefs are fragile environments and that any breakages caused by divers not using passive interaction when diving could take decades to regrow.There's always been a market for souvenirs and trinkets made from marine life and it's really important that divers also understand how tight-knit reef ecosystems are. Reef ecosystems are massively fragile and perfectly balanced so taking something, even though it seems insignificant can have a detrimental effect on the whole ecosystem!

      Divers also have an annoying habit of removing items from wrecks. Where it might seem harmless to pick up some sunken treasure, if every diver takes something on every dive at the wreck, it is quickly stripped of interesting things to go and visit!

      Underwater  Take only memories and leave only bubbles… ohh, you can also take trash too! On every dive, I make sure to pick up anything that shouldn't be there. Whether it's plastic bags, bottles or fishing gear I make sure to remove it so that it can't harm marine life and pollute the environment.

 

    • No feed!
      Feeding aquatic life can mess with the ecosystem and its food chain. Just to reiterate, underwater creatures do not naturally depend on us for food or survival.You may have been on a dive trip or snorkel excursion where the crew throw bread into the water to attract fish. They feel like they're giving their customers a fantastic experience because they're attracting fish for them to see. But in actual fact, they're slowly destroying their business. Choosing to not use passive interaction when diving or snorkelling will actually kill the reef. Let me explain why...
      • Fish aren't meant to eat bread. These herbivorous fish should be grazing on algae that grows on the reef. They're like the farmers of the sea, keeping the algae in check and ensuring that it doesn't become overgrown.
      • If they're eating bread, they're not grazing on the algae and so it starts to grow out of control, smothering the corals and blocking out sunlight.
      • Eventually, the corals will die because they haven't been able to feed or photosynthesise. The reef becomes a grey, lifeless area and the fish and other marine life are forced to move to somewhere else to survive.
      • Now there's no fish for customers to see, the reef is dead and has lost all its beautiful colour.

     

    Tropical vs cold water reefs 

     

    Tropical reefs deserve a little more TLC than cold water reefs, right? Nope! Both deserve the same behaviours and attitudes from divers. It's essential that we use passive interaction when diving in either location because they're just as fragile as each other.

    But there's a little bit of a disconnect in our brains about this. Here in the UK, we have low temperatures, gale-force winds and huge waves crashing on our reefs. Anything that lives here must be tough as nails, surely? Compare these conditions to somewhere like Bali, for example, the sun is shining, the sea is like glass and we're constantly reminded during dive briefings not to touch the delicate coral. 

    It’s not surprising that we think these two environments are completely different. If the reef can survive a pounding from huge waves, surely it won't make a difference if I touch the bottom or kick something with my fin?

    The fact is, marine ecosystems in the UK are just as fragile as their tropical relatives. We have coral in the UK. We also have lots of other life that people only associate with warm water like nudibranchs, octopus, sharks, rays... you name it! We must start to change our attitudes when it comes to passive interaction when diving in the UK. We mustn't kneel on the bottom, we mustn't clamber over reefs and wrecks, we mustn't take marine life. 

    5 tips to becoming an eco diver 

     

     

  • Here are a few tips from us on how to be an eco diver;
    1. Be quiet. Move slowly. You'll have much more chance of getting close to marine life without stressing it out and you'll be able to see it carrying out its natural behaviour. 
    2. Watch your buoyancy. Remember, there's no excuse to bump into the reef. Practise makes perfect with buoyancy so get in the pool to play or even designate a whole dive to just practising your skills. If you aren't 100% confident that you can control yourself, make sure to give extra room for mistakes or rather than swimming directly over the reef, stay off to one side. If you'd like to practise your buoyancy more, check out the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy specialty course
    3. Be conscious of your body. Humans aren't used to being able to manoeuvre in 3 dimensions! Make sure you know where your arms and legs are in relation to the environment around you. Remember that wearing scuba gear also makes us wider and longer than what we're used to! Your fins add extra length to your body and your tank makes you wider than you think!
    4. Leave nothing but bubbles and take nothing but memories and rubbish! You can make every single dive count towards protecting the ocean if you pick up the trash you see.
    5. Educate others. You may dive with buddies who don't understand why everything I've discussed in this blog is so important. It's up to us eco divers to spread the word and be amazing role models.

     

One Comment

  1. Excellent read highlighting good and bad behaviours. Our limited experience has exposed us to both, worst “touchy feely, it’s our planet” by far was some divers from the USA treating things like a theme park when we were in St Lucia. Those dives exposed us to spear fishing, however the reason was explained and watching a recent Simon Reeve documentary from St Vincent reinforced the reason. Red Lionfish aren’t native to the Caribbean (they’re from the Indo Pacific) and are damaging reef life by eating native small fish. Only Lion fish were speared on our trips (not by us, those spines are bad news) and ended up on the menu locally. Not easy to see in practice however we understand the need.

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