Responsible diving, responsible living: How we can help protect the ocean.
Diving in Koh Tao is an unforgettable experience and a hugely popular one. Thousands of new PADI Open Water students each year take their first breath underwater - a little scared, slightly confused, but most genuinely excited at discovering an entirely 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. It includes a heavy emphasis on the preservation of marine life, as well as the security of our students. For example, learning and practicing neutral buoyancy is a thrilling, weightless experience. It's also a skill that helps prevent accidental bumps into sea life. Some corals grow less than 2 cm per year; a runaway descent or random fin kick can destroy decades of growth instantly!
The underwater life on Koh Tao is beautiful, but don't touch. Countless species 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 influence ocean conservation by selecting shops and destinations that demonstrate responsible diving practices. Some local dive 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 is 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 shops 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 the sea every minute.
- There is more microplastic in the ocean than stars in the Milky Way.
More than 50 percent of sea turtles have consumed plastic.
- The amount of plastic in the world's oceans could 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 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 most significant way to reduce your impact on the Earth? Without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland, freshwater use, water pollution, and climate change emissions could be dramatically reduced.
Every day we can start making more responsible decisions that help protect our oceans. These can be small - like the popular Meat Free Monday movement. Here on Koh Tao, one of our favorite spots which provide 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 meat ;)
5. Educate those around you
If you witness reckless underwater behavior, 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 that features vegetarian or vegan options. Next Christmas, make reusable mugs your gift of choice. These are all small and straightforward behaviors that help raise awareness of today's challenges with ocean conservation.
As thousands of new divers take their first breath each year, we must ensure that the underwater world we're all there to enjoy is protected for generations to come.
Posted by Ernesto Soriano III, PADI Divemaster Candidate.