First in a new series of Blog’s from The Fifth Point’s Nic Emery… we are very excited to welcome Nic to the Scubaverse Blog Team!
I’m walking my divers down to the jetty. The path from the centre is framed by pristine rainforest enveloping the steep mountains to one side, and the golden sands with crystal clear waters lapping against it on the other. We’re chatting away about the day ahead, and what we can expect to see in the tropical waters of the South China Sea.
Hop on the boat and during the lazy hour or so drive we’re accompanied by dolphins playing on the bow wave and flying fish taking advantage of the wake.
My team of Divemasters spring up as we approach the first site and gather the divers for their briefing. Among the usual information on entry and exit procedures, signal recaps and the like, is the “don’t take, don’t touch, don’t tease” and “take only memories, leave only bubbles” spiel. It’s almost a cliché, the divers have heard it that many times. Obviously, they’re not going to do that – they’re not morons!
Flash forward a couple of weeks and the divers have returned home. They’re back ready to brave the cold waters of the UK. Suited and booted in what seems like a ton of lead compared to their holiday, they hit the water refreshed by the crispness of the North Sea. Off they go on their dive… AND IT’S A BL**DY FREE FOR ALL!
Lobsters are ragged from their holes and stuffed into goody bags alongside bullets and chunks of metal and anything that moves on a wreck. They’re clambouring over the boulders and not paying any regard to their buoyancy as they dump themselves down into what appears to be an empty sandy patch, lifting a cloud of silt into the water column.
All those good “warm water” habits have, for some inexplicable reason, been completely forgotten about. How come they don’t apply in the UK? If you were a diver in the tropics and had seen that kind of behaviour underwater, I’m pretty sure you’d have something to say about it back on the boat. But in the UK, it’s rarely challenged. In fact, more often than not, it’s embraced!
The trouble seems to lie with the general perception of cold water. It’s freezing therefore nothing could possibly live down there! It must be a pretty barren place and if there IS any life, it must be hard as nails to survive all that. The waves can be huge, so the creatures must be used to a good bashing around. That environment must be able to take whatever you throw at it.
Those who have not descended beneath the surface of the North Sea have never witnessed the beauty of the marine life that lives down there. You can understand why they’d think about the North Sea in that way. But UK divers have no excuse. They’ve seen it first-hand yet still have this belief that our cold oceans are sturdy so those rules of “no touch, no take” need not apply.
Well, I’m here to say that they ABSOLUTELY DO. We were a proud Green Fins member when we worked in the South China Sea. We reminded our divers before every single dive of the code of conduct we expected them to follow.
Take a look and tell me, with the exception of “no gloves”, which rules do not apply to UK diving and why?
Our cold-water habitats are just as fragile as any warm water coral reef. We have an abundance of soft coral and delicate anemones living on our rocky reefs that need the same care and attention as their tropical relatives. Holding on to rocks and kelp for stability (in the majority of circumstances) demonstrates an apathetic attitude towards using our buoyancy skills to their full. Even as an experienced diver, I still practise at every opportunity I get. Challenging myself to the perfect trimmed out hover while trying to accomplish some tricky underwater task. I encourage my students to do the same, performing course skills neutrally buoyant wherever possible.
I’m proud to say that my dive centre in the UK still follows the “no touch, no take” mantra that we were so used to in the tropics. Our only exception is when we come across some marine debris, which we absolutely remove and report our findings to Project AWARE.
Use and practise your buoyancy skills on every dive. Don’t hold on to anything unless it’s the absolute last resort. Think before you remove something living from the water – are you really going to eat it or will it just end up in the bin? Ask yourself what you’re going to do with that artefact you want to take from the wreck – is it just going to sit in your garage?
Protect What You Love.
Visit www.fifthpointdiving.com for more.