Written by Marissa McBride
From underwater mountains larger than any on land, to tropical reefs home to thousands of species, the ocean holds unparalleled beauty. Marine protected areas (MPAs) safeguard life in the sea by managing human visitation and consumption. While some types of MPAs have strict protections and are no-go areas, others allow non-consumptive use such as SCUBA diving, an activity enjoyed by over 24 million people worldwide. With healthy waters teeming with life, MPAs are enormously beneficial for the SCUBA diving industry. Given this connected relationship, the dive industry has the opportunity to participate in ocean conservation by educating tourists about the importance of MPAs, as well as best practices while diving in these special places.
Bridging Knowledge Gaps
Many tourists explore the underwater world with little knowledge of their potential impact on the surrounding ecosystem. For example, many divers apply non-“coral safe” sunscreen prior to diving which contains ingredients that are very harmful to coral reefs. Another poorly known fact is that coral is significantly impacted by human touch, because its delicate membrane can be pierced so easily. The dive industry has the unique opportunity to educate divers about these facts, among others, and improve their understanding about how to be stewards of our oceans.
Many diving companies are dedicated to helping steward our oceans and aid protection efforts with informative blogs as well as programs like PADI’s Project AWARE and specialty course about coral reef conservation. Reefcheck and many other citizen science programs provide valuable data on the health and trends of reefs around the world. This dedication is greatly appreciated by Marine Conservation Institute and other conservation organizations. With the expansion of programs like these in dive companies around the world, the ocean will be safeguarded and respected for generations to come.
Returning the Favor
The dive industry benefits from the dedication and hard work of many marine conservation organizations that work to establish MPAs. Marine Conservation Institute is dedicated to protecting wild ocean places and has created the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES), an initiative in which strong and well-managed MPAs worldwide receive Gold, Silver or Bronze Global Ocean Refuge status based on their regulations, management and enforcement. As the world’s best MPAs, Global Ocean Refuges will likely be home to abundant marine life. A strong partnership with the dive industry is a goal of the initiative, and we expect to see an increase in tourism at the awarded sites. With this increase in tourism comes an opportunity to educate more people about marine conservation.
The Future of a Blue Planet
The ocean provides sustenance and protein for large numbers of people, oxygen for every other breath we take and sequesters excess heat and carbon dioxide, thereby regulating our climate. The ocean needs citizen engagement and ocean stewards so that the marine life and the dive tourism industry can continue to prosper.
To find out more about Marine Conservation Institute visit www.marine-conservation.org.