IN HIS DEBUT ARTICLE FOR SCUBAVERSE.COM, THE DIRECTOR OF BIOLOGY AND CONSERVATION FOR THE CMAS SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE, DR. STAVROS KANIKLIDES PHD, TELLS US WHY MARINE CONSERVATION BIOLOGY COULD PREVENT – AND QUITE POSSIBLY EVEN SAVE – THE PLANET FROM TOTAL MARINE SYSTEM BREAKDOWN.
WHY MARINE BIOLOGY AND CONSERVATION IS NEEDED
Pollution of marine systems is a common subject of discussion among conservationists today. The adverse effects of the deterioration of marine systems around the world cannot be overemphasized. Indeed, many communities around the world are now cognizant of the importance of conserving marine environments. CMAS (World Underwater Federation) Scientists continue to make their contribution by educating their members and to evoke public awareness and understanding.
Marine Conservation Biology is a new and fast growing discipline in universities and marine research institutions. The science aims at reducing the fast pace of the collapse of marine systems. In fact, the ultimate long term objective is to stop it altogether.
THE SPECIES THREATENED OR IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION
Conservation of biodiversity within marine environments was a major factor in the formation of Marine Conservation Biology. It is a major area of research and scientific studies. Information and scientific data relating to the loss or deterioration of marine life is essential in the efforts to reverse the trend. It is possible to curb the menace to marine life, if there is ready and reliable data concerning the impending threats and areas of urgency.
MODERATE FISH EXPLOITATION FOR FOOD SECURITY
Many societies rely on seafood as a major component of their nutritional needs. It must be realized that there is a need to maintain a balance in the marine systems if the seafood and fish is to be sustained. It is an established fact that the marine systems supply humanity with the highest quality natural food. Some sea creatures such as the anemone and some species of fish are of medicinal value. For example, Pediatricians have over the years advised mothers and other care givers in charge of children to constantly use cod liver oil. This nutritional supplement contains a critical form of protein referred to as omega3. It has been hailed as being invaluable for the brain development of children in their post lactating ages up to their teenage years.
Unfortunately, the knowledge of the facts above has led to excesses in the harvesting of fish and seafood. Fishing companies have employed destructive methods of harvesting. Trawling has been cited as a major threat to marine biodiversity. In fact, it has led to extinction of some species due to the way it sweeps habitats indiscriminately. It does not allow for gradual growth of species. Many governments have consequently banned trawling as a method of fishing, thanks to sensitization from Marine Biology researchers.
The commonest and most obvious tragedy to befall marine life is oil spillage. Oil tankers have, on several occasions, leaked on the high seas. The almost immediate effects of such accidents are witnessed on the shores around the world. Thousands of dead fish have been deposited on the beaches for all humanity to see. It is all too obvious that what we witness directly is only a sample of the larger damage that lies in the depths of the water systems. It takes colossal amounts of money, human resource and time to clear the mess left behind by oil spillage. It takes many years, if ever, to rebuild such marine environments and reverse the long term effects of such water pollution.
MARINE CONSERVATION BIOLOGY IS THE SOLUTION
In order to make significant progress in the efforts of marine conservation, scientific understanding of the problem is a prerequisite. The role of marine biology conservation must be considered. This is a discipline that has emerged out of the need to dedicate more effort in the area of marine life conservation. Marine Conservation Biology borrows a lot from marine biology. Indeed, it is an offshoot of the latter. The world needs a source of reliable data concerning the status of marine environments. Governments and policy makers within organizations, with a stake in marine systems, need data in order to form appropriate policies. There is a need for scientific data.
SCIENTIFIC UNDERSTANDING AND DATA NEEDED
For the efforts of conservation to bear fruit, there must be a basis for an action plan. Such a plan will be helped if there is knowledge of data on the threats to marine life, and the nature and magnitude of such threats. Such data signals the concerned parties of the urgency to act. Marine Conservation Biology may be viewed as a hybrid field of study, derived from a wide spectrum of related disciplines: marine science, oceanography, marine ecology, and marine biology. The need for a more elaborate approach to solving marine conservation challenges emanates from the fact that the problems are complex. The approach towards solving them must be of a multi-facet design. One major challenge is that marine ecosystems have totally collapsed in some regions. It is, thus, a crisis.
CAUSES OF DETERIORATION OF MARINE ENVIRONMENTS
While there are many causes of declining marine systems – some beyond human control – the main ones are conspicuous and directly linked to human error. The number of marine species threatened with extinction or already extinct is alarming. Failure to recognize that there is need to strike a balance between the immediate economic urge and future security is a major undoing in the effort towards conservation of marine systems. Extravagant methods such as trawling continue to wreck havoc in the sea. The need for biodiversity cannot be overemphasized. Overfishing is a phenomenon that continues to trouble marine conservationists. Yet, this is a cause that could easily be curbed if world governments gave conservation the attention it deserves. Dwindling stocks of fish have a direct effect on the health of populations that over-rely on fish for nutrition. Lack of scientific data has led to continued overexploitation of marine resources. There is a glaring need to mobilize world authorities to curb fishing activities.
Fishing could, sometimes, pass as an act of survival. Yet, water bodies continue to be polluted by poisonous non degradable chemical elements flowing from farms and industrial plants. High mercury levels in the sea lead to the death of fish. Governments have been brought to the realization that industries have to devise safer methods of disposing industrial waste. Some governments have effectively formed special agencies to monitor and regulate the activities of industrial plants within their jurisdictions.
POISONOUS EFFUSIONS AND AGRICULTURAL CHEMICALS
Factories contribute to the deterioration of marine life directly and indirectly. Apart from discharging effluent directly into rivers, lakes and oceans, some factories release poisonous and non-degradable gases into the atmosphere. These combine with rain water and subsequently drain into marine systems. When the acidity and alkalinity levels are altered, marine systems suffer. It must be understood that marine systems thrive at certain specific optimal levels of acidity and temperature. Agrochemical companies continue to develop chemical formulas and fertilizers for use in the agricultural sector. Rains fall and wash these chemicals downstream into water bodies that act as home to marine life. Indeed, there is evidence that the high mercury levels witnessed in some water bodies is directly linked to certain agricultural chemicals. Although the use of mercury is widely monitored and controlled by international control bodies, there is an indication that some countries do not heed such warnings.
MARINE CONSERVATION TECHNOLOGIES
Marine Conservation Biology has developed conservation technologies that could help resolve the perennial problem of marine life degradation. These are mechanisms and strategies used to conserve and protect marine life. Some of the mechanisms employed by marine biology conservationists include the protection of designated marine areas. This approach, commonly referred to as MPA, enables the growth and expansion of volumes of marine life within these protected areas. Regulation means that the areas are opened up to exploitation at specified times when the conservationists are satisfied that the volumes have exceeded the carrying capacities of those areas.
Monitoring the numbers of sea creatures is pertinent in the use of data to conserve marine systems. Some species of fish and sizable animals are monitored by use of RFIs. The sea creatures are captured; radio frequency devices are then attached on their bodies. They are then released to roam freely. Their movement is monitored by special devices in the hands of the Marine Conservation Biology scientists. This way, their numbers are closely tracked and the rate of increase or decrease is recorded. Some organizations have joined hands with the conservationists to ensure that there is responsible exploitation of marine resources. The Turtle Excluder Device (TED) is a special device designed to ensure that turtles are excluded from the trawlers meant to catch shrimps. This device also keeps larger animals out of the trawling nets, consequently avoiding wastage.
Another method devised by marine biology conservationists is biologging. In this method, small tags are attached to animals and used to collect data. The data varies from movement, behavioral patterns and the environmental changes. This technology has enabled researchers to access information about deep sea animals. This was, previously, a challenge to research work in conservation.
SCUBA DIVERS’ OBSERVATIONS
Scuba diving is employed in the monitoring of the shark and dolphin populations. Data on their abundance and distribution can be used to devise strategies to conserve them in their habitats. Recreational scuba divers can be engaged to provide useful data on such deep sea marine life. Marine conservationists can access useful information by using recreational scuba divers’ observations in regular diving locations.
SCUBA DIVERS CAN HELP MARINE CONSERVATION AND PROTECTION
Observation is a major advantage that scuba diving has over other marine conservation data collection methods. Divers can move closer to the marine habitats of the creatures under study, and capture images that reveal more information than could be possible by other methods. Yet, scuba diving is also widely acclaimed as a recreational activity. It is an aspect of ecotourism that should be encouraged. CMAS Marine biology scientists via the specialty certification courses are providing to scuba divers, academics, and the non-diving community substantial professional educational lecturing and underwater field training techniques, focusing on the understanding of the concepts of marine biology and conservation. The certifications in underwater marine biology are recognized by UNESCO and 120 National Federations and other academic scientific centers globally.
UNDERSTANDING THE UNDERWATER ENVIRONMENT
Marine Conservation Biology can be defined as a scientific study concerned with protecting life in water bodies. In an effort to conserve marine life, a marine biology conservationist also seeks to secure the habitats that support marine life. The habitats are held in place by various physical and environmental factors. It turns out that a marine biology conservationist will delve and deal with issues that are indirectly related to marine life, yet, such factors serve as the bedrock of the survival and sustainability of marine ecosystems. It is a study that inevitably combines knowledge from other related disciplines. Marine Conservation Biology borrows heavily from marine science, marine biology, oceanography and fishing science. Marine Conservation Biology has an advantage over the mentioned disciplines because it tends to be a more specialized field of study. It zeroes in on the specific elements of marine systems and marine life conservation. It seeks to develop more practical approaches in marine life conservation by involving communities and governments in the conservation efforts.
THE UNDERWATER WORLD
The world below the surface of small and large water bodies is a complex ecosystem. It works in ways similar to the way the dry land ecosystems work. The main difference is that little is known about the interrelationships of life in the sea. Marine biologists have made efforts to uncover the mysterious world under the sea, yet we continue to encounter new discoveries in the world’s oceans nearly every year. Indeed, marine scientists admit that there is a lot more data to collect and phenomena to uncover. The main reason for this mystery is obviously the fact that it takes more resources to carry out research in the deep sea, risks notwithstanding. But the bottom-line of conservation, whether on dry land or in the sea, is ensuring that biodiversity is maintained. It is the only sure way to keep a balance that supports life. A threat to biodiversity is a threat to the survival of all organisms and human life. It should be remembered that every organism occupies a special place in the ecosystem. If a certain species is allowed to become extinct, there will be a crisis in the ecosystem. This can easily lead to devastating effects on the ecosystem in the long run. In fact, the extinction of any species is usually a precedent to a dangerous spiral that leads to the loss of other species and subsequent change in adaptation behavior and trends in other species. These adjustments are always critical if an organism is to survive in the new order.
In the sea, for example, coral reefs are core habitats for a wide variety of fish and other marine organisms. In fact, the coral reef is regarded as the nerve centre for the survival of stable marine ecosystems. The coral reefs act as the shelter for fish. They protect them from harsh sea environments and the effects of turbulent water currents. Many species of fish lay their eggs in the coral reefs. They also recede to the reefs for mating and rest. Humans have taken special interest in coral reefs across the world. They are a major attraction in ecotourism. They subsequently serve an economic purpose, thus indirectly supporting life away from the sea. Yet, it is their attraction that is also the main obstacle to conservationists. Humans have also discovered that coral reefs house large numbers of fish. The reefs are consequently a target of commercial fishing companies. These fishing expeditions in the deep sea often result in the destruction of coral reefs. Some desperate methods to get the fish out of the reefs have been used. The use of dynamite has been cited in some areas as a major cause of the dwindling fish populations. The result is the destruction of fish habitats and eventual reduction in fish populations.
OTHER DESTRUCTIVE HUMAN EFFECTS ON MARINE SYSTEMS
The reckless discharge of effluent and usage of chemicals in agriculture and insecticides has a negative impact on marine life. Acidification of marine habitats disturbs the systems. The excessive carbonation is also said to reduce the formation of coral reefs. Some of these chemicals have an eroding effect on the coral reefs. Some of the organisms suffer directly and die. Others are handicapped and subsequently fail to compete with others favorably for survival and food.
METHODOLOGIES AND TECHNIQUES OF PROTECTING MARINE LIFE
Although conservationists have constantly made efforts to ensure that marine systems are saved from destruction, it is important that all human beings make their contribution to reduce the destruction of marine ecosystems. A simple practical step is by ensuring that the level of carbon emissions as a result of human activity is significantly reduced. Communities are encouraged to make use of biodegradable fuels. Increased use of energy sources such as solar can significantly reduce the rate of CO2 emissions. Marine conservationists have employed such technologies as a way of protecting certain marine areas from human interference. Marine populations have even been transferred from one location to another in order to bolster the numbers and encouraging responsible fishing through the sensitization of communities to adapt sustainable fishing methods.
HOBBIES FOR CONSERVATION
Scuba divers and tourist agencies dealing in scuba diving activities are encouraged to educate the public about the benefits of responsible diving. Leading World organizations such as the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) have actively encouraged these conservation strategies.
INTERNATIONAL LAWS AND TREATIES
Apart from technology and local initiatives, efforts have been made on the international arena to ensure that countries accede to the need for marine conservation and build a legal back up for the other techniques of protecting marine life.
To find out more about the CMAS Scientific Committee and the work that they do, visit www.cmas.org/science/about-sci.
Fourth Element announce Tech Fins inspired by whale tail
Fourth Element’s new Tech Fins have taken inspiration from nature and evolution to optimise efficiency. The turbulence disruptors on the top of the blade work in the same way as the nodules of the leading edge of a humpback whale fin, which disrupt the water as they move through it. The resulting turbulence enables the whale to swim with more efficiency. Fourth Element has adopted this evolutionary concept to improve the performance of this classic fin.
Utilising natural rubber in a unique density gradient, the dive fin delivers an ultra- comfortable foot pocket combined with optimised stiffness for finning performance.
The vented design allows water to flow along the blade reducing drag and fatigue, whilst the stiffening rails and ribs ensure that the blade of the fin is driven through the water to maximise the return on effort.
The Tech Fins, with a slightly negative buoyancy characteristic, were developed with technical divers in mind but are suitable for all levels of diver looking for a high-performance rubber fin. The wider blade gives manoeuvrability without compromising the power, while the shorter length improves agility and makes stowing the fins for transport more convenient. Spring straps with comfortable heel pads keep the feet securely held in place. These straps can be removed and changed easily with everyday tools if required.
The Tech Fins are supplied with a hanging/carrying strap and a marine quality bolt snap which may be used to attach them to a bcd or harness for carrying, leaving both hands free for climbing ladders or carrying other gear.
The natural rubber material of this fin is extremely durable, and all components are recyclable at end of life.
The Tech Fins are available in M, L, XL and XXL. These fins will fit sizes 4 (US5) to 14 (US15) and come in Black, Grey or Aqua.
- Natural rubber heel strap
- Stainless steel spring strap
- Soft foot pocket
- Hydro-flow vents
- Turbulence disruptors
- Strengthening ribs
- Stiffening lateral rails
Find out more here.
Discover the Best of Belize with Dive Worldwide
This June marks the 25th anniversary of the Belize Barrier Reef becoming a World Heritage Site! To celebrate, Dive Worldwide have rounded up their top trips to Belize which includes a resort-based stay, a liveaboard special and a twin-centre with neighbouring Guatemala – perfect for soaking up some culture.
Reefs, Atolls & Mayan Ruins
The only English speaking country in Central America, Belize is warm, welcoming and offers unbelievable adventures. This gem has plenty for divers from incredible nature and topside activities to magical diving opportunities. Belize has the second longest barrier reef in the world and three of the four atolls in the western hemisphere making it a popular choice for divers.
If you missed the Dive Worldwide Belize talk in January you can catch up here.
Spend a week diving the remarkable barrier reef from Ambergris Caye before enjoying a few nights exploring the jungle with its Mayan ruins and caves.
Underwater there’s plenty on offer, with canyons, drop offs and swim throughs in addition to a unique topography and relatively easy conditions. You’ll be accompanied by a kaleidoscope of reef fish as you marvel at the array of sea fans and sponges adorning the seabed. Highlights include nurse shark, stingray, grouper, angelfish, turtle and dolphin.
You then head off-the-beaten-track in land where you stay at an eco lodge in the heart of the Belizean jungle. Here there are a multitude of activities on offer including hiking and cave tours or you can immerse yourself in Mayan culture and visit a number of nearby ruins for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Duration: 13 days
Price from: £2,945 per person
Dive the Lighthouse and Turneffe Atolls from a liveaboard and experience the very best diving Belize has to offer. Located in the Lighthouse Reef there will be the opportunity to dive the Great Blue Hole. This atoll is full of marine life with angelfish, Creole wrasse, butterflyfish, barracuda and sponges found here.
Turneffe is the largest of the three atolls and offers a mixture of shallow reefs and sheer walls with a variety of reef fish and beautiful underwater scenery. Turtle, eagle ray, reef shark, snapper and jacks live on the healthy reefs. Dive sites of note include Half Moon Caye – another UNESCO World Heritage Site – and Painted Wall where you can find macro subjects such as ghostfish, crabs, blennies and invertebrates.
Duration: 10 days
Price from: £3,475 per person
Begin your holiday with some topside cultural discovery in Guatemala. This country packs a punch with its colonial architecture, Mayan ruins nestled in the verdant green jungle and stunning vistas. Don’t miss a visit to Lake Atilan, widely renowned for being one of the most beautiful lakes in the world with its volcanoes, thermal springs and incredible sunrises.
After a few days in Guatemala it’s time to go diving in Belize! Explore the barrier reef and spend time diving the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Blue Hole – the largest of its kind in the world and one of the top reasons to visit Belize. Here the waters are crystal clear, the topography is impressive with large coral and rock formations and the marine life is prolific with reef and black-tip shark in addition to large grouper.
Duration: 14 days
Price from: £3,495 per person
If you want to experience the world class diving and topside highlights of spectacular Belize, contact the Dive Worldwide Team.
All prices are per person and include flights from the UK, liveaboard or accommodation, diving, most meals and airport transfers.
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A luxurious dive resort in the heart of Lembeh Strait. Enjoy refined services while exploring the rich waters of Indonesia.
The resort is nestled around an ocean front deck and swimming-pool (with pool-bar) which is the perfect place to enjoy a sundowner cocktail at the end of a busy day of critter-diving.
All accommodation is full board and includes three sumptuous meals a day. Breakfast and lunch are buffet meals and in the evening dining is a la carte.
Book and stay before the end of June and benefit from no single supplements in all room types!
Booking deadline: Subject to availability – book and stay before end of June 2022
Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email email@example.com.More Less
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