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Including Environmental Standards in your Dive Briefings

Increasingly, dive professionals are being encouraged to take action and safeguard their livelihoods by promoting positive environmental actions across the industry… But with our oceans facing threats left, right and center it can be difficult to know where to start.

There are many ways to take action such as through clean ups or marine life monitoring and reporting that data (e.g. Dive Against Debris). This helps governments and NGOs to better understand where their efforts need to be focused.

However, as dive professionals we have so much power collectively to instill high environmental standards in our students and recreational divers. Every diver will remember the instructors who have helped to nurture their essential diving skills. Added to this are the words of advice from helpful dive guides who took the time to tweak and refine those skills and add a little extra value to their holiday – these messages stay with them with every dive they make.

WHAT ARE ENVIRONMENTAL STANDARDS?

The term ‘environmental standards’ refers to the environmental do’s and don’ts to ensure our dives don’t cause any damage to the environment. Global pressures from increasing sea temperatures and acidity are slowly but surely degrading the marine environments we love to see. A single errant fin kick of a coral may not seem like a big deal, but as a global industry, it adds up quickly. By ensuring the dives you lead aren’t causing any negative impacts, you are allowing the oceans to be more resilient to those global threats and in 2021, they need all the help they can get.

Luckily, Green Fins provides the only internationally recognized environmental standards for marine tourism. If you’ve seen the code of conduct, you might have noted that it outlines environmental standards for operators, dive staff and divers. But how do dive professionals begin to start translating that into everyday action?

HOW CAN DIVE PROS TAKE ACTION?

The Green Fins Icons poster is one of the most popular Green Fins tools, highlighting the diver specific do’s and don’ts in a visually accessible way. However, to really cement these behaviors with students and guests you can’t just tell them what to do (and not do) and leave it at that.

Remember, you’re an inspirational role model for all your divers, whether they are students or recreational, beginners or experienced. They’ll pick up on your body positioning, finning techniques and the way you interact with marine life underwater. By following the Green Fins icons, you’re making sure that they are learning the right thing to do for the environment on every dive.

One of the most important tools at your disposal is the dive briefing.

You can start (or continue to) include a few of the below icons in your briefings.  If you’re diving with the same group repeatedly, try to choose different icons to talk about for each briefing. A simple reminder can change a diver’s behavior for their next dive but the most powerful way to deliver these messages is to also include the ‘why’ and potentially change their behavior for all future dives.

Each person will respond differently, maybe someone is more likely not to touch coral if you tell them they’ll hurt themselves, whereas others will be motivated by not hurting the coral!

THE GREEN FINS ICONS EXPLAINED

The following phrases are designed to give you ideas for ways you could integrate environmental standards into your briefings and help your divers understand not just how, but why it’s important to follow your lead.

Don’t touch, kick, kneel, lie or step on coral

“Watch your feet and fins at all times. We can easily break coral with our feet or fins. Corals are very fragile and take a long time to grow. Stepping on or kicking coral can break it, damage it’s surface or even kill it – not to mention cutting your feet.”

Don’t stir the sediment

“If you’re not careful your fins can stir up the sediment and debris, upsetting small habitats and covering corals. This reduces the ability of the coral to photosynthesize and could cause it to die. This can also lead to the spread of disease as well as small animals being washed away or increasing their chance of predation.”

Don’t chase or touch any marine life

“This can cause great stress to any animal. It can also transmit diseases or remove the protective coatings of fish, mammals, invertebrates and other species. Look but never touch and try not to get too close. By giving marine life plenty of space, you’re also more likely to have a longer and more enjoyable encounter.”

Don’t feed the fish

“Feeding fish and other species can cause them to rely on that food source. This also makes fish more aggressive towards divers because they expect to be fed. It can even lead to corals getting smothered in algae as the fish no longer eat this natural food source. Fed fish may become sick and are also more likely to leave their nests empty and vulnerable to predators.”

Don’t litter

“Throwing trash in the ocean kills marine life, poisons seafood and can cause injury. Chemicals in the waste can also contaminate the water and enter the food chain. Marine pollution and microplastics can be dangerous for humans too. After all, whatever we put in the ocean comes back to us when we eat seafood.”

Don’t buy corals, shells or marine life as souvenirs

“This encourages people to remove tonnes of marine life, dead or alive, from marine ecosystems to sell as souvenirs. Many of these species play vital roles in maintaining healthy reef ecosystems. If the buying stops, the killing and collecting can too.”

Don’t support shark finning

“The shark fin trade causes 100 million sharks to be killed each year. Sharks are primarily killed for their fins, which are used for soup. In some countries, shark liver oil is believed to be a nutrient supplement and a cure for certain illnesses. Removing these top predators can create an imbalance in the marine ecosystem. Don’t eat in restaurants that sell shark products.”

Don’t take marine life – dead or alive

“Removing species that would normally break down and be recycled into the sea leaves other animals without nutrients and elements that they need for growth. Even empty shells on the beach play an important role in the wider ecosystem. Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but bubbles.”

Report environmental violations

“Speak up about destructive practices and violations of environmental laws when you see them. Tell me (your dive guide), the dive shop staff, community leaders or government officials. By informing key authorities, you’re being part of the solution as raising your concerns can lead to appropriate action.”

Participate in conservation projects

“By taking part in conservation projects, you can have a positive effect on the environment and help educate others. A little help from everybody goes a long way.”

TAKE ACTION IN MARCH

Download the Green Fins icons poster (available in multiple languages) and share it with your staff, colleagues and divers. Start the conversation: How many of the points are already habit?

The post Including Environmental Standards in your Dive Briefings appeared first on PADI Pros.

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