10 ways to educate your divers and encourage low-impact diving skills.
Being dive professionals means we are in a fantastic position to be able to educate and encourage our students and divers to be eco-conscious and better underwater. Collectively we have the power to make a difference and make this industry a truly sustainable one.
Here are some more tips from the team behind Green Fins to educate and encourage low-impact diving skills:
Environmental dive briefings
In your dive briefings, remind your divers not to touch anything underwater. You can boost the effectiveness of this message by adding why they should not touch nor harass marine life underwater. For example, you could explain that corals are very fragile animals and they take a long time to recover from breakage, or touching them can cause damage to their protective layer making them more prone to infections. Explaining why helps your divers understand the importance of their behavior underwater. For more examples, see the ecological significance of the Green Fins icons.
Participating in beach or underwater cleanups such as Dive Against Debris is a great way to reduce pollution in the ocean and collect vital information on the subject. Following Green Fins’ environment best practice will ensure these activities don’t cause any further damage to marine ecosystems. Educate your divers that it is never OK to touch, move or manipulate marine life, even during cleanups. They might have to be close to the reef to pick up trash or even need tools like scissors to free debris, but ask them to keep buoyancy in mind to avoid holding or resting fins onto corals for support.
Be a role model because you are one
As a dive professional, you have to walk the talk. If you brief one thing and do another, you loose credibility. Students and divers look up to you as a role model and copy what you do, so you have to set a good example. You might know that you are holding onto a rock but from your divers’ perspective, it might look like you are holding onto corals. To avoid being misinterpreted, always keep a safe distance (2m) from the reef, maintain excellent buoyancy and be mindful of how you interact with marine life.
As you know, coral reefs aren’t the only important but threatened ocean ecosystem. Seagrasses, mangroves and kelp forests are common dive sites too. Adapt your briefings to ensure you’re including environmental points relevant to the ecosystem. For example, whilst your reef dive briefing might focus on buoyancy, your seagrass dive briefing might focus on finning techniques instead. However, no matter what ecosystem you’re diving in, as a professional you’ll already understand that your staple messages will always include not to touch the substrate and to observe marine life from a respectful distance.
Get excited about buoyancy
Promote Peak Performance Buoyancy in Advanced or Specialty courses in interesting ways, or make it mandatory. Get your students excited about it! Let them know that they will be more comfortable underwater by learning how to consume less air and hover effortlessly. What’s better than being able to swim next to your favorite fish without having to struggle with buoyancy!? If the student chooses to do Peak Performance Buoyancy as part of their Advanced Open Water course, you may choose to do it as the first dive so they can keep on practicing under your supervision throughout the rest of the course.
Teach the backwards fin kick
Have your divers been impressed and confused by your backwards fin kicks? Looking at you with their mouths wide open, as if you’re a godlike figure who just “reversed” from the reef without touching anything. As open water divers, they would have only been taught the flutter kick or frog kick, but the backwards kick is an important skill for conservation! Ever seen bits of coral broken off because divers have to push themselves away from the reef or critters get swept away by fin wash? Teaching students and divers to backwards kick means giving them the skills to protect the reefs in all their future dives.
Be streamlined underwater
This might seem like a small matter, but it is an important one to make a habit of. Always do a buddy check and make sure both your own and your buddy’s gauge, hoses and lanyards are all tucked in as close to the body as possible. A dangling gauge might seem harmless until you hover over the corals to have a closer look at the tiny rare shrimp and accidentally knock onto the coral or pick up a feather star! Plus, having all that gear tucked away, you’ll have a better view and it makes you more hydrodynamic (and therefore cool) underwater.
Know yourself and your equipment
You know that the key to being a good diver and role model is knowing yourself and your dive equipment well. We know that being properly weighted is the secret to maintaining good buoyancy but new divers might not know all the factors involved. Explain to your divers about the differences that wetsuits thickness or dryness has on buoyancy, and that they may need to change their weights accordingly.
Remind them to note the information down in their logbooks to help them for their next dive trip. Knowing their fins also helps them to know how far they should stay away from the reefs or the sandy bottom. For example, long freediving fins might not be suitable for a muck dive as they’ll likely stir up sediment, which ends up covering marine life and causing harm. In short, by helping them know their gear inside out, you’re ensuring they know how to pick the most suitable equipment to use while diving in different conditions that will protect them and the environment.
Advise against gloves *in a warm climate!
Green Fins strongly discourages the use of gloves for recreational tropical diving, they aren’t needed for thermoregulation and the risk to the environment is high. Wearing gloves can give divers a false sense of security that may end up encouraging them to hold onto things like corals instead of relying on their buoyancy. It may seem obvious to us, but your divers may not know that touching corals with gloves will still cause damage, remove protective mucus layers, could still break off and touching several different corals can spread disease. To advise against wearing gloves is to avoid such incidents. In most cases, gloves won’t remove the risk of divers being injured by dangerous marine life that are often well camouflaged!
Display the Green Fins “No Touch” free poster
Green Fins posters are a great way to catch your divers’ attention and start a conversation. Some divers may resist your direction (e.g. with gloves), but having an engaged discussion can help them understand why, and be more open to it. It can help that an external initiative is setting the standard you are enforcing, so the posters can back you up too. Green Fins posters are available in multiple languages if you are not fluent in the languages that your divers speak.
TAKE ACTION IN JUNE
Download the Green Fins “No touch” poster (available in multiple languages) and share it with your staff, colleagues and divers. Don’t be shy to call out divers and fix behaviors that are deemed harmful to the environment.
When we speak up and use our voices to drive positive change, we are changing the norms of our industry for the better and protecting what we love.
Conservation, conservation, Dive Against Debris, Green FinsPADI Pros