If you’re anything like us at BARE, one of the reasons you love diving and snorkeling is to interact with marine wildlife. Run-ins with giant clouds of fish, enterprising sharks, schools of pelagics and the occasional plucky cephalopod make all of the dive prep worth the effort.
Yet, our love for these wild experiences and the pressure we put on these animals’ ecosystems can harm the very underwater communities we hold so dear. That’s why it’s important to keep some things in mind whenever you’re planning to interact with marine wildlife.
From keeping your distance to adopting a less toxic lotion, there are many small things you can do to lessen your impact and be a better steward to our aquatic friends under the ocean’s surface.
1.) Don’t Touch Wildlife
This one seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes an animal can be friendly and seemingly invite physical interaction. It’s important to resist the urge to reach out and make contact with any animals, no matter what their behavior signals.
And this rule isn’t just for the animals’ sake—it’s also for yours. Some aquatic species are venomous and can trigger adverse reactions when contacted, so it’s important to avoid the potential for such dangers.
2.) Don’t Kick The Ocean Floor
And while you’re minding your P’s and Q’s, remember to avoid kicking or impacting the ocean floor or any coral gardens. Corals grow exceedingly slow, so any damage can literally take decades to recover.
Even if you think it’s safe to make contact with a sandy bottom, think twice before touching down. Many species nest in the sandy bottoms and you may be in for a sudden surprise if you disturb their environs.
3.) Don’t Introduce Human Food
Just as you wouldn’t want to get a mouthful of krill or plankton (maybe tuna), fish aren’t meant to be snaking or feeding on human food. That means keep your potato chips, granola bars and other manmade morsels out of the water!
Although it’s not a guarantee, some fish can even have negative reactions when they ingest human food. So do your aquatic friends a solid and avoid feeding the fish (and seagulls!).
4.) Don’t Dive With a Shady Operator
Some dive centers have better practices than others. And it’s not always obvious which ones are the most ethical in their daily operations, so be sure to pay attention when you’re patronizing a guiding service and avoid them in the future if they violate these rules or are habitually abusive to wildlife.
5.) Don’t Litter
Global plastic waste and other rubbish in our oceans is becoming an ever more important issue to be cognizant of. Never throw your garbage into the water, as it not only befouls the ocean’s aesthetic, but it also can make its way into the food chain and poison hungry marine life that are just trying to get a meal.
Moreover, if you’re staying near the coast, think twice about your own waste disposal practices. Is your garbage likely to flow into local waterways and make its way out to sea? Try to prevent your rubbish from becoming part of the problem and always take into account the local runoff and its impact on nearby marine ecosystems.