September is Tourism Month in this year we will again be making a number of posts linking our research to the challenges and opportunities in this sector:
Scuba divers of all experience levels need to be educated to reduce ecological impacts on reefs by Serena Lucrezi, TREES.
Scuba diving is a growing form of tourism reflecting positively on the economy of coastal communities. However, negative impacts associated with scuba diving need to be prevented to safeguard the critical ecosystem services provided by reefs. Studies have explored the behaviour of scuba divers by psychological and skill-related factors to formulate plans for the management of reefs and diving tourism.
In Sodwana Bay, South Africa, scuba divers (n = 410) were interviewed on their diving motivations, excitement for marine life, experience, and perceptions of impacts, reef condition, and norms. The majority of interviewed divers preferred undisturbed and diverse areas, and those people who had already experienced diving in degraded seascapes supported the implementation of diving restrictions. Some divers lacked basic knowledge on marine ecology and diving impacts. Only direct physical contact with reef organisms such as corals was seen as damaging, while impacts such as associated with special gear, boats, and crowding were not considered severe. Although motivations to dive varied substantially according to diving experience, such experience did not boost environmental awareness among scuba divers.
These findings highlight the importance of a stronger educational component across all diving specialisation levels. This could take place in the form of revising diving curricula to prioritize conservation education and awareness. This is particularly relevant for diving instructors in their position as knowledge multipliers. The researchers also recommend that education persist beyond certification through the application of pre-dive briefings and adherence to best practices. Embracing codes of conduct and green initiatives such as the Green Fins initiative in Southeast Asia facilitates environmentally sound diving tourism. Increasing divers’ environmental awareness and minimizing human impacts are not easy tasks for managers. Designing and implementing the recommended actions at different dive sites around the world can help finance conservation of marine species, support local economies, and provide rich wildlife encounters for divers.
Lucrezi, S., Saayman, M., van der Merwe, P. 2013. Managing diving impacts on reef ecosystems: Analysis of putative influences of motivations, marine life preferences and experience on divers’ environmental perceptions. Ocean and Coastal Management 76: 52-63.
Lucrezi, S., Saayman, M., van der Merwe, P. 2013. Perceived diving impacts and management implications at a popular South African reef. Coastal Management doi:10.1080/08920753.2013.822278