|What are the first steps to addressing this problem?|
Understand the situation. Examine past and current attempts to solve this issue and whether these actions have been effective. You can get a sense of whether diving, snorkeling, and walking activities are regulated by simply talking to people in the community and government officials.
Link diver, snorkeler, and walker impacts with other management actions. Review the management questions in the Reef Check survey to identify whether there are management regulations in place and if they are being enforced. The goal is to bring all parts of society and government together to plan how coastal resources will be used or protected. To understand how actions by citizens and the government can be part of a joint effort to manage coral reefs, review the fact sheet on ‘Integrated Coastal Management’. In addition, review the fact sheet on ‘Marine Protected Areas.’ Marine protected areas are tools that can be used as a part of integrated coastal management.
How can we solve this problem?
Tourism may be a significant income-generator in many areas and restrictions on diving-and snorkeling-related businesses may not be received favorably. However, the potential long-term cumulative harm that divers, snorkelers, and reef walkers have on corals reef communities is a reason why the activities of tourist need to be managed. A reef’s attraction for tourists is highly dependent on the health of that reef. By encouraging divers and snorkelers not to touch or come into contact with corals, and by restricting reef-walkers to defined paths, their impact can be kept to a minimum.
Subsistence needs and income generation may be major obstacles to limiting the impacts of tourists and gleaners on reefs.diving and/or gathering practices. Overcoming these obstacles may be even more difficult where resources have become scarce due to overexploitation. However, if gleaners, tourists and tour guides are made aware of the potential long-term negative impacts their practices can have, they are more likely to change their methods, and use the resource wisely. Basically, people need to see a benefit from modifying a behavior that has otherwise been profitable.
What can a concerned citizen do to help?
There are several actions that any individual can do to help decrease diving, snorkeling, and reef walking impacts on coral reefs. These include:
Do not wear gloves when diving or snorkeling. Studies have shown that divers with gloves have significantly more contact with corals than do divers without gloves (Clark 1996).
Determine whether the dive company you are diving with gives dive briefings on buoyancy control, and if not, recommend that they do. Dive shops and operators can help educate the public on maintaining coral reef health by conducting buoyancy control workshops and dive briefings prior to dives. Dive operators should give special attention to novice divers and to photographers who prefer to be close to corals and have extra gear to control. For a list of good practices for dive guides and daily operation procedures, see Marine Ecotourism: Impacts, International Guidelines and Best Practice Case Studies by E. Halpenny (2002).
Recommend that local dive shops provide diver- and snorkeler-friendly brochures. Examples of guidelines for safe diving and snorkeling practices are provided by the Coral Reef Alliance at: http://static.redjupiter.com/gems/coral/coralFriendlyDiving.pdf and http://static.redjupiter.com/gems/coral/coralFriendlySnorkeling.pdf.
Identify popular diving, snorkeling, and walking areas and recommend to local government officials that interpretative signs, such as those concerning touching corals and animals, be put up at major dive spots. See Reef Relief’s 'Eco-safe divers’ tips' at http://www.reefrelief.org/main.html (click on 'What you can do,' then 'Action alerts' and scroll down to 'Older issues and guidelines.'
If you find that a dive company is not practicing safe diving practices, recommend that they do. If they continue to dive unsustainably, dive with another company and encourage others to do the same.
Determine whether there are locally established rules and standards for safe diving and snorkeling practices; for example, are there educational programs to teach safe diving and snorkeling techniques? See your local dive shop to determine if such programs exist. For a list of 'Best environmental practices' on diving and snorkeling, see the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority at: http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/corp_site/key_issues/tourism/best_environmental_practice.html
Inform the community, government authorities, and local industries of the damage caused by these activities through brochures, posters, letters, etc. For 'Effective letter-writing guidelines' see Reef Relief’s website at http://www.reefrelief.org/main.html and click on 'What you can do,' then 'Action alerts' then scroll down to 'Older issues and guidelines.'
Encourage the public via brochures, posters or advising fellow divers to avoid contact with corals and marine life and to avoid stirring up sediments. Even these simple measures will help decrease the level of impact divers and snorkelers have on coral reef communities. See Project AWARE’s 'Tips for divers' at http://www.projectaware.org/americas/english/tfd.asp for a sample brochure.
What can managers and decision-makers do to help?
In addition to the above management recommendations for a concerned citizen, resource managers, business owners and decision-makers may have additional means available to them to decrease the impacts divers, snorkelers, and reef walkers have on coral reefs. These include:
Install mooring buoys and dive-platforms in consultation with local reef users. This should be done to determine the kind of mooring buoy suitable for the local environment, and to gain acceptance by the users for the installation.. In some areas, mooring buoys have been stolen or removed simply because people do not like it. Conflicts such as this can be avoided if the local community is involved in the installation of the buoys.
Encourage the use of these moorings and platforms if they are already in place. Rotating these installations periodically also decreases impacts on any one area of the reef. See Project AWARE’s 'Mooring buoy planning guide' at http://www.projectaware.org/americas/english/pdfs/moorbuoy.pdf for more information.
Develop partnerships with dive shops and operators to help educate divers and snorkelers on coral friendly guidelines. Examples of diving tips can be found at Project AWARE on-line at: http://www.projectaware.org/americas/english/default.asp?o=am.
If the community conducts reef gleaning, educate locals on how to identify live corals and ways to avoid contact with them. If corals must be moved while harvesting other species on the reef, demonstrate how to return them to the way they were found, with the live coral side up. Provide interpretative signs or conduct brief educational workshops on sustainable gathering practices. For a list of 'Best environmental practices' for reef walking, see the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website at: http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/corp_site/key_issues/tourism/best_environmental_practice.html
Establish marine protected areas (MPAs) for particularly sensitive coral reefs. See 'Site planning and management' from Marine and Coastal Protected Areas: A Guide for Planners and Managers (2000) by Salm et al. for more information on siting MPAs.
Zone specific areas of the reef for specific uses to minimize diver, snorkeler, and walker impacts. Establishing designated reef trails for walkers is one example of how zoning may help decrease impacts caused by these activities. See the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for information on how they used zoning plans as part of their management strategy. This can be viewed on-line at: http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/corp_site/management/ Click on 'Zoning and plans of management.'
Participate in local research projects and management efforts. Support a local Reef Check survey team by providing boats or scuba gear!
|Standing on corals damages the organism.
Location: Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka
Photo by: A. Rajasuriya
(from ReefBase: http://www.reefbase.org)
Location: Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka
Photo by: A. Rajasuriya
(from ReefBase: http://www.reefbase.org)|