earthdive asks everybody to subscribe to the principles of eCORD - The earthdive Code of Responsible Diving - and to encourage others to practice them. eCORD is a straightforward Seven Point Plan which will help divers to limit the anthropogenic impact of recreational diving - while at the same time making their diving experiences more rewarding and enjoyable. Be sure to incorporate the seven points in your dive planning!
1. Know your limits.
Every dive is different and every diver is different. Always ensure that you dive within the limits of your training and experience, whilst taking due account of the prevailing conditions. Take the opportunity to advance and extend your skills whenever that opportunity arises. In particular, buoyancy skills can become a little rusty after any prolonged absence from the water. If you can't get pool or confined water practice before your trip, get your buoyancy control checked out by a qualified instructor on your first dive! There are many national and international dive training organisations which offer a comprehensive range of courses and instructional material beyond basic skills level. Take advantage of them!
2. Be aware of the marine environment and dive with care.
Not surprisingly, many dive sites are located where the reefs and walls play host to the most beautiful corals, sponges and fish - fragile aquatic ecosystems! Starting with your point of entry, be aware of your surroundings: never enter the water where there are living corals, water plants or reeds. Once underwater, it only takes one unguarded moment - a careless kick with a fin, an outstretched hand, a dragging gauge or octopus - to destroy part of this fragile ecosystem. Even fin kicks too close to the reef or sand can have an adverse effect - so dive with the utmost care. Photographers in particular need to take greater care as they strive for that best-yet shot! Don't let your dive become an adverse anthropogenic impact! And remember that these rules apply just as much to 'hard' dive sites - such as wrecks, which have become the home of diverse marine life - as well as fresh-water and other sites.
3. Understand and respect marine flora and fauna.
A large part of the joy of diving is in learning more about the plants and animals who live in this unique underwater environment. In order to survive and thrive, many living creatures disguise themselves to look like plants and inanimate objects, or develop defence mechanisms such as stings. Some even do both! (Have you seen a stonefish lately?) The earthdive information sheets which are attached to the earthdive Global Dive Log, provide information about indicator species for the region in which you are planning to dive. In addition, dive training organisations run marine naturalist and identification courses. The more that you learn, the more that you will see, the more that you will derive pleasure from your underwater experience - and the safer you will be for yourself, other divers and the marine environment!
4. Don't interfere.
First and foremost, be an observer in the underwater environment. As a general rule, look don't touch. Remember that polyps can be destroyed by even the gentlest contact. Never stand on coral even if it looks solid and robust. Always resist the temptation to feed fish and discourage others from doing so. You may interfere with their normal feeding habits, damage their health and encourage aggressive behaviour. Leave only your bubbles!
5. Take only what you need. The marine environment is a valuable source of food for mankind and it is important that it remains so into the future. If you are among those divers who enjoy taking food from the sea, observe some simple rules.
- Obtain any necessary permits or licences.
- Comply with all relevant fish and game regulations. These are designed to protect and preserve fish stocks, the environment and other users.
- Only take what you can eat. If you catch it and can't eat it, put it back.
- Never kill for the sake of 'sport'.
- Avoid spear fishing in areas populated by other divers or visitors to the area, or where you might cause collateral damage.
Don't be tempted to collect shells, corals or other mementos of your dive. If you want a souvenir, take a photograph!
6. Observe and report.
As an earthdive contributor, you will be in a unique position to monitor and report on the health, biodiversity and any obvious damage to dive sites using the earthdive Global Dive Log. In addition, we would encourage you to report anything unusual to the appropriate local marine and environmental authorities, or if this is difficult, get your dive centre to do it for you. They have a vested interest in a healthy marine environment, and will normally be more than willing to help. Always be on the lookout for physical damage, fish stock depletion, pollution and other environmental disturbances. If the dive operation itself is causing damage -say by anchoring to the reef - then let them know how you feel in no uncertain terms!
No matter where you are diving or snorkelling, be it at home or abroad, there will be at least one (and often many more) marine conservation bodies who are active in the area. Don't be afraid to approach them for information, to offer help, or just to find out what they have to offer. You will receive an enthusiastic welcome! They will provide you with lots of opportunities to contribute to marine conservation.
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