Thanks to Project AWARE for the tips below!
1. Dive carefully to protect fragile aquatic ecosystems
Many aquatic organisms are delicate and can be harmed by the bump of a camera, the swipe of a fin or even the gentle touch of a hand. Some aquatic organisms like corals grow very slowly and breaking even a small piece can destroy decades of growth. By being careful you can prevent long term damage to magnificent dive sites.
2. Be aware of your body and equipment placement when diving
Keep your gauges and alternate air source secured so they don’t drag over the reef or other vital habitat. Control your buoyancy, taking care not to touch fragile organisms with your body or equipment. You can do your part and prevent injury to aquatic life every time you dive.
3. Keep your dive skills sharp through continuing education
Before heading to open water seek bottom time with a certified professional in a pool or other environment that won’t be damaged. You can also refresh your skills and knowledge with a PADI Scuba Review, PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course or Project AWARE Specialty course such as Peak Performance Buoyancy.
4. Consider how your interactions affect aquatic life
Avoid touching, handling, feeding or riding on aquatic life. These actions may stress the animal, interrupt feeding and mating behavior or provoke aggressive behavior in normally nonaggressive species.
5. Understand and respect underwater life
Playing with animals or using them as food for other species can leave a trail of destruction, disrupt local ecosystems and rob other divers of their experiences with these creatures. Consider enrolling in a PADI Underwater Naturalist, AWARE Fish Identification or Coral Reef Conservation Specialty course to better understand sustainable interactions.
6. Be an eco-tourist
Make informed decisions when selecting a destination and choose Project AWARE Environmental Operators or other facilities dedicated to sustainable business practices. Obey all local laws and regulations and understand your effect on the environment. Don’t collect souvenirs like corals or shells. Instead, take underwater photos and follow Project AWARE’s 10 Tips for Underwater Photographers.
7. Respect underwater cultural heritage
Divers are privileged to access dive sites that are part of our cultural heritage and maritime history. Wrecks can also serve as important habitats for fish and other aquatic life. Help preserve these sites for future generations by obeying local laws, diving responsibly and treating wrecks with respect.
8. Report environmental disturbances or destruction
As a diver, you’re in a unique position to monitor the health of local waters. If you notice unusual depletion of aquatic life, injury to aquatic animals or strange substances in the water, report these observations to responsible authorities in your area.
9. Be a role model for other divers and non-divers when interacting with the environment
As a diver, you see the underwater results of carelessness and neglect. Set a good example in your own interactions so that others can learn from you.
10. Get involved in local environmental activities and issues
You can greatly affect your corner of the planet. There are plenty of opportunities to support healthy aquatic environments including Project AWARE conservation and data collection activities like local beach and underwater cleanups and CoralWatch monitoring, supporting environmental legislative issues, attending public hearings on local water resources, conserving water or making responsible seafood choices.
1. Photograph with Care
Dive carefully as many aquatic creatures are fragile regardless of size. Improper techniques while taking or editing photos underwater can damage sensitive aquatic life and harm fragile organisms with the bump of a camera or tank, swipe of a fin or even the touch of a hand.
2. Dive Neutral
Camera systems may add weight or be buoyant. Make sure to secure photo and dive equipment and be properly weighted to avoid contact with reefs or other vital habitat. Practice buoyancy control and photography skills in a pool before swimming near sensitive and fragile environments.
3. Resist Temptation
Don’t touch, handle, feed, chase or ride aquatic life. Don’t alter an organism’s location to get the perfect shot. Most aquatic creatures are shy and easily stressed. Your actions may interrupt feeding, disturb mating or provoke aggression in a normally nonaggressive species.
4. Easy Does It
While diving, move slowly and deliberately through the water. Avoid excessive use of flash that can startle underwater creatures. Be patient and still while photographing – allow organisms to show their natural behavior for a more significant and meaningful shot.
5. Sharpen Your Skills
Make sure the difficulty of the dive and the environmental conditions are appropriate for your current skills and comfort level. Don’t stabilize underwater by grabbing onto the reef for a better photo. Enroll in PADI’s Underwater Photographer, Digital Underwater Photography and Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialty courses to learn sustainable dive techniques and become a more skilled and successful photographer.
6. Be Informed
Know and follow local regulations and protocols regarding behavior around marine mammals and other animals before entering the water. Share this knowledge with other divers. These regulations protect creatures and aim to assure their preservation for future generations.
7. Be an AWARE Diver
Knowing more about the life and behavior of your aquatic subjects can help you get better shots. Consider enrolling in an AWARE – Coral Reef Conservation, AWARE Fish Identification, Project AWARE Specialty or Underwater Naturalist course to learn more about the environment you’re photographing.
8. Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Bubbles
Nearly everything found in the aquatic realm is alive or will be used by a living creature. Removing specimens such as corals and shells can disturb the delicate balance and quickly deplete dive sites of both their resources and their beauty.
9. Share Your Images
Use images for conservation by reporting environmental disturbances or destruction using your photographs as evidence. Assist scientific research and improve resource management by contributing your photos to species monitoring programs such as The Whale Shark Project. You can also submit your photos to Project AWARE. Your images have the power to change perspectives and influence conservation.
10. Conserve the Adventure
Support Project AWARE Foundation, a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to conserving underwater environments through education, advocacy and action.
1. Enjoy nature but don’t chase or touch animals.
2. Not remove anything that is part of the natural environment.
3. Urge your guides to act responsibly and tip them for their cooperation.
4. Stay on trails or other designated areas and leave the site cleaner than when you found it.
5. Report environmental damage to authorities and encourage responsible behavior in others.
6. Patronize locally owned businesses, but avoid items made from endangered species, threatened species, coral or tropical hardwoods.
7. Interact with and show respect for local people, their culture and their traditions. Talk with them about environmental issues affecting their area. Visitors respecting a destination are key to eco-tourism.
8. Protect threatened fisheries by choosing seafood items caught or harvested from sustainable native fish populations.
9. Practice buoyancy control skills in a pool or sandy area before swimming near a coral reef or any sensitive environment. Make sure your equipment is secured, you’re weighted properly and be careful not to touch, stand on or collect coral.
10. Be an AWARE diver – enroll in a Project AWARE Specialty course to increase your knowledge about the environment and learn sustainable dive practice knowledge.
11. Participate in local conservation activities when available and support established parks and reserves.