Earth Etiquette Underwater
The impact of recreational underwater activities on the reefs is an environmental issue promoted to a degree of significance. Often translated as spoiling the experience known widely as a peaking visual, sensory immersion into natural beauty in an illuminating display of surreal lifeforms.
Although the impact of snorkel and dive tourism may not be as bad as you’d think. That is, like alot of the good things in life – as long as you’re doing it properly. Alot of how damage to coral reefs can be minimised or even prevented, depends on tour operators. Dropping anchor on a reef can shred living coral networks by the force of weight hitting somewhere it could be avoided. As snorkelers are assumed able to swim, they should be able to swim to their scheduled snorkel or dive sites. Responsible operators will sometimes allow the tour group to plunge in closer to the site, using a rubber dinghy to circle around the crew to look out for them, depending on how far off the mother boat is situated. Although if you were to ever on a tour somewhere and observe any unsound practices of operators that can be avoided – speak up in the nicest possible way. And you can even turn your next holiday into an opportunity for environmental pollution and damage prevention. Volunteering in clean up trips, educational, or rebuilding programs.
Oil spills from vessels can be prevented through observing strict guidelines for boat maintenance. But oils from sunscreen and tanning product also pose a threat to the pristine marine life abounding in reef zones. Luckily there are less damaging alternatives. Then no-one needs to succumb to any over-crowded planet guilt condition, which can lead to so many people missing out on the full experiences of nature they deserve, since we are all connected to the land and sea – made of the same materials is binding enough.
Tourists can bring their own duty of care approach into the waters. Then to float on in a blissful wonderland dreaming lit by the so many vibrant ocean lifeforms. Before your next holiday, check your sunscreens, tanning products, moisturisers. Certain oils and toxic chemicals are dangerous as they can be absorbed by coral, bleaching it. Causing harm also to other sea life like dolphins, turtles, fish… Unseen damage can also occur with substances such as oxybenzone destroying coral DNA so that although the existing coral appears alive, it is in fact unable to reproduce itself. In some countries now like Hawaii, sale of products containing the ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate, is now banned, with at least 5 other marine tourism territories following so far. A trend which should continue globally.
We have searched and found a few good options to pack. Otherwise when shopping for sun protection, stop to think about avoiding misleading labelling terms. ‘All Natural’ or ‘Biodegradable’ are not reliable facts without certifications and an ingredient check. Also a big part of the chemical issue is the particle diameter of the ingredient particles. If they are bigger in size, they are less able to be absorbed by corals sea skin, certified brands have been carefully formulated according to the particle size factor. Take note that some other chemicals, also some natural oils such as lavender and eucalyptus, which would would appear safe for reefs may contribute to damage also. Do some research to find confirmation of these theories from some sources, if you have the time. The mass of evolving information is leading to a range of good brands who have been certified on all levels as being reef safe.
These picks are also cruelty-free! Availability may vary according to where you are buying, all can be found online…
- Ethical Zinc
- Natural Instinct
- Sun Butter
- Tropic Sport
- Ecotan Sunscreen
- Raw Elements
- Manda Organics
- Seagull MIlk
Here are some other ways to reduce your foot (or fin) print in a reef environment. For a start, try to not stand on coral – if you can swim, you can float! Avoid getting lost, going adrift, scraping the plant life which are actually technically animals. This is not only damaging to them, potentially the same for you as some claw into your skin with poisons, some which even kill people.
As far as possible, build a tan to reduce your need for protective creams. When you have to use products, stick with these reef-safe options, using creams or lotions over spray bottles, which loosely go all over the place, including into the sand which washes back into the sea with the tides.
The importance of keeping coral fields intact for future tourism is widely pointed out, why should upcoming generations and even ourselves in this lifestyle, be forced to miss out on the sublime pleasure of snorkelling and diving due to pointless negligence.
Nature invariably gives humans an enriched quality of life, and ultimately, it provides our survival.