“Prohibit the sale or display of corals, shells and other marine life souvenirs.”
To many of your divers, marine souvenirs – whether picked out of the sand or purchased in a shop – are a harmless reminder of the places they’ve visited, above and below the surface. Career divers on the other hand are often horrified by the idea of buying coral souvenirs, dried seahorses or starfish. Yet, we’ll happily wear a bracelet or necklace made of shells. Surely that’s different, right?
Well… unfortunately it’s not. While our interest in little ocean trinkets may represent a collective love for the ocean, in practice, the long-term custom can be devastating for aquatic ecosystems. As a PADI Professional, your actions guide the norms of our industry, powerfully impacting diver behaviour for the better, or worse.
We invite you to educate your divers on the marine life trade and contribute to a global industry behaviour shift with these simple strategies:
It’s just one teeny-tiny little shell tucked into your diver’s BCD pocket. No harm done, right? It’s not worth bringing up in conversation. Well, not quite. According to the World Tourism Organisation, in 2018 international tourist arrivals increased by roughly 6% to a massive 1.4 billion, and that’s not including people travelling and diving within their own countries.
Despite the pandemic hitting pause on these trends, international travel is bound to bounce back stronger than ever, and with 80% of all tourism already taking place in coastal areas, that’s a serious amount of tourists – and divers – bound for the ocean.
If every other diver picked up one shell, from the reef or the beach, the cumulative impact would be devastating. Unfortunately, that’s what’s already happening. As we all know, if it’s found down there, it should stay down there. So let your divers know too!
If you come across this type of scenario at work, gently remind your diver(s) why it’s important that all components of your local reef system remain on the reef. It’s your office, and they are guests in the underwater world. Wouldn’t they like to preserve the ecosystem – as it is – for future generations (or their future selves) to enjoy again?
It’s the age-old mantra “Take nothing but memories*, leave nothing but bubbles” (*and marine debris, as part of a Dive Against Debris!). If your divers want to know more, then you’ve just created the perfect chance to offer the Project AWARE Specialty. Sorted!
Live by Example
Simple as it sounds. Embody the standards you want to see in the world. In this case, that means saying goodbye to your shark tooth necklace or shell earrings. While you may know that they were sourced sustainably, your divers don’t know that and they look up to you. Seeing their diving role models (that’s you!) wearing marine jewellery lets them know that it’s not only OK to own marine trinkets, but that it’s cool. Because, you know, diving is cool, so dive professionals therefore must be the epitome of cool. Am I right?
Ways to show your love for the ocean and still look cool without impacting the reef: marine life tattoos, jewellery from up-cycled marine debris, clothing/swimwear made from recycled ocean plastic and a reusable water bottle.
Create a Culture
Don’t limit your standards to yourself and your divers. Expand your influence to your fellow professionals and your dive shop. Take a look around; is your workplace decorated with coral fragments and/or shells? If it is, raise your concerns with your employer. If you are the employer, consider returning these items to the ocean and redecorating in a more sustainable, ocean-friendly way.
As we continue to pull marine debris out of the ocean and submit data to the Dive Against Debris database, we end up with heaps of waste to dispose of properly. Why not decorate your store with these materials? Check out this marine debris Christmas tree put together by divers at Lighthouse Dive Center, Dahab.
This marine mural made entirely from plastic bottle tops is another awesome source of ocean-friendly art inspiration!
If you’re after a more polished look, opt for professional marine art or Green Fins Marine Souvenirs posters. These are a great – and completely free – way to set a culture of environmental consideration at your dive centre and let your divers know what is and isn’t acceptable at your centre, without having to say a word.
This article first appeared on PADI as a partnership collaboration with The Reef-World Foundation.
Click here to see the original blog.