Wednesday, May 04, 2011

In the Name of Conservation

On my most recent trip to Anilao over Easter, we shared a number of dive sites with other groups of divers from other resorts. I couldn’t help noticing the general poor standard of in-water finesse, situational awareness, and conservation-mindedness. We observed lots of instances of divers crashing into the bottom and kicking up corals, sand, and marine life. All open water divers should have the basics such as buoyancy, trim, body positioning, situational awareness, and buddy skills. Dive resorts and guides need to take responsibility for the actions of their clients. If their clients are unaware, apathetic, unsafe, or lacking in skill, something needs to be done. At the very least, they need to speak up and demand better behavior from their clients. If their behavior does not improve, the divers should not be allowed in the water, lest they cause further damage. It is very short-sighted for resorts and guides to turn a blind eye as the reefs and marine life will undoubtedly suffer and this will impact all of us.

I was so excited to see my first bobbit worm on a night dive at Anilao Pier. I settled down on a sandy patch next to it and was waiting patiently, camera in hand, to try to capture the "peak of the action". Suddenly, a group of divers charged by, like a herd of raging bulls, completely unaware that they were stirring up the bottom and causing a huge sandstorm. I looked over to my guide and we shared a moment of disappointment before being engulfed by the dust cloud. Visibility literally went to zero.
When the silt settled (only partially settled; Anilao Pier has a sandy bottom and no current so suspended particles can take hours to fully settle), the bobbit worm was covered in sand and the photo opportunity ruined. I can only imagine the impact on the bobbit worm and other marine life affected.

This is not directed at anyone in particular but I would like to make a general statement. If you don't have the skills (whether motor skills, experience, or situational awareness) to dive in delicate environments, please have enough respect and care for the environment to refrain. It is advisable to dive in more benign environments and gain experience before moving on to fragile sites. Even better - please seek appropriate training to improve your buoyancy, trim, body positioning, fin kicks, situational awareness, and buddy skills. I suggest GUE Fundamentals and there are lots of other classes out there that emphasize these basic skills.

To those who observe this type of unacceptable behavior: please, please, please say or do something. Today, I pledged to myself that I will not observe silently anymore. If you care about conservation of the marine environment, please do something. The reefs will thank you and so will I.


FortheFishes said...

Thanks for your insight. We are a group of 8 considering diving in Anilao and would be very upset to have foundering divers all around us. Were they from the resort you stayed at - or from another resort?
Are the often multiple boats diving the same spot?

sasdasdaf said...

Hi there. I really love Anilao - it has amazing macro, good wide angle, healthy reefs, and a ton of variety. The only thing missing is pelagic action. So it is definitely worth considering seriously.

The bad divers were from another resort. I am not sure which one (but I am sure that not just one resort has bad divers). Anilao is very quiet during weekdays as most of the divers are day trippers or weekenders from Manila. On weekends or public holidays, it can get more crowded but usually not too bad. Occasionally there are 2-3 boats at one spot but this is only at certain popular sites (like Anilao Pier at night, or Secret Bay). Crowding is usually not a problem and not nearly as bad as at some more popular spots like Bali or Lembeh.