Anchors Away – Protect the Reef
by The Reef World Foundation
All divers can relate to those terrifying moments underwater during the first few years of their diving careers, feeling helpless and completely out of control. Some of the most popular stories involve strong currents, an unexpected attack from a frisky Triggerfish or feeling that overwhelming sensation of facing the edge of a continental plate. Less often but equally disastrous, human errors can create dramatic situations.
Let’s paint a situation here: you are in a tropical island on a diving trip, as you and your buddies get ready, your dive guide indicates that you are going to be descending along the anchor line. You are a new diver, so you follow their lead and do as told. As the group is halfway through the descent, it just so happens that the anchor is pulled up by the boat crew, missing you and your buddies by inches. Luckily there are no human casualties, but just after you feel the wash of water and bubbles hit your mask and manage to take some very deep breaths to calm down, you look down and see that this was not a near-miss. There are casualties. They just aren’t human.
Photo: Bo Mancao
The amount of damage from a small boat anchor can be quite devastating, it can destroy decades of coral growth. Damage occurs in the form of physical breakage, scratches, dislodgement and pulverizing the substrate. Hard corals are obvious victims, but studies show that soft coral cover is also lower at high anchoring intensity sites. The quality of the coral reef as a habitat, it’s structural complexity, is grossly impacted by anchoring meaning it houses fewer numbers and species all leading to a degraded aesthetic value of the reef for tourists, poorer fisheries and reduced coastal protection. Furthermore, a reef subject to these kinds of stressors will be less resilient to the larger scale changes from a warmer, more acidic ocean and may lead to more intense and frequent bleaching events.
Luckily there are several more environmentally friendly alternatives available depending on every specific situation, identified by the Green Fins initiative who has been working with the diving industry to achieve best environmental practices since 2004. Be a driver of change, can you do something in your community to implement any of these practices?
The International Coral Reef Initiative declared 2018 the International Year of the Reef (IYOR). Green Fins, established by UN Environment and The Reef-World Foundation, has launched a social media campaign, #GreenFinsIYOR2018, with the aim of making sustainable diving practices the social norm.
Fourth Element is one of Reef-World’s Symbiotic Partners to help create a more sustainable SCUBA diving industry and protect the marine environment for future generations.