Low Impact Diving
Low Impact Diving Techniques
Regularly practise techniques designed to minimise the effects of diver’s actions on the benthos.
- If undertaking a ‘shore dive’ enter the water carefully. Stick to defined tracks and, if appropriate, be careful of vegetation and shorebird habitats while accessing the water.
- If ‘shore diving’ choose water entry points that lie over sand or rubble so that you can make adjustments and check gear with minimal impact.
- Dive gear should be rigged and operated in a manner that prevents damage to habitats and the benthos. Dangling gauges and equipment should be secured.
- At the commencement of a dive, divers should be weighted correctly for neutral buoyancy.
- Divers should maintain neutral buoyancy throughout a dive to minimise disturbance to the seafloor by fins.
- Divers should be particularly aware of their buoyancy and placement at night and when taking photographs, as their field of view is limited.
- If hovering over a reef, divers should keep their eyes fixed on a reference object so they don’t drift or sink onto the substratum.
- Divers should avoid gripping objects for support or prevent drift. However, where necessary, hold onto a rock or dead coral to maintain position.
- Turbulence from divers’ fins may disturb marine life. Use a ‘frog’ kick rather than a ‘flutter’ kick if working close to the substratum.
- Do not touch any living underwater plants or animals.
- Do not harass marine wildlife or interrupt their normal behaviours such as mating, feeding or resting.
- Do not feed any marine animals.
- Do not chase, ride or block the path of free-swimming animals such as turtles.
- Do not collect any souvenirs, living or dead.
- Be careful not to disturb marine wildlife when taking underwater photographs
- When using cameras turn the lights down. Be sure not to expose animals to bright light over an extended period, especially at night.
Low Impact Scuba Diving Resources
A variety of videos highlighting the use of appropriate diving techniques are often taught during diver certification programs by training agencies. However, all too often new divers do NOT use these techniques during their subsequent scuba diving activities, with consequent negative impacts on marine habitats and biota.
- Video guides for divers are located on the Byron Underwater Research Groups (BURG) website.
- Best Practice Guide for Diving in the MPAs - a publication produced by National Marine Science Centre (Southern Cross University), the Northern Rivers CMA, the NSW Marine Parks Authority and NSW Department of Primary Industries.
- Best Practice Diving with Threatened and Protected Species- a publication produced by the National Marine Science Centre (Southern Cross University), the Northern Rivers CMA, the NSW Marine Parks Authority, and NSW Department of Primary Industries.
Another method to minimise contact with the substratum is to use a short metal probe, sometimes called a 'muck stick'. Perhaps the most common use of the stick is to help a diver position and orientate themself in difficult places where the potential to damage benthic organisms is high. In these instances using a gloved hand to touch anything without the risk of damage is minimal. However, there are usually at least a few small areas of rock or dead coral that are big enough for the end of the stick to be wedged in to stabilise the diver or assist with movements. When diving in silty habitats a stick is a great way to stay off the substratum and thus limit the chances of reduced visibility resulting from silt being disturbed.
While it's best practice not to touch anything while scuba diving and always endeavour to practice good buoyancy control sometimes it may be unavoidable, especially when diving in strong currents. In such cases, it's better to use a muck stick to touch the surface to prevent a collision. The following video demonstrates how a muck stick can be used.