SCUBA News 153, 15 March 2013Tweet
SCUBA News (ISSN 1476-8011)
Issue 153 - March 2013
Welcome to Issue 153 of SCUBA News. Today we're delighted include a guest article by Samantha Craven, co-ordinator of the Green Fins United Nations Environment Programme project, on the magic of the reef and protecting our diving .
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There are a myriad of diving agencies - BSAC, CMAS, PADI, NAUI, etc - all issuing different qualifications. We've compiled a table showing equivalent attainments from 16 separate agencies.
At the southwest corner of the coral triangle, this small nation has wonderful diving. Divers who've been there say: "The best diving I have ever seen", "Thousands of pelagics and sharks", "A whole island of walls, currents, pelagics and critters. Untouched for thousands of years". Read more at
The second largest island in the Mediterranean, Sardinia is surrounded by marine caves and cliffs shearing into the sea. You can dive here all year round in tasty caves and wrecks.
Looking for Nautisub in Palau, Sardina. Visited and used them the 13 years I was there and loved them.
University of Phoenix
Visiting Jordan 3/4-3/22 What is temperature of water in March and best place for a single diver to join group. Safe and secure area is very important.
The elusive Harlequin shrimp (Hymenocera picta) has long been at the very top of my macro wish list. Whilst I've been privileged enough to dive in places where they have been seen. I've spent hours staring at blue starfish (Linckia laevigata), hoping to see a pair gobbling on one of its arms, to no avail.
My diving friends know of my unfulfilled lust to see these incredible shrimp. If someone sees one on a dive, it is perfect ammunition to tease me, goad me, and fill me with envy. Unfortunately, by the time I get round to trying to find them myself, the pair has vanished. The slight of hand that delivers this trick is less magic, and more the transfer of the pair to an undisclosed location where rival operators have the monopoly on the shrimp.
In today's diving industry, the customer satisfaction, the return of business, the word of mouth and the competition for tips overrides environmental responsibility. Not for every dive center, not for every dive guide, but enough to see some frightful behaviour underwater.
I've seen people walking across corals, incessantly blinding cuttlefish or turtles with strobes. I've seen guides poke mantis shrimp out their holes so someone can take a photo, divers grabbing onto live coral because they haven't mastered their buoyancy. The list goes on.
Coral reefs face immense pressure from global, regional and local threats. Climate change: increasing storms, temperatures and acidification, pollution from land run-off, plastic and over fishing. This list too, goes on. There is no question that today's reefs are in serious trouble.
As divers, we are connected to marine life in ways other less fortunate than us are not. We see the magic on the reef, the plethora of colours and shapes, and the diversity of life. Baba Dioum, a Senagalese poet once wrote:
'In the end, we will protect only what we love.
We will love only what we understand.
We will understand only what we are taught.'
Most of us have a real love affair with the reef. The tank on our backs allows us to understand it better. The stories we hear from buddies, dive guides and instructors have taught us its wonder. We have the opportunity, and some say responsibility to be stewards of the ocean. To protect our passion and for some, our livelihood.
I have been lucky enough to encounter several individuals and dive centers that take this responsibility seriously through my work with Green Fins, a United Nations Environment Programme project that works with dive centers to implement environmental standards through a Code of Conduct designed to reduce the impacts of the dive industry on the marine environment. My role as project coordinator has me working with member dive shops, assessing their adherence to the Code of Conduct and providing consultations for improvement. I also work with the dive staff, training them on environmental issues and helping to empower them to pass this information onto their guests.
One of the things I love the most about my job is meeting those whose passion rises above all else. The dive guides whose briefings include environmental content and go further to explain the reasons behind not touching, or watching your buoyancy, those who correct diver behaviour by tucking away a dangling SPG or lifting a distracted diver's fins off the coral. The dive centers that don't tolerate divers who cause damage, who spend a little extra money on reusable batteries or biodegradable cleaning products. The dive instructors who go beyond the teaching requirements, and make sure they teach their students a thorough grounding and respect for the reef. I see the industry slowly changing for the better, and I hope this is something we can all begin to support.
I will forever be a student of the sea. Not just of its life, but also my diving technique. When we dive, we dive with professionals, and we can learn from them. We can watch how they don't use their hands to steady themselves, or how they control their buoyancy. We can ask their feedback on our finning techniques, or our weighting and we don't have to pay for those lessons.
Most importantly we can all do our bit to drive the industry for the better. We can tip guides that don't just spot critters, but respect them. We can tip guides who correct our positioning so we don't cause damage. We can recommend dive shops that have clear environmental policies in place, or that organize regular clean up dives.
Diving is not the biggest threat to coral reefs, but we can do our best to be the stewards that it needs, and we can enjoy them whilst giving them the breathing room that they need to build up resilience to those other major threats.
The Green Fins network is growing fast, and there are several member dive centers in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Look out for the Green Fins logo and promote dive centers that operate according to environmental standards. You can show your support by donating to The Reef-World Foundation, the regional coordinators of Green Fins. They would be happy to receive your emails and let you know what achievements you have supported. To find out more please visit www.reef-world.org and www.greenfins.net.
by Samantha Craven, Green Fins Coordinator
The Harlequin Shrimp is an exquisitely patterned creature: cream with blue edged spots as shown in the photo (for a larger photo see the previous article).
There are two species claiming the name of Harlequin Shrimp: Hymenocera elegans and Hymenocera picta. They look similar, but the former lives in the shallows of the Red Sea to Indonesia; you find the latter more easterly in the Pacific.
Harlequin shrimps grow to 5 cm and are territorial. They live in life-time monogamous pairs, working together to trap their starfish prey. They find the starfish by smelling with their antennae, then the two of them turn the much bigger animal over and feed on its tube feet. Sometimes they will take the starfish into a dark recess of the reef where they will eat it alive over several days.
Harlequin shrimp are a favourite with underwater photographers. Once you spot one it is easy to photograph, but they are uncommon and so take some spotting in the first place.
The Blue Planet, BBC Publications, 2001
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Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is accused of jeopardising a vital part of Egypt's tourist industry because of a clampdown on foreign ownership. Dr Adel Taher, an expert on decompression sickness who helped develop the Red Sea diving industry during the 1990s, said the first that many people knew about the decision was when locals in Sharm el-Sheikh began knocking on the doors of homes owned by dual nationals and telling them they would have to sell-up.
Australia has demanded Japan's whalers leave the southern ocean, after a support vessel for the fleet was found to have entered its waters in pursuit of environmental activists.
How do corals evolve into separate species when their larvae can drift around the ocean over extremely long distances?
Coral reefs are predicted to decline under the pressure of global warming. However, a number of coral species can survive at seawater temperatures even higher than predicted for the tropics during the next century. How they survive, while most species cannot, is being investigated by researchers at the University of Southampton.
Disturbing images show a young man on board a boat named "Gorgona," carelessly holding a hawksbill turtle. The man then places the helpless turtle upsidedown on the boat deck floor while people around him whistle and cheer.
In the fertile inshore waters of the west coast of the UK conflict is brewing between small-boat fishermen and the industrial trawlers, with tales of sabotage, bullying and livelihoods at stake
Anti-shark hunting campaign fronted by ex-basketball player Yao Ming is leading Chinese youth to reject traditional dish.
Mantas and hammerheads to disappear from divers' paradise if plunder is unchecked.
Scientists solve Caribbean coral mystery: human pathogens cause marine invertebrate deaths
Average wave size will increase in many parts of the southern hemisphere over the twenty-first century, but decrease in the north, according to an international study on the impact of climate change on oceanic activity.
More than 100,000 is the new, more accurate, estimate of the pre-whaling population of North Atlantic humpback whales, according new research by Stanford University, Wildlife Conservation Society, AMNH and Oregon State University.
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