As a member of the International Coral Reef Initiative, CCMI is celebrating the third International Year of the Reef (IYOR) in 2018. Our theme for the year is “Zero Impact”.

Everyone can have an impact on coral reefs. Unfortunately, reefs are under serious threats from human activity, climate change, invasive species and ocean acidification. Since reefs are such diverse and extremely valuable ecosystems – estimates say they are worth US $30 billion a year – it’s important that we all work together to safeguard the reefs for the future. You don’t need to be a scientist to help protect the most diverse marine ecosystems on earth. Whether you are close by or far away, everyone can do their part to keep our reefs healthy and vibrant.

Helpful Tips for Zero Impact Diving and Snorkeling

Be comfortable in the water

Only snorkel or dive in water conditions (depth, visibility, surface conditions, etc.) which you are comfortable and confident in. Ensure that your equipment is fitted and secured appropriately so that you move efficiently and easily in the water and don’t make unintentional contact with the reef.

Be mindful of your buoyancy

Make sure you are properly weighted and If you are unsure of your control over your positioning in the water, give plenty of space between yourself and the reef.

Maintain a “no-touch” policy

Contact with sensitive surfaces on corals and sponges can damage them (even if no visible impact is seen immediately), leading to stress, infection, illness, and mortality. Some reef creatures sting and scratch, as well. Even the sand and rubble patches are teeming with life, so try to keep contact to a minimum.

Dive and snorkel calmly, without chasing or harassing marine life

Rapid movements can scare off many fish, but many are curious and will stay or even come closer if you are still, slow-moving, or approach at an oblique angle. Reefs are home to an abundance of life that you can see more of if you take your time.

Lend a helping hand

If you see garbage or old fishing line that you can remove, do so. There are also often reef surveys and research or conservation projects which you can contribute to while enjoying a recreational dive or snorkel by simply taking and sharing photos.

Care for your skin and the reef

Many sunscreens contain chemicals which are toxic to corals. Look into reef-friendly sunscreens and wearing clothing such as hats and long-sleeved shirts to protect from the sun.

Have an inquiring mind

As you observe the reef, you’ll see beautiful creatures and complex interactions that you’ll surely want to know more about. Speak to other divers and snorkelers, consult fish books, and look online to understand more of what’s going on. Getting to know the underwater world on a deeper level will only enhance your experience.

Be willing to speak up

If you see that others around you are intentionally or unintentionally having an impact on the reef, don’t stay silent. Sharing information that you have about how and why to be a good steward of the reef in a friendly manner will help us all to do better.

Make a choice with your wallet

You can make a difference with the choices you make in terms of dive centres and tour operators. By patronising businesses that are proponents of conservation, you are demonstrating your values as well. You can also make many choices in your everyday life to reduce your impact on the environment.

When you’re not in the water…

Support sustainable fisheries

Many reef fish are overharvested, which is leading to declines in the health of coral reefs. Choose better options for your fresh fish dinner with help from our friends at the Cayman Islands National Trust and their Cayman Sea Sense programme.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

This mnemonic device we learned as children is truer now than ever. If we can reduce our consumption, particularly of items that are disposable or single-use, reuse what we have, and recycle properly, we can go a long way to helping cut down on marine debris and toxic impacts to reefs.

Conserve water

The less water we use, the less run-off and pollution makes it into the ocean, ensuring healthy water for marine habitats. Here are a few easy things you can start with today:

Turn water off when you brush your teeth

Wash clothes when you have a full load

Take shorter showers

Use your reusable tote bags at the grocery

Give the plastic bags a miss when you head to the store. Many reusable bags are compact enough to carry in your purse or backpack or keep in your vehicle.

Make a choice to walk, bike or use public transportation when possible

Less fuel burned in our vehicles means conditions will change more slowly, allowing coral reefs to adapt to the changes in the climate.

Donate to CCMI’s coral reef research and coral nursery programmes to help us have even more impact in the Caribbean.

Share your passion, interest and actions with a friend, encouraging them to also have ZERO IMPACT on our coral reefs.

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