Tourism is a great thing for any destination: it brings in tourist dollars, thus stimulating economic activity, thus creating more jobs for locals. However, tourism can also turn unsustainable. It’s when the destination’s environment is eroded, thereby becoming less and less attractive to tourists. It should be noted that one of the causes of this are tourists themselves!
Several times now, I’ve witnessed divers (I’ll avoid stating their nationalities here, for fear of being labeled as racist or xenophobic, which I’m not) causing mindless damage to coral reefs. Last Sunday, two foreign divers, who were with us on the regular weekend dive tour, appeared to be more than just sightseeing under the sea. One of them had a sea cucumber in his hands. When I looked at his companion, he was in the act of picking up a live scallop. And when he did, his fin accidentally hit a coral that looked like a young staghorn, and tore it clean out of its roots.
It seems that these people couldn’t care any less about the environment. Both of them had excellent trim underwater, no problem at all with their neutral buoyancy. Meaning, hitting that beautiful coral was clearly a lack of concern on their part.
And what about taking sea creatures out of their habitats? I almost couldn’t stop myself from throwing the scallop and sea cucumber overboard when I saw it at the back of the boat after our dive. The scallop was bigger than my hand, kind of orange, and had spikes. If it had been a giant clam, I would’ve stopped that diver right in the water, but I wasn’t sure if the species he got was endangered or not. Still, there should be a law against disturbing nature by recreational divers.
Our marine environment is already facing daunting challenges posed by climate change, industrial fishing, soil erosion… We could certainly use one less factor that wreaks havoc on our beautiful coral reefs.
On a positive note, last weekend’s dives were a treat for me and my buddies. Last Saturday was my first time to see a moray eel up close, and a sea snake. The latter proved to be quite shy, although it is reportedly one of the most lethal in the world. There were quite a few trumpetfish around, too — about a foot or so long, and each one a different color pattern.
And on Sunday, I was able to take a close-up picture of a nudibranch and a commensal shrimp. Not the best macro photography samples, not by a mile, but I’m sharing it here anyway. I do need to practice my neutral buoyancy more, though.
Davao’s coral reefs have a chance of surviving, and one way of ensuring that is by making it known in clear terms to recreational divers — foreign and local — that they must respect marine life at all times. I hope to be able to get Davao’s dive shops and dive boat operators to support my plan to display posters admonishing divers to do just that.