I have just returned from my summer holiday and am sitting at my desk – first few days back. It may be avoidance of my in-tray but I wanted to share a few quick thoughts with you.
I was lucky enough to spend time scuba diving in Curacao, a lovely Caribbean Island not far from Venezuela. I have been there a couple of times before, first visiting about six years ago. If you ever get the chance to go to dive there, grab it with both hands. It is a lovely destination with some great dive sites, lovely countryside and friendly people. I had some really wonderful dives both from the shore and from boats. Encounters with groups of turtles, seahorses, eagle rays, numerous types of eels and wonderful reef fish were common. It was a feast for the eyes and left me feeling very grateful for the experience and in awe, as always, of the beauty of the underwater environment.
But, as a diver I’ve seen changes to the underwater environment in Curacao and the changes are rapid and, in some areas, devastating:
- An explosion in the presence of Lion Fish – a beautiful but invasive fish in these waters and they are eating all around them.
- Degradation in many hard coral reef areas. Some reefs look grey and bare where they once looked colourful and lush.
- A lack of larger fish. Reef fish seem plentiful but larger fish are seldom seen.
- Fewer eels lobsters.
- More and more underwater rubbish.
I am not a marine biologist and so there may be lots of explanations for the changes I’m noticing in Curacao. From a lay perspective, the reason seems simple: we are not taking care of the marine environment and our actions on land are changing what is happening in the water. My experience might be a familiar one to those of you who also dive.
On the dive boat conversations with other divers turn to the changes we are all witnessing, not just in Curacao but in places all over the world. The themes of reduction in fish and marine life are common, as is the growing visibility of underwater rubbish and reef degradation. There is a real concern that the seas are under threat. And the incredible thing is the pace of the change - dive sites that I had visited twelve months ago look different… it is alarmingly fast.
So, back to the UK. Whilst the fish, corals, topography and temperature may be different many of the issues are just the same and the pace of change is just as frightening. And around the country there are hundreds of divers who are becoming increasingly concerned about the stark evidence that they see that all is not well. I, along with many of you, want to be able to dive for many years to come in waters that are abundant, healthy and teeming with a variety of fish and marine life. But if my dream is to become a reality all those who love the sea need to start acting now.
So I have three pleas for easy actions you can take that will make a difference to marine conservation in the UK.
- The next time you have a great dive, end the day by texting SEAS10£1 to 70070. Every penny of that donation will go directly to marine conservations project in the UK.
- Complete our Divers marine conservation survey and encourage any diver friends to do the same. It takes two minutes to do but will further inform our work and priorities.
- Check out our new Sea-Changer Summer Campaign. Running through July and August there will be hosts of ideas about how divers, sailors, surfers, holiday makers, cruisers can make a difference to the sea this summer. Check out our Twitter feed and facebook page for details.
If you can take these three small actions then the prospect of healthy seas to dive in in the future becomes more of a reality.