Conservation diving is one of the most interesting and rewarding types of scuba diving there is. It is a way to positively interact with and preserve the environment that, as divers, we feel a strong connection with. However, despite the marketing out there, it takes a lot more than recycling and not kicking corals to be a conservation diver.
Many certification agencies and dive schools today are offering ‘eco-courses,’ but usually these programs add up to little more than some dives perfecting buoyancy, doing an underwater clean-up, and having an hours lecture on coral reef ecosystems. Although these are positive things, really this should be seen as the minimum for even being allowed to dive in a coral reef, not something that makes you an ‘eco-warrior.’
Being a conservation diver means that you receive scientifically based training in coral reef ecosystems and processes, and spend time doing reef research and monitoring to help you understand the interrelationships on the reefs. So the first step to becoming a conservation diver is to become a research diver. Research and monitoring programs like the Koh Tao Ecological Monitoring Program include learning and practice with some of the most important groups of animals on the reefs; invertebrates, fish, corals, and macro-algae. Data collected is used for reporting to the government, universities, and scientific publications, and thus leads to more knowledge and awareness on the health and status of the local reef.
But, research just for the sake of research doesn’t protect the reef on its own, proactive measures need to be taken after identifying stresses to the coral reef. So the second part of being a conservation diver is learning about coral reef protection. Courses involving mooring buoy installations and repairs, targeted underwater clean-ups, coralivore removal, securing broken corals, and zoning are some of the first hand-on techniques to benefit the reef that any conservation diver learns. Most of these things can be done on every dive, which means that having a conservation team diving on the reef is very different from having recreational divers in the area. But there are many things like climate change and nutrient enrichment that as divers we will not likely be able to protect our reef from.
So the third part of being a conservation diver is to be trained in active coral reef restoration. This means having the scientific and theoretical background to be able to identify long-term needs of the area, and have the skills necessary to address them. Often this includes methods such as coral nurseries, artificial reefs, giant clam nurseries, sea turtle nurseries, and other methods to bring back an ecosystem. At this stage, the conservation diver becomes the best friend a reef can have, and begins down an amazing journey of interacting positively and intimately with marine ecosystems.
Any dive school can call themselves ‘eco’, and any diver can get a eco-cert for doing little more than paying the money. to really become a good conservation diver however takes months, if not years. But it is not restricted to a select few, you do not even need a background in science, you just have to passionate and dedicated to the cause. Anybody who is willing to take the time and put in the effort can achieve great success as a conservation diver, spending their days underwater coral gardening and looking after other reef animals. If you think this sounds like you. . .then do it. You won’t regret it. We think you will agree that when it comes to environmental work, you always get way more out of it then you put in. Come find out what a life changing experience this can be.
We offer some of the most comprehensive and inclusive conservation diver training programs in Thailand, just ask any one of the over 490 students that have been through our training program since it began in 2007. Feel free to contact us if you are interested, if you are passionate about coral reefs then we would love to have you on our team.