“Mom, he’s touching me! Mom!!!” You remember hearing this countless times as a child, right? You were poking at your little brother or sister, your sole purpose in life to annoy them beyond reason. A quick pull to the hair, a stealthy fast wet-willie, whatever it took to establish your goal of driving them nuts for your own entertainment. Now, fast forward into life as an adult, and you are many dives into the vacation of a lifetime, taking in the amazing beauty of coral heads, sponges, and a real life aquarium before your eyes. And you look over to see one of your fellow divers poking at a puffer-fish as it backs into a crevice, then minutes later running his fingers down the antennae of a giant lobster, and finally he stops and perches his giant hands on a beautiful brain coral to get the perfect picture of a fluttering juvenile drum fish. The connection here is simple – just like your mom would tell you as a child (“Don’t touch your brother!”), how about “Don’t touch the fish!” Actually, don’t touch ANYTHING!
Dive etiquette isn’t just about being polite and treating the fish kindly…. It’s actually much larger and more important than that. Your touch can actually kill some of these living creatures. Maybe you just break off one tiny little piece of a sea fan, but if every single diver to that site, on multiple dives each day, over the span of a year, breaks just one tiny little piece of a sea fan, that fan eventually ceases to exist. The dive sites that we all know and love will slowly but surely break down and may not be there for us to enjoy in just a few short years, much less for generations beyond our own.
Look at each dive as being welcomed into someone’s home for the first time. You don’t know these people and you want to show the utmost respect to them and to their home. When you descend on each and every dive, you should be respectful of your surroundings. You are not there to touch, to poke, to rest your appendages on things to get that perfect shot. Just take it all in… You are surrounded by some of the most stunning sights offered by our great planet, witnessing an eco-system that flourishes before your eyes. Be a part of the scenery and enjoy the beauty of the marine life that surrounds you. Respect their space – because YOU are the visitor to their home and have no right to take anything away from its beauty other than your memory, maybe some photos or video footage, and a little bit of salt water that will be stuck in the deep corners of your BCD.
Our oceans hold some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery. We are blessed to have the ability to slap on a few pieces of dive equipment and slip below the surface to take in this beauty. Let’s all make sure that we simply behave when we’re underwater. Don’t treat the fish or the coral or our beloved sea turtles like you did your kid brother or sister. Treat each dive and what it bestows to you with the utmost respect, so that you and your fellow divers can relax and enjoy the view. By doing so, you will be ensuring that many generations will get to enjoy those same creatures you helped protect.