As divers, we are privileged to see the world from an amazing point of view: under the water. Many times divers can witness firsthand the results of threats facing the ocean like pollution, warming waters, and coral bleaching. The sea now faces various issues and sustainable diving tries both to not exacerbate them - and when possible, to contribute to reverse them, in support of marine conservation.
We, as divers, should always keep in mind that we are just visitors. Marine habitats, such as coral reefs or seagrass meadows, are extremely fragile and are easily damaged if touched by an anchor or boat. Even brushing some of these habitats with hands or scuba gear can hurt slow-growing species. So, to protect ourselves and ocean environments we are able to explore, here are some simple ways anyone can practice sustainable diving.
Six Tips for Sustainable Diving
- Fins are great for swimming, not for walking - be very careful, as stepping on sensitive species will damage them. Slow-growing animals, like corals, can take decades to regrow!
- Don’t bother the locals - Harassing or chasing wildlife can have negative effects for divers and animals. If you spot a creature, observe it from afar without interfering. Let the animals decide the nature of the encounter.
- Watch the bubbles! - Ceilings of underwater caves are usually colonized by marine organisms that can’t move. Trapped air bubbles left by divers can remain in pockets where ocean life can die with lack of water. When diving in caves or tunnels, try to shorten the stay so your bubbles won’t harm the organisms living there.
- Don’t take anything - Refrain from taking souvenirs from the ocean. Never collect dead or living marine wildlife. Certain species are protected in different countries, and you could be fined for manipulating, damaging or taking wildlife.
- Except…do take trash! – If you see plastic in the ocean, or other types of rubbish, try to take it out with you and properly dispose or recycle it. This action does not require a great effort but can be as effective as organized clean-ups.
- Choose a responsible tour operator - When diving, either abroad or locally, choose a dive operator that supports marine conservation and sustainable marine tourism. This can be seen in simple actions by the operator. For example, if they partner with local or global environmental organizations and they educate their diving guests about local marine flora and fauna, they are likely to be aware of ecological practices. The more divers demand responsible actions by the tourism industry, the more the industry will respond.
Now that we have covered the main ways to make sure our dives are eco-friendly, where can we go put these ideas into practice? The good news is that there are many destinations that support sustainable diving, and they typically have better dive sites because there’s more life to see!
Best Places for Sustainable Diving in Europe
Catalonia: the home of Barcelona above the water, and protected seabed underwater. Here divers can enjoy the beauty and liveliness of the Medes Islands (protected seabed) and Cap de Creus (the first Maritime Terrestrial Nature Reserve of Spain), and ship wrecks. Diving in Catalonia is possible year-round. Here’s a popular introductory diving course in l'Atmella de Mar (all gear provided), that you can participate in to determine whether to discover more of the Catalan coast!
There are some 80 different dive sites around the Balearic Islands. You can dive on a year-round basis if you don’t mind the colder off-season. Majorca and Menorca have spectacular caves with air pockets to surface in and stalactite and stalagmite formations. Some wreck dives are available but are very deep. In Majorca, dive in a marine reserve, or pop over to try diving in Dragonera Island, a small island off the coast. Meanwhile, discover caves and coral walls while diving in Menorca.
Diving in Italy is a unique experience because of the abundance of red coral. One of the best places to see this precious coral is in Portofino Marine Protected Area. In addition to red coral, the waters are home to many fish species such as brown grouper, brown meagre and barracuda. After diving, above water sits the famous seaside village of Portofino, part of the Italian Riviera.
Wreck diving is one of the main draws in Istria. Interesting underwater formations such as canyons and caves adds to the charm of the area. Considering all the unique dive sites and conditions, Umag is a great place to get your open water certification or explore a wreck.
Malin Head is located on the Inishowen Peninsula (County Donegal) and is the most northerly point of the island of Ireland and the starting point for the Wild Atlantic Way. Like Umag, Malin Head is an extremely popular diving location due to its many historic ship wrecks, also offering divers the opportunity to explore the many unique marine fauna, corals and sea life of the Atlantic. At low tide, you can even spot the wreckage of the ‘Twilight’, which sank in 1889 while sailing to Derry.
Different Types of Dives for All Skill Levels
Regardless of your diving skills, Europe offers plenty of opportunities to explore the marine realm. Find one that matches your level of expertise, from beginner to advanced! Here are some hints:
Don’t know how to dive yet? Not sure if you want to commit the time and money to an open water certification yet? Look for a Try Dive, an introduction to scuba diving that usually lasts for a couple hours, to decide if diving is for you:
- Try scuba diving in Umag, Istria
- Discover scuba diving in Mallorca, Balearic Islands
- Two hour try dive in Menorca, Balearic Islands
- Try dive in Costa Daurada, Catalonia
Are you positive you’re ready to take the plunge? Get open water certified in Umag (Croatia). It is simply a magic, calm, safe and gorgeous place to start!
Already have an open water certification? Diversify your skills with advanced diving experiences:
- High-tech diving in Italy - Enjoy a day diving in Portofino Marine Protected Area with a marine biologist that will share information with you on the spot using underwater communication OceanReef systems.
- Ship wrecks on the Wild Atlantic Way – explore wrecks in crystal clear Irish waters with a professional dive instructor.
- Wreck diving in Italy– Discover the ship wrecks of Sestri Levante! Here there are several wrecks dating back to World War II.
- Scientific diving in Portofino - In co-operation with the international project Ramoge, survey penshell populations in the natural reserve. A marine biologist will guide your dive and introduce you to the underwater wildlife of this area.
Be safe, respect the environment and please remember: Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but bubbles!