The protection of the environment is one of the most important issues facing the world's population today. While conservation and environmental issues such as the ozone hole, depletion of the tropical rain forests, and pollution of our atmosphere and water bodies are just recently becoming fashionable, conservation and protection of our hydrosphere has been a concern of NAUI's for decades.

NAUI has been involved since its inception in 1960 with conservation issues. While this policy primarily manifested itself with the education of divers regarding conservation issues as they impact diving, a number of other special projects have also been sponsored or promoted by NAUI. Some of these include the sinking of wrecks as artificial reef sites, beach and oil spill clean-ups, clean-up dives to improve the quality of underwater habitats, environmental monitoring projects, instituting an Underwater Environment specialty course, monitoring and influencing conservation legislation, and many other activities too numerous to list.

This month's question was developed from concerns raised by Scott Fuller, NAUI 3222, of Ottawa, Canada. He suggested asking if NAUI members and the other sport diving agencies could be more involved in issues of environmental importance. The response was an overwhelming "Yes!"

A variety of ideas were proposed as to how that might be accomplished. Leading the list was... education. Educating new divers, as well as our Instructor members was seen as a key method to influence divers' impact on the environment. The topic was not constrained to conservation education, but also stressed the need to develop strong in-water skills to prevent causing direct damage to the plants and animals we visit. A major new educational intent advanced is to widen our perspective, aiming our conservation teaching towards the general public as well as the diving community. It was felt that we are particularly well suited for this activity as we (as divers) are the ones who see the damage that is occurring.

Other suggestions included promoting underwater marine parks and game preserves, promoting conservation legislation, affiliating with one or more conservation organizations, encouraging resorts and dive destination governments to utilize permanent moorings on dive sites to reduce anchor damage, and organizing more projects like reef and beach clean-ups. A suggestion to discontinue certification in Hunting and Collecting was also advised.

While this is an important issue, it does not fit directly with our corporate mission as it is currently defined. One members stated that we should keep the goals of our association in mind when conceiving new ideas to mitigatye environmental damage. Another approach would be to include a statement of conservation or environmental education into our corporate missions and goals.

Regardless of future actions, the protection of the environment remains a vital issue and concern for all of us at NAUI. It is hoped that all of our members will do their best to protect the rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans that we all enjoy while pursuing our diving activities.

QUESTION: "Should NAUI and the other dive certification agencies take a stronger environmental stance with regards to protecting our underwater resources? Why/Why not?"

A. NAUI, and all the other diving agencies, should be more environmentally concerned about the oceans, lakes, and rivers. Quality skin and scuba diving depend on a clean, healthy underwater environment.

Some areas where NAUI should become active are:

  • Emphasize, as part of the educational process, conservation of the marine and aquatic living resources, and habitats. This could be accomplished by a section in hunting and gathering specialty courses, in basic scuba instruction, and media presentations.

  • NAUI should be more aggressive in getting underwater parks and submarine wilderness areas established. These areas are considered valuable on the land, but there are very few underwater.

What better organization than NAUI to lead the diving community in environmental awareness? There are literally millions of divers who are interested in preserving a high quality underwater environment. Let's get them focused on that goal.

--Pete Haaker, NAUI 1303; Westminster, CA (Marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game conducting invertebrate research. Member of the Fish and Game Diving Safety Board and a past board member of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences.)

A. Personally I believe they should. The divers see the environment, and know what damage is being done. As such, they should be in the forefront in bringing that information to the awareness of the non-diving public.

The focus of dive training is education. Originally, divers began diving to hunt and spear fish. Now, the environment cannot tolerate that pressure. It is up to us to preserve things for others to enjoy in years to come. Within the agencies the tone of the education will snowball and form an ethic that will pervade the diving community. The philosophy should be as strong as the maxim "Don't hold your breath," and should be promoted by all agencies.

The agencies are not as powerful individually as they would be collectively. They should be working together to further environmental concerns. One example would be the gathering of signatures on petitions like the one to ban gill netting for the upcoming election.

--Adam Ravetch, NAUI 6978; Chatsworth, CA (Underwater cinematographer, most recently working on the internationally broadcasted documentary television series The Last Frontier. Our World Underwater Scholarship recipient 1985-86.)

A. I think it is ludicrous to have a certification for spearfishing. If people want to do it, let them learn it on their own. I was not against it originally, but gradually, as I saw the results of the spearfishing, I have become convinced that we should encourage other ways to enjoy the environment.

Water quality is another major issue. The cows in the pastures near Kissimmee can affect the waters off the coast at Palm Beach. We should be publicizing these types of problems.

There are far reaching effects to everything we do. We should become more aware of this. Divers need to be very environmentally conscious. Our environment is our activity--we need to protect it.

‑‑Norine Rouse, NAUI 1040; West Palm Beach, FL (Director of the Norine Rouse Scuba Club, a NAUI Pro Facility. Has taught all levels of diving. Recipient of the John Stoneman Environmental Award for her work with sea turtles, and Diver of the Year for Underwater Boston.)

A. With the fact that more people are getting certified as scuba divers, comes the very threat of adding to the destruction of our oceans. With more divers in the water, comes the problem of carelessness and greed. I feel that it is our (the dive industry) responsibility to show more concern and dedicate more time and emphasis when it comes to teaching about the environment to our students.

We can take the possibility of a negative problem and turn it into something positive. It is an excellent opportunity to open the eyes of the world through these students, if we educate them properly.

So in answer to the proposed question, yes, all the dive agencies should take a stronger environmental stance with regards to protecting our underwater resources. The underwater world is our line of work, and if we do not protect it, we will all be out of business.

--Tiffani Woodworth, NAUI 12150; Irvine, CA (Teaches as a Private Professional. Has worked as a diver for an environmental applied science company, doing work on eel grass mitigation.)

A. YES, most definitely YES! Those of us who have had the privilege of diving for twenty years or more on the reefs in the Florida Keys and the Bahamas, know what it was like. INCREDIBLE!!! The teenage divers among us who have been diving for fifteen years as SPECTACULAR!! The decade old divers can remember when it was GREAT! Those who have been diving for the last five years, in comparison, can really enjoy themselves and listen to the old salts and mossbacks tell the tales of a time when diving was INCREDIBLE!!! Over-fishing, oil spills, wayward tankers, divers crawling over sensitive corals, pollution, coastal development, etc., it is not what it used to be!

NAUI is an educational association. We must take on as part of our mission to educate divers and the general public as to the environmental concerns of what is essentially a water planet. I plan to propose at the October BoD meeting in Rhode Island that environmental impact sections be made a part of the standards of instruction at every level of certification and specialty training where practical. That NAUI as a general policy should support Branch level cooperative efforts with recognized littoral, marine, and aquatic conservation groups. To preserve the future, we must act now, or, we all might be telling the tales of when divers really enjoyed themselves.

‑‑Richard Fernandez, NAUI 6741L; Miami Shores, FL (Member, NAUI Board of Directors. Teaches primarily entry level courses and as staff at ITCs. Helped initiate the recreational dive management program at Barry University.)

A. Yes. Our motto "Safety Through Education" says it all. Without our involvement in protecting our environment (i.e. our waters) we will soon have no place left to safely pursue our own sport. Every NAUI Openwater I class is to include information on conservation. NAUI as an organization can make a difference by supporting other organizations with the same goals as ours. By doing nothing we would be just as guilty of fouling our environment as the person who actually does the polluting. We must use our power, numbers, and reputation to save what is left before it is too late. The specific ways which NAUI should do this must be approved by the membership.

--Hank Tonnemacher, NAUI 4286; St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands (President of Seven Seas Limited, a diving instructional and underwater videography company. As a Professional Educator has taught both privately and managed a number of resort diving operations. Has taught all levels up to and including ITCs. Past Dive Officer for Hydrolab, an underwater scientific habitat which was based at West Indies Laboratory.)

A. NAUI has to support preservation of the environment as it part of our three corporate objectives. One practical manner is to support resorts and countries that are environmentally aware, such as Cayman and Bonaire. Projects like permanent moorings at dive sites reduce reef destruction, and we should encourage divers to utilize those destinations.

We should voice our concern with locations that do not utilize environmentally protective procedures. When we see poor procedures in use, we should speak out loudly to get those corrected. As individuals we can have a great deal of influence.

Finally, the importance of teaching buoyancy control cannot be overemphasized. Neutrally buoyant divers are skillful divers, and will prevent breakage of reefs, gorgonians, and other marine fauna. We must leave behind an environment that our children will be able to enjoy with their children as well.

--Lyn Nelson, NAUI 3931L; Santa Monica, CA (Owner, marketing firm. Past NAUI Director and NAUI Canada Executive Director. Taught basic through advanced courses and ITCs.)

A. I definitely feel that NAUI should become more involved and concerned about our environment. This could be accomplished by letting the diving community know through NAUI's publications and newsletters what areas of our environment are in jeopardy and need our immediate attention. Through these publications NAUI could not only emphasize what the individual could do to help, but also what NAUI as an organization could do to make government and big business realize how valuable our environment is. Things such as petitions, boycotts, and forming special interest groups in Washington, D.C. are just a few ideas to get NAUI involved in saving our troubled environment.

--Kurt Redetzke, NAUI ????; Oshkosh, WI (Taught at NAUI Pro Facility Ginnie Springs, FL and Klein Scuba, WI. Courses include ESE to advanced, and Ice Diving Specialty.)

A. Yes. Clean water and abundant marine life are vital to the well being of the dive industry. NAUI can definitely get involved in many ways. Among them are: (1) Promoting clean-up campaigns to dramatize the effect of litter underwater, (2) Promoting conservation by supporting the establishment of marine reserve areas at popular dive destinations, (3) Discouraging unmanaged spearfishing and collection in areas where harvesting is allowed, (4) Encouraging NAUI divers to support scientific activities by participation in organizations such as Earthwatch, CEDAM, etc. and, (5) By doing what NAUI does best... education. Teaching environmentally safe diving skills like buoyancy control, ecological awareness, and an appreciation for the natural environment is critical.

--Terrence Rioux, NAUI 5958; Woods Hole, MA (Diving Officer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Has taught all levels including ITCs. Secretary of Standards Committee for the American Academy of Underwater Sciences. Past U.S. Navy diver.)

A. I do not think it is the organization's place to necessarily get involved in specific issues or incidents regarding the environment. I do, however, firmly believe that it is the obligation of the agency and its member instructors to include in all instructional programs the appropriate level of environmental consciousness. This should include, but not be limited to, specific local issues. For example, currently in the State of Florida there are threats to the manatee, the U.S.'s only living coral reef (the Florida Keys), and the underground water system (the springs and caves). Students must be made aware of the fragile and complex nature of the aquatic environment and the potential environmental impact their presence may have. Individual divers can then make the appropriate decisions to appreciate and protect rather than fear and destroy the environment. Once success in changing the attitude of individual divers is achieved, true progress in environmental preservation can be gained. This is where our environmental emphasis should be placed.

--Dan Orr, NAUI 5612; Tallahassee, FL (Instructional Coordinator at Florida State University for the Academic Diving Program. Past Mid-America Branch Manager. Currently Chairman of the Technical Committee. Recipient of the NAUI Outstanding and Continuing Service Awards. Has taught all levels up to and including ITCs.)

A. Absolutely. A presentation on zero impact diving should be included in all entry level and advanced courses. Basic skills such as diver weighting, buoyancy control, and kicking be taught with emphasis on both personal safety and minimizing environmental impact. Wearing gloves for tropical diving should be discouraged. Instructors can also lead discussion sessions on both worldwide and local environmental issues.

--Lee Somers, NAUI 813; Ann Arbor, MI (Diving Officer for University of Michigan, past NAUI Director, member NAUI Board of Advisors. Has taught all levels to ITCs.)

A. We already are. All conscientious instructors teach about the environment and conservation now. But I have some qualms about getting more deeply involved. As individuals, getting involved is great. But, if we do so as an organization, we run the risk of inviting the government to take a closer look at us, possibly intervening in how we structure our classes, standards, etc. Conservation is important. Education about conservation is important. But lets not step beyond our corporate mission and risk all that we have gained to date in what is truly most important to us... the training of safe, competent divers.

--Struther MacFarlane, NAUI 6676; Toronto, Ontario, Canada (As a private professional educator, has taught all levels from introductory to serving as ITC Director. Recipient of the NAUI Canada Gold Pin and Special Recognition Awards.)

A. NAUI should promote environmental awareness. There are several ways to effectively do this. Perhaps one of the main methods is to become more aware of teaching and practicing good diving techniques. A great deal of damage is caused to reef structures unintentionally by divers swimming in an attitude of head up and feet down. This results in the fins playing havoc with the reefs, especially with delicate corals such as staghorn and elkhorn.

The second way divers damage reefs is by dragging octopuses and consoles that are dangling freely across the reef structure. Unfortunately, before these practices can be remedied, many current instructors as well as new divers must become more aware of good dive technique and their interactions with the environment.

Another point is to have divers remove gloves when handling fish or other marine life. According to many researchers, gloves destroy the mucous membrane, thus predisposing them to disease.

Lastly, NAUI should keep its members aware of legislation and practices which threaten the marine ecosystem. A liaison with groups such as Greenpeace, PRIDE or other environmental protection organizations should be maintained. Preferably, NAUI members should, as part of their dues structure, automatically become members of one or more of these organizations. If NAUI forms a marriage with a much stronger lobby group, perhaps a concern for the marine environment will evolve. Also, liaisons with environmental groups can help NAUI lobby against other laws and practices detrimental to diving.

--Tom Mount, NAUI 2423; Miami Shores, FL (NAUI Professional Educator. Teaches Openwater I through Advanced classes, Underwater Photography specialty courses, and staffs ITCs. Has authored several textbooks and many articles on diving specialties and safety. Spoke at several ICUEs. Past Director of the National Association for Cave Diving (NACD) and past Training Director of the YMCA Scuba Program. Currently Field Editor for Ocean Sports magazine.)

A. If we do not, you can be sure the government will--and at our expense. We have reached a point where the problems or our world's waters can no longer be shuffled back and forth, using the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) philosophy. The problems are, in effect, in everyone's back yard, whether or not we have actually witnessed the alarming landslide of debris, viscous sludge, and reef devastation. And complacency holds a price tag that the dive industry may not be able to afford.

In May of this year, for example, representatives of NAUI, PADI, DEMA, FADO, and SRA were summoned to Washington D.C. for an urgent industry meeting at which they were presented with a proposal of a government-imposed excise tax on all recreational diving equipment to fund conservation of marine habitats. At that meeting, the proposed tax was voted down, but we have not seen the last of Uncle Sam!

I cannot speak for the other certifying agencies, but as NAUI's Liaison for the Center for Marine Conservation, I can report that NAUI is taking important aggressive steps to promote environmental awareness and preservation. Some of these are: (1) A cooperative project with Project ReefKeeper, (2) An alliance with the Center for Marine Conservation to gather conservation educational source material and coordinate beach cleanups, (3) A project with Sea Camp in the Florida Keys to create a NAUI specialty course in marine conservation, including video materials, (4) A commitment to keep NAUI members informed on marine conservation issues through ongoing material in Sources.

Without a doubt, on the executive level, all the training agencies need to follow suit and implement these types of projects, before the government imposes legislation and taxes. On a personal level, however, each diver also needs to reevaluate his relationship with the environment. Perhaps we should be teaching our students that the underwater world is a priceless legacy, not willed to us unequivocally by our parents, but rather entrusted to us by our children.

--Hillary Viders, NAUI 10107L; Tenafly, NJ (NAUI Liaison for the Center for Marine Conservation, and Program Director for IQ 1991 (whose theme is Preserving Our Underwater World). Teaches entry level courses to ITCs, and wreck, photography and modeling. 1990 Recipient of the NAUI Outstanding Service Award. Has lectured and written extensively on topics of marine conservation.)

A. Judging from past experiences Scuba diving agencies have not effectively addressed environmental concerns. It is my contention the certification agencies need to support a protective stance regarding the Earth's underwater resources. As the organizations responsible for certifying individuals as "qualified visitors" to the underwater world the obligation of protecting the water environment should be mandatory.

The problems facing the water environment are the result of human intrusion. Solutions to these difficulties can only be achieved through the efforts of interested parties. NAUI, like the other diving certification agencies, needs to adopt a stronger position than has been assumed in the past. The only way to solve a problem is to get involved. The trouble is if protective steps are not taken soon, it will not matter... there will not be any reasons to dive.

‑‑Shawn David Powell, NAUI 8725; Thermopolis, Wyoming (Employed by the Special Services Offices of the Hot Springs County School District. Held an Adjunct Faculty position at the University of Oklahoma, where he taught various levels of diving certification. Presented papers at the past three ICUEs, and has published many journals on topics of scuba diving, human learning, and animal facilitated therapy.)

A. The answer to this question has to be a resounding yes. Not only should NAUI take a stronger stance in environmental issues, but it should join together with other agencies in doing so. One thing that I know all instructors share is a love for the underwater world, regardless of which agency they belong to.

Dive certification agencies have the largest access to people who have an interest in the submarine environment. It is our responsibility not only to teach them to dive safely, but also to teach them to be aware of the environment that they dive in. We owe it to them, as well as to ourselves and generations to come, to do as much as we can, not only as individuals but training agencies as a whole, to make sure that the environment will be clean, pollution-free, and around for years to come.

--Cesar Diaz, NAUI 11415; San Juan, Puerto Rico (Teaches diving in one of the largest hotels in Puerto Rico.)

A. To me there is only one answer to the question... Yes! Other than pollution, what is a reef's next biggest enemy? If you ask me, divers are. Divers become enemies when they: (1) Fail to gain neutral buoyancy when diving and spend most of their time bumping into or crawling over the reef. (2) Kill big, healthy fish by spearfishing on the reef, thereby affecting the population. (3) Take more than their share of lobster, or maul the reefs trying to get them. (4) Insist that tropical fish look better in their salt water aquariums than on the reef.

As a NAUI Instructor and concerned environmentalist I make it a point to inform my students of the delicate balance of the undersea environment. I like to believe that other NAUI Instructors are doing the same.

An Environmental Specialty course should replace the Underwater Hunting and Collecting course we presently have. Let's organize more reef and beach clean ups. And Headquarters should stop sending materials packed in styrofoam chips, which take thousands of years to degrade.

NAUI is Number One in safety and teaching. Let's set a new standard that others can follow with the environment.

--Paul MacLeish, NAUI 11356; Orlando, FL (Teaches as a Private Professional Instructor. Has taught in New York, as well as divemastered aboard cruise ships.)

A. NAUI and all the scuba diving agencies have to take drastic measures to conserve the environment. Much water contamination, including garbage, small fishes killed by scuba divers, and destruction of corals is most often caused by the ignorance of the divers involved.

The scuba diver must be trained to conserve the marine life. One suggestion is to permit spearfishing only by divers who have an Underwater Hunting and Collecting specialty certification card and training.

--Reynaldo Santiago, NAUI 10327; Toa Baja, Puerto Rico

A. Yes, without question. If you think about the dependence of the scuba travel industry, as well as sport and scientific diving on clean, clear waters and healthy underwater habitats, then one can make many economic arguments to taking a stronger stance to protecting our underwater resources. I feel, even without these economic arguments, as responsible world citizens it is our duty to not only teach a stronger stance with regards to protecting the environment but that we should set an example to our students and to other certification agencies by taking such a stance. Of course the teaching time budget may become an issue, but many things can be done to teach why and how we as divers can and should protect our underwater resources that do not require large amounts of time. And specialty courses could be developed regarding any of the numerous environmental issues/concerns.

--Steve Miller, NAUI 12055; Panama (Diving Safety Officer, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Has taught courses in Underwater Research Techniques, Coral Reef Ecology, Natural History, Marine Biology, and Tropical Ecosystem Ecology. Holds a Masters degree in Wildlife Ecology.)

NOTE: The views expressed in this column are opinions held by the individual members referenced, and are not those of NAUI or the editors of NDA News.]Questions for the next issues:

Questions for the next issues:

For the November/December issue: "Should the certification title Skin Diving Leader be changed to Skin Diving Instructor? Should Skin Diving Leaders, Assistant Instructors, and/or Divemasters be given the right to vote? Why/why not?"

For the January/February issue: "How many repetitive dives should be allowed in any 24-hour period? Why?"

For the March/April issue: "What are the minimum swimming skills which should be required of a person involved in dive training?"

All members are encouraged to respond. This column is for you, the membership, to develop. Answers should be kept fairly brief, preferably no more than two or three paragraphs. Responses to each question will be collated by the editor, condensed if necessary, and printed in this section. New questions may also be posed for discussion. Questions should be concise, and should stimulate a wide cross‑section of the membership. Include with your responses or questions the following information: your name, address, phone number, NAUI membership number, dive‑related employment, past diving accomplishments, and a review of your dive teaching experience. Send your materials to Jeffrey Bozanic, c/o NDA News, P.O. Box 14650, Montclair, CA 91763‑1150.

Compiled and Edited by Jeffrey Bozanic, NAUI 5334L

Sources, Sept/Oct 1990, (2:5), pp. 11-15.

NAUI Members' Forum #19

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