Reminding Ourselves About Eco-Friendly Diving

ocean trash

One bright spot in the COVID-19 pandemic is that it gave our natural environment a little breather to recover. Tourism numbers on Maui had climbed beyond predictions prior to the public health crisis. Maui alone had 3,071,596 visitors in 2019, a 5.4 percent increase from the year prior. At Lahaina Divers, scuba is not just a sport or a business. For many of us diving is a lifestyle we have chosen. Eco-friendly diving involves making intelligent choices to protect the very thing we love: the ocean and all its creatures. That’s why in this time of reflection and rebuilding, we are taking the opportunity to remind ourselves and our valued guests about eco-friendly diving for a conscientious #scubalife.

1) Start with eco friendly trip planning

Choosing who you go diving with is almost as important as what you do on your dive. Lahaina Divers emphasizes the educational aspect of diving, discussing the geology and marine life you might encounter on your tour, then again talking about what divers observed after the dive.

Our PADI 5-Star Dive Center also promotes sustainability and stewardship for the ocean through a 100% AWARE partnership. Lahaina Divers makes a donation to Project AWARE on behalf of each student we certify. These contributions provide vital funds for marine debris prevention and shark and ray protection. In addition, conservation messages are woven into classes we teach and on-board dive briefings. 

2) Use reef-safe sunscreen

Coral may look like a rock, but it is actual a living animal- a marine invertebrate that relies on its relationship with plant-like algae to build the largest structures of biological origin on Earth.  However, coral reefs are at great risk due in part to climate change, water pollution and human interaction. One thing we can all do is stop using sunscreens have shown to be harmful to coral reefs. Avoid products with oxybenzone and octinoxate. Instead choose a reef-safe sunscreen without these ingredients.

Coral reefs not only provide habitat, shelter and nutrients for an abundance of marine life, they also protect coastlines from the damaging effects of wave action and tropical storms.

Since sunscreens that are not reef-safe are outlawed in Hawaii starting January 1, 2021, you might as well start now making a better reef-safe sunscreen choice, or better yet, cover up with a rash guard, swim tights and a hat.

3) Look but don’t touch

Coming face to fin with a sea turtle, shark or monk seal is an incredible experience. As tempting as it is to reach out and touch curious marine life, this type of interaction can cause the animal stress, harm their natural environment and spread disease. In addition, touching, chasing or otherwise impacting marine life is often times illegal.

Corals are particularly vulnerable, especially to accidental breakage from being knocked into with tanks or fins. Also, the oil from human skin can disturb growing membranes. Practice buoyancy on each dive before you reach the reef to protect coral ecosytems, and please do not grab onto corals for support or stand on the reef.

Then, when you see a Humuhumunukunukuapuaa (Hawaii’s state fish) swim by, enjoy the scene from a respectable distance, or take #underwaterphotos to preserve memories of your trip.

4) Help prevent garbage from entering the ocean

Kanapou Bay, on the Island of Kaho’olawe (with Maui in the background) is a hotspot for marine debris accumulation. Photo: NOAA

During just about any week on Maui you can join a beach clean-up. These efforts are a real eye opener to human impacts on the environment. But travel to a remote unkept beach, like Kahoolawe off Maui’s south shore, and you would be absolutely shocked with the amount of shredded plastic, fishing debris, food and beverage containers and cigarette butts washed up on shore.

Keeping our oceans from becoming a human waste dump starts with how we live our lives on shore. Next time you visit Maui, you may notice more and more ocean-harming materials taken out of service- from plastic bags and straws to Styrofoam food and beverage containers, replaced with greener alternatives. You’ll notice that Lahaina Divers continues the practice of supplying fresh drinking water on our boats in a clean, re-fillable container and provides biodegradable paper cups. You are welcome to also use your own reusable beverage container for water too. Americans buy 29 billion water bottles a year. For every six bottles people buy, only one is recycled. Since a single water bottle takes up to 1000 years to decompose, that’s a lot of plastic going into the environment.

We’re not perfect, and we’re learning more every day, but we ask you to join us in our best attempt to be a role model for responsible behavior- picking up after yourself and choosing eco-friendly or reusable products whenever possible.