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Taking Care of the Reef

We urge you to be aware how your actions and decisions impact reef and other ocean ecosystems worldwide. This short guide is intended to help you protect the ocean environment.

While On the Reef

Don’t touch anything - Touching hard corals and other organisms can damage and kill them. As some have stinging cells and sharp spines, they can also damage you back. Avoid both problems by keeping your hands off.

No souvenirs - Hard coral bits and shells look way better alive in their natural habitat. Resist the urge to take anything away. (It’s against the law too.)

Maintain buoyancy - Divers, the better you control your buoyancy the less often you or your gear will bash into the coral, saving both you and the coral needless damage. You will also find finning gets easier, and you’ll use air more slowly when you dial in your buoyancy.

Strap down your gauges and spare regulator - If these items are dangling below you, they will drag along the bottom, bashing coral and other life as you go. Strap these down so that they are closer to your body, but still accessible.

Watch your fins - They can do a lot of damage, especially to sea fans and the like, be aware of where you fins are.

Careful on swim-throughs - The less contact, the less wear and tear, to the coral and to you, take your time and take care.

No litter - Don’t leave anything in the water. Litter kills wildlife.

Don’t feed fish - It encourages them to approach divers too closely, and oftentimes eat things that are unhealthy for them to eat. Do so only under the guidelines of the divemaster.

Don’t ride sea turtles and manta rays - It’s a great treat to see a sea turtle or large ray, they can be abundant on the Great Barrier Reef at times, but are in decline nearly everywhere else. Help protect these endangered species.

Choose reef trips and adventure activities that are operated in an ecologically sensitive manner - Look for the Ecotourism logo on the tour descriptions in this website, which is a sign that these tours are operated in a sustainable manner. In this part of Australia most operators recognize that their business health relies on environmental health, and do their part to operate in a low-impact manner.

Fishing and Boating

Propeller Cowl - Putting a cowl on your propeller not only protects your equipment, but protects marine life also.

Take care with paint, lubricants and fuel - Make sure that these toxins do not get into the water.

Replace your old outboard engine - Old two-stroke outboard engines put a lot of unburnt fuel and oil into the water. If your outboard engine is more than five years old think about replacing it with a new, cleaner engine. The new technology is five times (or more!) cleaner than old outboards.

Fish for fun, not for the bag limit - Catch what you need, release the rest, always pay attention to bag and size limits, which are intended to prevent overfishing.

Anchor techniques - Learn how to anchor your boat safely in sandy or muddy bottoms, which sustain less damage from anchors and anchor chains than coral reefs do.

Slow down - watch for surface life

Report injured and stranded marine mammals and turtles - Know who to call in your local area.

Bring back your trash - and pick up a few extra pieces.

Your at-home lifestyle
While your home may seem far away from the Great Barrier Reef, you do have an impact on it, and also on your local coastal waters. Current theory is connecting global climate change with increased bleaching events on coral reefs worldwide, which are caused by unusually warm ocean temperatures. Do your part and use fossil fuels in your life wisely and carefully. Any decision that you make which reduces your energy use helps, and will also save you money by reducing your power and fuel spending.

Some ideas to reduce your part in global warming

Reduce electric use - Use low energy light bulbs. Insulate your home from heat and cold. Shift your home electronics away from standby power settings

Reduce auto use - Drive less, share a ride, use public transportation, walk or ride a bike when you can. (Both the owners of DiveTheReef.com commute to work by bike.)

Lobby for climate change legislation - Lean on your government a bit, and let them know you care about reducing the impact of global climate change.

Educate yourself and be active - Join a conservation group that works on issues you care about.
Buy environmentally friendly electricity: In many places you can choose to purchase power that is generated in more environmentally friendly ways. Call your energy supplier to ask about it.

Ways you can reduce the addition of chemicals to the environment

Use low phosphate/low nitrate detergents - Phosphates and nitrates found in detergents act like fertilizers in rivers, lakes and oceans, and are not removed by the normal sewage treatment process. Purchase and use detergents with lower levels of these chemicals.

Reduce garden chemical use - The fertilizers and chemicals you use in your garden can wash into and affect your local streams, and eventually the ocean also. Use garden chemicals wisely, and only in the amounts recommended.

Dispose of excess household chemicals properly - Dispose of your motor oil, solvents, old paint, and other chemicals properly. Please do not flush them or dump them in storm drains. Check with the folks that haul your trash where these items can be disposed of, many communities now maintain special disposal centers for these items.

Buy organic produce - Organic produce is grown without many of the agricultural chemicals that end up in rivers and oceans.

Buy fish that are being caught sustainably - Many species of fish are being over fished, and their populations are dropping. Buy fish species that are not being over fished. A great guide to sustainable fishing, with an extensive list of species to buy and to avoid can be found at the Audubon Society’s Living Ocean Campaign Website.

This guide to Reef Care was written by Paddy Colwell of ReefTeach. Paddy’s professional life is dedicated teaching visitors to Cairns about the Great Barrier Reef at his nightly seminars. Paddy also leads guided dives and teaches a four-day reef biology course, which combines two days of guided diving with 8 hours of instruction on reef biology. You can learn more about ReefTeach offerings at this link.

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