By Carys Mahoney,
The main focus at Oceans Unlimited apart from the wonderful world of scuba diving starts with the health of the oceans and the unique species that live down there, as many dive shops including ourselves rely on the ocean as a source of tourism through the large diversity of species found in the pacific. In Costa Rica the the abundance of life is great and diverse at this time of year, Spotted Dolphins are frequently seen riding the bow of boats while angry looking Moray eels lurk in their caves waiting for the next lonesome fish to get to close, blue neon lights flash off juvenile Damsel fish putting on a spectacular show as large groups of Green Jack scour the reef for an easy target.
By documenting what we see on any dive mentally or written it is always a good reference for the future to take note of the amount of certain fish species at sites or the realisation of a new fish you have never seen at a particular site, which can be a indicator to the overall health of a reef and ecosystem. By acknowledging the break down of prey predator or primary, secondary, tertiary consumer species such as Bigeye Trevally that form hunting packs patrolling reefs for other big schools of prey fish easy to infiltrate with evolved lightening speed, to prey species including enormous groups of Cardinal fish which glide over reefs in search for zooplankton, with safety in numbers each fish can be on the look out as well as their evolved vibration sensors along their lateral lines so they can actually feel each fishes position and stay in synch, pretty cool. You realise that variety of predator prey is key to a healthy balance and that you should see a mixture of species ranging from the top of the food chain to the bottom.
All species are an integral part of their ecosystems by performing specific functions which are essential to their own life and the life of others within the ocean, even humans depend on fish as many fish we seek out for food or tourism through aquariums, deep sea fishing and work in the dive industry as no one wants to be diving in a lifeless pit of sand everyday, seeing that one fish or colourful coral always puts a smile on someones face.
As a Divemaster in training I have been opened up to many sources and resources to use when documenting the life I see underwater and believe me its worth documenting, through websites such as coralwatch.org and Reef.org data can be submitted of all species seen and any changes or concerns can be voiced creating an easy non-invasive way to have a positive impact creating more knowledge for scientists and the public.
Through the vast world wide web information is always out there and easy to access, if you are looking for even more practical impacts to have visit Project aware and check out the Finathon events where dive shops have helped bring awareness to the demand in Shark Finning and how the cruel practice needs to be stopped and Dive for debris another positive practical way where any scuba diver, free diver, snorkeler or everyday joe walking along the beach can take part by collecting rubbish washed up on the beach or nets, fishing line and any waste dumped in the sea can be removed. Make it an event or simply apply it to everyday diving practices along with Project aware’s 10 ways a diver can protect the environment which educates students and helps save many marine lives.
Another amazing way to help out is to join a local marine mammal rescue centre and volunteer your time or sign up for the Marine Mammal Medic course for my British fellows,
Buy only sustainable seafood with small amounts of known mercury as there are many online guides easy to print off and stick to the fridge for the next time you feel peckish like a penguin you can know your being conscious with your decision or even better take the step to becoming vegetarian or vegan your body and the planet will thank you. Or make finding dinner interesting, simply go fishing yourself as a meal worked hard for is always better.
These are just a few ways of making a difference towards keeping the oceans healthy and knowing your having an impact on the fate of the seas as at the end of the day humans have a big responsibility to take on when it comes to the planet as our development has different effects on the marine environment. Population pressures can negatively effect marine life by destroying habitats and creating pollution through, eutrophication due to waste run-off and chemicals daily being filtrated into the ocean from agriculture and factories around the world. Introduced invasive species that out compete endemic species upsetting the natural balance and ocean acidification from human activities that have increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as the oceans absorb one third of all CO2 emissions in our atmosphere causing the PH levels to decrease making the seawater more acidic and inhabitable for many species.
Fun Fact: Did you know that tiny phytoplankton in the oceans produce more more oxygen than all the rainforests and plants in the world! Even more of a reason to acknowledge we need to protect and aid towards healthy oceans for our health and survival just as much as the amazing species that call it home!
Revolution – Rob Stewarti
Shark Water – Rob Stewart
The Cove – Ric O’Barry
Race Against Extinction – Louie Psihoyos
Blackfish – Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Planet Ocean – Terry Sloane
Big Miracle – Ken Kwapis
BBC – Shark
BBC Earth – Oceans