Recreational Diving Impacts on Coral Reefs and the Adoption of Environmentally Responsible Practices within the SCUBA Diving Industry
Recreational diving on coral reefs is an activity that has experienced rapidly growing levels of popularity and participation. Despite providing economic activity for many developing coastal communities, the potential role of dive impacts in contributing to coral reef damage is a concern at heavily dived locations. Management measures to address this issue increasingly include the introduction of programmes designed to encourage environmentally responsible practices within the dive industry. We examined diver behaviour at several important coral reef dive locations within the Philippines and assessed how diver characteristics and dive operator compliance with an environmentally responsible diving programme, known as the Green Fins approach, affected reef contacts. The role of dive supervision was assessed by recording dive guide interventions underwater, and how this was affected by dive group size. Of the 100 recreational divers followed, 88 % made contact with the reef at least once per dive, with a mean (±SE) contact rate of 0.12 ± 0.01 per min. We found evidence that the ability of dive guides to intervene and correct diver behaviour in the event of a reef contact decreases with larger diver group sizes. Divers from operators with high levels of compliance with the Green Fins programme exhibited significantly lower reef contact rates than those from dive operators with low levels of compliance. The successful implementation of environmentally responsible diving programmes, which focus on influencing dive industry operations, can contribute to the management of human impacts on coral reefs.