World Oceans Day: An Expert’s Guide To Marine Conservation And Sustainable Scuba Diving

Marine biologist Diksha Dikshit on why preserving the Indian marine ecosystem needs your attention.

Published On Jun 08, 2023 | Updated On Feb 26, 2024

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The Indian coastline, 7,500 kms to be precise, is home to some of the most unique and diverse marine life which is, unfortunately, under a lot of threat. In 2019, according to a study undertaken by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the oceans ran out of oxygen due to climate change and nutrient pollution. The Wildlife Conservation Society of India has been emphasising strengthening the marine protected areas through various programmes. Some of these include identifying bycatch spots and reducing them, strengthening shark and ray conservation, supporting sustainable fisheries, and evaluating the effect of diving on the coral reefs. Multiple other organisations have been actively working towards protecting the marine ecosystem through restoration, advocacy and awareness activities, yet sea life is in a dire state. 

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This World Oceans Day, we got Diksha Dikshit, marine biologist and dive professional at Dive India, Andamans to not just share tips on sustainable scuba diving, but also elaborate on why preserving the Indian marine ecosystem needs your attention.

For Diksha, scuba diving is a way of life. Her stint with marine biology started in 2015, and she firmly believes that scuba diving makes the underwater world easily accessible to all. Underlining how diving schools should opt for sustainable operational measures, she says, “The sport itself could be used as a tool to bring people closer to the oceans. To show them the changes the oceans are fighting through. Hence, it should be the utmost priority of a dive school to adopt sustainability in their operations and to lead by example.”

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But the question is, can you really make scuba diving sustainable? Is it viable, we ask. Diksha doesn’t mince her words when it comes to admitting the fact that it’s a sport that does consume resources. Elaborating on the possibilities, she explains, “You need fuel to travel to dive destinations, you need it to run boats and compressors to fill cylinders with air. The only way to make it sustainable is by streamlining the operational procedures. One would need to actively avoid overuse or spillage of resources. Regular upkeep of boats and equipment is a must to limit the use of non-renewable resources. This also ensures safety. When taken good care of, scuba equipment can last for decades.”

She continues, “Sustainability could also seep into the ethics of diving. A dive leader always needs to be aware of their own and their diver's actions. Touching or harassing any kind of marine life has to be a complete no-no. They shouldn't be allowed to feed animals or be intrusive in their actions so as to alter the behaviour of marine animals. If one uses anchors to station a boat at a dive site, it should be done on sand and not on corals. No divers should be allowed to touch or break or stand on (yes, that happens) corals.”

Although we live on a blue planet with about 71% of its surface covered with water, most don't know the importance of oceans for our sustenance. “Supporting the basic nutritional demands of over 15% of the global population, producing the major chunk of oxygen that we breathe, regulating climate and making land more habitable, bringing the world closer through water transportation, supporting jobs and livelihood in coastal regions and an economy of over $200 billion - these are only a few items from a long list of services that the oceans provide us,” she informs.

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Diksha says, “At DIVEIndia, we believe in awareness through experience. As an individual, you don't need to visit the most exotic dive destinations to appreciate what lies underwater. Go to the beach in your town, go for shore walks, attend seminars and talks to understand the science behind conservation and talk about it to your family and friends. Encourage them to do the same and soon you will find yourself a part of a community that's more empathetic towards the environment and more mindful of conservation.”

It has been scientifically proven again and again that we absolutely need oceans for our survival. This makes it our duty to do whatever we can to help oceans function as they do. Diksha suggests adopting the following habits in your daily life to do your part as an individual.

Try to avoid buying plastic micro-packaged food items. Demand for plastic-free alternatives instead. When you do buy plastic, check for its recyclability and reuse as much as possible before you recycle.

Eat seafood that is in season and eat fish that is caught by local fishermen by traditional methods. These methods ensure that all the fish in a particular pool are not fished out and the population sustains for further generations. There are multiple online media platforms which will tell you which fish is in season.

Get out and explore. Go to a beach or a rocky shore and see what animals you find. Go for snorkelling and diving to fall in love with the oceans all over again. Choose operators who follow sustainable practices and endorse marine conservation. Volunteer with researchers and conservation groups to be updated and spread the word of awareness all around yourself.

At DIVEIndia, the divers aim to make people fall in love with the oceans and help them make a personal connection to the ocean. Diksha elaborates, “Jacques Cousteau said, ‘People protect what they love’. We breathe these words. We dive to not just tell them stories that live underwater but help them live those stories and experience them first hand. Be it a diver who is diving for just an experience, or a new certified diver, or an experienced diver with over a 100 dives - all our staff strives to educate the divers on safe, sustainable and ethical diving practices while making them aware of the fragility and vulnerability of this precious ecosystem.”

To achieve this, their staff is trained by marine biologists to inculcate empathy towards the oceans. “We support marine researchers and have a marine education and conservation wing of our own - DI Conservation,” she adds. DI Conservation runs multiple educational programs for divers as well as non-divers that teach them the mechanics of the oceans. They also collect periodic data pertaining to changes that various marine ecosystems are currently going through.

Highlighting the initiatives taken by DIVEIndia towards marine conservation, she informs, “Operationally, we have foregone the use of paper forms and single-use plastic pens to move over to a digital record maintenance system. We encourage all our divers to use refillable bottles and reusable crockery on land as well as on the boats. We have taken efforts to reduce our carbon footprint by streamlining our operations and avoiding any leaks or overuse at any point. We believe in development with the locals and make it a point to be all inclusive of local communities - who are a major and integral part of our operations.”


Photo: Shutterstock; DIVEIndia

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