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A Shocking and Embarrassing Discovery
Airworks - 12/30/2019 3:58 PM
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Category: Educational
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A Shocking and Embarrassing DiscoveryMy wife and I visit our children and grandchildren that live along the Atlantic edge of Florida about three times a year, and I often try to get in a bit of ocean diving while there. Living in Virginia and a considerable distance from the coast forces me to spend a lot of time quarry diving, so it’s always a real delight to catch a Florida charter and check out the salt life!

On December 24th of 2019 I booked a 2-tank drift dive on the Republic IV, one of several boats owned and chartered by Jupiter Dive Center in Jupiter, Fl. I did some Lionfish hunting to do my part in trying to lessen the negative impact this invasive species is having all along the Floridian coast. The two drift dives were along reefs that appeared healthy in terms of the variety of fish species observed. I only saw and speared 3 small Lionfish. Good riddance. It’s obvious that the Lionfish hunting contests regularly held in the area are making huge strides in eradicating the species.

Several small reef sharks, and a nurse shark, were very interested in what I was doing, and came within touching distance.

The hunting was fun, though it could’ve been more productive. I was hoping to gather enough Lionfish to create a sumptuous meal for my large family, but it didn’t pan out that way.

The dives were great, and I observed a lot of marine life that I’ve seen before.

That’s not why I’m writing this article, however. I was stunned and shocked by something I did not expect to see. And to be perfectly honest, I even felt a little embarrassed about what I encountered.

There was clear evidence of major coral reef destruction NOT caused by ocean acidification and warming. Huge swathes of broken sea fans, sea whips, Elkhorn coral, etc., lay flat on the ocean floor or on the coral reefs themselves, pointing to direct human contact. It looked like someone had taken a lawn mower to them!

I’ve been diving for many years, and have to admit that I’ve been guilty (in the past) of inadvertently and accidentally sinking too fast and/or rubbing up against more than one reef. My buoyancy control left much to be desired, mostly because it wasn’t that important to me as a young diver.

Now that I’m older and much more environmentally aware, I try very hard at controlling my buoyancy the entire time I’m underwater. Since most of my diving is in freshwater quarries, I take every opportunity to practice buoyancy control and tight-space maneuvering by taking advantage of numerous submerged trees and branches found in many of them. They provide natural “obstacle courses”, and are great training areas. Make sure to take an extraction tool (serrated blade & saw combo). Entanglement in that kind of environment is a real probability.

Now, a word to dive instructors. PLEASE make every effort to emphasize and encourage your students to master their buoyancy control. Take advantage of the opportunities afforded by quarry and lake diving. In fact, DON’T allow any student to obtain OW certification until they have clearly demonstrated proficiency in this vital skill.

Scuba divers should be the first “line of defense” when it comes to protecting all aquatic life and habitats.

We do ourselves no favors when we leave behind damaged or destroyed underwater life. Many people and organizations have blamed scuba divers for much of the destruction done to coral reefs, and my dives in Florida opened my eyes to the real culpability some divers have in that regard.

Disciplining ourselves to focus on breathing, finning techniques, body position, and buoyancy control will help maintain the health of living coral reefs when we visit and participate in ocean diving, and will hopefully encourage the watching world to view divers in a more positive light as protectors and guardians of the oceans and reef systems instead of their destroyers.

We should never leave any negative physical evidence that “divers have been in the area”.

PLEASE leave only bubbles behind!


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