The difference scuba divers are making in the local community
Don’t think just because you are a visitor in another country, that you do not have a significant role to play with the locals. Every visit and monetary investment is a chance to enhance conservation, education and communication.
Raja Ampat’s marine life and reefs become threatened with destructive fishing practices, coastal development, runoff from poor land use practices, and uncontrolled tourism activities.
For example, local subsistence fishermen in Raja Ampat have used dynamite blast fishing methods in the past, and some fragile ecosystems have been threatened by logging, mining, and oil exploration.
It has become even more important than ever to ensure your dive resort supports education, communication and conservation within the local community and serve to promote the area – instead of tarnishing the environment and the people alongside with it.
Top 5 ways to become an eco-traveller
Check your plastic use
We are all well aware of the current situation we are facing regarding plastic pollution choking our oceans and marine life with it. From 5 giant plastic gyres formulating gelatinous islands in our oceans to the vast amount of news stories surfacing about dead marine animals with tons of plastic found in their stomachs.
Check your plastic usage! Anything from single-use plastics to chewing gum (which is basically a big glob of plastic) and strive to motivate those around you to do the same.
No plastic bottles are available at our resort, and we have installed Vulcan and Reverse Osmosis drinking water systems in the resort, so all the water in the service facility is potable. By refilling the water dispensers onsite and your glass water bottles with fresh water, we are making a small but positive contribution towards reducing the negative impact on our environment, the creatures in it, as well as our bodies.
Although it has been determined that no product can really be seen as entirely safe to our marine life and coral gardens, it is important to ensure you educate yourself on various chemicals found to be detrimental to the health of the ocean.
One such chemical is oxybenzone. This common UV-stopping ingredient has been the epicentre of discussion and found to help viruses damage coral more quickly. Ensure there is NO oxybenzone in any products you buy.
Also check the labels of your sun cream for non-nano minerals, since nanoparticles. Nano refers to particles under a hundred nanometers and can be bad news for marine life that ingests them (shrimp etc.)
Although no sunscreen has been proven totally safe for aquatic wildlife—wearing a rash guard or other protective clothing while you snorkel is the best choice for coral as well as for your skin—some formulas are friendlier than others.
Making an effort to choose the most responsible marine tourism operators while travelling can also help to save coral reefs.
Questions to ask: How does the company educate guests about the local environment and marine life? What specific steps does it take to minimise its own impact on the local ecosystem? Does it run or assist in local conservation initiatives such as beach clean-ups?
Many smokers aren't even aware that cigarette filters are made of thousands of particles of plastic. Yes, it's true - and by simply throwing your cigarette butt on the ground, they get washed down drains and ultimately land up in our oceans.
If you do smoke, try and dispose of it properly – or better yet, just quit.
About one-third of all saltwater fish species live at least part of their lives on coral reefs, and all play important roles in the health of these habitats.You can avoid being part of the problem by checking if your travel destination has a sustainable seafood guide and steering clear of out-of-season seafood offered on restaurant menus.
Ask about invasive species or document data
Another way of helping is asking your dive resort about invasive species and keeping a look-out during your dives. The Crown of Thorns Seastar – a predator of coral - has been causing a bit of a stir in Raja Ampat. It’s believed the seastars were introduced to the reef through the ballast water of passing cargo ships, and with few predators, in Indonesian waters, they have thrived.
Keep a lookout for infestations of 5-10 observed in any one traverse. Meridian Adventure Dive is actively busy with monthly removals and document the data for further research purposes.
Lastly, a good thing to look out for when choosing your dive resort is the extent of their efforts towards enhancing the community, as well as the ocean.
Meridian Adventure Dive has participated in training and upskilling the local Homestay Owners by mentoring the local villagers to become their own entrepreneurs (and not taking any revenue from the bookings made via the resort). By doing this we have opened these homeowners to an international market for people who not only want to visit the pristine environment but want to make a difference in doing so.
Simply put – you make a difference by just making a booking!