Most people, when posed with this question, would assume that a degree in marine biology, zoology, or environmental sciences would be necessary. Many others would be under the belief that one must gain a Scuba Diving Certification, or at least be an avid fan of snorkeling in order to fill the criteria necessary for coral reef conservation. What these persons do not realize is that anyone can be a coral reef conservationist.

This article will identify ways on how regular people can get involved in conserving and protecting the ocean’s most diverse and fragile ecosystem. Additionally, snorkelers, divers and all marine enthusiasts, whether formally educated about the underwater environment or not, may use the information provided below as a guide to improving their personal contribution to saving reefs in Tobago, and all over the world.

Coral Reef Conservation Courses

The coral reef conservation course offered by most diver centers finds its purpose in developing a student’s practical knowledge of the underwater world, while evoking a sense of wonder and responsibility towards the collective organisms that comprise and utilize the reef itself.

For individuals who are already certified divers, emphasis may be placed on polishing buoyancy control skills in order to prevent or reduce the instance of coral and sponge destruction. Usually, those with good intentions can cause more damage than good unless the required abilities are honed.

Where non-divers are concerned, knowing where to step and what not to step on is equally essential in ensuring low impact research and observation of marine habitats.

Dive shops usually organizes its Reef Conservation Specialty course as a PADI program for certified divers and also for non-divers. In fact, almost anyone can benefit from this exciting educational experience, no matter what their age or background is.

Dive Skills and Objectives

The course objectives for certified divers include the practice and refinement of the skills necessary to maintain neutral buoyancy in the underwater environment. Like an astronaut, a scuba diver must perfect movement in a low gravity environment, so as to prevent unwanted positive buoyancy (floating) and negative buoyancy (sinking). A diver must therefore demonstrate the ability to remain neutrally buoyant while positioned vertically and horizontally in scuba, as well as while swimming underwater in scuba. Additionally, certified diver students are required to demonstrate swimming techniques that help avoid unconscious fin impact with delicate corals, and general disturbance of silt, sand, and other sea floor composition / wildlife habitats.

Demonstrating a proper buoyancy check at the surface before embarking on a dive is also required in order to ensure that student divers are not over weighted and prone to sinking onto fragile substrate matter. This practice, in conjunction with prudent buoyancy control, can significantly minimize negative researcher impact on the environment. Effective buoyancy techniques are particularly important for photographers and videographers who need to, in effect, hover for themselves and their often bulky and cumbersome equipment. If you are experiencing difficulties maintaining the right buoyancy, consider finding a better scuba bcd.

Demonstrating Your Ability

Once a certified diver or student has mastered the ability to control his/her buoyancy underwater, he or she may traverse a reef slope safely and with little or no intrusion upon the balance of life within the area. At this stage, the coral reef conservationist trainee will safely be able to identify local marine / aquatic creatures as well as the symbiotic relationships that exist between various species which make their homes amidst the fragile coral formations. Locating indications of negative human impact on the coral reef, and identifying areas where a correctly executed finger push or hand hold can be accomplished without damaging the environment, are essential and provide vital information necessary for protecting the reef from diver damage. Streamlining of Scuba Diving Equipment and attention to properly securing gauges and hoses also prevent harmful interaction and potential tangling between diver and reef.

The course objectives for non-certified divers include gaining a functional understanding of the definition of the word “ecosystem”, and by extension, contrasting the similarities and the differences between terrestrial and aquatic / marine ecosystems.

The detailed classification of aquatic plants and animals into scientific names such as genus and species in order to distinctly label all living organisms ever described by scientists, is another important course objective. An appreciation of the role of the food chain in energy transfer and inter-species survival is necessary if we are to understand the dynamics of nature’s balance. In turn, various forms of plant / animal adaptation to their coral reef homes, such as foraging, hunting, escaping, camouflage and reproduction; reveal the subtle complexities of such phenomena as: symbiotic, mutualistic and parasitic inter-species relationships which create a foundation of stability for coral reef survival. An ecosystem is the interrelationship of living things and how they function as a unit with their environment.

Conclusion: Get Started Now

If you are an avid visitor of coral reefs whether you are a scuba diver or just frequent beaches near coral reefs it is important to have the right skills and information when visiting reef systems. To get involved with coral reef conservation: get educated and find out how you can make an impact by making little changes in your every day life to gradually become part of the global solution, not the problem!

Visit your PADI / SSI Dive Center of choice and enroll in the Coral Reef Conservation course for divers and non-divers alike. Divers must be 12 years of age and certified as PADI Open Water or Jr. Open Water, or an equivalent rating. Non-divers require no prerequisite certification and people of all ages are welcome. The basic Coral Reef Conservation course lasts eight hours, and includes two open water dives (for certified divers), two snorkeling sessions (for non-certified), and a half-day coastal safari (for non-swimmers).