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Photographers - be careful


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#1 anthp

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Posted 05 September 2004 - 06:49 PM

Hi everyone

Just a note to suggest that we all try to be as careful as possible when diving and taking pictures.

This scientific study indicates that photographers contribute to around four times :!: the amount of damage to the reef when compared to non-photographers. :?

Hopefully we can all consider this and be as careful as possible.

#2 SharkyUAE

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Posted 06 September 2004 - 03:16 AM

I cannot access the linked article, however I would guess they are including those who go down with disposable cameras and the like and basically not interested much more than taking a few snaps.

What about new divers and those who only dive a couple of times a year on their annual vacation. From what I have seen they basically have very little buoancy control and frequently damage corals etc with bad finning.
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#3 Giles

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Posted 06 September 2004 - 05:42 AM

Working in the industry I can safely say it is nothing to do with being a photographer or a new diver or a not very often diver. Although yes you may see these things come into play.
The type of person who damages coral is simply a person who doesn't care about the environment they are in, and is looking out only for themselves, be it underwater or above. Combine that with a lack of knowledge of their own abilities and you get people crashing into corals because they are trying to do something they aren't able to; like getting a closer look or hovering close to the reef when their bouyancy control is not perfect. Going through a swim through and banging the exit and or entry points up because they use their arms to push or pull through or kick wildly to get out.

It is very much a mind set of being better than you actually are and not caring about the damage you do. Anyone could be like this .. a wolrd class photographer, just because they can be (not implying anoyone there) ... or a brand new diver, just because they know no better.

Blame the instructors not the people, they weren't eductaed well enough in my point of view, if they were told about the damage they can do then they may not do it ... ?

thats been my opinion for a long time, but unfortunately diving has become about money, and so it's through put of customers not quality of output, BUT there are some damn good divers out there, and some damn good instructors. so keep up the good work ... :)
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#4 caveman

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Posted 06 September 2004 - 07:13 AM

A study will provide a reply you want to have. No doubt the facts are true, and of course we need to excercise caution when diving. For those of you having dived in Asia, you are probably more familiar with dynamite fishing. I was on an "exlusive island" (not sipadan ) in Borneo, and the whole island round was dynamited. So I ask the question..how much damage have i done compared to the dynamite fishermen.

Do not mis-interpret this, i am not advocating being wreckless, but if we really want to improve things, lets start with the "big fish" first, and then move on to the smaller ones once we got the big ones squared away. ( in Asia anyway )

#5 Giles

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Posted 06 September 2004 - 07:21 AM

And look at the facts of this survey ... they wacthed 353 subjects on one island, probably with one company.
It's not exactly a study showing diving trends ... it's the sort of information you could gather in a weeks vacation, and when they talk about coral reef being touched by photographers are they noting if it is steadying on dead reef or live reef ... I am not paying membership to read the full text, but I am guessing it's a study done for points in a University course.
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#6 SharkyUAE

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Posted 06 September 2004 - 07:56 AM

Blame the instructors not the people, they weren't eductaed well enough in my point of view, if they were told about the damage they can do then they may not do it ... ?

thats been my opinion for a long time, but unfortunately diving has become about money, and so it's through put of customers not quality of output, BUT there are some damn good divers out there, and some damn good instructors. so keep up the good work ... :)


Absolutely, I have met divers who because they have done two back to back courses are now advanced divers even though they have only done 9 dives, and consider themselves superior over others who are still basic open water divers even though they may have done many more dives.

It is all about money in several places there is no doubt about it, and while I think its great to get kids in a pool with scuba gear etc there should be more emphasis on environmental issues and proper buoancy control. My daughter recently became a junior Open Water diver, to be honest I would not have passed her, the buoancy control test was a complete farce, (I witnessed it - and she will not be returnng to that dive establishment for future courses) which is why I took her to a nice easy place to dive in Malaysia where she quickly learned (the way I was taught) what to do.

And as for photographers in the survey - what credentials made a diver a photographer? My guess it was just any diver carrying a camera from a Fuji / Kodak disposable job to ... well what most of us on the forum use

I'll get off my soap box now before I really get carried away
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#7 acroporas

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Posted 06 September 2004 - 08:15 AM

I can email you the full text Giles if you want me to.

It is quite interesting.

They did break the photographers in to two groups, non specialists with disposable and specialists with expensive cameras. They fond no difference in the two groups.

The study consisted on 26 weeks of observations. In 2 13 week periods, one during the winter=high tourist season, and one during the summer=slow season.

The biggest complaint I have about the study is their definition of "diving impacts" this includes any contact with the substrate, be it sand, dead rock, or live coral. Also, you dont even have to touch the substrate to be classifyed as an 'impact'. Any action that causes sediment to be released into the water is classifyed as 'impact'

They blame shore divers as being considerbly worse on the reef than boat divers, after all you have to walk through that sand in order to get out. They found that 97.9% of shore divers contacted the reef. I question how the other 2% got in the water without touching the sand. Pier maby??


Divers holding onto the substrate with their hands and resting against the substrate with their knees were the next most problematic actions


I am suprised that they dont note open water classes as the epitome of evil, after all 50% of the time is spent resting on your knees on the substrate=sand.

Then they finish off the study saying it is unknown if direct physical contact with live coral causes damage. They refrence a study that found there is no damage done to a coral by touching it. Yet they also explain that touching the sand is bad because you stir it up and later a sand partical may land on a coral. OHH NO

Of the impacts that actually caused damage to the reef = 'breakage' they found that photographers are to blame, after all there is a week correlation.

Photographer status was the only significant predictor of breakage rate among the independent variables for boat and shore dives, although the regression was weak......Coral breaks by divers were few, but it appears that when they did occur, being a photographer had some, albeit small, influence. Predicted number of breaks min−1 for any one dive for photographers was 0.032 and for non-photographers 0.006.


So photographers may be likely to sit in the sand or push off of a dead piece of rock but when it comes down to doing anything that definately causes damage to the reef, it is so rare, that the difference could pretty much be explained by a single photographer who kicked a piece of A. cervicornis and broke a dosen tips off.

It looks like to me that divers cause so little direct damage to the reef it would have taken them years to gather enough data to produce any strong results if they just counted direct damage.
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#8 Giles

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Posted 06 September 2004 - 08:29 AM

that has been the case of many studies

I have regularly seen that divers are less than 1% to blame ... the biggest normally being costal constructrion .. followed by marine harvesting be it fishing or coral collecting.
But something that people don't take into account is that marine harvesting of coral is not always damaging and can be good.
Here in Cayman when a cruise ship ran aground on the reef .. divers went around picking up live bits of reef .. taking them back to where they had been broken from .. (general area) and glued them back on .. and the reef is quite healthy. Took time and money, but it happened. Although if you had watched that period of diving ... you would have seen 20 people a day touching hundreds of pieces of coral.
Now although touching coral doesn't always damage it .. it's obviously not good .. I mean if you stand on an ant .. 1 in ten time you are likely to squash it .. other times it will be ok.

If you want to get really pedantic .. the nutrients divers remove from the water must do some damage as well .. having to clean a dive boat .. you get to notice how dirty the boat can get after one dive .. just form the water coming off the gear and the people .. the dirtyness has to be nutrients .. so we are stealing there food .. I think this study can be dismissed as not looked at on a wide enough scale .. I mean .. what is the point in studying something that is only an overall 1% cause of the topic at hand .. It's like studying rainfall in an area and syaing it causes obesity because the rain makes the grass grow which cows eat .. and cows make burgers at fast food restaurants. It's not the full picture, did anyone watch these people doing the study to see what they stirred up .. or what they touched .. or how they got in the water to watch the shore divers ?
I too am done, i'm starting to get on my high horse as well .. and i sometimes need a big ladder to get back down again .. otherwise the fall hurts.
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#9 Leslie

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Posted 06 September 2004 - 09:54 AM

I wonder how many photographers touching coral or kicking up sand it would take to equal the damage done by one carelessly placed anchor, a commercial live rock collector, or a dynamite fisher? What about hurricanes or elevated water temperatures? And let's not forget reef biologists who justify taking a crowbar to coral heads because the end results will help us better understand and manage reefs? Damage comes from a lot of different sources, big & small.

Studies like this do have a good underlying point -- animals can suffer & die from accumulated small stresses. The net result can be a depleted reef. Reef managers need to understand the impact caused by every sort of human activity so they can regulate the level of usage and protect their areas. I think one of the other points here is that dive masters are the key to how divers behave underwater. It's obvious from the discussions here on wetpixel that most of the members don't need to be told not to touch or kick sand but you all are not average divers or photographers!

And Giles - the problem with nutrients isn't that humans take too much away, the problem is that we add way too much..... think agriculture, fertilizer, and sewage! That's one of the main reason we have algae overgrowing reefs in the Caribbean & jellyfish blooms in the Gulf of Mexico. You can wash down your dive boats with a clean conscience :)

#10 Marjo

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Posted 06 September 2004 - 05:13 PM

Returned from divetrip recently and made the following "non scientific" observation. Apart from myself, there was only one other photoenthusiast in the group. I found this individula to be the most environmentally concious person in the group and the only one who seemed to have some basic knowledge of marine biology. When diving with the group the non photo enthusists who dove one or a few times a year where very eager to see whatever I was photographing. The motto seemed to be "since I am only diving this one week of the year, I'll be darn sure to see everything that there possibly is to see". So having patiently waited for the longsnout seahorse to turn into the perfect position, I feel a showe to my left temple, when Mr Iwannasee pushes me out of the way and stirring up a huge cloud of sand to have a closer look at whatrever surely must be a wonder to behold since the Photograper has taken interest... I do belive that there is a good point in reminding photographers to mind their buoyancy and to remind us that no shot is worth touching, damaging, upseeting, moving or in any way harming sealife. However, I also believe that most of us become quite tuned with our UW environment. We are eager to learn about our subjects and their place in their environment. We fall in love with the ocean and we want to protect it. I think there is a trend of picking on the photographers right now and many are jumping on the bandwagon. However it is getting a bit old... Living a few footsteps from the ocean and being part of a community that is completely dependent on it in so many ways, I can genuinely say that I would personally feel soo much better if we could trade each speargun for a camera (maybe we'll habve some groupers left in our waters), if we could get all of our Caribbean politicians divecertified and and interested in capturing the beauty of the ocean (maybe they would finally prioritize fixing sewage pump stations and pipes over SUVs and ripping out healthy reefs to build marinas and artificial "amusement park" reefs), if we could get our local children and students to appreciate the underwater beauty maybe their generation wouldn't consider the ocean a dumping ground like their parents do today. Anyone who think that UW photographers are culprits in the destruction of our marine environment, I dare to come live on my island for a few years, and let's see what your opinion is after that....

#11 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 06 September 2004 - 06:29 PM

I think Leslie raises an important point.
That photographers are not the main cause of the fact that "the degradation of coral reefs worldwide has now reached a critical stage". The main culprits are "over fishing, development of the coastal zone, including dredging and landfill, and terrestrial run-off. Moreover, the increase in sea surface temperatures, the decrease in carbonate levels as well as sea-level rise, caused by increasing anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere, all act synergistically to stress coral reefs, which lead to severe bleaching and extensive coral mortality". These quotes come from the Okinawa Declaration signed by the scientists that participated in the 10th Int Coral Reef Symposium in June this year.

The photographers probably do far more damage driving gas-guzzling pick-up trucks at home, demanding new hotels to stay in and eating seafood every night on dive vacations.

That said some photographers do damage corals and harass marine life and that is unneccessary and unacceptable. These papers are useful in highlighting the problems - particularly of dedicated photographers who sometimes go to far the top to get that image. I am always glad to see here at Wetpixel that when this subject comes up we are always united in supporting the correct code of minimum contact uw photography.

Alex

p.s. the earlier work of Rouphael & Inglis 2001 (Biol Cons 100:281-287) is also worth a read, but their data are limited, and am very surprised that it passed peer-review considering it seems to be high on speculation and conjecture, and low on data. I can't download the paper pointed out by anthp until I am back on a University IP address, but will comment then.

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#12 SharkyUAE

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Posted 11 September 2004 - 06:54 AM

I attended a meeting of the Emirates Diving Association last Wednesday http://www.emiratesdiving.com/ where a speaker from Al Nakheel gave a lecture on Sustainable Coastal Management with relationship to some of their projects, which in case none of you are aware includ several man-made islands off the coast of Dubai UAE and is basically responsible for the current 1 meter viz that we have here http://www.theemirat...alm_islands.htm

The fact that the second Palm Island project is built on a marine reserve appears to be of no consequence and most likely the population of dugongs on Jebel Ali Reef is not going to be taken into consideration over the extensive amount of money that will be made from selling property on these islands.

Seven years ago just before I left Jeddah, there was a lot of reclamation in the lagoons on the North Obhur beaches with the lagoons being filled and concrete jetties constructed to allow limited people access to the reef from which they would fish, through garbage such as unwanted CDs etc.

I used to dive from a private beach there (Blue Beach) and I took photographs underwater where a bulldozer was operating inside the lagoon destroying our visibility.

The purpose was to record the pinnacle that stood out from the reef edge rising from 18M to 6M below the surface, before it disappeared forever.

I can happily say that when I dived in Jeddah last June, the pinnacle still stands and is very much alive.

However, the reef edge and slope down to 30M is completely devastated with only a hint of some corals beginning to populate the gray mass of dead corals reminiscent of a Soviet housing area.

Unfortunately money overules everything.
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#13 Arnon_Ayal

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Posted 14 September 2004 - 07:58 AM

The link can't be reached
Is it possible to get the article (here/by mail)?

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#14 anthp

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Posted 03 October 2004 - 11:08 PM

Coral reefs worldwide are attracting increasing numbers of scuba divers, leading to growing concern about damage. There is now a need to manage diver behaviour closely, especially as many dive companies offer unlimited, unsupervised day and night diving from shore. We observed 353 divers in St. Lucia and noted all their contacts with the reef during entire dives to quantify rates of damage and seek ways of reducing it. Divers using a camera caused significantly more contacts with the reef than did those without cameras (mean 0.4 versus 0.1 contacts min−1), as did shore versus boat dives (mean 0.5 versus 0.2 contacts min−1) and night versus day dives (mean 1.0 versus 0.4 contacts min−1). We tested the effect of a one-sentence inclusion in a regular dive briefing given by local staff that asked divers to avoid touching the reef. We also examined the effect of dive leader intervention on rates of diver contact with the reef. Briefing alone had no effect on diver contact rates, or on the probability of a diver breaking living substrate. However, dive leader intervention when a diver was seen to touch the reef reduced mean contact rates from 0.3 to 0.1 contacts min−1 for both shore and boat dives, and from 0.2 to 0.1 contacts min−1 for boat dives. Given that briefings alone are insufficient to reduce diver damage, we suggest that divers need close supervision, and that dive leaders must manage diver behaviour in situ.

#15 caveman

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Posted 04 October 2004 - 04:37 AM

Is there also data dynamited coral reefs about how the impact of divers with cameras and divers without. Sorry for pulling you leg :) and I realize that the priorities are different depending on where you live, but Asia ( where some of the best diving in the world is ) is under sever attack from dynamite fish ( the ones with the little fuse tails :D ) and Shark Fin Fishing.

#16 caveman

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Posted 04 October 2004 - 04:37 AM

Is there also data dynamited coral reefs about how the impact of divers with cameras and divers without. Sorry for pulling you leg :) and I realize that the priorities are different depending on where you live, but Asia ( where some of the best diving in the world is ) is under sever attack from dynamite fish ( the ones with the little fuse tails :D ) and Shark Fin Fishing.

#17 caveman

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Posted 04 October 2004 - 04:43 AM

It really is sad to see 5 km of prime reef brought down to rubble.....

#18 astrl

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Posted 04 October 2004 - 03:04 PM

I also think it depends on the person. On a recent trip to Bonaire, I was waiting patiently to get a picture of a subject. Just as I was about to snap the picture, another photographer literally bulldozed me out of the way with his camera rig because he didn't want to wait. I couldn't believe it!

You would think a photographer would be more careful with his equipment since it was much more expensive than mine. And then the lout had the audacity to tell a story where he was the victim on a previous trip. What a jerk! :evil:

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#19 caveman

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Posted 05 October 2004 - 03:42 AM

I had the same in Burma......... Was waiting at 24 meters for another photograper ( 15 mins) to finish with his shots of a Ghostpipefish .......... and then when finally free, i moved in to take my shots and a Video guy from another boat just came and barged in...... I gave him a big whack and he got the picture.

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#20 maggieD

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Posted 13 October 2004 - 07:24 AM

Just want to point out that we all can cause damage to a coral reef by being careless. Everyone (in my humble opinion) causes damage to the coral. God knows not purposely but everyone kicks the coral occasionally. So for me the point is to just be more carefull not debate whether it was a good study or not. Just my .02 cents.