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Do Strobes and Video Lights Negatively Impact Sea Life

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I Googled the above and didn't find much but did find this

 

"When the flash went off the fish convulsed and shot away in panic like it had been fired from a rail gun right smack into a limestone boulder. I will never forget the sound of pounds of flesh and bone hitting solid rock at that velocity. A lot of you have had the experience of feeling sound underwater, particularly lower frequencies. I felt that fish's head hit the rock and it resonated in my own head just a couple of feet away. The force and weight of the impact made a sound that still makes me wince."

 

Are there any studies? I've seen some comments about concerns around sea life that does not have eyelids.

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Thanks SWink. Fasicnating especially this summary "The effect of underwater flash photography on H. whitei movements was not significant; however, the effect of handling H. whitei to take a photograph had a significant effect on their short-term behavioural responses to the photographer"

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I think it varies with strobes at least.

 

From my experience, most marine life seems to see and hate a bright video light in their face. Pretty much all the subjects i point one at visibly recoil or shy away (i dont do macro though).

With strobes its a little different, im fairly sure some types of marine life cant actually see the flash because its so fast and theres no reaction at all whereas others clearly do and do blink or recoil.

 

For example Cephalopods such as Octopus and Cuttlefish visibly blink and sometimes recoil when a strobe fires. Turtles also.

Whereas Triggerfish Lionfish, Parrotfish, Lobster and other reef fish seem to have no reaction what-so-ever.

 

Edit:- just noticed the year. I thought this thread was a few months old not a year and a few months!

Edited by String
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Thanks String. Doesn't matter how old this topic is. Still relevant.

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This is a scientific paper published in 2019 on the subject.

Behavioural and pathomorphological impacts of flash photography on benthic fishes. Very interesting read.

https://crittersresearch.com/2019/01/25/new-publication-flash-photography-impacts-on-fish-to-flash-or-not-to-flash/?fbclid=IwAR25HrTgKmqoOOpTJ_3FTfzmSKvMBiLKxCGap17Scg8jcuUss7hoO5E_iTE

Edited by Placebo365
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Was just about to post this but got beaten to it. Its a limited study (seahorses only) but does dispel a lot of the myths surrounding it and the non-scientific approach to lighting bans.

 

It does tend to support my theory that a lot of the bans (such as Malapascua Thresher Shark dives) have no basis in real world fact or science and are simply made up.

 

Ive been looking (without success) to find any research providing justification for the Malapascua ban (and the unofficial Mola limitations imposed by dive centres in Lembongan etc).

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I think this thread is even more topical now than when it was started, at least as regards video lights, which are becoming incredibly powerful. There's a thread on here at the moment discussing the merits of a light pumping out15000 lumens, e.g.

I haven't seen any precise scientific data either, but what String said on 20 Jan is also my experience. Surely, we can use some common sense? who among us likes an incredibly bright light shone in their eyes? what about your kids and pets? isn't it just possible that marine life is, at the very least, going to become more wary over time with divers shining such bright video lights at them? (leaving aside the question of whether or not it's actually harmful).

As divers, we surely have a responsibility to our fishy friends!

Yeah, OK, morays and hunting lion fish at night don't seem to care....

As for strobes, well, I don't do photography, but 1/250' just doesn't seem like it would be the same as 20 seconds of bright video light in terms of impact on behaviour. Also what that scientific paper concluded with regard to sea horses.

Just my 2c.

 

Matt

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There is a distinction between harm to the animals and harm to the dive experience. It looks like flashes don't physically harm the animals themselves. I am sure the same would be true for video lights.

 

But, the harm to the dive experience by disturbing the animals and causing them to flee is an whole different thing. The thresher sharks are a classic example. Given the rarity and expense of the dive, and the expense and effort just to get there, are the operators going to take the chance that flashes or video lights are going to cause the sharks to flee? Similarly, if lots of flashes causes a pygmy seahorse to want to move deeper into the sea fan, out of view, then it makes sense to limit how much irritation you can inflict on it.

 

Common sense needs to come into play. Classic example, there is an area near me where we can see sawfish. This is a new and very exciting discovery. I use a scooter with a camera mounted. But, before I went to the dive, I asked the operator if the scooter was OK or would it disturb the fish. He said they were very skittish and I should leave the scooter behind, which I did. I then asked, because of what he sais, if I should set up for wide angle or mid telephoto and he sald the latter. He was entirely right, the fish were very skittish and difficult to approach, and took off if you got within about 10 feet of them. Needless to say, gopro people were not welcome, either, needing to rush the fish just to get close enough. My mid telephoto setup was absolutely the proper thing. But, with the water conditions, it was not conducive to great photos with flashes, so I did not really get anything worthwhile as far as photos go. As far as the dive goes, it was amazing. Saw six of those things, one of the strangest big animals under the sea.

 

Sometimes, our desire to photo and video things must take a backseat to the dive itself. But, that has nothing with harm to the animals.

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Posted (edited)

Unfortunately the link is not working anymore... Do you have a working one? I has always wondered that. I just came back from a trip in Anilao, ans I have seen several seahorses with redish eyes... Apparently, in order to have the animal's look, photographers use red light to do the focus, so the seahorses look at them, and then they shoot with the stoves at full power. And this has to be multiplied for tens of photographers queuing behind each other to wait for their turn. Not very ethical photography...

Edited by Marta_Sostres

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Sorry - I don't have another link

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In Koh Tao (not sure about the rest of Thailand though) there is a restriction of 5-6m away from whale sharks when using strobes. Makes sense, but again, has anyone done a research on that or just a random distance proposal?

 

 

 

 

 

Was just about to post this but got beaten to it. Its a limited study (seahorses only) but does dispel a lot of the myths surrounding it and the non-scientific approach to lighting bans.

 

It does tend to support my theory that a lot of the bans (such as Malapascua Thresher Shark dives) have no basis in real world fact or science and are simply made up.

 

Ive been looking (without success) to find any research providing justification for the Malapascua ban (and the unofficial Mola limitations imposed by dive centres in Lembongan etc).

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Posted (edited)

In Koh Tao (not sure about the rest of Thailand though) there is a restriction of 5-6m away from whale sharks when using strobes. Makes sense, but again, has anyone done a research on that or just a random distance proposal?

 

Its just random. I think the guidance is generally no people within a certain distance full stop.

 

I guess Khao Tao (and elsewhere) there biggest group you want to keep away are the 40+ barely swimming idiots with massive selfie sticks and those seeking to stroke the thing.

 

5-6m obviously means no strobes at all. It also means no useful photo even without strobes. Its not based on any science or research at all.

Edited by String

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