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What Really Defines Harassment?

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marine life harassment

There is much difficulty in trying to provide a definition of wildlife harassment, as there exist several different viewpoints revolving around this issue. Hopefully, none of us would purposely destroy a piece of coral or harm a sea turtle swimming by, but how can we know that no harm was done unintentionally, and fully comprehend the consequences of our presence in the water?

Whether you’re scuba diving, snorkeling, or just enjoying time in your sailboat, it is important to be aware of your surroundings. Humans do not spend their lives in the water (unless you’re a mermaid, which will be covered in a different post). When we participate in water sports, we really are only in the water for short periods of time in comparison to our lifespan as a whole, thus, we may not always understand the behavior peculiarities of different marine creatures. Living organisms both above and below the water have become accustomed to their habitat, and one little disturbance to their homes and themselves can be devastating.

For example, bubbles and noise from scuba diving equipment can be very troublesome to some underwater mammals. So, maybe you startle an animal with your loud equipment and it scurries off. You still believe that no harm has been done, as you have not physically touched the animal, and it swam away injury-free. But what about the aftermath of this event? Maybe the animal was already weak before you entered the water. We cannot really determine the level of stress and energy used in the animal’s attempt to leave the scene. All of these factors added together could create a weakened immune system and lead to other health problems for the mammal.

What's even worse, some irresponsible divers or underwater photographers, attempting to take an impressive shot, can intentionally move or otherwise harass the creatures underwater. In order to prevent such things from happening we all need to get involved and try to ensure that marine life of all shapes and sizes are not disturbed or harmed. It must be a collective effort by divers, underwater photographers, dive center owners, dive guides and publications, as well as photo competition officials. So how can we all contribute to marine life conservation?

If you are a recreational diver:

  • First and foremost always treat all animals with respect.
  • Avoid contact with all animals and living organisms, don’t tease or intentionally disturb them.
  • Don’t touch or pick up unfamiliar objects/creatures.
  • Something that you think is a rock or a shell, may, in reality, be a living being.
  • Let all animal interactions happen on their terms. Do not approach marine animals closer than a couple of meters, unless they approach you by themselves.
  • Maintain neutral buoyancy and stay off the bottom.
  • Watch where you’re going and where you put your hands, feet, and knees.
If you are a photo competition organizer/judge or underwater photographer:
  • Make changes to the rules of your contest that would allow disqualifying any image suspected of any marine life harassment.
  • Do not stage any underwater photos by manually moving marine creatures.
  • Do not use reefs as your props or camera holders (as unbelievable as it sounds, this actually happens).
  • Do not enter any competitions, where the organizers accept images that don’t meet high environmental standards.
  • Take and post pictures that raise awareness and promote marine life conservation.
Anyone encountering photos/videos suspected of marine life harassment:
  • Don’t glorify or in any way partake in perpetuating marine life harassment.
  • Don’t share the viral videos and photos that may be the result of wildlife harassment and animal abuse.
  • Don’t refer to an unnecessary, illegal and harmful practice as cute or funny.
  • Point out the problem to your friends on social media.
Once again, we hope that none of our fellow divers or water sportsmen would purposely try to harm wildlife within the water or in any way promote such harmful actions. At Dip N Dive, we do however see it important to help create understanding from all sides of the issue. So, happy swimming, boating, and diving! Just be aware of your surroundings and brush up on your information about the wildlife in the area before you take the plunge.

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