July 22, 2024, 4:56 pm

Scuba Divers Turn Conservationists Amid Widespread Coral Bleaching

Sarakhon Desk
  • Update Time : Tuesday, July 2, 2024

A diver gracefully moves over a sea of bleached coral branches, documenting fish that swim among the pale structures off the coast of Koh Tao, Thailand. Nannalin Pornprasertsom, a 14-year-old diver, is part of a growing group of scuba enthusiasts trained in conservation and citizen science techniques. This surge in interest comes as coral reefs face a fourth global bleaching event. After a two-week course, Nannalin can identify coral types, engage in reef restoration, and assist in scientific research by recording coral health.


Global Efforts and Rising Awareness

Organizations like the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) report a global increase in conservation certifications by over 6% from 2021 to 2023. This year, PADI is launching a shark and ray census, using its diver network to collect data for policy-making.

Black Turtle Dive on Koh Tao offers courses on marine conservation, teaching skills from debris collection to coral restoration. Steve Minks, a certified conservation instructor at Black Turtle, notes a heightened awareness among divers about marine environmental issues.


Citizen Scientists at Work

Coral bleaching has been recorded in over 60 countries since early 2023, threatening reefs crucial to ocean biodiversity, fishing, and tourism. Warm waters cause coral polyps to expel algae, turning reefs white and leading to starvation.

Sandra Rubio, a 28-year-old conservation instructor, sees an increasing number of divers enrolling in her courses due to the visible bleaching and marine degradation. She teaches practical skills like species identification and coral restoration, contributing to projects like Coral Watch, a global citizen science initiative.

Local Projects and Hope for the Future

Local efforts like Global Reef, which has transplanted around 2,000 coral colonies with a 75% survival rate, are making significant impacts. Gavin Miller, Global Reef’s scientific program director, acknowledges that while these efforts may not save global coral reefs, they greatly benefit local marine life.

Despite the challenges, divers like Nannalin and Rubio are committed to making a difference. Nannalin believes her generation should leverage current research and education to reverse environmental damage. Rubio finds solace in her daily conservation work, striving to protect the reef she loves.

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