By Divemaster and Coral Conservation Instructor Tim Hasty
To help frame this story, I need to tell you I grew up with aluminum foil and bread bags drying on a line in the garage as they were reused by my mother many times. I never liked seeing the trash laying along roadways. So once recycling became available in my community, it was easy to start sorting our trash so that we could recycle what was allowed. I share this little preface mainly to say that I think these life experiences helped ingrain conservation in my blood.
I got certified in the fall of 2016. And while I don’t have the number of dives some of my peers at Columbia Scuba have, I think we all share in being mesmerized by marine life, the colors of coral, and how active the underwater world truly is. The more I dove, the more I asked questions about marine life and coral reefs (one of our daughters is a marine biologist so I have a family resource). And the more I learned about how life in and around a coral reef is related to the overall oceanic food chain, I began to see that they are like a house of cards. If too many components are removed things collapse.
Most people have seen the photos of turtles with plastic rings wound tightly around their necks, or the videos of plastic debris that can be found in the stomachs of whales and marine birds. But as a diver, we see so much more. I have dived around the world and on almost every dive I see debris from us humans that does not belong in the ocean. From fishing line and anchor rope wrapped around coral colonies, to abandoned fish traps laying on coral reefs and all kinds of plastics (including balloons) floating along under the surface. If corals die, then the reef biodiversity is severely affected. The fish start to leave and before long there is nothing left.
I want future generations of divers, including my grandchildren, to enjoy the beauty of life under water so I started taking little steps that I could continue to minimize my impact on the ocean.
I have been in many countries that use dry riverbeds as garbage dumps, and when monsoons come, all that garbage is washed in the ocean. While we don’t necessarily have that problem in the US, I try to eliminate the use of single-use plastics or other light-weight objects that could be blown into the water. Unfortunately plastics will be in our landfills for centuries. To help do my part, I now shop with reusable bags, use bamboo toothbrushes, keep bamboo utensils in my car to avoid using plastic ones provided by fast food restaurants. I also use beeswax storage bags and container covers instead of plastic wraps, and I use compostable trash bags.
When I’m in the water, I always try to incorporate debris collection, coral nursery cleaning or coral out planting into my dives. Finally, I regularly go to local schools to share my experiences and under-sea adventures to engage and educate students on how they can make a difference even if they don't dive.