DeeperBlue.com Chats With NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries

It was a personal highlight this weekend at DEMA Show 2014 to sit down with Vernon Smith from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Sanctuaries division.

Smith‘s passion and goals for marine conservation are evident and infectious.

A very unique opportunity to participate in federal legislation is now possible with the “Sanctuary Nomination Process.

The community-based process allows the public to recommend special places in America’s ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes for consideration as national marine sanctuaries. Some of the United States’ best dive spots are already protected as national marine sanctuaries, harboring unique ecosystems and a spectacular array of plants, animals, and historical artifacts waiting to be explored.

NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries vision is the preservation of the nation’s rich maritime history, the sustainability of communities and economies, and the protection of our ocean and Great Lakes.

Another National Marine Sanctuaries effort is the Blue Star certification for dive and snorkel operators who are committed to coral reef conservation. By choosing to book with an operator recognized as a Blue Star, you are selecting an operator dedicated to education and responsible tourism. Visit www.sanctuarybluestar.org for a list of operators.

We discussed a wide variety of issues including best practices for divers and concerns over stewardship of the ecosystem during dives. It is far too common to witness guides and divemasters turning over rocks, picking up invertebrates and physically disturbing the ecosystem. This in turn sets the example to beginner divers as well that it is OK and harmless to touch.

While it is understandable guides are looking to make customers happy and entertained, I truly believe divers alike can be equally satisfied without touching. Cumulative impacts of these habits can be easily avoided and make our favorite dive sites that much more enjoyable!

All divers should know they are not just a drop in the bucket. As the poet Rumi wrote: “You are not a drop in the ocean, but the ocean in a drop.

Mallory Morgan and Natalie Blea

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