Updated: Oct 30, 2019
All too often, I see snorkel and dive operators throwing out bread or any food they can find on their boat into the water to bring more fish for tourists and tips. Although seemingly harmless on the surface, this can have serious ecological implications.
I know what you're thinking: "Oh, come on, it can't be that bad. The kids want to see fish!"
As with most biological issues, the problem doesn't lie in the immediate action, but with the chain of events that occurs after the action. Let me show you what I mean.
Feeding makes for an easy meal for fish, but unfortunately they become reliant on that food. Apart from the lack of nutritional value in bread or chips, or whatever else is on the boat, this act leads them to forgo their natural food source, throwing the finely balanced food web out of whack.
Damselfish commonly take advantage of fish feeding, but their main diet is meant to be the algae that competes with coral for space and light. Without pressure from the grazers (Damselfish), a reef can shift from a coral to an algae-dominated state. This means that indirectly, fish feeding is suffocating corals with an overgrowth of algae.
When you think of it like that, it's pretty serious!
So the next time you're on a dive or snorkel boat and you see fish feeding, best practice for an Eco-Conscious Diver would be:
To calmly make your way over to the area this is occurring, and gently let the participants know that this may not be best practice because it can throw off the food chain.
Most participants simply don't know the implications of this and will stop once you let them know.
Being eco-conscious is not only in the big ticket items, like wearing reef-safe sunscreen, it's in the small actions you incorporate into your diving and tourism practices as well.
Thank you for being an Eco-Conscious Diver!