Low-impact diver training in management of SCUBA diver impacts
Hammerton, Z in press, 'Low-impact diver training in management of SCUBA diver impacts', Journal of Ecotourism.
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SCUBA divers make a range of accidental and intentional contacts with the benthos during each reef visit. Reefs with high levels of diving tourism can be subjected to major impacts. Whilst strategies currently exist to reduce diver contacts, including pre-dive briefing and carrying-capacity approaches, significant impacts still occur. This study tested the effectiveness of Low-Impact Diver (LID) training on 183 certified SCUBA divers. The aim was to assess if specific training could provide divers with the skill base to avoid, or significantly reduce, contact with the reef, regardless of certification or experience level. Students completed a single pre-training dive, in which a set of tasks was completed to the best of their current ability and which could be used as a baseline for comparison with a similar post-course completion dive. Regardless of an individual diver’s certification, or experience level, LID training was shown to significantly reduce contact with the benthos during subsequent dives. This study demonstrated a clear deficiency in current entry-level diver training standards and shows that divers from all experience levels are capable of learning and applying LID techniques. This study presents evidence that LID techniques provide a viable ecotourism management strategy to reduce diver impacts globally.