Determining the variables that influence SCUBA diving impacts in eastern Australian marine parks

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Hammerton, Z 2017, 'Determining the variables that influence SCUBA diving impacts in eastern Australian marine parks', Ocean & Coastal Management, vol. 142, pp. 209–217.

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Understanding the underlying causes of SCUBA diver contact with sensitive benthic organisms is critical for designing targeted strategies to address and manage diver impacts. For the marine tourism industry to maintain or expand current levels of recreational diving practices, ecologically sustainable management of dive sites is required. This study surveyed 400 SCUBA divers engaged in recreational diving in the subtropical reefs off eastern Australia. A combination of in-water observational research was conducted, with post-dive questionnaires. Linear regression techniques were employed to identify the variables that correlate the frequency of diver contacts with reef biota. Of the 17 variables tested, nine were found to significantly influence contact frequency. These were: the number of days since a diver's last dive, location of original certification, awareness and understanding of marine park zoning (3 variables), site selection, use of photographic equipment, total number of dives logged and diving depth. These results show that while a diver's long-term and recent experience can play a role, awareness of marine park regulations and unidentified differences in prior training (related to location) are also important, suggesting that education and training may provide viable alternatives to limiting diver access at sensitive locations.

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