Diving into study for marine life

RESEARCH is under way to form new guidelines helping recreational divers to reduce their impact on protected marine environments.

Scientists are working with local dive operator Jetty Dive studying the threat of fin kicks to corals and any impact divers may have on other marine life.

The project, led by researchers from Southern Cross University, aims to educate and develop best-practice guidelines for zero-impact diving.

“This project raises awareness of the unique marine environment found within the Solitary Islands Marine Park and encourages divers to take photos and only leave bubbles,” said Dr Steve Dalton.

Dr Dalton and Dr Andrew Carroll are leading the research.

The main focus of their studies is incidental contact that divers have with the bottom, leading to accidental damage.

“The feedback from divers, who have participated in this project, has been very positive,” Dr Carroll said.

“They have a reasonable level of awareness about the importance of marine conservation and are very keen to learn more about marine parks and passive diving techniques that can improve diver experience and mitigate incidental interactions with local marine life.

Jetty Dive’s Mike Davey said the project raised awareness within the recreational diving community.

“It encourages greater appreciation and respect of the unique marine environment found at our doorstep,” he said.

SCU PhD student Zan Hammerton, who is undertaking similar research with the Byron Bay Dive Centre, has also been actively involved.

Specific guidelines and education tools will be developed to help diver activities in marine sanctuary zones in the Solitary and Cape Byron marine parks.

The research project has also been supported by the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority.

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