Green Travel Magzine

submerged in dark blue ocean water bubbles
Source: Nicolas Weldingh

Protecting Our Ocean: How to be a Sustainable Scuba Diver

The ocean is home to some of the most astounding wildlife on the planet – but they’re in deep trouble. With a combination of rising water temperatures, changing pH levels, and plastic waste, the sea is in jeopardy. If you’re someone who partakes in scuba (or if you want to learn), it is imperative to find sustainable experiences when traveling. Simply put, your goal should be to explore the ocean in a way that eliminates harm to the ecosystem you’re visiting. Keep reading for tips to ensure a more conscious and sustainable dive!

About fifteen (15) orange and purple jellyfish swim in light blue water
Source: Francis Taylor

Choosing a Location  

Where you choose to go diving is everything. To begin, you should be on the lookout for places that value animal and species welfare above all else. The good news is there are usually opportunities at marine nature reserves that put ecosystems first. Sea Saba, located in the Caribbean, transports visitors to their marine park for science-based excursions; guests here can learn about everything from coral nurseries to reef ecology – and all free of charge! 

During the month of October, the Sea & Learn program allows guests to directly interact with naturalist experts from around the world. With a mission to promote the value of nature, the project also includes daily presentations and hands-on experiences exploring Saba’s vibrant ecosystem. 

Additionally, transportation to and from the spot must be considered. Be sure to ask if any dive locations are fully accessible by swimming from the shore. This will avoid water pollution that comes along with boat fuel. If you’re at a dive center, check to see whether or not it has a dock; if it does, make sure it’s built past the edge of a reef so you don’t disrupt any coral. 

Of course, there will be cases where a boat must be used, and there’s a solution for that. Make sure you support operators that use electric motors for their business. Besides the issue of pollution, standard boat fuel can actually dissolve in the ocean, increasing acidification and algal blooms. Electric boats, on the other hand, eliminate use for such fuel (while also reducing the effects of noise pollution). In Indonesia, an eco dive lodge called MahaRaja equips all their diving boats with electric Torqeedo motors. 

three scuba divers break through surface of ocean and are buoyant in a mirage of blue toned waters
Source: Gerald Schombs

Finding a Dive Operator

A good rule of thumb is this: when diving in groups, it’s better to go with small party excursions to minimize ecosystem damage; this means typically less than ten at a time and with a licensed guide. You need to pay close attention to what your guide says along your journey, as well. If he or she alerts you for whatever reason (especially when indicating there’s a problem), listen intently. This is for the safety of yourself, your fellow divers, and the area you are exploring. 

When you do go to book an experience, seek out responsible companies that are taking active steps to protect the local environment. For instance, Green Fins is an organization whose members adhere to a strict environmental code of conduct. All dive operators involved take part in regular events, including cleanups and proper waste disposal. They are also assessed on an annual basis, with members around the world; two notable sites are the Tioman Dive Centre in Malaysia and Evolution in the Philippines. Businesses that engage in other eco practices (i.e. reusing rainwater, utilizing solar power, or offering vegan dishes) should be on your radar, as well. 

At the end of the day, a truly sustainable dive center should always be prepared to explain to visitors how they’re pitching in for the environment. Even then, nothing speaks louder than your own research, so be sure to do lots of it. Always watch out for greenwashing and other red flags, including those centers promoting animal interaction or baiting techniques for sea life. An operator should never guarantee what you’ll see while diving; if they do, there’s a chance they’re putting animals at risk

scuba diver in distance with silhouette schools of fish around them
Source: Alex Rose

Personal Tips

It’s not just about the accommodations, of course – what choices you make as an individual are just as essential. As previously mentioned, the safety of local wildlife should be your top priority. While diving, follow the no touch/no feed policy. Even something like an empty shell could provide habitat for future inhabitants. 

When encountering corals and other similar species, make sure your gear is kept a good distance away. Use a biodegradable sunscreen, too; many standard varieties contain a chemical called oxybenzone, a source of viral infections for corals. A few popular brands you can check out include Caribbean Sol and Kiss My Face

Something else to remember is that organic waste should never be thrown in the water. A fruit peel, for example, is indeed biodegradable. But because it’s not a natural food source for life, the ecosystem may become disrupted as a result. 

If you can, gain diving experience closer to home before heading abroad. Then you’ll have a better chance of avoiding damage from a lack of knowledge. Plus, diving in a local body of water will cut down on your carbon footprint

As for diving gear, be cautious when purchasing. Options are out there that incorporate a minimizing policy, notably products like dive watches using light or movement for power (as opposed to traditional batteries). Frequently check your buoyancy and keep all equipment streamlined; the last thing you want is to snag an animal or drop a heavy weight on coral during a dive. If you need help here, spend some time with an instructor or consider a specialty course. 

peach coral
Source: Ben Ruys

Keep on Swimming!

Whether you’d like to expand on your diving journey or you’re just beginning, there are plenty of opportunities to gain certification. See below for resources to help you gain valuable experience: 

As a diver, having an eco mindset is everything. It allows you to take part in the conservation of the ocean’s resources, species, and experiences. We are ambassadors of this underwater world, and we must take responsibility. Begin by setting an ethical example for your fellow divers – you’ll be surprised at how far the ripples travel.  

ecomadic is a sustainable tourism brand that empowers travelers to make more conscious decisions. By curating a marketplace to easily find and identify responsible businesses to support, and providing educational publications through our online green travel magazine, ecomadic is committed to helping empower travelers make responsible choices throughout their journeys.

Want to learn more? 

How to be a sustainable scuba diver   –  Lonely Planet 

Sustainable Diving: A Guide to Being a Sustainable Diver – Dive In 

9 top tips for becoming a more sustainable scuba diver – GirlsthatScuba 


Hannah Brunotts
Hannah is a passionate environmentalist whose love for sustainability has turned into a lifelong mission. She attends Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Professional Writing with a minor in Environmental Communication. Hannah enjoys traveling, kayaking, and getting lost in a good novel. Her dream is to experience the world one culture at a time.