Anchoring on a reef causes damage not only to the natural environment but also potentially to divers. Here are some alternatives to anchoring.

All divers occasionally feel helpless or out-of-control early in their diving career. Some of the most common stories involve strong currents, an unexpected attack from a frisky triggerfish or feeling overwhelmed when facing a deep drop-off on a wall. Human errors can also create dramatic situations. Although it’s highly unlikely, a boat crew could mistakenly pull up the anchor while a dive group is descending on the line. This would potentially cause human injury, but a far more likely casualty to anchoring is the reef itself. There are, however, plenty of alternatives to anchoring.

Unsafe anchoring practices

Environmental standards vary widely across the world and within the dive industry. A small boat anchor, consequently, can cause a devastating amount of damage, destroying decades of coral growth.

Research finds that anchors and their chains can damage an average of 7.11 percent of coral at a frequently used site each year. Damage occurs in the form of physical breakage, scratches, dislodgement and pulverizing the substrate. Hard corals are obvious victims, but studies show that soft-coral cover is also lower at high anchoring intensity sites. Anchoring grossly impacts the quality of the coral reef as a habitat and its structural complexity. This means it houses a lower variety and volume of marine species.  This, in turn, leads to a degraded aesthetic value for tourists, poorer fisheries and reduced coastal protection. Furthermore, a reef subject to these kinds of stressors will be less resilient to the large-scale changes like acidification and coral bleaching.

 Alternatives to anchoring

Luckily, several more-environmentally friendly alternatives exist, depending on the specific situation. The Green Fins initiative has been working with the diving industry to achieve best environmental practices since 2004, and the one common link the teams have found among different diving locations is that there’s no one answer.

 

“We activated our diver community in Jakarta, and some donated the money to buy the mooring lines and buoys, says Leon Boey, Living Seas, Green Fins member Indonesia. “On one of our day trips, we got a few divers together and got the mooring done.”

Across all locations, collaboration between dive shops, governments, and community has worked. It isn’t easy to lobby the government or navigate the social and political relationships between businesses. But it’s worth considering the return on investment. Nature and adventure-based tourism may outperform mass tourism by an average of 60 to 65 percent by 2035 in the Coral Triangle alone. As this tourism sector grows, maintaining a variety of healthy, diverse reef dive sites therefore becomes a worthwhile investment.

Reducing our impact

Many environmental issues impact reefs and certainly there are far bigger threats than running a dive shop. But by reducing the impacts we can control, we leave reefs stronger to face those global threats.

“We have tried to start a dive shop ‘adopt a dive site’ system to ensure moorings are in place at all dive sites,” says Matt Reed, Evolution Dive Centre, Green Fins Top 10 Member in The Philippines. “So, each shop is responsible for caring for moorings at two dive sites. Sharing responsibility like this seems to work well on our island.”

IYOR and anchoring

This year is the third International Year of the Reef (IYOR). This special designation offers the opportunity to reach out and form new partnerships with governments, businesses and communities who want to participate. In the Green Fins “Alternatives to Anchoring” how-to video you can find some inspiration for different situations. These include mooring to a pier, drifting, and installing permanent mooring lines on the beach.

Alternatives to Anchoring is the second action point of the Green Fins IYOR 2018 social-media campaign. The campaign aims to help divers and dive businesses take further action by sharing and providing solutions to some of the biggest threats. The campaign will serve as a platform to inspire action and change in others by sharing the stories of success gathered by more than 10 years of working with the industry.

Follow the campaign on Green Fins social media. You’ll find a brand-new #AlternativesToAnchoring infographic with new and inspiring information to instigate action. Want to be part of the movement? Share. Print. Post. Hashtag.

By guest authors from the Reef-World Foundation

Green Fins is a UN Environment initiative internationally coordinated by The Reef-World Foundation.

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