From Tending Bar to Checking Bar

Reef-World Foundation interviews a dive-resort employee who made the leap from bartending to become an environmentally responsible dive guide

As divers, we spend much of our time either in the ocean or thinking about it. This is certainly true for Adrian Dizon, a Filipino dive guide at Liquid Dive Resort in Dauin, Philippines. A self-proclaimed scuba-diving addict and frogfish fanatic, Adrian is rarely above the surface. Having learned to dive only three years ago, it has already become an important part of his life.

Just before the year 2000, Adrian and his family moved from Manila to his mother’s hometown of Dauin. He began work at Liquid as a bartender. But after months of hearing stories about huge schools of jacks at Apo Island or the determined march of frogfish in Dauin, he was eager to jump fins-first into the world of diving. Thus he began checking bar instead of tending bar.

Ever since that first dive, he has never looked back. He quickly fell in love with the delicate balance of coral reefs. His obvious passion quickly shifted his career path from bartender to dive guide. From the very beginning of this career, Adrian learned about marine conservation and the potential damage that irresponsible divers and snorkelers can do to a coral reef. Liquid Dive Resort has always been dedicated to the environment. It was one of the first dive centers in Dauin to sign up for Green Fins membership in 2016. In becoming a Green Fins member, the resort became part of a global community of dive and snorkel centers dedicated to protecting the marine environment by promoting sustainable and responsible dive tourism. 

Taking care of the environment

Adrian has seen first-hand how even the smallest action can have long-term implications for a reef. For example, Porites cylindrica, or hump coral, is an extremely slow-growing branching coral found along the Dauin coast. It grows scarcely 9 mm a year, so if a diver kicks and breaks off even one branch, they could easily destroy over 10 years of growth. Scale this potential damage up by 10 resorts, each sending four divers to that same coral colony, three times a day, five days a week for a year, and that coral colony probably won’t see another birthday. If enough divers who can’t control their buoyancy, and who don’t understand the dangers of touching and harassing marine life, visit a reef frequently enough, that reef will quickly die.


Supporting environmentally responsible dive guides

“Without corals, the ocean is nothing,” says Adrian. Coral reefs are the world’s bustling underwater cities. They provide a habitat for at least one-quarter of all marine life in the ocean. They generate $300-$400 billion each year from tourism, fisheries and coastal protection alone. Without reefs, entire coastal communities would struggle to survive. The Dauin tourism industry is solely dependent on world-class reef and muck diving. Without corals, both these attractions would disappear along with all the tourists. Both of Adrian’s careers would be in jeopardy. He couldn’t even fall back on the community’s traditional livelihood — fishing — because that too would disappear.

Dive guides like Adrian are guardians of the community and the reef. They help divers protect the marine environment they love by subtly encouraging better habits. Whether by teaching divers to swim a little higher above the substrate or to adjust their weight so they can remain neutrally buoyant more easily, Adrian helps keep coral reefs safe and strong. He dives for change. He shoulders the responsibility every diver should feel to protect the ocean every time they dive.

You can help dedicated divers like Adrian protect coral reefs by diving for change. Divers have a powerful voice for ocean conservation and can influence others to follow their example. The Green Fins initiative gives business owners and divers clear ways to channel their voice and promote sustainable business practices by following the Green Fins guidelines. For example, Adrian starts every dive with an environmental briefing. He explains that everything underwater contains life, whether it’s coral or sand. He teaches them about the harmful effects of single-use plastics and marine debris, and how every choice a diver makes above and below the surface can make a difference.

Be a responsible diver and join Adrian as a force for coral protection, inspiring fellow divers to follow in your fin kicks.

By Charlie Wiseman, Reef-World Foundation

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