My thoughts about closing MPLAs to divers....

Outer Bamnks diving on the Great Escape Southern California Live-Aboard Dive Boat

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Posted by msblucow on November 01, 2002 at 20:02:08:

Intitially, I didn't want to chime in regarding Steve's original post, because considering some of the characters involved, I was pretty sure it would degenerate into a finger-pointing contest. (You know, sometimes I don't enjoy being proven right) But I think this is an interesting issue and shouldn't just be dismissed outright.

In general, I do not support a ban on divers in the MPLAs. Not because I don't believe we have any impact (of course we do) but because I believe that any impact we might have is midigated by the political and educational repercussions should divers be banned from these areas.

First of all, I think Steve's initial suggestion that the MPLA's be off-limits to diving was greeted with raised eyebrows because the anti-reserve activists have used the threat of a diving ban in their arguments AGAINST the MPLA's. So when someone who has stated he is unhappy about the reserves suddenly says he is FOR a ban on diving, I can see why his motives might be suspect. For the record, I'm not saying Steve has that agenda, I'm just saying how it could be interpreted that way.

That being said, let's look at the idea both pro and con. The "pro" side would suggest that the areas be completely protected from any manmade recreational activity - consumptive or not. That by doing so you could eliminate any potential impact by divers, boats, anchors etc.., there would be easier enforcement, ect....

All of this is true. But it's not the whole story. To ban diving in the MPLA's would have a number of unintended effects....

Divers would have to share fewer sites with other recreational users, namely boaters and fishermen, and that could potentially become a safety issue.

Dive boat operations could potentially be effected if divers become turned off because they are banned from the MPLA's.

Eliminating Dive operations from the MPLA's could possibly result in more poaching since encroaching boats would less likely be detected by dive boats operating in the area.

But most importantly, banning divers from the MPLA's would definately have a negative impact on education. Personally I think there are few people on Earth who have a greater appreciation for the wonders of the ocean than those of us privledged enough to witness it first hand. And if any of you are like me, folks can't get you to stop talking about it! By banning us from the MPLA's, you remove an important witness to this historical event. No one else will be in the position we will be to know if this grand experiment will succeed or fail. And no one else will have the same credibility we do to say we've seen it with our own eyes. As divers, photographers, videographers and storytellers we have the power to share our experience with others, to help them appreciate how connected we all are to the sea.

That alone I believe is the best reason to keep the MPLA's open to non-consumptive diving. And I honestly believe that the net gain outweighs any possible impact we as divers might have in our travels. As divers, there's a lot we can do to reduce our impact. Lead by example with good bouyancy skills and a hands-off approach to wildlife. Mentor newer divers and instill in them the same respect. It's up to us to teach the next generation. This is our chance to a part of something wonderful.

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