Memorandum submitted by the Sub-Aqua Association
1. The diving organisations and divers in
general have been supporting efforts to improve the marine environment.
The adverse report by divers leads the SAA to believe that government
lead improvements have been too long in forthcoming.
2. Divers, by their very nature, are the
first to appreciate a healthy marine environment. At first hand
they experience and observe the environment, but are also amongst
the first to suffer the consequences if it is polluted. Accordingly
they can be considered a stakeholder in every sense of the word.
It is therefore surprising that the diving organisations were
not consulted in DEFRA's "Seas of Change" Consultation
Paper and in other initiatives on the environment. Their involvement
could have helped to implement protection of the marine environment.
3. Divers are a key resource for of the
under-sea environment. Many hundreds of thousands of dives are
made every year around our coast and both the natural environment
and man-made structures could be monitored effectively by voluntary
divers during routine dives. Changes in sub-sea conditions can
quickly be detected and the appropriate authorities informed.
4. In view of this, it remarkable that DEFRA,
and its forerunners, have not utilised this vast untapped low-cost
resource. This monitoring could form a vital part of Strategic
Environmental Assessments. Some of the delay in this area could
be attributed to neglecting to use large scale monitoring by divers
from the voluntary sector.
5. Many sub-sea habitats are under threat
and, although organisations such as the Marine Conservation Society
(MCS) and Seasearch continue to make important contributions to
monitoring and researching such habitats, it is important that
the 50,000 or so divers are part of the monitoring process. The
use of the general diving population should be harnessed in the
identification of Marine Environment High Risk Areas.
6. The "Seas of Change" purports
to embrace a holistic approach to marine environment and yet there
is scant mention of the man-made facet below the surface of the
sea. Divers are vital in the in situ identification of Marine
Environment High Risk Areas, particularly wrecks at risk through
changing marine conditions. Wrecks form a habitat for a host of
marine life with their attendant Eco-systems. If the wrecks are
threatened by changing conditions, then the Eco-systems are threatened
as well. Thus wreck monitoring by divers serves a dual function
in monitoring the marine environment. Many divers are already
actively involved with monitoring and recording under the Nautical
Archaeology Society (NAS) rapidly expanding "Adopt-a-Wreck"
scheme and in this way are custodians of the environment.
7. However, if such monitoring is to be
successful, diver access should not be unnecessarily restricted.
Rather, access should be encouraged, to allow as wide an area
as possible to facilitate immediate monitoring.
12 September 2003