Perceived diving impacts and managment implications at a popular South African reef

11 May 2015

Coral reefs are threatened by impacts such as from scuba diving, and ongoing research is required to assess diving impacts, diver behavior and environmental knowledge. This study investigated perceived diving impacts, reef condition and norms among scuba divers at Sodwana Bay (South Africa). Divers viewed contact with coral as damaging, and perceived environmental degradation at dive sites. However, most divers saw activities such as photography as causing little or no damage to reefs. One meter or less was believed to be a safe distance from the reef or the wildlife to avoid contact or disturbance, and encounter norms were high. Age and experience influenced most perceptions, although cannot be accepted as reliable indicators of divers' perceptions or behavior, due to the heterogeneous conduct of divers of various experience and age as described in literature. The importance of human perceptions to understand what strategies need implementation in diving management is discussed.