Many of us, as active divers, consider ourselves to be the people who most know* what’s really going on out there in the ocean—how things are going, whether there are any fish left, etc. We see it firsthand. (*Except for marine ecologists, of course!)
Yet, for all of the certified divers in the United States, we’re remarkably disorganized—particularly in the areas of marine conservation. Some old- school people may associate diving with recreational fishing, as that’s in fact what it was all about decades ago. Nowadays, the diving community is remarkably in favor of conservation (more so than even I guessed, at least if the various MLPA talks I’ve given are any indication). Even so, I think an argument could and should be made that we’re neither represented by the recreational fishing lobby nor by the environmental lobby on current issues of marine conservation (although probably more closely represented by the latter).
Those of you who have been diving forever, or perhaps less long but are incredibly passionate about it, need to speak up.
Here’s an example of why:
The federal government has created a national Marine Protected Areas Advisory Committee. It has 30 representatives.
Roughly one-third of them are marine scientists or marine resource managers (personally, I think it should be 100 percent marine ecologists, but no one asked me!)
Of the remaining two-thirds… 3-5 of them are environmentalists (hard to say exactly how many, as some people have multiple roles), 3-5 of them represent commercial fishing, 3 of them represent recreational fishing, 3 of them represent mining (including petroleum), 2 of them represent tourism (1 guy runs a tourism reservation software company on Hawaii, the other works for a cruise line), …and a couple others.
But think about this: there are nearly twice as many fishers as there are environmentalists, there are 3 people representing mining alone, and the only recreational (non-killing stuff) representatives are a cruise line and a tourism reservation software company—yes, more people representing underwater mining than representing non-consumptive recreation on the MARINE PROTECTED AREAS Advisory Committee (not the Marine Petroleum Extraction Committee)!
So where are you folks—the divers—the only people who actually see what’s going on down there?
Some time ago I suggested to this agency that it was unrepresentative to have recreational fishers without having recreational divers. Their response was that many of the people on the committee happen to also dive, so divers would be included. They were unmoved by the observation that many of them likely also recreationally fish, yet somehow “also fishing” (in addition to being, say, a marine resource manager) was insufficient representation while “also diving” was sufficient representation.
For more information on the Marine Protected Areas, including updates, see the US Government website at http://www.mpa.gov.
John H. Moore is one of two recreational diving representatives to the California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Regional Working Group for Los Angeles to San Diego, although the opinions he expresses here are his own and not necessarily those of the Regional Working Group. If you are a diver in Los Angeles, Orange or San Diego Counties and wish to receive periodic updates from John on the California MLPA process, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe in the subject line.