Scuba divers, coral reefs, and knowledge of ocean acidification
Ocean acidification (OA) poses a threat to coral reefs by increasing the fragility of susceptible corals to physical damage. As such, the impacts of dive tourism are likely to be exacerbated under acidified conditions. While evidence exists on the impacts of OA, research is scant on scuba divers’ knowledge of OA. The present study explored scuba divers (N = 75) awareness of threats to coral reefs, and factors which are important to the dive experience via an online survey. Responses revealed participants were least aware of OA than other threats to coral reefs. Almost half the participants had a basic understanding of OA, but a high level of concern about its impacts, highlighting an education opportunity for these already ‘concerned’ divers. Factors important to their dive experience included sites being located in a marine protected area / managed for conservation, and high diversity of coral with good quality and minimal disturbance. The findings indicated there are economic opportunities associated with good environmental management at coral reef dive sites, including through preferential site selection and willingness to pay a conservation levy. Recommendations for OA education and awareness initiatives and other regulatory and non-regulatory management strategies are discussed.
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