An Open Letter to DEMA 1999 Attendees
January 12, 1999
An Open Letter to DEMA 1999 Attendees:
As you may know, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary plans to initiate a diver education and awareness program for diving activities in kelp forests in 1999. At the DEMA Trade Show, Sanctuary staff will meet with national diver training organizations to solicit their support in the development of this important resource protection strategy. Later this spring, the Sanctuary will host a meeting of regional and local diving industry representatives to discuss their support for the diver education and awareness program.
Sanctuary management has supported diver awareness about marine resources through many projects, including the Great American Fish Count and a cooperative diver education project with the Oceanic Society. The National Marine Sanctuaries Program and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary value the support and dedication to resource protection exhibited by divers and diver training organizations nationwide.
We know the positive effects that diver education has had in tropical diving areas. We would like to apply similar successes to a parallel program in the kelp forests. Unfortunately, some individuals have attempted to cause misunderstanding and misinformation among the local diving community about our diver education and awareness initiative. Let me assure you that the Sanctuary does not intend to seek any form of diver use fees for access to the magnificent kelp forest habitats within the Sanctuary. Also, we do not intend to seek any limitations on diver access at dive sites, other than the limitations already imposed by Federal or State laws.
After the publication of a report titled Diver Disturbance in Kelp Forests (Schaeffer and Foster, 1998), the opportunity for a diver education and awareness program, supported by the diving industry and the Sanctuary, was embraced by the Sanctuary's Research Activities Panel and the Sanctuary Advisory Council. This initiative is seen by Sanctuary management as a positive step in the protection of valuable kelp resources and an alliance with the diving community. The diver education and awareness program is one part of the Sanctuary's protection strategy for kelp resources within its boundaries. Currently, and for the past few years, the Sanctuary has been evaluating the impact on kelp forest resources from kelp harvesting; we are funding monitoring efforts and have led the kelp harvesters to adopt a cooperative to limit the extent of their harvest. We have also sought greater oversight by the State for the live fish fishery and collection of marine organisms. In addition, we hope to soon begin examining natural environmental changes that affect plants and animals living in the kelp forest.
The diver education and awareness program is intended to promote resource protection and renew dive industry support for the Sanctuary's goals. We are excited about having the opportunity to work with all interested leaders in the dive community. If you have any questions on this important issue, please contact Patrick Cotter at (831) 647-4252.
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cc: Members, MBNMS SAC