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Research Technical Reports:
Recent Meeting on Diver Issues with Sanctuary

The Diver Disturbance in Kelp Forests study by Tim N. Schaeffer and Michael S. Foster (1998) was partially funded by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to provide an initial scientific assessment as to the effects, if any, that beginner and certified divers may have on kelp forests. The report can be found after first browsing a series of letters from the Sanctuary to the Sanctuary Advisory Council and the Diving Community. These letters have been included on this website to address controversy related to this study and to clarify the Sanctuary's position that it has no intent to regulate, restrict, or otherwise control diving, based on the diver disturbance study or any other available information.

 


August 3, 2000

Ms. Stephanie Harlan, Chair
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council
1941 42nd Ave.
Capitola, CA 95010

RE: Recent Meeting on Diver Issues with Sanctuary

Dear Ms. Harlan:

I wanted to take this opportunity to inform members of the Sanctuary Advisory Council about our recent (July 19, 2000) meeting to address conflicts the diving community has recently had with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. This meeting was held in response to the SAC's recommendation at its May 10, 2000 retreat that its Executive Committee become more actively involved in helping to resolve such issues. The purpose of this recommendation was to establish an additional mechanism for SAC members to use prior to taking unresolved issues to management levels above our local Sanctuary office. The meeting was attended by Brock Bernstein, Stephanie Harlan, David Clayton, and me. I was pleased by the open and productive communication at our meeting as well as by our unanimous agreement that the Sanctuary reaffirm its position that is has no intent to regulate, restrict, or otherwise control diving. Based on the results of the July 19 meeting, I believe this mechanism is extremely useful and holds promise for resolving conflicts among SAC members or between SAC members and the Sanctuary management that may arise in the future.

At the July 19th meeting we reviewed the Diver Disturbance in Kelp Forests study and agreed unanimously that the study's results support the Sanctuary's conclusion that scuba divers have no significant effect on kelp forests. The Study found that divers, on average, detach at most (rounded up) 2 kelp blades per dive, a number that also includes sea grass detachments and those caused by beginning divers. The study also found that effects diminished with experience, falling to less than a kelp blade removed per dive (including sea grass detachments) by certified divers. Those data, we all agreed, showed no significant harm to kelp forests, as well as the positive impact of diver training and experience.

We discussed the Sanctuary's position that it has no interest in or plans to regulate, restrict, or otherwise control diving based on this report, or any other available information. I committed to write this letter to document our position that the Sanctuary would not be regulating, controlling, or otherwise restricting diving. While I had made a similar statement in an open letter to DEMA in January 1999, we agreed that it was critical to reiterate that position because of possible misinterpretations of language in the first draft of the Kelp Report and of the website's presentation of several kelp disturbance studies.

There was also unanimous understanding of the fact that neither I nor other Sanctuary representatives could make sweeping commitments extending into the future that the Sanctuary would never, under any circumstances, restrict or limit diving or diving activities. But, I did emphasize that, as with all resource issues, the Sanctuary would need compelling evidence of significant impact to take any such actions, evidence much more substantial than the insignificant impacts documented by the current diver disturbance study.

I also committed to revising the scuba diving section of the Sanctuary's website, in order to emphasize the positive programs and opportunities for diving in the Sanctuary. We also reached agreement about how to present information on the website relative to the Diver Disturbance in Kelp Forests study. Specifically, the Sanctuary will present, in order, this letter, the January 1999 letter to DEMA, and the study and its cover letter on the website so that divers and others who view the disturbance study will understand the Sanctuary has considered the conclusions reached in the study and believe it is unwarranted to proceed with the the study's recommendations to restrict diving.

David and I, and the diving community and Sanctuary staff, are all excited about moving forward with the many opportunities to partner with each other on ocean conservation and education.

I want to thank you and the rest of the Advisory Council for your support and encouragement to both the diving community and Sanctuary to work together on the kelp forests issues.

Sincerely,

(original signed by)

William J. Douros
Superintendent

cc: Advisory Council members

Link to Letter to DEMA Members and the Diver Disturbance Study

URL: http://montereybay.noaa.gov/research/techreports/divingltr.html    Reviewed: March 04, 2014
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