One of the first things that divers are taught about in their open water is that they should never, under any circumstances, touch marine life. It is never beneficial for them and it can often can damage or hurt them. There are obviously exceptions to this rule I think it would be hard not to touch a fish or ray for example that you are rescuing from fishing wire or a net. But in general NO TOUCHING is an absolute rule.

So last week I heard this story from an advanced student who came into our shop. She had been doing her advanced course with an instructor from another dive centre and she told me that he not only touched a scorpion fish (rather poisonous but when you are wearing gloves like her instructor was it is clearly not too much of an issue. We also have a no glove policy in the Coco area by the way), he then aggravated a ray that was relaxing in the sand so it would shoot off rapidly and then the worst one. Her instructor found a puffer fish and then stressed it out so much that it puffed out and then started playing with it in his hands. I was HORRIFIED. Small fact for you guys; when a puffer fish ‘puffs’ up it is extremely stressful for them, in fact they can only do it three times in their life before they DIE. I have a huge soft spot for these puffer fish because they are so sweet natured and look utterly adorable but when I went looking on Google for a picture of a person holding a puffer fish for this blog I was shocked at the sheer amount of people who do this! I know it probably sounds a bit pathetic but it actually hurts my heart to think of that poor little puffer fish and clearly the countless others this is being done to. The fact that an instructor is validating this kind of behavior, to me is unacceptable.

Seriously who could ever do that to this little guy?

I have always been in love with marine life and I was that annoying person who chased after snorkelers to tell them off when I saw them standing on or kicking coral, I have a massive go at any one I see touching anything to be honest. Think of it this way, if some random person came up to you in the street and started poking you in the face or running their hands over your body, would you find that acceptable? We as divers are meant to be protecting the marine world, not only is it our livelihood but we are the people who make people aware of the ocean’s problems and the plight of many of the animals living in it. We should not be causing the problems ourselves just because we want to entertain or show off to the people we are taking into the ocean.

Still no!

So everyone, I beg of you, please don’t touch anything you see down there. Let it continue happily on its merry way and just enjoy looking at it. And please, if you see anyone doing that to a puffer fish again, slap them for me!

I’d love to know your thoughts and if you have experienced anything like this on your dives. Let me know in the comment box – Sarah, DMT at Rich Coast Diving


8 thoughts on “NO TOUCHEY!

  1. While i agree 100% that you shouldn’t touch marine life in general, and most specifically puffer fish due to the stress factor, there is no scientific evidence that says a puffer will die after being puffed three times, so it is not a fact. It would seem rather inefficient that evolution took all this time to come up with a defense mechanism that will lead the individual to certain death after they only used it three times.

    • Hey Leo, Yes three times was a bit specific but it is true that the stress caused by this defence mechanism eventually kills them. It is usually several times though I was being too specific when I said three.

  2. Well I do think we shouldnt stress animals out but its what do we do? They are stressed out regardless and how do we touch them without stressing them out? Plus how are domiscated animals different they need us as much as we need them but with fish its more like dinner

    • Hi Lee,
      The idea is not to touch them full stop. They are wild animals, not domesticated. And there are probably a great deal of people who don’t agree with the domestication of animals in general. But in this specific case these are wholly wild animals in their natural enviroment and we shouldn’t disrupt their natural behaviour nor stress them out just because we want to go and poke or touch them. I mean you wouldn’t do it to a lion in the wild right?

  3. Hi, I haven’t dive in a whole lot of places, but I did see a couple of guides that touch some of the fish or animals to make them move or point them out. I also saw clumsy divers who accidentally raise the sand or hit some animals or coral with their fins. I have never seen anything so extreme as you describe in your post.

    • Hi Ciprian,
      I’m glad you’ve never seen anything like that. In general scuba guides should not touch or pester the animals, even if it’s just to point them out to their customers. It’s just as easy to show someone an animal without aggrevating it. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  4. Thank you for highlighting this issue. I am an instructor in the Red Sea and I always incorporate “no touch, no take, no break” in my briefings. I have seen a lot of bad behavior and I do my best to educate divers and beginning divers about the fragility of the marine environment. it is a privilege to dive our precious coral reefs and we have a responsibility to leave it as untouched as possible.

    • Hey, thanks for your comment. I’m really happy to hear about your conservation efforts and teaching practices 🙂 I think for the most part people are responsible it’s just a shame and frustrating that there are others out there who are doing the opposite! Thanks again, Sarah

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