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.
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.
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