Where are we diving this weekend Jacksonville? Luckily, we don’t have to go much further than our own backyard to experience the wonders of the sea. There are so many things to love about scuba diving, whether it be the tranquility, the scenery, the adventure or, most of all, the wildlife.

As divers, we have a responsibility to protect the oceans and its inhabitants. We are guests in their home, and it’s important to protect the fragile ecosystem.

Here are a few simple tips to safely dive with underwater animals:

Be aware of your body and equipment

Always be aware of where your equipment is. If any gauges or your alternative air source is dragging, it could damage reefs. Keep your fins from dragging by controlling your buoyancy. Many species of fish hide under the sand. It is important to try to refrain from kicking sand and coral with your fins, as it could harm the wildlife.

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Look don’t touch

Florida reefs harbor all types of marine life … some of them are so cute, you just can’t help but want to touch them. Consider how your actions may affect the animals and avoid touching or feeding them. Wild animals have unpredictable behavior, and though many species may not seem aggressive, you may be interrupting mating or feeding.

To people who don’t dive, it is hard to explain why we love sharks or why we would want to run into them underwater. Sharks are a vital part of an ocean’s ecosystem and need to be protected. If you are lucky enough to run into a shark, remain calm and still. Sharks do not commonly bother divers, but they do get curious. If a shark approaches you, simply push it away with your hand.

Dive Neutral

Scuba divers know how important it is to control your buoyancy. It is important to practice staying neutral to avoid contact with the ocean floor, reefs and other habitats. Know how much weight is needed, especially if you are carrying equipment like a camera.

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Learn the Land

If you are diving in a new location, know and follow local regulations. Local diving laws are enforced to protect marine life and preserve reefs. Divers are privileged enough to access historical dives sites that can be important to the community. Wrecks are often the homes to various species of marine life. To help preserve these sites for future divers, it is important to dive responsibility and treat wrecks with special care.

Slow Down

While diving, swim slowly through the water without excessive movement. Marine animals such as seals, dolphins or whales can be curious or friendly and may approach divers. Avoid flashing cameras and sudden movements, as it can startle marine life. Never chase an animal, even a docile one could become frightened and aggressive. Allow animals to interact naturally. This often makes for the best shots.

Each of these tips will help to keep the marine life safe. They will also help you avoid any diving injuries and make your dives more enjoyable. Now that you’re armed with the proper etiquette, get out there and dive!