Ethics Underwater

Running an international underwater photo competition, the Underwater Tour team plays a significant role in encouraging ethical behaviour by underwater photographers entering images into our Awards categories.   

So much so that we asked Dr Richard Smith to lead the Underwater Tour Awards Ethical Standard Review process in our annual competition. 

Here is Richard’s take:

“I’ve been very fortune to see an incredible diversity of marine creatures on my travels. I take images to share these animals in their environment with people who don’t have the opportunity to enjoy them first hand. I do this without manipulating or harassing these animals. I don’t own a pointer stick, I have never moved an animal to a ‘better’ background or position; I simply wait until the animal is comfortable that I’m not a threat and then take just a few shots as it goes about its business. Sometimes I don’t take a photo if it’s not in a good position, but just enjoy watching its natural behaviours.

However, this is sadly not the case with all photographers. Some continue to stress animals in their pursuit of ‘good’ photos. I have just seen a well-known underwater photographer post an image of a small reef creature moved onto a white slate to help show off its colours. I find it incredible that a fifth of the way through the 21st century that this is still happening.

These people must understand that this image will be viewed by people that think this is ok, and want to recreate the shot. From one shot, countless more of these animals will suffer the same fate. They may be removed from their partner and returned elsewhere on the reef, they are very fragile and may well be damaged in the process, they could abort young or eggs from the stress or a multitude of other terrible things could befall them. All for a photo…

I’m so glad that the tide is changing with all this. People are being more careful, they want to do the best they can. I am honoured to have been invited by the Underwater Tour Awards to offer help in an ‘Ethical Standards Review’ of images that are entered in their competition. This isn’t to catch people out, or wag fingers. It’s just to try and reduce our impact on the wildlife we love.

#PleaseDontTouch  Let’s get this message out there, please share with folk you think may be interested. When we’re all back in the oceans again once covid allows, maybe we can start afresh”

And what’s our take on it?  Thankfully in recent years reputable dive resorts and liveaboards actively engaged in conservation and education have nurtured in their dive teams a real sense of responsibility to protect the very assets that lead us all to them.  The Operators not only support their guides in communicating this same message to guests but some go even further, asking a guest who ignores their request to stop, or in some cases, after multiple requests are ignored, to leave – brave in the era of Trip Advisor and Google reviews, but unfortunately necessary.

When we next travel, suggest out loud in the dive briefing that while you are looking for interesting and good photo opportunities you don’t want to move or touch anything.  Other divers around you may get the message.  #PleaseDontTouch

We are delighted Richard is part of our team and value his expertise and the good example he sets. And don’t forget to enter your images by 31 March. 

You can read more about the Ethical Standard Review here. 

Image (c) Dr RIchard Smith, Ocean Realm Images

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