by Scott Weinbrech
As the only dive center operating in Xcalak, we are very fortunate indeed. The exclusive access to the marine park is amazing. We get the chance to see parts of the underwater world that few others do. However, since we are the only center here it comes with responsibility as well. We must take extra care to be environmental stewards and help keep our reefs pristine and unspoiled by helping in any way we can.
We are not involved at the moment with any scientific monitoring, there is a CONANP post here that focuses on the science side of things. Of course, this doesn’t stop us from contributing to citizen science projects like Coral Watchtm or other courses such as PADI Project Aware & Divers Against Debris and more. The fact that we aren’t primarily doing scientific diving frees us up to focus on recreational diving and doing our part on that side of things.
This can take several different forms. The most impactful and beneficial thing we can do are beach cleans. On a normal week we schedule at least one hour where the whole dive staff, as well as any guests who want to join in, walk up and down the beaches around the center and collect and log the trash the we find with the Divers Against Debris.
It’s not the most glamorous job, but unfortunately there is never a shortage of trash that washes ashore, so it is of the upmost importance that we do what we can.
Then there is the underwater side of things. The rule here is to never leave a problem for someone else. Me personally, I will swim out of my way everytime to grab a piece of garbage floating in open water, and we encourage everyone to do the same. It is not limited to picking up floating garbage though. Since we are the only dive center operating in Xcalak we have a very personal connection to our reefs, and when we see unacceptable things that are damaging them, we take action. This can come in several different forms, but in recent memory two stick out.
We were on a dive at one of our closest sites called Alejandro’s Reef when one of our instructors noticed a fishing net draped over a large section of the wall. We did our duty and notified the Harbormaster, who gave us the ok to take action and remove the net. It took 2 dives with most of the staff and interns, but we managed to cut the net up and stop it from destroying the reef.
It’s for this reason as well I like to have a lift bag on the boat when possible, because along with the nets, come anchors to weigh them down, which can be a huge problem. Since they are quite heavy it would be dangerous to try and lift these underwater, which is always to be discouraged, but with proper training and equipment it becomes possible.
Using these methods we have removed chains, cinderblocks, buckets of cement, and other miscellaneous items that sink onto and rest on top of corals, posing a danger not only to the corals but to divers should they fall down the wall when they are in the water.
Of course practicing good environmental stewardship isn’t limited to just these examples. It can come in many different forms, but the main take away is that here at XTC, we do not take the reef for granted, and we do our part to protect this wonderful natural recourse as best we can so that it will always be here for others to enjoy!