One of the great successes of the latest series of ‘Blue Planet 2’ was the raising of public awareness of the damage being done to the oceans of the world.
No longer can they be seen as an invisible dumping ground that many treat them as. As divers we get to see first-hand some of these impacts and even we are increasing becoming enlightened about the need to protect this valuable but fragile environment. Our heightened social responsibility is increasingly reflected in our desire and engagement in a wide variety of litter collections ranging from beach cleans through to underwater litterpicks and culminating in substantial efforts to collect and remove abandoned fishing gear from certain underwater sights.
Your opportunity to feedback
Such socially responsible actions were highlighted recently to be in some ways in conflict with the legal requirements for licencing such activities through the MMO. As a direct result of the ongoing discussions on the subject a public consultation on this specific topic has recently been launched aimed at reducing the red tape around the subject. The outline can be viewed online and links are provided to contribute.
The consultation is open for 6 weeks from 2 November 2019.
All responsible divers should be encouraged to contribute to the consultation in a constructive manner, which reflects the socially responsible objectives of such litter removals. The openness and inclusive nature of the consultation is welcomed and reflects well the behind the scenes contribution of groups of divers working to encourage and promote this type of activity.
As with any such consultation the end result is not confirmed until the consultation is complete and final decisions made and communicated. Divers should therefore be mindful that until such time the existing requirements for a licence remain in place and should be complied with as any disregard not only could result in penalties such as fines for those concerned but may also tarnish the reputation of divers and could adversely affect the outcome of the consultation.
Need to plan
Whether conducting a litterpick under the current licensing scheme or any future less regulated regime the importance of planning cannot be stressed enough. Particularly where involvement of larger lifting bags and significant amounts of lost fishing gear you not only need to consider how to lift it from the seabed but also how to recover into the boat/back ashore and ultimately how to dispose of it properly.
Handling any equipment underwater presents a unique set of risks and they need to be properly considered. Where activities are planned that are in any way out of the ordinary it is essential that BSAC are consulted to ensure that the risks are properly managed and there is no adverse implications for the members insurance policy.