Divers Code of Conduct
Underwater Photographer's Code of Practice
Other tips and Guidelines

Divers Code of Conduct

More and more people are taking to the water. Some for recreation; some to earn their living. This code is designed to ensure that divers do not come into conflict with other water users and sets out some guidelines which should be observed alongside the regulations relating to Marine Nature Reserves.

Before leaving home

Contact the nearest BSAC Branch or the dive operator local to the dive site for their advice. Seek advice from them about the local conditions and regulations. If appropriate, have the correct chart and tide tables for the area to be dived.

On the beach, river bank or lakeside

  1. Obtain permission before diving in a harbour or estuary or in private water. Thank those responsible before you leave. Pay harbour dues.
  2. Try to avoid overcrowding one site, consider other people on the beach.
  3. Park sensibly. Avoid obstructing narrow approach roads. Keep off verges. Pay parking fees and use proper car parks.
  4. Don't spread yourselves and your equipment since you may upset other people. Keep launching ramps and slipways clear.
  5. Please keep the peace. Don't operate a compressor within earshot of other people - or late at night.
  6. Pick up litter. Close gates. Be careful about fires. Avoid any damage to land or crops.
  7. Obey special instructions such as National Trust rules, local bye-laws and regulations about camping and caravanning.
  8. Remember divers in wet or drysuits are conspicuous and bad behaviour could ban us from beaches.

In and on the water

  1. Mark your dive boats so that your Club can be identified easily. Unmarked boats may become suspect.
  2. Ask the harbour-master or local officials where to launch your boat - and do as they say. Tell the Coastguard, or a responsible person, where you are going and tell them when you are back.
  3. Stay away from buoys, pots, and pot markers. Ask local fishermen where not to dive. Avoid driving through rafts of seabirds or seal colonies etc.
  4. Remember ships have not got brakes, so avoid diving in fairways or areas of heavy surface traffic and observe the 'International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea'.
  5. Always fly the diving flag when diving, but not when on the way to, or from, the dive site. Never leave a boat unattended.
  6. Do not come in to bathing beaches under power. Use any special approach lanes. Do not disturb any seal or bird colonies with your boats. Watch your wash in crowded anchorages.
  7. Whenever possible, divers should use a surface marker buoy.

On conservation

  1. Never use a speargun.
  2. Shellfish, such as crabs and lobsters, take several years to grow to maturity; over-collecting in an area soon depletes stocks. Observe local Byelaws and restrictions on the collection of animal and plant specimens. However the BSAC recommends that you do not collect shellfish, but if you must collect, only take mature fish or shellfish and then only what you need for yourself. Never take a berried female (a female with eggs), this is stock for future years. Never sell your catch or clean it in public or on the beach and do not display your trophies.
  3. Ascertain and comply with seasonal access restrictions established to protect seabirds and seals from disturbance. During the seabird breeding season (1st March ≠ 1st August) reduce noise and speed near seabird breeding sites. Do not approach seal breading or haul-out sites. Do not approach dolphins or porpoises in the water.
  4. Be conservation conscious. Avoid damage to weeds and the sea bed. Do not bring up sea-fans, corals, starfish or sea urchins - in one moment you can destroy years of growth.
  5. Take photographs and notes - not specimens.

On wrecks

  1. Do not dive on a designated wreck site without a licence. Protected wrecks are indicated on Admiralty charts and marked by buoys, or warning notices on the shore nearby
  2. Military wrecks should not be disturbed or items removed from them. This includes the debris field. The debris field is the trail of wreckage that comes away from the main body of the wreck during the sinking process. This trail can consist of parts of the ship, the cargo and the personal possessions of the crew.
  3. Do not lift anything that may be of archaeological importance.
  4. If you do discover what might be an historic wreck do not talk about it, but contact the Receiver of Wreck (023 8032 9474), who will advise you about your next steps. If your find is important you may apply for it to be designated a protected wreck site. You can then build up a well-qualified team with the right qualifications to investigate your site with the assistance
  5. If you do lift any material from the sea-bed, it is a legal requirement to report it to the Receiver of Wreck as soon as reasonably possible, even if you own the wreck that the material has come from.
  6. Avoid the temptation to take souvenirs. Go wreck diving to enjoy the scenery and life, or get involved in projects. If you must take something, try photographs or measurements, and records of marine life.
  7. Know and understand wreck law. If you remove material from wreck, which you then sell for profit, you are diving for reward, which is outside the scope of sport diving and you must conduct your dives in strict accordance with HSE regulations. A sound knowledge of wreck law will prevent you breaking the law, perhaps even ending up with a criminal record where no crime was intended.

Members are reminded that in light of this policy following any conviction of any BSAC member for an offence in relation to wreck the member will be liable to have his or her membership withdrawn fro bringing the BSAC into disrepute.

Don't let divers down ≠ keep to the diver's code

See Receiver of Wreck for details of the law and procedures to report finds.

Underwater Photographer's Code of Practice

Most underwater photographers are concerned to protect the environment in which they take their pictures and to avoid stressing marine creatures when they are taking their images. This is good for the marine environment and leads to better photographs.

This Code sets out good practices for anyone who aspires to take pictures or video underwater. Many aspects are also applicable to the general sports diver.

  1. No-one should attempt to take pictures underwater until they are a competent diver. Novices thrashing about with their hands and fins while conscious only of the image in their viewfinder can do untold damage.
  2. Every diver, including photographers, should ensure that gauges, octopus regulators, torches and other equipment are secured so they do not trail over reefs or cause other damage.
  3. Underwater photographers should possess superior precision buoyancy control skills to avoid damaging the fragile marine environment and its creatures. Even experienced divers and those modeling for photographers should ensure that careless or excessively vigorous fin strokes and arm movements do not damage coral or smother it in clouds of sand. A finger placed carefully on a bare patch of rock can do much to replace other, more damaging movement.
  4. Photographers should carefully explore the area in which they are diving and find subjects that are accessible without damage to them or other organisms.
  5. Care should be taken to avoid stressing a subject. Some fish are clearly unhappy when a camera invades their "personal space" or when pictures are taken using flash or lights. Others are unconcerned. They make the best subjects.
  6. Divers and photographers should never kill marine life to attract other types to them or to create a photographic opportunity, such as feeding sea urchins to wrasse. Creatures should never be handled or irritated to create a reaction and sedentary ones should never be placed on an alien background, which may result in them being killed.
  7. Queuing to photograph a rare subject, such as a seahorse, should be avoided because of the harm repeated bursts of bright light may do to their eyesight. For the same reason, the number of shots of an individual subject should be kept to the minimum.
  8. Clown fish and other territorial animals are popular subjects but some become highly stressed when a photographer moves in to take a picture. If a subject exhibits abnormal behaviour move on to find another.
  9. Night diving requires exceptional care because it is much more difficult to be aware of your surroundings. Strong torch beams or lights can dazzle fish and cause them to harm themselves by blundering into surrounding coral or rocks. Others are confused and disturbed if torch beams or lights are pointed directly at them. Be prepared to keep bright lights off subjects that exhibit stressed behaviour, using only the edge of the beam to minimise disturbance.
  10. Care should be taken when photographing in caves, caverns or even inside wrecks because exhaust bubbles can become trapped under overhangs killing marine life. Even small pockets of trapped air which allow divers to talk to each other inside them can be lethal for marine life.
  11. The image in the viewfinder can be very compelling. Photographers should remain conscious of their position and of the marine life around them at all times. In sensitive areas, they should avoid moving around on the bottom with their mask pressed up against the camera viewfinder.
  12. Areas of extensive damage or pollution should be reported to the appropriate authorities.

Today, when so many more divers are taking up underwater photography, both still and video, it is essential that the preservation of the fragile marine environment and its creatures is paramount and that this Code of Good Practice is carefully observed.

This Code of Good Practice has been introduced by the Marine Conservation Society with funding from PADI's AWARE project. It is endorsed by the British Society of Underwater Photographers, the Northern Underwater Photographic Group and the Bristol Underwater Photography Group as well as being supported by the Sub-Aqua Association, the British Sub-Aqua Club and the Scottish Sub-Aqua Club.

Other Tips and Guidelines

What you can do to save Coral Reefs

  1. When you visit a coral reef, help keep it healthy by respecting all local guidelines, recommendations, regulations, and customs. Ask local authorities or your dive shop how to protect the reef.
  2. Be an informed consumer. Consider carefully the coral objects that you buy for your coffee table. Ask the store owner or manager from what country the coral is taken and whether or not that country has a management plan to insure that the harvest was legal and sustainable over time.
  3. Only buy marine aquarium fish if you know they have been collected in an ecologically sound manner. In some areas, marine fish harvested for the pet trade, are stunned with sodium cyanide so that capturing them is easier.
  4. Surf the net! Many different addresses exist to link you to information about coral reefs and what you can do to become involved. A good starting point is at http://www.publicaffairs.noaa.gov/coral-reef.html
  5. Donít anchor on the reef. If you go boating near a coral reef, use mooring buoy systems when they are available.
  6. If you dive, donít touch! Take only pictures and leave only bubbles!
  7. Keep your finsí gear, and hands away from the coral, as this contact can hurt you and will damage the delicate coral animals.
  8. Stay off the bottom because stirred-up sediment can settle on coral and smother it.