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Managing the Impacts of SCUBA Divers on Thailand’s Coral Reefs

Suchai Worachananant School of Natural and Rural Systems Management, University of Queensland St Lucia Campus, Brisbane, Australia R.W. (Bill) Carter Faculty of Science, Health and Education University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
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Marc Hockings School of Natural and Rural Systems Management, University of Queensland Gatton Campus, Australia Pasinee Reopanichkul Centre for Water Studies, School of Engineering, University of Queensland St Lucia Campus, Australia
While dive tourism enjoys continued growth worldwide, concern exists that it is contributing to the degradation of coral communities, biologically and aesthetically. This study examined the effect of SCUBA diver contacts with coral and other substrates. Ninety-three percent of divers made contact with substrata during a 10-minute observation period with an average of 97 contacts per hour of diving. Two-thirds of the divers caused some coral damage by breaking fragments from fragile coral forms with an average of 19 breakages per hour of diving. Fin damage was the major type of damage. Underwater photographers caused less damage per contact than non-photographers; as did male divers, compared with females. Diver-induced damage decreases with increasing number of logged dives and attendance at pre-dive briefings. Park managers can help reduce impact by identifying and directing use to sites that are resistant to damage, matching diver competence and site preferences, and alerting operators to dive conditions. Minimising impact requires dive operators to be proactive in promoting minimal impact diving behaviour. This includes selecting sites that match diver expectations and experience, and providing pre-dive briefings in the context of diver activities and physical capacity, and site susceptibility to impact and current strength.

doi: 10.2167/jost771.0 Keywords: coral reefs, education, environmental impact, management response, SCUBA divers, Surin Marine National Park

0966-9582/08/06 645-19 $20.00/0 JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE TOURISM

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2008 Taylor & Francis Vol. 16, No. 6, 2008

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Introduction
Healthy coral reefs make many contributions to coastal communities. They help lessen the erosive impacts of waves in the coastal zone, support the livelihoods of fishing communities and provide the opportunity for many coastal communities to enhance their incomes from the rapid expansion of global tourism (Sudara et al., 1991; Dixon, 1993; Wilkinson et al., 1994; Seenprachawong, 2003). Thailand’s maritime environments are a major attraction for international visitors: more than 80% of overseas tourists come to Thailand to visit Thailand’s seas (Seenprachawong, 2001; Thamrongnawasawat & Worachananant, 2004). At present, there are more than 20 million visitors travelling to the seas of Thailand each year (Worachananant & Thamrongnawasawat, 1999; Piewsawat, 2002; TAT, 2006). This is due, at least in part, to the diversity of organisms in Thai reefs (Sudara, 2002a). While coral reefs are one of the most popular resources for tourist use (Hall, 2001; Sudara, 2002b), there is increasing concern for the impact tourist activity may be having on reefs. The impacts of recreation activities have received attention from many marine researchers (Woodland & Hooper, 1977; Kay & Liddle, 1986, 1989; Liddle & Kay, 1987; Sudara et al., 1991; Hawkins & Roberts, 1992; Mohamaed et al., 1994; Rouphael & Inglis, 1997; Al-Jufaili et al., 1999; Rouphael & Inglis, 2001; Tratalos & Austin, 2001). The activities that were identified to bring about changes include reef walking, snorkelling, development of facilities and pollution of waters by powerboats. Some studies have raised the concern that SCUBA diving may also constitute a significant threat (Rouphael & Inglis, 2002; Davenport & Davenport, 2006). Breakage of corals by SCUBA divers has been documented worldwide, including reports from Egypt (Hawkins & Roberts, 1992), the USA (Talge, 1992), Australia (Rouphael & Inglis, 1997) and the Caribbean (Tratalos & Austin, 2001). Divers damage corals through direct physical contact with their hands, body, equipment and fins (Rouphael & Inglis, 1995, 2001; Barker & Roberts, 2004). Some damage may be from diving-associated activities, such as anchoring, rather than solely from diver-induced damage (Jameson et al., 1999). The damage caused by individual divers is often considered minor (Walters & Samways, 2001; Zakai & Chadwick-Furman, 2002), although there is some evidence that the cumulative effects of these disturbances can cause significant localised decline of coral cover (Hawkins et al., 1999). A study in the Red Sea also found that the percentage of hard coral cover decreased by 43% and algal cover increased over four-fold (Jameson et al., 2007). While most divers contact corals during their dive, it has been reported that the majority of divers appear to have little impact, with only a few divers causing substantial damage (see Harriott et al., 1997; Rouphael & Inglis, 1997; Walters & Samways, 2001; Zakai & ChadwickFurman, 2002). There is evidence that the characteristics of individual divers, such as level of dive education and briefing, diving experience, gender, and camera possession, affect the number of contacts with coral and the amount of damage (Rouphael & Inglis, 1995, 2001). Medio et al. (1997) report that a single environmental awareness briefing resulted in a reduced rate of diver contacts with reef substances, with voluntary contacts mainly directed at the non-living substrate. Roberts and

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Harriot (1995) found that divers with more advanced levels of training tend to have fewer impacts. Moreover, male divers appear to cause significantly more damage because men tend to be more adventurous, less likely to follow instructions and more likely to take risks than women (Rouphael & Inglis, 1997). Rouphael and Inglis (2001) found that use of a camera had no influence on the rate or amount of damage caused by divers. Studies have found that the level of damage caused to coral communities does vary with the experience of SCUBA divers, and the proportion of vulnerable types of organisms (e.g. branching corals), but damage is not clearly related to reef topography (Rouphael & Inglis, 1997; Zakai & Chadwick-Furman, 2002). There are numbers of studies worldwide that have examined diver experience in relation to dive site characteristics (Chanwichai, 1994; Dearden et al., 2006; Kubas et al., 2006; Musa et al., 2006; Worachananant et al., 2006). The main contributors to diving satisfaction include the quality of the underwater nature landscape, the comfort and ease of access to dive sites, distance and the cost of accommodation and food. Some studies found a relationship between dominant coral types and diver satisfaction. Sites with a high proportion of fragile coral types received higher satisfaction from divers (Worachananant et al., 2006; Chanwichai, 1994). However, sites dominated by fragile corals might not be preferred dive sites by managers because of their vulnerability to physical impact. There is a need to balance the needs of both divers and site managers. If the diving tourism industry is to sustain itself, there is a need to limit diver-induced stress on the coral reef system. Because of the great variation in the amount of physical damage within and among diving sites (Harriott et al., 1997; Jameson et al., 1999; Worachananant et al., 2006), management and restoration efforts should be conducted on a site-by-site basis. The aim of this study was to examine the impact on coral caused by SCUBA divers to Surin Marine National Park in Thailand, and to determine if the topography of coral reef dive sites influences the type and amount of damage caused by divers. The study involved observation of the behaviour of SCUBA divers, with impacts examined in relation to diver characteristics, and the character of reefs used by divers, including the percentage cover and the dominant life form of the corals. The objective was to examine the extent to which issues affecting the impact of divers on reefs in other studies apply to Surin and to consider the management options that could help limit impacts while still providing appropriate diving experiences for visitors to the park. Specific null hypotheses that were tested are: (1) pre-dive briefing does not affect the rate of contact between divers and substrates and the extent of damage resulting from these contacts; (2) use of an underwater camera does not influence the extent of damage caused by divers; (3) there is no difference between male and female divers in their rates of contact with, and damage to, the substrates; and (4) there is no difference in the contact and damage rates of divers based on their diving experience. These elements of diver behaviour provide insights for the development of options for managing divers’ use of reef resources in ways that minimise impacts. Knowledge of the biological factors that affect the sensitivity of different sites to

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SCUBA diver impacts can be combined with knowledge of diver characteristics that make them more likely to cause coral damage. They can be combined in order to allow managers to match diver characteristics with suitable locations so as to minimise diver impacts while delivering satisfying and sustainable experiences.

The Study Area: Surin Marine National Park
The Thailand Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment administers the 135 km2 Surin Marine National Park (hereafter, Surin). Seventy-six percent of the area (102 km2 ) is marine, including 8 km2 of reef, and the balance (33 km2 ) is terrestrial. Surin consists of five granitic islands (North Surin, South Surin, Torinla, Pachumba and Stork Islands) and two exposed pinnacles (Figure 1).

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Figure 1 Islands and reefs of Surin Marine National Park

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More than 68 species of corals are found in Surin and the condition of the reefs is considered good (DMSCI, 1997; Dearden et al., 2000; Worachananant et al., 2004; Worachananant et al., 2005). The pollution-free clear water supports healthy coral growth, especially in the sheltered bays on the eastern sides of the islands such as Turtle Bay and Mae Yai Bay. Torinla Island, the area where the reef is in best condition, has more than 90 percent living coral coverage. Corals generally extend from low water to a depth of 30 metres. In sheltered areas, seabeds deeper than 30 metres are sandy. Encrusting corals are found in exposed locations, especially on the western side of the park where strong waves batter the shore during the monsoon season. Here, the seabed below 10 metres is mainly sandy with a few rocks. In common with most reefs in Thailand, reef condition at Surin has declined in ˜ effects, particularly in 1998, the past decade (Worachananant et al., 2007). El Nino caused deterioration of reefs in some areas, especially Mae Yai Bay through coral bleaching. However, the park is remote from the mainland (around 60 km) and all the islands are covered with healthy forest, so sedimentation and pollution are not major issues. Most researchers suggest that the major threat is from human-related activities (Thamrongnawasawat et al., 2000; Sittithaweepat, 2001; Saisaeng, 2002; Worachananant et al., 2007).

Survey Methods
The study involved observation of 108 SCUBA divers, selected by convenience from dive parties visiting five different dive sites at Surin (Mai Ngam Bay, Pakkhad Bay, Turtle Bay, Torinla Island and Suthep Bay [Figure 1]) between November and December 2004, which is the peak season for diving at Surin. This sample represents just over one quarter of the 402 SCUBA divers that park records showed as visiting Surin during November and December 2004. All of the divers in the sample are Thai (nearly 95% of park visitors are Thai nationals), and most are female (an ad hoc survey of eight dive operators working in Thailand indicated that females normally represent about two-thirds of the clients of dive trip operations). Surveys of visitors to Mu Koh Surin National Park in December 2004 and March 2005 (Worachananant, 2007) also reported a positive female gender balance amongst visitors to the park (62% and 60%, respectively). The reasons behind the predominance of female clients of dive operations in Thailand are not known, but it appears that the diver sample in this study is not abnormal in this regard. After December 2004, the number of SCUBA divers dropped sharply following the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami (TAT, 2005a, 2005b), with only about 50 divers in January 2005 compared to nearly 1,000 in January 2004 (Worachananant et al., 2006). Selection aimed for a representative sample of the demographics of dive groups, including age, gender, physical characteristics and level of diving experience. The study was conducted on three diving vessels from two companies who agreed to support the study. Daily selection of dive sites by the local dive staff was based on a number of criteria, including weather and sea conditions, popularity of the site (i.e. whether it was requested by visiting divers), and the relative experience of visiting divers. At most sites, diving was restricted to a maximum depth of 15 metres. As part of their pre-dive briefing, the dive staff

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would describe the location of ‘points of interest’ within the dive area, such as manta-ray or whale shark, explain the plan of the dive, including direction and dive time, and remind divers to be careful not to touch or break living organisms, especially corals. This pre-dive briefing session was part of the tour operator’s standard procedure. Each subject was observed underwater for 10 minutes. The dives usually lasted about 60 minutes and divers were observed during only one of the 10-minute periods of the dive. Information was recorded underwater on the gender of each diver, the site where they were observed, the time of observation during the dive (i.e. which of the 10-minute periods) and whether they carried a camera. For each subject, the level of training and experience (number of dives completed since gaining qualifications) were obtained from the dive staff onboard. Observers were introduced to the diving group as normal divers; they entered the water with the dive party, and remained a distinct distance behind their subjects (usually 5–10 metres depending on visibility). To avoid influencing the subjects’ behaviour, divers were not informed of the activities of the observers until all dives were completed. Data from subjects who were obviously aware of the presence of the observers were not used. Each diver who made multiple dives in the trip was recorded only once; their other dives were excluded from the sample. Three observers participated in this study. To minimise bias between observers, comprehensive training in data collection methods and criteria was conducted at the beginning of each field trip. The number of times that each diver made direct physical contact with the substratum, broken or damaged corals during the dive was recorded. Contact and damage were classified according to whether they were made by the diver’s hands, fins, knees, gauges or other equipment and the type of substratum involved. Benthic substrata were categorised as branching (including tabulate), massive (including sub-massive), foliose and encrusting corals, and other substrates. For completeness, the disturbance to ‘other substrates’ was recorded when sessile organisms other than hard corals (e.g. soft corals or seafans) were damaged, sand was disturbed or rocks were dislodged. The mean number of diver interactions resulting in coral damage in each 10-minute period of diving was compared by one-way ANOVA. Independent t -tests were used to assess the difference between the mean number of damaging contacts and various attributes (camera possession, gender and pre-dive briefing status). Chi-square tests were used to determine the characteristics of divers who damaged corals. Correlation between level of divers’ experience and number of divers who made contact with or damaged corals was analysed using Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient. During the period of the diver observations, living coral coverage data were assessed using line intercept transects based on methods described in Worachananant et al. (2007). All transects were located in the edge-slope zone (between 4 and 10 metres depth): the standard zone used for this type of monitoring in Thailand (Phongsuwan & Chansang, 1992; DMSCI, 1997; DMCR, 2005). Percentage cover was calculated using the length of the transect intercepted by each of the coral forms/substrates. Differences between coral type cover at different dive sites were tested by analysis of variance. Coral life forms were

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divided into branching, massive, foliose, encrusting, sub-massive, tabulate and dead. Non-coral areas were recorded as ‘other substrates’ and included sand, rock and other benthic organisms. To interpret the results, percentage coral cover was subsequently arranged into three categories: ‘tolerant’ coral types (massive, sub-massive and encrusting), ‘fragile’ types (branching, tabulate and foliose) and ‘dead and others’ (dead coral and other substrates).

Results
Diver characteristics and their impact on coral reefs Observation subjects were mainly female (77%). Diving experience varied widely; the number of logged dives ranged from 4 to 560 (median = 27 dives). Subjects were placed into four groups based on experience (Table 1). Around 70% of divers had logged fewer than 50 dives before arriving at Surin. One hundred and one divers (94%) made some contact with the substrates during the 10-minute observation period. Divers averaged 16.2 ± 1.9 (mean ± SE) contacts per 10 minutes (approximately 97 times per hour’s dive). Of those divers who made contact with the substrate, 82 divers (81%) made contact with some form of coral with an average of 5.5 ± 0.7 contacts per 10 minutes (33 times per dive). Seventy-one divers (66%) damaged coral at least once during the 10-minute observation period. On average, contact with the substratum that resulted in coral damage occurred around 3.1 ± 0.4 per 10 minutes (19 breakages per dive). Visible damage caused by the divers normally consisted of the breaking of fragments of branching corals. The damage to massive and encrusting corals was not clearly seen, but the generation of mucus by affected coral was evident and recorded as damage (Liddle & Kay, 1987). Kicks by divers’ fins were the major cause of coral damage (Table 2). Of the many types of substrates, branching coral and other substrates such as rock, sand and dead coral received the highest level of damage (193 and 168 records, respectively). However, the proportion of contact and damage on each substrate varied. Foliose corals and branching corals were the most vulnerable to physical impact. All foliose corals and 75 percent of branching corals contacted by divers were damaged (Figure 2). Thirty-nine divers (52%) who attended a pre-dive briefing (‘attending divers’) damaged corals. A significantly higher proportion (32 divers or 97%) who did not attend the pre-dive briefing (‘non-attending divers’) caused damage (Table 3;
Table 1 Number of divers’ logged dives Groups Beginners (1–25 dives) Novices (26–50 dives) Enthusiasts (51–100 dives) Experts (more than 100 dives) Total Frequency 44 29 8 27 108 Percent 41 27 7 25 100

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Table 2 Number of times divers contacted coral reef substrates Types Branching Fin Hand Contact Gauges Knee Other Total Fin
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Coral Massive 112 95 22 0 9 238 15 30 8 0 3 56 Foliose 7 2 25 0 0 34 7 2 25 0 0 34 Encrusting 31 20 13 0 0 64 21 11 8 0 0 40

Other substrate 176 191 30 111 52 560 101 38 20 1 8 168

Total

151 51 34 0 21 257 108 35 34 0 16 193

477 359 124 111 82 1153 252 116 95 1 27 491

Hand Damage Gauges Knee Other Total

Figure 2 Number of times divers contacted and damaged substrates
2 χ(1,106) = 20.58, p < 0.01). In addition, the average number of corals damaged by non-attending divers was significantly greater than damage caused by attending divers (Figure 3; t(1,106) = −3.32, p < 0.01). A Levene’s test of homogeneity of variance also suggests that the variance in damage rate of non-attending divers was higher than for attending divers (F(1,106) = 5.61, p < 0.05). That is, if divers attend a pre-dive briefing, they are likely to have fewer contacts with coral and cause less physical damage. A significantly smaller percentage of non-photographers caused damage com2 pared to divers with cameras (Table 3: χ(1,106 ) = 7.03, p < 0.05). The average number of corals damaged by underwater photographers was not significantly different to that caused by non-photographers (t(1,106) = −0.74, p > 0.05) (Figure 3).

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Figure 3 Mean number of contacts and damage incidents (±SE) over 10 minutes and diver characteristics Table 3 Impact on corals and diver characteristics Contact with coral Number Attended predive briefing Camera possession Gender Level of experience No (n = 33) Yes (n = 75) No (n = 51) Yes (n = 57) Female (n = 83) Male (n = 25) 1–25 dives (n = 44) 26–50 dives (n = 29) 51–100 dives (n = 8) 100 dives up (n = 27) 32 50 30 52 67 15 39 19 8 16 % 97 67 59 91 81 60 89 66 100 59 Damage to coral Number 32 39 27 44 62 9 35 15 7 14 % 97 52 53 77 75 36 80 52 88 52 Coral damage after contact (%) 100 78 90 85 93 60 90 79 88 88

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A Levene’s test of homogeneity of variance suggests that the variance in damage rate of non-photographers is greater than for photographers (F(1,106) = 5.04, p < 0.05). That is, the number of non-photographers who damaged corals was fewer than photographers, but the damage per contact rate was higher. A significantly greater percentage of female divers (75%, n = 62) than male 2 = 12.78, p < 0.05). The average divers (36%, n = 9) damaged corals (χ(1,106) damage rate per contact by female divers was also significantly greater than that caused by male divers (Figure 3; t(1,106) = 5.28, p < 0.05). A Levene’s test of homogeneity of variance also suggests that the variance in damage rate of female divers was greater than male divers (F(1,106) = 25.68, p < 0.05). That is, females are more likely to make contact with corals and cause more damage than males. There was a correlation between the level of experience (number of logged dives) and the number of times divers came into contact with and damaged corals (r = −0.34, n = 108, p < 0.05 and r = −0.31, n = 108, p < 0.05, respectively). This indicates that the number of times divers damage corals decreases with increasing level of diving experience (Figure 3). To test whether the difference in damage caused to corals was simply experience-related rather than gender-related, analysis revealed that there was no difference in the experience range by gender of divers who damaged corals (ANOVA, F(3,104) = 4.29, p > 0.05). That is, whether expert or novice, female divers are more likely to cause damage to corals than males. Seventy-six percent of all contacts that resulted in damage to corals were ‘uncontrolled contacts’ (interactions where the diver did not purposely touch the substrata; see Davis & Tisdell, 1995) caused by a fin kick (47%), gauge (23%) and other parts (6%). Beginner and novice divers are more likely to make contact with corals than more experienced divers (ANOVA, F(3,104) = 7.07, p < 0.01). All other contacts (24%) were caused by hand (i.e. divers consciously touched or grabbed corals). Again, novice divers are more likely to do this than experienced divers (ANOVA, F(3,104) = 4.80, p < 0.01). Biological differences between diving sites Mean cover of corals from five selected dive sites differed greatly (Table 4). While the reef at Torinla Island is dominated by branching corals, the reef at Turtle Bay is dominated by tolerant coral types.
Table 4 Coral cover at the five dive sites Study sites Tolerant Mean Torinla Island Pakkhad Bay Suthep Bay Mai Ngam Bay Turtle Bay 9.17 22.95 33.44 37.34 47.42 SE 2.12 1.99 1.51 2.37 2.47 Coral cover (%) Fragile Mean 76.18 60.32 42.57 26.23 23.26 SE 2.73 2.03 2.15 2.42 1.81 Dead and other Mean 14.66 16.73 23.98 36.43 29.32 SE 1.87 2.01 1.71 1.66 2.20

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Figure 4 Substrate contacts per diver (mean ± SE) over a 10-minute interval at the five dive sites

Mean cover of all coral forms, except tabulate coral, varied significantly between sites. Mean cover of tolerant forms (combining massive, sub-massive and encrusting corals) ranged from 9.2 ± 2.1% (mean ± SE) at Torinla Island to 47.4 ± 2.5% at Turtle Bay. Cover of tolerant coral differed greatly among sites (ANOVA, F(4,125) = 40.79, p < 0.01). A Tukey HSD test indicates that percent cover means of the tolerant corals of Torinla Island, Pakkhad Bay and Turtle Bay differ significantly, while the mean of the tolerant corals cover at Mai Ngam Bay did not differ from Suthep Bay. Cover of fragile corals ranged from 23.3 ± 1.8% at Turtle Bay to 76.2 ± 2.7% at Torinla Island. The mean cover of fragile corals differed significantly between sites ( F(4,125) = 91.81, p < 0.01). A Tukey HSD test indicates that the means of the percent cover of fragile corals at Torinla Island, Pakkhad Bay and Suthep Bay differed significantly, while mean fragile coral cover at Mai Ngam Bay did not differ from Turtle Bay. While the strength of the currents at offshore islands such as Surin is related to tidal change/exchange of water (Phongsuwan & Chansang, 1994), the different geographical characteristics of each diving site influences the strength of current. Torinla Island, a channel site, has very strong currents, while Pakkhad Bay and Turtle Bay, which are exposed bays, have medium currents during ebb tide. Mai Ngam Bay and Suthep Bay are almost enclosed bays and experience little tidal current. Torinla Island has a much higher rate of contact than the other sites, while differences between the other sites were less marked (Figure 4). Difference in diver behaviour among dive sites Subjects frequently came into contact with coral at all five dive sites. The mean number of contacts per 10 minutes ranged between 7.3 and 37.0 times per diver (Figure 4). There was a significant difference between the mean number of contacts at different dive sites (ANOVA, F(4,103) = 13.38, p < 0.01), with Torinla Island, the site with the strongest current, accounting for a much higher number of contacts.

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Figure 5 Contacts (%) resulting in damage at the five dive sites Table 5 Damage caused by divers over a 10-minute period at the five dive sites Study sites Torinla Island Pakkhad Bay Suthep Bay Mai Ngam Bay Turtle Bay Total N 24 24 24 24 12 108 Mean 8.50 2.33 1.21 1.25 1.00 3.06 SE 1.25 0.65 0.47 0.28 0.39 0.44 Minimum 0 0 0 0 0 0 Maximum 21 12 9 6 4 21

Twenty-two divers (92%) observed at Torinla Island made at least one contact (in a 10-minute interval) with corals. Of this, 21 divers (88%) caused damage. Turtle Bay was the least affected site, with only 10 divers (42%) causing damage to corals (Figure 5). The total number of contacts that resulted in damage ranged from 4 at Turtle Bay to 21 at Torinla Island. The mean number of contacts that resulted in damage was larger at Torinla Island (8.5 ± 1.25) than at the other four sites (Table 5).

Discussion
In this study, SCUBA divers often made contact with corals, and on more than half of these occasions coral was damaged. The amount of damage and the frequency of its occurrence were relatively high (around 19 times per dive). The results suggest that divers practice a low level of environmental care. However, divers may simply be unaware that their actions can injure coral. A short pre-dive presentation on environmental protecting dive behaviour was shown to reduce the damage caused by divers. Divers who attended a pre-dive briefing were likely to have fewer contacts with corals and cause less

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physical damage than those who did not attend briefings (i.e. null hypothesis 1 is rejected). During these briefings, dive staff reminded divers to be careful not to touch and break living organisms, especially corals. Photographers touched corals more often than non-photographers and thus damaged more per dive, but damage per contact was less. That is, photographers tended to be gentler when they made contact with coral, but this level of care is insufficient to reduce the net effect of the contacts (null hypothesis 2 is rejected). Female divers were significantly more likely to damage corals when compared with males (null hypothesis 3 is rejected). This may be due to differences in physical capacity and ability to handle the heavy SCUBA equipment and currents, rather than any difference in care or concern. The number of times novice divers came into contact with corals, whether uncontrolled or conscious, was higher than for more experienced divers and diver-induced damage to corals decreased with increasing number of logged dives (null hypothesis 4 is rejected). Table 6 compares our findings with the literature on diver-induced impacts on coral.

Site-Related Effects
The amount of damage caused by divers was also related to the percent cover of fragile corals, which were the most vulnerable to physical impact. This means that sites with a high cover percent of fragile coral are more vulnerable to increasing pressure of divers than places with a high proportion of tolerant corals. The site with the strongest current also showed the highest level of damage to corals. While places with a high percent cover of fragile coral are more vulnerable, factors such as diver strength, experience and activity undertaken strongly influence the degree of damage. Female divers, with less physical strength than males, are more likely to make contact with the coral substrate because of their lower physical capacity to handle currents and bulky diving gear. Some activities, such as underwater photography, can increase diver-induced damage to coral. Conceptually from this study, the site factors that influence SCUBA diver propensity to cause damage to coral can be placed on two axes: coral type and current (Figure 6). Current in this case represents the physical characteristics of the water column and possibly includes other water characteristics that affect diver comfort and stability, including turbidity. Low body strength, the absence of pre-dive briefing and photography are factors that can decrease the range of sites made available to divers if concern for impact is given high priority. If minimising diver attrition of coral is desired, then beginner divers should be confined to sites dominated by resistant coral species and low current strength (the northwest sector of Figure 6). As divers have increasing experience, sites dominated by fragile coral types and stronger currents can be made available with less risk of damage to the corals. Reducing the damage to dive sites, especially in areas with strong current and a high proportion of fragile corals (the southwest sector of Figure 6), involves considerations relating to body strength or fitness, the nature of any special activity undertaken while diving (e.g. photography), and the level of awareness divers have of their potential to damage. While, from a management perspective, little can be done to regulate diver strength, body mass (gender correlated

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Table 6 Comparison of this study with findings in the literature Issue Attendance at pre-dive briefing reducing diverinduced damage to corals Literature Medio et al. (1997) and Davis and Tisdell (1995) found that a pre-dive briefing led to a reduction in impact, but Barker and Robert (2004) found no effect. This study Divers attending a pre-dive briefing have fewer contacts with coral and cause less physical damage. Possible explanation Most literature supports our finding that pre-dive briefing can reduce diver-induced damage to corals. A one-sentence inclusion in a regular dive briefing asking divers to avoid touching the reef might not be sufficient to raise the conservation awareness of divers (see Barker & Robert, 2004). Underwater cameras are becoming a more affordable accessory for many divers, both expert and novice. One of the authors (SW), an experienced diving instructor, suggests that novice divers who have limited buoyancy control are more likely to contact corals when using a camera. Our finding is likely to be the result of differences in physical capacity and ability to handle the heavy SCUBA equipment and currents rather than any difference in care or concern.

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Camera possession affects the extent of diverinduced damage.

Literature reports mixed results, with Barker and Robert (2004) finding that photographers had significantly higher contact rates, while Rouphael and Inglis (2001) found no effect. Rouphael and Inglis (1997) found that male divers cause significantly more damage, but female divers were more likely to hold or to touch benthic substrata (Rouphael & Inglis, 2001). Literature reports mixed results. Roberts and Harriott (1995) found that divers with more advanced levels of training have fewer impacts, although Harriott et al. (1997) and Rouphael and Inglis (2001) found no significant differences in the total numbers of contacts or impacts made by divers of different levels of experience.

Photographers (divers with camera) touched coral more often than nonphotographers and thus damaged more per dive, but damage per contact was less. Females are more likely to make contact with coral and cause damage than males.

Gender differences in diverinduced damage to coral.

Experienceand trainingrelated differences in diverinduced damage to coral.

Number of times divers damage corals decreases with increasing level of diving experience.

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Figure 6 Factors influencing SCUBA diver impacts to coral

diver characteristics) and fitness, there is potential to facilitate best practice underwater photography techniques and increasing awareness of the potential for divers to do damage. These require an education programme delivered either by park staff or by dive-boat operators. The framework presented in Figure 6 can also be used as an input to zoning plans. While other factors will influence the zoning of SCUBA diving use zones, sites with attributes on the eastern side of the figure are likely to be acceptable to stakeholders for comfort and safety reasons and therefore make management easier.

Conclusion: Improving the Sustainability of SCUBA Diving
At an extreme, diver impact could be minimised by focusing all SCUBA diving in resistant sites that are current free. Throughout the world, and especially tourism-dependent Thailand, such action would be unacceptable to users, operators and management and would conflict with park management objectives. However, within the framework presented (Figure 6), there is considerable room for flexibility. The largest proposed constraint is water characteristics (e.g. current strength): a constraint that will be acceptable to divers because safety and comfort are desired by recreational SCUBA divers. Equally desired by divers, especially by experienced divers, are sites with a high proportion of the more fragile coral types (e.g. branching and plate coral types). For park management then, the task is to identify and facilitate SCUBA diving at sites that match diver expectations for safety and quality experiences, but within the experience of the

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Table 7 SCUBA diving stakeholder actions to minimise contact impact Park management actions Define dive sites with marked mooring buoys indicating recommended experience levels (largely determined by coral substrate type). Develop partnerships with dive masters and dive-boat operators to communicate best practice diving technique that includes minimum impact diving.
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Dive-boat operator, dive master and dive-club actions Promote minimal impact diving techniques in all promotional material.

Include information on potential for substrate-contact in all pre-dive briefings.

Provide information on diver impacts generally and especially to dive masters and dive-boat operators.

Give greater emphasis to this if the divers are beginners and novices, the dive site is rich in fragile corals, dive conditions are not benign, or divers intend to undertake activities that demand interaction with the substrate (e.g. photography).

Provide minimal impact diving instruction to dive masters and dive-boat operators. Inform divers (dive boat operators) of dive conditions daily, and recommend dive sites for divers of different levels of experience.

diver to dive with minimum impact (the eastern sectors of Figure 6). Practically, such an approach can only be achieved with the co-operation of divers, dive operators and dive masters. Therefore, park managing agencies must take the lead in building partnerships with key stakeholders to implement such a policy. For the partnership to succeed, all stakeholders must make a commitment to a shared vision. Actions that will demonstrate commitment are presented in Table 7. While implementing environmental/minimal impact awareness programmes for divers is recommended in many reef areas, these have largely been conducted only by park managing agencies (Medio et al., 1997). As dive-based tourism is an important revenue earner for many resource users, and if the sites are to maintain their aesthetic appeal and biological characteristics, then it is in the interests of dive operators to ensure their clients dive safely and with minimal impact. While protected area managers could take draconian zoning action to minimise impacts by focusing use away from sensitive areas, this would have the effect of reducing the attractiveness of Surin (as the example), and clients would probably move elsewhere. It is suggested that collaborative action is a more sensible, and indeed a more effective and responsible approach. Park managers need to identify suitable diving sites with stakeholders and provide data such as presented here to inform selection of diving sites. Then, a coordinated diver education programme that informs divers of their responsibilities is needed to continually deliver a minimal impact diving message. Diving federations and

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