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February 23, 2006

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Concern for sea cucumber
I am concerned about the endorsement of a SCUBA diver “snuggling” a sea cucumber as a winning entry in SFU international's annual photo contest. (SFU News Feb. 9) The sea cucumber is a bottom-dwelling, slow-moving marine animal with no ability to escape the reach of a diver. When stressed, sea cucumbers will violently expel their guts and respiratory trees out of their bodies and many die as a result. This often occurs when divers handle sea cucumbers. A plethora of scientific research has found that disturbances from humans, including ecotourists, can have negative effects on animals. As a researcher currently working on SCUBA diving effects on fish behaviour, I want to emphasize the importance for all divers to be conscious of the impacts they are having on the marine environment. I urge all divers, and newspaper editors to educate themselves on ecologically harmful behaviours, such as the one pictured in this newspaper. If we hope to enjoy these underwater wonderlands for years to come, we must be respectful of marine life now. We should view diving as an opportunity to observe, but not disturb, these diverse ecosystems. Please, think twice before promoting the harassment of marine animals by SCUBA divers. Brandi Chuchman Behavioural ecology research group Department of biological sciences

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