The British Society of Underwater Photographers (BSoUP)
Inspiring and informing underwater photographers since 1967

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Environmental Code

by Colin Doeg

Reproduced from in focus 77 (Winter 2003)

Once it did not matter. In his early books, Hans Hass included photographs of himself sitting on coral reefs. Jacques Cousteau blasted a passageway through a coral reef so his ship could moor safety within the lagoon beyond and employed local fishermen to bait an area for several months before he arrived so he could be sure of clouds of fish when he began filming. There are also stories of photographers smashing coral to get access to a subject.

But the world changes. The marine environment is in peril from dynamite and cyanide fishing, general over?fishing, global warming, tourism and pollution. Millions of people throughout the world are concerned about the state of our seas.

Frequently divers are blamed for the plight of coral reefs. Some nations are named more than others. But underwater photographers are usually condemned more than other divers.

Perhaps this was true at one time but there has been a sea change in the attitude of those of us who take our cameras underwater. If the subject is not easily accessible or cannot be reached without damaging the marine environment then most of us move on and find something else to picture.
This appreciation of the need to avoid damaging the marine environment and its creatures is more important than ever today because the introduction of affordable digital cameras and low cost housings is leading to a new wave of photographers who are unlikely to be aware of the havoc their enthusiasm can wreak. Therefore, it is particularly timely that an environmental code for underwater photographers was launched recently at the Birmingham Dive Show.

It was produced by the Marine Conservation Society, with funding from PADI and a number of other sources. The BSoUP had a major involvement in the compiling of the code and fully endorses it, as do the Northern Underwater Photographic Group and the Bristol Underwater Photographic Group as well as the other major training agencies, the British Sub-Aqua Club and the Sub Aqua Association.

Its appearance has been enthusiastically received. Over 1,000 copies were taken home from the Dive show, copies are being distributed by specialist retailers of underwater photographic equipment, and bulk copies were also taken to other countries.

Copies of the code are on this website as well as that of the Young Underwater Photographers' Group, a number of whose members also belong to this Society. We anticipate sending out copies to members in the new year.

It is the code by which we should take our pictures underwater. It is also a code that should be shown to every over-bearing and unhelpful dive master to point out the principles we follow. In time, perhaps we can begin to turn the tide of criticism against underwater photographers and make people appreciate we dive and take our images with great care and consideration for the wonderful world beneath the waves.

Reproduced from in focus 77 (Winter 2003)


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