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Scuba Diving

READERS CHOICE: MOST ECO-FRIENDLY DIVE DESTINATIONS

Making a commitment to protecting the ocean is crucial to the sport of diving. And so it is that we are most drawn to the places that understand the dire need to preserve threatened habitats and animals. In these locales, not only can we immediately appreciate the results of others’ conservation efforts, we can also contribute.

A sea turtle catches some rays off Maui, Hawaii

HAWAII

GREEN PARTY In 2015, Hawaii became the first state to ban plastic bags at grocery checkouts. In 2017, the Sheraton Maui Resort stopped offering guests single-use plastic straws.

PARKS AND REC When President George W. Bush established Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in 2006, he secured 140,000 acres of underwater habitat surrounding the string of islands found northwest of the main Hawaii chain. Then, in 2016, President Barack Obama more than quadrupled its size to a half-million square miles. Although diving isn’t allowed in this marine park, the diving community still benefits from this habitat, which shelters 7,000 marine species, including green sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals

ELASMOBRANCHING OUT Among divers, Kona is synonymous with mantas — that’s largely thanks to the conservation efforts of those who spend the most time with them. Keller Laros, an instructor at Jack’s Diving Locker who was named a Scuba Diving Sea Hero in 2014, is one of the co-founders of the Manta Pacific Research Foundation, which not only studies behavior but also implements safe-diving practices to ensure the population isn’t threatened. The guidelines include timing exhalations to keep bubbles from touching the mantas, and refraining from all touch.

a sharknose goby perches on coral off Bonaire

BONAIRE

RADICAL PRECEDENT In 1979, Bonaire established its national marine park — the first such effort in the Caribbean to preserve underwater resources. This nearly 7,000-acre park protects what lies from the high-water line to 200 feet deep, with the goal of keeping what delights divers and marine life alike around forever.

BUDDING SUCCESS Buddy Dive Resort, voted a Readers Choice top dive operator, has been committed since 2012 to working with the Coral Restoration Foundation to regrow the island’s elkhorn and stag-horn corals. The main nursery is located off the satellite island of Klein Bonaire. Any divers with strong buoyancy skills are invited to join the efforts.

NEST EGGS One of the flagship species of the Bonaire National Marine Park is the green sea turtle, which relies on the island to nest. During the 2017 nesting season, 132 sea turtle nests were counted between Bonaire and Klein Bonaire, an effort overseen by the group Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire.

a California sea lion poses near the Monterey coast.

JENNIFER PENNER (2); SERGIY BEKETOV/ALAMY

MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA

MOST POPULAR The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, covering 6,094 square miles of ocean, is home to several of the most beloved dive sites in Northern California: Breakwater in Monterey, Pinnacles in Carmel Bay, and Whaler’s Cove in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. The 276 miles of coastline and underwater habitat support a wealth of eco-diversity.

BIG PERSONALITIES This sanctuary also supports 36 marine mammal species. The list includes Bryde’s whales, blue whales, Dall’s porpoises, fin whales, harbor seals, humpback whales, killer whales, northern elephant seals, southern sea otters, Steller sea lions and many more.

REACH OUT The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has one of the country’s most active volunteer networks, with a sweeping array of options available to citizens. Every July, divers can join MBNMS’s efforts in the Great Annual Fish Count — organized by Reef Environmental Education Foundation — to help track local populations of California sheephead, giant sea bass and more.

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