Marine life expert and underwater photographer, Dr Richard Smith, has dedicated much of his time to allowing us less ocean-knowledgeable folk an in-depth look at a habitat we wouldn’t usually have the privilege to see.
Educated from one end of the globe to the other, he has a Zoology degree from Southampton University, England and an MSc in Ecology and Evolution from the University of Queensland, Australia. With over 2000 dives under his belt Richard has achieved Divemaster status. It was just last year that Richard was awarded a doctorate for his research into the biology and conservation of, yes you guessed it, seahorses. Pygmy to be specific. It was during his PhD in which he created the Code of Conduct for diving with and photographing pygmy seahorses.
“I’m trying to have the Code of Conduct reach as many divers as possible and it’s always great for the general public to learn more about seahorses too.” – Dr Richard Smith
Pygmy seahorses have the smallest population of any species of seahorse. Measuring between 1.4 and 2.7 cm in length, their size makes them extremely fragile and delicate, and caution must be taken when documenting them and their habitat. Dr Richard Smith’s main aim is to reduce the negative impact that divers have on these rare animals and, to ensure greater protection of this species, created The Code of Conduct guidelines presented here:
- Do not touch or manipulate pygmy seahorses in any way, as this can easily damage or even kill them
- Do not touch the gorgonian home of the seahorse (they are extremely slow-growing and delicate), take particular care of camera position and exhalent bubbles
- Do not use a torch/flashlight or camera focus light to highlight a pygmy seahorse, this disorientates and stresses them
- Use white balanced natural light rather than artificial light for video capture to reduce disturbance from bright lights
- Five photo limit per diver using flash photography, as more can stress the animal
- No night diving with pygmy seahorses – they sleep at night and lights disturb them
- Be aware of the surrounding environment, pay close attention to fin positioning, so not to damage other corals