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Recreational diving offers the opportunity to explore a whole new world rich in underwater treasures. It also has an impact on the environment. New International Standards for sustainable diving have just been published to help keep our waters clean.

Diving is attractive for many reasons and it is no wonder that millions of people enjoy exploring life beneath water each year. The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), the biggest training agency for divers, has issued some 27 million diver certifications since 1967, and the trend is not waning [1].

This inevitably has an impact on aquatic life, putting an onus on the diving community to see how the underwater environment is faring – and how they are impacting it. Now two new International Standards have just been published, designed to increase diver environmental awareness and reduce negative impacts.

ISO 21416, Recreational diving services  Requirements and guidance on environmentally sustainable practices in recreational diving, provides information on how the diving community can optimize their ability to observe the condition of the aquatic environment and undertake activities to improve it.

ISO 21417, Recreational diving services  Requirements for training on environmental awareness for recreational divers, provides guidance for training programmes aimed at educating divers in environmental awareness and sustainable practices in recreational diving activities. This covers both theory and practical sessions.

Mr Manuel Otero, Chair of the ISO technical committee (TC) responsible for the standards said divers see what we above water cannot see, and therefore have an eye on the environmental condition of aquatic life. “They also have a responsibility to be aware of their impact on it.”

“These two standards give guidance and practical examples of best practice, such as those related to operating boats or interacting with aquatic life, which will benefit everyone. After all, tourists are more likely to return to waters that are clean and intact, rather than those that have suffered from poor environmental practices.”

Mr Martin Denison, Convenor of the TC’s working group that developed the standards, said they will benefit not only divers, diving instructors, centres and clubs, but tour operators offering diving holidays, diving boat operators and governments and any other organizations looking for information on diving and the aquatic environment. “They also contribute directly to the UN Sustainable Development Goal, SDG 14, which is about the sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources.”

ISO 21416 and ISO 21417 were developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 228, Tourism and related services, the secretariat for which is held jointly by UNE, ISO’s member for Spain, and INNORPI, ISO’s member for Tunisia.

They are available from your national ISO member or the ISO Store.


  1. PADI 2019 Worldwide Statistics [PDF]

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Clare Naden
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