YouTube video of an SSI instructor manhandling octopus got his instructor’s license suspended
A Vietnam based instructor, Mark Scott of Diving Vietnam and Aloha Vietnam Scuba Divers has had his instructor’s license revoked by his issuing organization, Scuba Schools International, SSI.
The reason for the case was a two minute long video posted on YouTube, and showing Mr. Scott during a dive pulling an octopus from its cave and holding it for the duration of the video, in spite of the animal both spewing ink (a stress and defensive response) and trying to escape several times.
Here's a very interesting article about The Smart Octopus: Diving With Octopus.
Mr. Scott also pulls at the animal on more than one occasion to remove it from sticking to his arm with its suckers, something that poses a great risk to the animal, as it is an invertebrate, with no bone structure, and it is very possible for a human being to pull an arm straight off of the animal, which is very likely to kill it.
At the end of the video, the octopus accidentally pulls Mr. Scott’s regulator from his mouth.
He makes an attempt at recovering it, which he isn’t able to, tries to locate his secondary regulator, but fails to find it, and then seemingly bolts for the surface just as the video ends.
You can see the video here:
The original poster of the video was Adam Hanlon, the editor of Wetpixel, and he also shared it to social media, where he called it in breach of all environmental, professional or legal regulations', and asked his followers to put pressure on SSI to take action.
This action came not long after, where SSI issued a statement on the matter, saying:
Please note that Mark Scott, Mark Scott Diving Vietnam, and Aloha Vietnam Scuba Divers are no longer SSI Dive Professionals or SSI Dive Centres. Now and hereafter, the named parties may not represent themselves as such in any way, shape or form. This concludes SSI’s Grievance Resolution Procedure.
The problem of dive guides behaving in unethical ways towards marine animals is not unheard of. While most dive guides and instructors worldwide seek to interact with marine life in the most ethical and sustainable of ways, and to teach this to their students and clients as well, there is the occasional dive professional who, often in an attempt to impress or please their clients, oversteps the limits of what can be considered professional conduct of a dive guide and/or instructor.
Here's another video of the terminated SSI instructor:
Manhandling animals is bad enough in and of itself, but is all the more problematic if dive professionals, for better or worse the ones that many inexperienced divers look up to, do it. This can lead other divers to believe that this sort of behavior is acceptable.
Some animals do seek out human interaction in various forms, out of playfulness or curiosity. These include dolphins, turtles, penguins, seals, rays, and octopi. But even if these animals instigate the contact, it is important that we as humans let the interaction be entirely on the animal’s terms, and not grab, hold, or block the animal, limiting is maneuverability, blocking its paths of escape, or doing physical harm to it.
Learn about The Bad Diver And Aquatic Awareness.
Marine animal encounters and interaction is one of the things that we as drives us divers, one of the things that makes people dive in the first place. As such, it is critical that experienced divers of all kinds, not just instructors and guides, showcase good judgement and strong ethics, so we can all keep enjoying these encounters without hurting or stressing the animals.