After Gülsah had left, I joined the Masbat Bay Conservation Projekct of RSEC (www.redsea-ec.org), which concentrates on the study of this beautiful Bay in the Center of Dahab, stretching from Mashraba in the South to Lighthouse in the North. The surveys lead to a better understanding of what is happening in the Bay and maybe to what more should be done in order to preserve it as we human beings are once again impacting it (what are we not impacting?) .
It is similar to the Reef Check procedure, which I´ve described here. We survey three different depths each point on the map: 5m, 10m and 15m. One difference to the Reef Check is that only 50m belt transects are used and only fish, substrat & algae coverage is recorded. Bannerfish Bay consists to a big part of seagrass. Boooooring! – might some of you think but that´s far off the truth. It is truly amazing what you can find there. As seagrass serves as a sanctuary for many species of fish, juveniles find shelter or food in this seemingly boring huge field of nothing. And there´s always the chance of seeing turtles, that just love to graze on the juicy blades of the Halophila stipulacea, the seagrass species which is covering most of the bay.
But not only did we find this extraordinary fish but also a ghostnet very close to shore. It was just drifting around and comleptely entangeled. Even though the net itself was not usable anymore it continue to catch fish.
Fortunately Jana had a knife with her, so she cut the corals out the net as good as possible. As 70 minutes had passed, we all were a bit low on air and had to get out. We took the net with us into the divecenter and freed all the fish and other stuff that was entangled in the net. We counted 30 dead fish and three pieces of coral as well as one little crab, that was still alive. We recycled the net by cutting off all the weights as well as the small floating devices. It was just a very small net compared to the gigantic ones used in our oceans by huge trawlers, yet it was a sad sight.
After this experience, I wondered what big nets might do to our oceans and I started reading about it. I found that this is a huge problem regarding the killing of fish and destroying our oceans and wildlife even further than it already is by „normal fishing“. Ghost fishing describes what happens, when derelict fishing gear „continues to fish“. (www.ghostfishing.org)
Fishing gear that is lost, abandoned or discarded, affects marine life until it is removed or destroyed. These nets are obviously built not to let fish escape and they continue to function this way even if they do not belong to anyone anymore. Small trapped fish attract bigger predators, that get entangled as well and die from starvation or even drowning (for example turtles, dolphins and seals). It is estimated that up to 30% of the caught fish worldwide could be caught by ghost nets.
Some nets might end up floating around (suspended by flotation buoys) killing thousands of animals. These nets form a vertical wall hundreds of meters long (for example the broadly used gill nets) and if not collected it keeps trapping fish until the weight of the caught fish exceeds the buoyancy of the buoys. The net then sinks to the bottom until the dead, trapped organisms are devoured and the buoys pull it up again and the cycle starts again.
There are various conservation groups out there going on expeditions to remove any kind of marine debris found. Even us here in Dahab find trash on every dive and us divers should take with us what we can. Floating plastic bags resemble jellyfish, which turtles love. The plastic trash congests their system and they eventually die..
Be aware that purchasing fish from some companies makes you an active part of the industry, if you want it or not. If fish is on your menu, be sure only to buy sustainably caught fish and don´t eat it every day. Our oceans are getting dirtier every day and our fish populations are declining. I hope, that we humans will be smart enough to save what is left to be saved and to understand the impact we have on the oceans and the oceans have on our life and planet! Please spread the word to your friends and neighbors – the more, the better and the bigger the difference we are making!
Check out this video I filmed with my GoPro in Dahab! Our Oceans needs help!
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Tom Vierus is an award-winning photographer, filmmaker, and marine biologist based in Suva, Fiji Islands. This blog is dedicated to his assignments and to sharing some behind-the-scenes footage.