Regular customers and friends of B&J Jilly, Kim and the Kids returned once more this weekend – this time with conservation in mind.
Jilly is an instructor (trained by B&J) and is passionate about the underwater world. Her passion has filtered through to husband Kim (who is now hot on her heels in terms of qualifications) and their kids Finn (nearly 13 years old – already a Junior Rescue Diver), Ollie (nearly 11 and a Junior Open Water) and Sasha (6 years old and a total water baby desperate to start diving!).
Kim and Jilly suggested that we do some kind of conservation and environmental awareness activity and of course we jumped on the chance to get involved!
The day started in the classroom for the Project AWARE Specialty. Nic guided the team through the course that she adapted to make more “kid” friendly (although we think Kim enjoyed it just as much!).
Nic is a Project AWARE advocate who is heavily involved in conservation efforts – particularly Dive Against Debris. She talked about the Project AWARE Foundation and it’s importance in educating and involving divers and non divers all over the world. After all, divers and snorkellers are the ambassadors for the underwater world. It’s only us that can see what it looks like beneath the waves and therefore it’s up to us to spread the word and do something about it if we think action is needed!
The course was full of facts, including some quite scientific stuff about how corals grow and feed, the different fresh water ecosystems (lentic and lotic zones) and the different light zones in the ocean (photic and aphotic). Finn and Sasha explained the hydrological cycle to us all – they really know their stuff!
Nic discussed why coral reefs are so important to us and looked at the threats that they face. Coral is very sensitive to change and with little chance of halting climate change any time soon, experts are worried that our reefs could be wiped out within a generation. In Tioman especially, we’re facing the threat of an extra strong El Nino event that could hit the region next year. It’s expected that the ocean temperature will rise beyond the tolerance level of the reef and cause mass bleaching. This happened back in 2010 and luckily our corals were resilient enough to bounce back – lets hope that this time we will be so lucky.
Nic also looked into why our global fisheries are facing collapse. Most of our fish populations are over fished or depleted completely. It’s thought that the fishing industry will collapse by 2048 if we don’t change our ways. We learned that eating fish is actually ok, as long as you choosefrom a sustainable source – fishermen who also care about the environment and who are responsible in their practices. We should not buy from trawlers who are unsustainable – those who practice long line or gill net fishing. Annual fishing haul is 80 million tonnes (with 26 million tonnes thought to be caught illegally). Of that, 33% is discarded as bycatch – all the unwanted animals (not just fish). These destructive practices are very good at catching the target fish by the tonnes, unfortunately they also catch sharks, turtles, dolphins and any other marine creature that might be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Shark and Manta Ray hunting was also scrutinized as we learned about the cruel and wasteful practices that Project AWARE are fighting hard to ban. 100 million sharks die each year because of finning and nearly 100 thousand Manta Ray and Mobulas are killed for their gill rakers which are sold for Chinese medicine.
The family was shocked when they saw the pictures of marine creatures affected by debris in the ocean. 8 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year and unfortunately it is often mistaken for food or becomes entangled around animals causing suffering and eventually death.
It really spurred them on to make a difference and we finished the course by pledging to follow Project AWARE’s 10 tips to protect the ocean planet.
With the classroom section complete, it was time to go out to the ocean and actually start making a difference. The Twiggs hit the beach for a clean up in front of the dive centre and neighbouring resorts and restaurants. There was so many aluminium cans, plastic bottles and cigarette butts strewn across the high tide line of the beach. Anything that we can remove from the beach stops it from eventually returning to the ocean. We recycled what we could and disposed of the rest responsibly in our D2W biodegradable plastic bags.
After a quick splash around in the pool to cool off, we headed to the jetty to conduct a Dive Against Debris dive. We know that there are a lot of inconsiderate tourists who think its ok to discard their unwanted junk over the side not understanding the impact it has underwater. This out of sight out of mind mentality is what we face every day in the struggle against marine debris. When we descended, we straight away saw the impact this has. Everywhere we looked there was a piece of trash. There were large items like bikes and wire racks that we decided to leave down there as eels and porcupine fish had decided to make a home. It’s amazing how adaptable marine creatures can be. Finn found one small plastic pipe that was home to three white eyed moray eels. We collected all the smaller pieces of trash we could. We found lots of batteries and wire which have obviously been tossed overboard from visiting fishing boats conducting maintenance plus lots of motorbike accessories that have inexplicably found their way to the ocean. There was the expected spiderwebs of fishing line and hooks (although no where near as much as we found on our last Dive Against Debris underneath Salang jetty). It’s worth mentioning again that we are in a Marine Park where fishing is illegal – there should be no fishing gear in the water at all!
By the end of the dive, our bags were so heavy that it would be a struggle to lift them safely to the surface, so Nic tied them to a rope that was hanging in the water to be pulled up later.
The team headed into the shallows, still collecting the odd pieces of trash on the way.
It had been a long day and definitely time for some rest and relaxation. We decided to leave the sorting and reporting for the data collection part of Dive Against Debris until the next day.
The next morning, we weighed the trash that was collected from under the jetty – a whopping 23kg (we were only diving for 52 minutes!) and the smelly job of sorting and counting began.
Once the data was collated, Nic recycled what she could and bagged the rest up to be taken to the trash collection point. (You can see the results of the survey here)
This was a fantastic weekend – we all had so much fun and hard work for a good cause. With 4 new Project AWARE Specialists (including our youngest ever Sasha!) we know that the Twiggs will continue their good work and spread the word about how important it is to protect our underwater world.