The third weekend in September marks the annual global movement to Clean Up The World. It’s funny how living on a small island makes your world shrink and your love of the immediate surroundings grow. At B&J Diving Centre, our office is the South China Sea and our playgrounds are the reefs and wrecks around Tioman Island. We are passionate about our dive sites; we want to keep them clean and healthy for all the divers of future generations to come.
It often feels like a losing battle. The people who use our beautiful dive sites are sometimes not as environmentally likeminded. We constantly find fishing nets and line (Tioman is a Marine Park – fishing is supposed to be illegal), plastic bags, Styrofoam food containers, drinks bottles and cans in the water from inconsiderate fishermen, snorkelers and divers.
Our instructors, dive masters, students and customers are constantly on the lookout for debris that should not be on our reefs and in our oceans, and there is rarely a dive where we come up empty handed of some form of trash we found during our fifty minute stint under the waves.
We call for help every September during Project AWARE’s month of action, where divers hit the water all around the world to remove debris and report their findings.
On the 20th and 21st of September, B&J plus nearly 30 volunteers targeted four local dive sites that we knew were in need of help.
Sepoi Island is unfortunately a popular site for (illegal) fishing. A huge drift net has been smothering the reef at 15m for a few months. B&J, along with other local dive centres and authorities like Cintai Tioman, Reef Check Malaysia and Marine Parks have been visiting the site whenever the chance arose to try and accomplish the huge task of removing the net. On Saturday, our volunteers removed 5kg of net and 13kg of lead weight in just 50 minutes under water. A tricky task that required excellent buoyancy skills as the net was entangled around a great deal of staghorn coral. Thanks to the hard work or all the volunteers over the weekend and the last few weeks, the net is now completely removed.
Our other sites Chebeh Island, Last Frontier and Soyak Island are pretty clean, but we still managed to pull a few bags of trash out including light bulbs, aluminium cans, plastic bags and bottles and fishing lures.
Not only did we have 5 teams of divers removing trash, we also had a specialist team injecting Crown of Thorns Starfish to help control this overpopulated species that is destroying our reefs. Chebeh Island has been the worst hit in recent months. 6 divers injected a staggering 63 COTs in an area no bigger than a football pitch!
Of course, the cleanup operation doesn’t stop underwater. During our surface intervals we landed on two beaches – Long Bay on Coral Island and Monkey Bay on Tioman. We were amazed by the amount of trash we bagged and the range of rubbish we came across. Everything from the usual plastic bags and food containers to broken legs from children’s toys, chemical filled jerry cans and tractor tyres! In all we removed over 20 bin bags of rubbish, with more time and a bigger boat we could have took more!
We will continue to battle this problem of debris in our oceans. Every day we Dive Against Debris and encourage others to do the same. With continued effort and actions of organisations like Project AWARE, everyone – not just divers – will change their perception of the ocean and learn to protect it.