This morning’s dive was beautiful. The sun was shining, the water was clear and the ocean calm and flat with the odd small wave instead of the larger surf-like waves we sometimes encounter. The reef at Karon Noi beach is small, but has some beautiful creatures. On a dive you might be able to see moray eel, barracuda, puffer fish, nudibranchs, box fish, parrot fish, juvenile harlequin sweetlips, lizard fish, lobster, shrimp, octopus and there are various types of different coral. The visibility, particularly at this time of year, is variable. The first time I dived this site, visibility was very poor at around no more than 3 metres, particularly in the shallower sections. However, this morning, the visibility was great at around 10 metres.
This dive was the last training dive for Luke to finish his Divemaster Traineeship. He had to plan, brief and lead the dive. Naturally we gave him a hard time to test him by setting our gear up incorrectly, swimming off ahead of him, faking masks flooding and generally not following directions. However, he handled it all well and we eventually stopped giving him a hard time and just enjoyed the dive.
Towards the end of the dive, we came across a dead pufferfish. It was caught in a fishing net which had snagged against the coral. Arndt cut the net free and it floated to the surface. This was the first time I had seen the outcome of irresponsible fishing practices, the result of a net allowed to drift loose. At some sites, you can also see the damage to the coral caused by dynamite and cyanide fishing. This type of fishing causes devastating damage to corals that may have taken more than 100 years to grow.
After bottom time of 76 minutes, my longest ever dive, we were all low on air so we surfaced and started to swim back to shore. However, instead of the usual leisurely swim, our journey back became one of rubbish collecting as there were plastic bags floating everywhere at the surface. Plastic bags are devastating to many forms of marine life. Turtles, my favourite marine animal, mistake them for jelly fish and the consumption results in a slow and painful death.
Our second dive today was a conservation dive. A long plastic and steel rope had sunk to the ocean floor and was lodged over some of the coral so we devised a plan to raise it to the surface and take it back to shore. The visibility on this dive was dreadful, the worst visibility I have ever experienced. The water was like soup, the sand had been churned up so much I could only see about one metre in front of me. I tried to assist as best I could by collecting the loose circular plastic floatation devices from the sand but the visibility was so bad I could barely see the bottom yet alone find the loose ones to collect. Nevertheless, we succeeded with our mission, raised the rope and took it back to shore.
After stowng it away safely we walked back to the dive shop to dismantle our gear. I had almost finished and was just rinsing the sand off my feet when I noticed some big black goop on the top of my foot and someone pointed out there was an even bigger goop on the bottom of my foot. I started rubbing at it and then it got stuck all over my hands and caught under my finger nails. It wouldn’t wash off with water. I wasn’t the only one with big black goop attached to them. Turns out it was oil. A ship must have passed and dumped oil which had now turned up on the beach.
We trudged down to the sand and tried to rub it off with sand but I was unsuccessful. So I returned to the dive shop and scrubbed at my hands and feet with the dish washing liquid I usually use to defog my mask. After 30 minutes of scrubbing, I managed to get most of the oil off although some was still stuck under my now thin, jagged and sore fingernails. I couldn’t care less about ruining my nails, they are nails and will grow back. What concerned me was that it took me 30 minutes of scrubbing to remove a couple of smallish globs of oil from me. Imagine the effect on wildlife and the effort required to scrub them clean when they are covered in the stuff.
What also concerned me was that in one day, I witnessed four environmentally damaging phenomena; plastic bag pollution, drifting fishing nets, oil spill and potential man-made coral damage. I have not personally experienced this before and I felt shocked, concerned, disheartened that all of this was man-made and that I saw this in just one little dive site in one little corner of the world. How much damage are we doing, and who is taking responsibility for preventing the causes and fixing the effects? It prompted me to write this poem:
Is there any hope? Can we make haste before it’s too late?
Or will we continue to pollute and suffocate?
When you see it before you what do you do?
Do something about it or turn a blind eye too?
Whose problem is it? Is it mine? Is it yours?
Is it our government's or is industry the cause?
Do you over-consume or throw out without thinking?
Ever wonder how this affects the water you’re drinking?
And what about our rivers, oceans and seas?
Did you ever stop to think about how your actions affects any of these?
We all know it’s an issue of which we talk and complain.
But we leave it to others to fix and campaign.
We are all the consumers, the polluters, the cause.
But who does the fixing? Just Government and laws?
It’s up to every single one of us, and there’s much we can do.
We just have to realise and accept, it’s each of our responsibility too.
And most importantly we must take action today.
Tomorrow, which never comes, is a deadly delay.