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All Creatures Great and Small in the Galapagos

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Galapagos

“Macro Photography” and “the Galapagos” are not two phrases you would commonly hear in the same sentence. The majority of divers and underwater photographers travel to the Galapagos Islands for the abundance of hammerhead sharks and other large pelagic fish species. With the focus of attention on the wealth of life out in the blue, there is a tendency to overlook the smaller creatures, but on a recent trip aboard the Galapagos Master I decided to put my new TG4 camera to the test and do a bit of critter hunting.

Galapagos

Galapagos Master

Before you all start hollering in disbelief, I of course had my time gazing in awe as schools of hammerheads came in to be cleaned by the king angelfish. I, like the rest of our dive group, excitedly snapped away as a whale shark cruised by us at Wolf Island and diving with Mola Mola at Punta Vicente Roca was a dream come true. Yet in between all that action there was a good deal of waiting around holding onto the rocks, so it was easy to spend some time checking out the cute blennies or marveling at the curious hawkfish.

Like most dive sites, if you look hard enough at the reef or rock wall there will always be something of interest to photograph. At Darwin and Wolf islands the blennies were happy to pose and an easy, fascinating distraction whilst waiting for more hammerheads. My favourites were the large banded blennies, due to their gaping mouths and attractive cirri, but also the ability to photograph them in different settings.

Galapagos

Banded Blenny. Photo: Susie Erbe

Along the reefs wall of Cabo Douglas and Isabella Island amidst black coral bushes and seafans there were dozens of Long-nosed and Falco hawkfish. Now anyone who has ever tried to take a photo of the long-nosed variety will know they are tricky little critters who like to hop and hover about, flitting off just as you got the focus set. But not so with the ones seen in the Galapagos. Perhaps they were unused to divers and flash photography but they seemed happy enough to hang about and pose for me. I experienced the same action again at Cousin’s Rock where 3 of the Falco variety happily stayed in place, turning occasionally to give me a different angle – how very obliging!

Galapagos

Falco Hawkfish. Photo: Susie Erbe

Possibly the most odd looking fish to be found during the trip, the Red-lipped batfish is a flattened pancake shaped fish with protruding “lips”, beady eyes and pectoral fins adapted into walking appendages. We found our first ones at Wolf Island, resting down on the sandy seabed at 27-32m. These fish can be approached by divers but you need to be cautious as they can swim pretty fast and tend to head directly to deeper water. Positioning ourselves between the deep and the batfish the photographers among us were able to get some cracking shots. We also discovered that we had seen the lesser known Rosy-lipped batfish too. These can be identified by the small white hairs under their chins! Another one was found at Cabo Douglas too.

Galapagos

Rosy-lipped Batfish. Photo: Susie Erbe

Red rock crabs could be found scurrying over the rocks at almost every dive site and were easy to photograph both in and out of the water. But it was during our batfish hunting dive that I managed to spot a tiny shrimp exhibiting symbiosis with its seastar host – admittedly my photo is pretty bad but i was happy to find it in any case. Though the most surprising find was whilst drifting over the sandy reef at Darwin’s Arch. Our guide, JC, spotted two Harlequin shrimp busy tackling their seastar meal. This was totally unexpected; I’ve only seen a few harlies in the Philippines so was in no way anticipating finding any in the Galapagos. I think JC was as surprised as we were!

Galapagos

Harlequin Shrimp. Photo: Nicole Hemsley

I read about the possibility of seahorses on the Galapagos Master itinerary, so upon arrival at Cabo Douglas we asked about the opportunity to look for these critters. The majority of us have seen seahorses of many varieties but for one of our group it was a first time experience. We found 2 curled around a coral frond in the shallow water. These pacific seahorses are far larger than their Indo-Pacific cousins and gigantic when compared to the miniscule pygmy seahorses of Raja Ampat.

Galapagos

Seahorses. Photo: Nicole Hemsley

Aside from these fascinating tiny critters we were able to closely approach both turtles and the Galapagos horn shark for a bit of eye candy, we found numerous lobsters and scorpionfish and it was relatively easy to get up close with the marine iguanas as they were feeding on the algaes. The shallow water with surge and low visibility made photographing them a challenge but certainly everything was possible. The anemones at Punta Vicente Roca also provided colourful macro subjects.

Galapagos

Horn Shark. Photo: Susie Erbe

 

There are so many interesting creatures to see and photograph in the Galapagos Islands that no dive, even if lacking the big fish action, will ever be dull. Consider bringing a macro lens with you and dedicating at least 1 dive to a bit of critter spotting.

Susie took a 10-night trip aboard the Galapagos Master Liveaboard, departing from San Cristobal Island.

Susie has been enjoying the life of a dive instructor, travelling the world diving and teaching. Susie is somewhat of a liveaboard junkie after working as a cruise director in the Red Sea, the Philippines and Indonesia. She has also led trips to Fiji, Palau, Similans, Myanmar, East Timor, the Maldives and the Galapagos, yet she still finds time to do some shore based diving at her favourite sites in the Philippines too. Find Susie at www.heritagediving.com

Marine Life & Conservation

BLUE EARTH – Future Frogmen Podcast Series – Deep-Sea Stories From a Shadow Diver: a conversation with Richie Kohler

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A series of conservation educational podcasts from Future Frogmen, introduced by Jeff Goodman.


Deep Sea Stories From a Shadow Diver: a conversation with Richie Kohler. 

This episode of the Blue Earth Podcast is a conversation with Richie Kohler. He’s an explorer, technical wreck diver, shipwreck historian, filmmaker, and author.

Richie was featured in Robert Kurson’s incredible book “Shadow Divers ”. It’s a thrilling true story about Richie and John Chatterton’s quest to identify the wreck of an unknown WWII German U-boat (submarine), 65 miles off the coast of New Jersey. They dedicated six years of their lives attempting to identify the wreck.

Richie has travelled the world and explored many deep wrecks, including the Andrea Doria, Titanic, and Britannic. He’s the author of “Mystery of The Last Olympian” about the Britannic.


Richard E Hyman Bio

Richard is the Chairman and President of Future Frogmen.

Born from mentoring and love of the ocean, Richard is developing an impactful non-profit organization. His memoir, FROGMEN, details expeditions aboard Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s famed ship Calypso.

Future Frogmen, Inc. is a nonprofit organization and public charity that works to improve ocean health by deepening the connection between people and nature. They foster ocean ambassadors and future leaders to protect the ocean by accomplishing five objectives.


You can find more episodes and information at www.futurefrogmen.org and on most social platforms @futurefrogmen.

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Marine Life & Conservation

New Fisheries Act misses the mark on sustainability, but what now?

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A better future for our seas is still beyond the horizon, says Marine Conservation Society

The UK’s landmark post-Brexit fisheries legislation has now become law. The Fisheries Act, the first legislation of its kind in nearly 40 years, will shape how the UK’s seas are fished for years to come.

The Marine Conservation Society, which campaigned for amendments to the legislation throughout its development, is disappointed by the removal of key sustainability amendments and by the removal of a commitment to rolling out Remote Electronic Monitoring.

The charity has committed to pushing the UK Government to go further than the framework which the Fisheries Act sets out, with greater ambition for the state of UK seas.

Sandy Luk, Chief Executive of the Marine Conservation Society said: “UK Government and devolved administrations must act urgently to deliver climate and nature smart fisheries under the new Fisheries Act. This is a key condition if our seas are to recover to good health. The UK Government removed key amendments from the legislation while making promises on sustainability and the introduction of remote electronic monitoring. We will continue to hold the government to account over these promises.”

“I’m pleased to see the recognition of the important role fisheries play in our fight against the climate emergency.  However, even with a climate change objective in the Act, actions speak louder than words. We must get to work delivering sustainable fisheries management, which will have a huge benefit to our seas, wildlife and the communities which depend upon them.”

The Fisheries Act has become law against a backdrop of the ocean’s declining health. UK waters are currently failing to meet 11 out of 15 indicators of good ocean health and over a third of fish in UK waters are being caught at levels which cannot continue into the future. Whilst the legislation failed to address some of the more pressing issues facing UK seas, including overfishing, there is still an opportunity to affect change in the years which follow.

Sam Stone, Head of Fisheries at the Marine Conservation Society said: “The Fisheries Act marks the start of a new era of fisheries management in the UK, but the next two years will be critical in defining what this looks like. The new Act has some good objectives, but we now need to come together to make sure it really delivers the on-water change that is desperately needed for ocean recovery.

“There is genuine opportunity to create fisheries that deliver for coastal communities and for the environment, but it means moving away from ‘business-as-usual’. The UK and devolved governments now have the powers to move forward with progressive new management in their waters. That means proper incentives for low impact fishing, proper monitoring of catches and proper commitments to sustainable fishing.

“In the short term, the four nations must work together to make impactful changes, starting by addressing the UK’s most at risk fish stocks. Recovery plans are needed for our depleted stocks, including new catch limits, selectivity and avoidance measures, protection of vital habitats and fully documented catches. Rolling out Remote Electronic Monitoring with cameras on larger vessels throughout the UK should be top of the agenda if future policy is to be as well informed as possible.”

For more information about the Fisheries Bill and the Marine Conservation Society’s work, visit the charity’s website.

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Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village is a Bedouin-owned resort with stunning views and a lovely private beach. It is ideal for divers as everything is onsite including the resort's jetty, dive centre and house reef. The warm hospitality makes for a diving holiday like no other. There is an excellent seafood restaurent and beach bar onsite, and with the enormous diversity of the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites and the surrounding areas of the South Sinai, there really is something for every level of diver to enjoy.

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