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Marine Life & Conservation

Where are all the big fish?

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I recently came back from my latest filming trip to the island of Lombok in Indonesia. I’m working on a short film / documentary that should be finished, for the filming phase, by August of this year and as such I’ve had to return seasonally to a small village that plays host to one of the most barbaric of fish markets within the whole of Indonesia.

Tanjung Luar (highlighted in a previous journal entry, which you can read here) is a haunting place to be if you have a) a deep affinity with the enigmatic species of our Oceans such as sharks, manta rays and dolphins, and b) a weak disposition. And so I went armed with a stiff upper lip prepared for the worst. I was over prepared.

Zipping through the incredible and deserted country road that crisscross South East Lombok and with the haunting sounds of the early morning calls to prayer emanating from the numerous mosques in this predominantly Muslim Island, I tackled the one hour commute between Kuta Beach and Tanjung Luar. Being awake as night turns to day, witnessing the fight between the tones of Orange of an emerging sun and the cobalt of a receding night is in many ways intoxicating irrespective of the location. The early morning songbirds, the brisk air, the clarity of Mt. Rinjani, the highest peak on the island that is omnipresent from all vantage points.

Arriving at the Fish Market I was welcomed, at even 1Km distance, with the all too familiar stench of fish. Discarded corpses which had failed to attract a buyer from the previous day are simply trodden underfoot and baked each day under the intense Indonesian sun. I always wondered how many inches of fish I was walking on when strolling through the market. Who could ever fathom that one out?

Traditionally I would go to what I call the ‘Hen House’, the region of the market where all the women would gather and haggle over the sardines and Tuna that had been landed that night. This corner of the market is always good for a giggle as banter with the ladies was a given. Whether it was to marvel at the size of my western snout, which would incidentally put a Black Rhino to shame, or simply to extend a hand and utter the only English word they know, “Money”. A smile and pleading ignorance would be enough to leave them chuckling at the ‘Bule Gila’ (crazy tourist) in their midst.

And there were none. No larger animals. Normally by 7am the shark fishing boats would be disgorging their fare. Sharks and Mantas mainly but seeing as Manta’s had in February of 2014 received Indonesia-wide protection I was hoping I wouldn’t have to witness another death of such magnificence on the cold slabs of the butchers shed in this daunting place. On that day and for the remaining six days of my trip I didn’t see any big sharks. No Tigers, Great Hammerheads or Bull Sharks. A few Wobbegongs, dogfish and one Blacktip. I almost made it to the end of the trip without being too disheartened.

The last day kinda broke this run. Six Giant Manta Rays and two Thresher Sharks. With fishermen getting $200 for (all) the Mantas and $20(!) for the Thresher Shark it is the source of the biggest question I ask myself to which I have yet to find the answer to. Both of these species are supposed to be protected throughout Indonesia. It’s obvious that the fishermen don’t know or, and is more likely, they simply don’t care. There is no suggestion of a fisheries management plan in a land where most people survive on literally a few dollars a month. It could never be controlled and would almost certainly be exploited once a protected species showed any signs of population recovery.

I guess the starker warning of this lesson is simply why are there no sharks being landed, given the wide array of fishing practices in the region, some of them illegal. Why are no sharks being landed? Whilst it’s a good thing on one hand to think the sharks are getting wise to the fishermen, it’s also daunting to think that this could be a very real indicator of dwindling resources and local shark population collapse. The fishermen now seem to have to travel further and further afield, so much so that it’s becoming increasingly common to talk with fishermen in the village who have served time in Australian prisons for illegal fishing forays into foreign waters. But that, as they say, is another story.

Documenting this kind of activity certainly has a drain on the moral. As much as I am passionate about the conservation of the Oceans and the species I find so dear I’ve decided that this will be my last documentary of this nature for the foreseeable future. I will be looking to continue in imagining but more for positive and marketing / promotional goals in the future. If this is something that sounds intriguing to any operators out there my full offering is outlined here.

Mark Thorpe is a renowned Underwater Cameraman, Photographer and Ocean Conservationist. He has won the Prix du Public at the Antibes World Festival of Underwater Film and Images, and most notably he received an EMMY in 2011 for cinematographic contributions to the National Geographic series ‘Great Migrations’. His most recent project, “The Sharks of the Forgotten Islands”, is a documentary centered around the inhabitants of the small, outer-rim islands of Yap in the Pacific and their unique relationship with the ocean, its top predator, and the very real danger the islands are facing due to rising sea levels.

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Diving with Frogfish in Costa Rica: A Hidden Gem Underwater

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In the vast and vibrant underwater world of Costa Rica, there’s a peculiar creature that often goes unnoticed but holds a special place in the hearts of divers: the frogfish. This enigmatic and somewhat odd-looking species is a master of camouflage and a marvel of marine life. Diving with frogfish in Costa Rica is not just a dive; it’s an adventurous treasure hunt that rewards the patient and observant with unforgettable encounters. Let’s dive into the world of frogfish and discover what makes these creatures so fascinating and where you can find them in Costa Rica.

The Mystique of Frogfish

Frogfish belong to the family Antennariidae, a group of marine fish known for their incredible ability to blend into their surroundings. They can be found in a variety of colors, including yellow, pink, red, green, black, and white, and they often have unique spots and textures that mimic the coral and sponges around them. This camouflage isn’t just for show; it’s a critical survival tactic that helps them ambush prey and avoid predators.

One of the most remarkable features of the frogfish is its modified dorsal fin, which has evolved into a luring appendage called an esca. The frogfish uses this esca to mimic prey, such as small fish or crustaceans, enticing unsuspecting victims close enough to be engulfed by its surprisingly large mouth in a fraction of a second. This method of hunting is a fascinating spectacle that few divers forget once witnessed.

Where to Find Frogfish in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is dotted with dive sites that offer the chance to encounter these intriguing creatures. Bat Islands (Islas Murciélagos), Catalina Islands (Islas Catalinas), and the area around the Gulf of Papagayo are renowned for their rich marine life, including frogfish. These sites vary in depth and conditions, catering to both novice and experienced divers.

The key to spotting frogfish is to dive with a knowledgeable guide who can point out these master camouflagers hiding in plain sight. They’re often found perched on rocky outcroppings, nestled within coral, or even hiding among debris, perfectly mimicking their surroundings.

frogfish

Diving Tips for Spotting Frogfish

Go Slow: The secret to spotting frogfish is to move slowly and scan carefully. Their camouflage is so effective that they can be right in front of you without being noticed.

Look for Details: Pay attention to the small details. A slightly different texture or an out-of-place color can be the clue you need.

Dive with Local Experts: Local dive guides have an eagle eye for spotting wildlife, including frogfish. Their expertise can significantly increase your chances of an encounter.

Practice Buoyancy Control: Good buoyancy control is essential not just for safety and coral preservation but also for getting a closer look without disturbing these delicate creatures.

Be Patient: Patience is key. Frogfish aren’t known for their speed, and sometimes staying in one spot and observing can yield the best sightings.

Conservation and Respect

While the excitement of spotting a frogfish can be thrilling, it’s crucial to approach all marine life with respect and care. Maintain a safe distance, resist the urge to touch or provoke, and take only photos, leaving behind nothing but bubbles. Remember, the health of the reef and its inhabitants ensures future divers can enjoy these incredible encounters as much as you do.

Join the Adventure

Diving with frogfish in Costa Rica is just one of the many underwater adventures that await in this biodiverse paradise. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or taking your first plunge, the waters here offer an unparalleled experience filled with wonders at every turn. Beyond the thrill of the hunt for frogfish, you’ll be treated to a world teeming with incredible marine life, majestic rays, playful dolphins, and so much more.

So, gear up, dive in, and let the mysteries of Costa Rica’s underwater realm unfold before your eyes. With every dive, you’re not just exploring the ocean; you’re embarking on an adventure that highlights the beauty, complexity, and fragility of our marine ecosystems. And who knows? Your next dive might just be the one where you come face-to-face with the elusive and captivating frogfish. Join us at Rocket Frog Divers for the dive of a lifetime, where the marvels of the ocean are waiting to be discovered.

About the Author: Jonathan Rowe

Are you looking to make a splash online? As a seasoned diver and digital marketer, I specialize in crafting bespoke websites and innovative marketing strategies for dive shops worldwide. With my expertise, your business will not only be seen but also remembered.

From deep-sea to digital depths, I navigate the complex waters of web development and online marketing, ensuring your dive shop stands out in the vast ocean of the internet. Contact Scuba Dive Marketing for more information.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Save the Manatee Club launches brand new webcams at Silver Springs State Park, Florida

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Save the Manatee® Club has launched a brand-new set of underwater and above-water webcams at Silver Springs State Park in Ocala, FL. These new cameras add to our existing cameras at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida, and Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, in Homosassa, Florida, which are viewed by millions of people worldwide. The cameras are a collaboration between Save the Manatee Club, Explore.org, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, who made the new live streaming collaboration possible via support of their interpretative program.

The above-water camera is a stationary pan/tilt/zoom camera that will show manatees and other wildlife from above water, while the new underwater camera provides the viewer with a brand new, exciting 180-degree viewing experience. Viewers can move the cameras around, trying to spot various fish and manatees.

The Silver River, which originates at Silver Springs, provides important habitat for manatees and many other species of wildlife. Over recent years, more manatees have been seen utilizing the Silver and Ocklawaha rivers. “The webcams provide a wonderful entertainment and educational tool to the general public, but they also help us with the manatee research,” says Patrick Rose, Executive Director of Save the Manatee Club. “We have learned so much through observing manatees on our existing webcams, and the new cameras at Silver Spring can add to the existing manatee photo-ID research conducted in this area, as well as highlighting Silver Springs and the Silver River as an important natural habitat for manatees.”

The webcams are streaming live during the daytime, with highlights playing at night, and can be viewed on Explore.org and on Save the Manatee Club’s website at ManaTV.org.

Save the Manatee Club, established in 1981 by the late renowned singer-songwriter, author, and entrepreneur Jimmy Buffett, along with former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, is dedicated to safeguarding manatees and preserving their aquatic habitat. For more information about manatees and the Club’s efforts, visit savethemanatee.org or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).

Photo: www.avalon.red

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