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Cayman’s Great Shore Diving Can Add Value to Dive Packages

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As one of the Caribbean’s top dive destinations, Cayman is renowned for fantastic wall dives, spectacular shipwrecks and unforgettable Stingray City, but avid divers know that Cayman’s shore diving sets it apart.  Here they can maximize their bottom time and add value to dive package with easy shore diving. There are 365 dive sites on the three islands – reefs and shipwrecks in warm clear water, filled with all kinds of marine life. About 50 sites are accessible from shore, and 10 are organized shore diving locations with tank rentals, ladders, showers and other facilities. The rest are more suited for adventurous divers who are up for a shore entry off the beaten path without the amenities.

A newly-certified diver can do no better than Grand Cayman for a first ocean dive. Conditions are reliably good, and they can choose shallow reefs with grottos and swim-throughs or shipwrecks and underwater sculptures that offer their own attractions. Here are some of the most popular starting on the coast south of George Town and traveling north.

Sunset Reef

Sunset House Dive Resort is widely recognized for its easy shore diving. Visitors can literally walk from their room to pick up their dive equipment at the dive shop and then step into the water. Besides having 6 custom boats to take guests on boat dives, 100% of the Sunset House experience is its fantastic shore diving.

“We have multiple entry points, you can giant stride from the Iron shore or use the ladder in the ocean fed sea pool where divers can out the sea critters before exiting onto the dive site,” said Emma Jane Fisher, Sales and Marketing for Sunset House.

Fisher says divers can follow the natural navigation of the sand chutes to Sunset House’s 9 foot bronze mermaid sculpture, Amphitrite, which sits offshore from the resort in 50 feet of water.  From there they can follow the large coral head to the sand flat where the wreck of the Nicholson, a World War II-era landing craft.

“The Nicholson is a great wreck to explore for macro life, beautiful soft corals & you might catch Eagle Rays passing by over the sand. They can then follow the coral ridge out until it rises to 55 feet before dropping into the abyss. As they follow the top of the wall and look out in to the blue, they never know what might swim by.”

Eden Rock and Devil’s Grotto are sites with coral caves and tunnels for divers to explore in downtown George Town. They have easy entry ladders, and during the summer months, divers can experience an extraordinary happening – Cayman’s thrilling “Silver Rush.” The near shore reefs are filled with millions of migrating silversides that swirl through the tunnels like quicksilver, and then large Tarpon show up to feast on the summer migrants.

Bob Soto’s Reef is located North of George Town Harbour just off Soto’s Pier at the Lobster Pot Restaurant.  Accessible by ladder, divers can swim out directly from the pier to find a shallow reef with sandy bottoms where depth ranges between 20 – 50 feet. The reef includes caverns, caves and winding tunnels, and curious tarpon are often spotted.

The Wreck of the Cali, a four-masted schooner that sunk just outside the harbor during a storm in 1944, is scattered on the sandy ocean floor 24 feet, some areas in water as shallow as 10 feet. The site has great marine life, including large tarpon, and it’s an excellent dive for newbie divers. The Cali is also a great night dive.

Lighthouse Point and the Divetech Pier are located at Northwest Point of Grand Cayman in the West Bay Region. Divers can easily access the reef here from Divetech’s concrete pier and ladder, and from a saltwater pool that offers access to the sea. Directly out from the Divetech pier is a mini wall begins at 40 feet and drops to 60 feet, leveling off to a sandy flat.  The mini wall runs parallel to the shoreline and is filled with sponges, corals and marine life. Divers can also visit The Guardian of the Reef, a bronze statue half man, half seahorse, that sits on a sandy flat just off the pier. Divetech specialize in Nitrox, rebreather and mixed gas training for advanced divers who want to maximize their bottom time. The dive shop also rents underwater scooters for divers who want to try a new adventure.

Turtle Reef, located next door to the Divetech pier, is also a popular shore dive accessible from shore. Nutrients from the nearby Turtle Farm attract feeding marine life, and the reef is accessible by step ladder or by entering in a cove right next to the Turtle Farm. Like Lighthouse Point, the depth at Turtle Farm Reef ranges from 40 – 60 feet.

East End

The East End is typically renowned for boat diving, but there are a few sites that can be dived from shore. These sites are typically for the more advanced “adventure” divers because there are no ladders, marked access or entry points to the sites. East End shore diving typically involves walking over iron shore and then a considerable swim out. Access is determined by wind direction, so divers are asked to check with an East End dive operator for directions and tips on shore diving in this area.

Little Cayman

Although Little Cayman’s spectacular drop-offs at Bloody Bay Wall and Jackson Hole are best accessed by boat, there are a few sites available from shore. The Southern Cross Club offers tanks for in-house guests and resort dive staff can point out these unmarked sites, which are also excellent for snorkeling.

“Shore diving in Cayman is a great compliment to boat diving and adds a few extra dives to your log book that are at a different pace,” says Ocean Frontiers co-owner Steve Broadbelt. “Diving from shore lets you follow your own plan and go on an adventure as a buddy team, giving you freedom to explore or simply stay in one spot for the whole dive.”

Dive operators work hard to keep Cayman’s dive product healthy and top-notch. The latest project is centered on coral nurseries used to replenish local reefs. Ocean Frontiers, Sunset House and Divetech have all established nurseries and guests can participate in the coral restoration work.  Former combat divers recently installed a bronze plaque at the base of the mermaid at Sunset House to commemorates the first mission for Force Blue, a non-profit organization training former combat divers about coral conservation.

All three operations offer tanks for shore diving as part of their vacation dive packages so visitors can make the most of their trip to the Cayman Islands.

www.divetech.com

www.oceanfrontiers.com

www.redsailcayman.com

www.sunsethouse.com

www.southerncrossclub.com

www.forceblueteam.org

Marine Life & Conservation

UK Shark Fin Trade ‘dead in the water’

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The government has today signalled the end of the UK’s involvement in the global shark fin trade with an announcement that new legislation will require all imported and exported shark fins to remain attached to the shark carcass and only traded as a whole commodity.

The news has been welcomed by Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation and its supporters including wildlife TV presenter Steve Backshall MBE and chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who both endorsed the charity’s No Fin To Declare campaign, calling for a post-Brexit ban of the personal import allowance of shark fins to the UK.

Before Britain left the EU it had been bound by outdated legislation that permits anyone to carry up to 20kg of dried shark fins into and across European borders as part of their personal import allowance. According to Bite-Back, this loophole has been exploited by the shark fin trade to legally ‘smuggle’ fins undetected for decades.

Campaign director at Bite-Back, Graham Buckingham, said: “This news puts the UK at the forefront of shark conservation and represents a further blow to a global industry that is forcing sharks closer to the brink of extinction. We applaud the government for using Brexit to side-step this archaic EU legislation and instead lead the world in the conservation of sharks and the oceans. We hope and believe this announcement will encourage other European countries to impose similar constraints.”

It’s estimated that global fishing fleets hunt and kill 73 million sharks every year. As a result one in four shark species is now either endangered or threatened forcing populations of iconic shark species including great whites, hammerheads, oceanic whitetips and threshers to a tiny fraction of those recorded 50 years ago.

Over the past decade shark fins — used as the title ingredient in shark fin soup — have become one of the most valuable seafood items in the world, a fact the charity says, has created a ‘marine gold rush’ to catch and separate sharks from their lucrative fins.

Shark fin soup is widely regarded as a controversial dish. Not only are the cartilaginous strands from the fins tasteless, fishermen are known to cut the fins off the sharks they catch and throw the rest of the shark overboard to die.

Bite-Back first exposed the personal import allowance loophole in 2015. Alongside the detrimental environmental impact the NGO also highlighted that no other item on the ‘green channel’ list compared in terms of volume or value. In fact a 20kg consignment of fins is enough to make 705 bowls of shark fin soup and has a black market value of around £3,600.

Spain, France, Portugal and the UK all feature in the top 20 shark fishing nations in the world. Remarkably though, for years, the UK has exported around 25 tonnes of shark fins to Spain for processing and onward sale to the Far East.

However, it will soon become illegal to import or export individual shark fins making it extremely costly and inconvenient to buy and sell a product that is contributing to the decimation of vital shark populations.

Wildlife TV presenter and Bite-Back patron, Steve Backshall MBE, said: “Today’s news is a fantastic outcome for shark conservation and the culmination of years of campaigning from Bite-Back. The government’s decision to effectively ban the trade in shark fins will be significant in helping to restore the balance of the oceans. At the same time it sends a clear message to the world that shark fin soup belongs in the history books and not on the menu.”

Support shark and marine conservation at www.bite-back.com

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Protecting England’s Wreck Sites: Site Security Protocols Launched

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The security of heritage assets is of the utmost importance; a monetary value cannot be attached to the significance of a site or its associated artefacts. This statement is true for both on land and underwater sites.

The policing of underwater sites however, is often a trickier affair, with out-of-sight often equalling out-of-mind. Unfortunately, a site’s underwater location does not stop thieves from stealing or damaging artefacts.

To aid in the protection of our underwater cultural heritage, a selection of sites of historical, artistic and archaeological importance have been protected by law under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 (https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/what-is-designation/protected-wreck-sites/). Historic England manage these sites on behalf of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media, Digital and Sport (DCMS), and a team of Licensees, effectively voluntary custodians, play a key role in their ongoing management.

The licensees work tirelessly on the wrecks and have had a special relationship with them since the very first days of the Protection of Wrecks Act. If it wasn’t for them, many of the sites would still be unknown and we would have very little knowledge of many of the existing sites. Their presence on the sites acts as a deterrent to anyone thinking of accessing the sites illegally and their monitoring ensures that the sites are understood and enjoyed by many people.

To further aid in the physical protection of these significant sites, Historic England funded a partnership project between the Protected Wreck Association (PWA https://protectedwrecks.org.uk/) and MSDS Marine (https://msdsmarine.com/). This national-level project has seen the development of Site Security Plans for protected wreck sites. The model developed is based on the highly successful model developed by Ron Howell and the SWMAG team who are Licensees for the Salcombe Cannon and Moor Sands protected wreck sites.

A Site Security Plan is the end result of a process which assesses how secure a site is from illegal access. By completing two very easy to use but highly specialised forms, the site is given:

  • Its own Site Security Champion
  • Its own Heritage Crime Officer in the Police
  • A level of risk of heritage crime occurring to enable appropriate response to be put in place and to allow targeting of resources
  • Quick win opportunities to decrease its level of risk
  • A protocol for the licensees to follow every time they access the site
  • Specialist guidelines to enable crime reporting to enforcement authorities
  • A toolkit consisting of: A High Vis vest, to help identify the Site Security Champion to the public / authorities and pocket-sized card, summarising guidance on reporting crimes.

The project team will be supporting Licensees and their teams in completing a Site Security Plan and Risk Assessment for each Protected Wreck Site. MSDS Marine will be contacting Licensees inviting them to book a slot to work through the process. Individual Licensees and teams can also follow the guidance to complete the documents on their own with MSDS Marine on hand to support as required.

The Site Security Forms are accessible on the Protected Wreck Association website, in the members only area https://protectedwrecks.org.uk/members-area/site-security/ . If you are not a member and would like to join, this is an excellent time, as its free!

Assessing the security of a wreck site will inform Historic England of any sites which are at a high risk of heritage crime, and aid them in the future management of these sites. It will assist Licensees in highlighting areas for concern and in turn offer positive actions that can be taken to reduce the threat. It is hoped that the scheme will help put practical measures in place to ensure that the sites are protected from illegal activity in future.

Alison James, Project Manager at MSDS Marine said: “I spent ten years working at Historic England managing England’s protected wreck sites and at times was incredibly frustrated by being unable to ‘police’ the sites. The model we have developed is based on the highly successful model developed by SWMAG which has been shown to work on a number of occasions. We hope this will make a real difference to the sites and the teams that work on them.”

Professor Mike Williams, Chair of the Protected Wreck Association said: “We are delighted and grateful that Historic England has funded this project. It will enable us to undertake valuable work to support our members, who are dedicated volunteers protecting our maritime heritage.”

Hefin Meara, Marine Archaeologist at Historic England said: “We are pleased to support this important project and recognise the enormous contribution that licensed volunteer divers are making to help protect England’s fascinating marine historic environment.”

For more information please visit www.ProtectedWrecks.org.uk , www.MSDSMarine.co.uk, and www.historicengland.org.uk.

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Competitions

Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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