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REEF – Diving that Matters

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On December 5th I joined REEF on a fish survey trip to St. Lucia. If you have never heard of REEF, they have a simple mission:

Reef Environmental Education Foundation is a grass-roots organization that seeks to conserve marine ecosystems by educating, enlisting and enabling divers and other marine enthusiasts to become active ocean stewards and citizen scientists.

They have 3 major projects; they are 1) Grouper Moon Project, 2) Survey Project, and 3) the Lionfish Project. The trip to St. Lucia was a survey trip. It is important to survey the reefs and check the health of the fish and corals. These surveys go into a huge database, and scientists can make recommendations and do research with the data gathered. There were 18 volunteers who went to St. Lucia to dive, and while diving, document the present species and their abundance. We discovered 218 species in St. Lucia! Pretty remarkable, really. It was my first REEF expedition, and I enjoyed it immensely. It was wonderful to be surrounded by people as committed to the oceans and to conservation as I am. You think I know about fish? Not on the level of most of these surveyers! They are amazing.

We stayed at Anse Chastanet Resort, and did our diving with Scuba St. Lucia. I have rarely stayed at an all-inclusive, and I must tell you Anse Chastanet exceeded my expectations. The service is incredible, and the food fabulous. The chef had a different menu every evening, giving us many choices throughout the week. It was fun to discover new dishes, and they had an Indian Food night. There is a significant Indian influence on the island, and this is reflected in the food. When slavery ended in 1838, plantation owners brought in indentured servants from India to take their place as a cheap labor force. After the contracts were up, most of those from India stayed and made their home on the island, and their customs and foods found its way into the culture of St. Lucia.

Scuba St Lucia, the dive business on the resort’s property, is simply one of the best I have ever seen. The boat, Miss Bertha, was big and roomy with plenty of space for 18 divers. The dive masters were knowledgeable and solicitous, adapting their dive style to ours. REEF divers dive SLOWLY in order to find fish. The crew was helpful and on the spot when needed. I thoroughly enjoyed my dives with them, and cannot give a stronger recommendation. Dive with Scuba St Lucia, and you will be as impressed and happy as I was. I guarantee it! My group had Errol as a dive master, and he was superb. One of the crew, Bradley, could not have been more helpful. Because of my back issues (I have eight pedicle screws and four rods holding my spine in place) I cannot lift tanks. Bradley made sure I did not. Everyone working the boat was incredibly hospitable.

For more from Tam, visit www.travelswithtam.com.

Tam Warner Minton is an avid scuba diver, amateur underwater photographer, and adventurer. She encourages "citizen science" diving, whether volunteering with a group or by one's self. For Tam, the unexpected is usually the norm!

Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Creature Feature: Swell Sharks

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In this series, the Shark Trust will be sharing amazing facts about different species of sharks and what you can do to help protect them.

This month we’re taking a look at some truly swell sharks, the Swell Sharks!

Swell Sharks are a group of catsharks belonging to the family Scyliorhinidae. Their most unique feature is probably their threat response: they are able to expand their bodies to twice their normal size by swallowing water! This wedges them into their hiding spot, making it more difficult for predators to bite them from inside.

There are 18 different species of swell shark. In this article, we will focus on two of them, the Swell Shark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum) and the Australian Swell Shark (Cephaloscyllium laticeps).

The Swell Shark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum)

Biofluorescence

In 2019, scientists discovered the molecules responsible for a special ability of the swell shark – their biofluorescence. In the dark, special amino acids in their skin reflect the moonlight, appearing bright green in the darkness. This has been found to be species specific, and sex specific, and therefore this unique adaptation may function to help sharks species recognise each other or even potential mates. It may also play a role in camouflage.

Australian Swellshark, Cephaloscyllium laticeps

The Australian Swellshark is also sometimes known as the Draughtboard Shark due to its colouration: It has 11 brown ‘saddles’ that alternate with blotches on its flanks, forming a pattern resembling that of a checkerboard.

Oviparity

Like many other species of Swell Shark, the Australian Swellshark is oviparous. This means that the adult swell shark lays an eggcase with the embryo inside. Depending on the species, the shark may lay two at a time. These eggcases contain a developing embryo and a yolk. Before hatching, the embryo can feed on this yolk for sustenance as it grows. Once fully developed, the embryo hatches out as a fully formed miniature version of the adult shark.

Australian Swell Sharks have a particularly interesting eggcase: cream-coloured and flask shaped, this eggcase has 19-27 transverse ridges (lined horizontally across the eggcase). As with most catsharks, there are long curly tendrils on either end too.

Status

Although the Swell Shark is listed as Least Concern globally on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, some species of are listed as Critically Endangered. Take, for instance, the Whitefin Swellshark, endemic to southeastern Australia. Much of its habitat overlaps with areas of intensive fishing effort – as such, although not a target species, they were and still are frequently caught as bycatch. According to the IUCN, populations have reduced by >80% over the past three generations,

Scientific Name: Cephaloscyllium ventriosum

Family: Scyliorhinidae

Maximum Size: 110cm

DietSmall crustaceans, cephalopods and fish

Distribution: Eastern Pacific, most commonly found at 5m to 40m depth.

Habitat: Usually found in rocky areas of kelp beds.

Conservation Status: They’re not typically targeted for food as their meat is generally considered to be of poor quality. They are however, often caught as bycatch in gillnets and trawls.

IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern

For more great shark information and conservation visit the Shark Trust Website


Image Credits:

biofluorescence (Sparks, J. S.; Schelly, R. C.; Smith, W. L.; Davis, M. P.; Tchernov, D.; Pieribone, V. A.; Gruber, D. F., CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

laticeps (Mark Norman / Museum Victoria, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Eggcase 1 ‘Cephaolscyllium ventriosum’ (vagabondvince310, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Eggcase 2 ‘Cephaloscyllium laticeps eggcase’ (Museum Victoria, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

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The Thrilling Encounter with Tiger Sharks at Beqa Lagoon’s ‘The Colosseum’ with Coral Coast Divers

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tiger sharks

Nestled in the heart of Fiji, Beqa Lagoon is not just another dive destination; it’s a world-renowned haven for shark enthusiasts. Often hailed as the shark diving capital of the world, this magnificent lagoon offers an unparalleled underwater adventure. Let’s delve into the depths of Beqa Lagoon to understand what makes it a pinnacle of shark diving.

The History Of Shark Diving In The Beqa Lagoon

This journey began decades ago, evolving from the initial fascination and respect the local Fijian communities had for these magnificent creatures. In the early stages, shark diving in the lagoon was a rare and awe-inspiring experience, primarily pursued by adventurous divers seeking close encounters with these misunderstood predators. Dive centers began working with local communities and fishermen by protecting the area from fishing, and also shark baiting to encourage sharks to attend the dive sites. This had a profound effect not only on the shark population but on the local reefs and other fish populations as well. The local reefs are now much healthier than they were in the early 2000’s, there is a much greater population of other marine life, and the shark diving is world class! Over the years, as knowledge and appreciation of this area for sharks grew, Beqa Lagoon emerged as a premier destination for shark enthusiasts worldwide. This transformation was fueled by the collaborative efforts of local dive operators, conservationists, and the local Fijian people, who worked together to develop sustainable shark diving practices and by protecting large areas from fishing. These efforts not only positioned Beqa Lagoon as a global hotspot for shark diving but also played a pivotal role in shark conservation and research. Today, the legacy of shark diving in Fiji continues, offering a window into the fascinating world of these apex predators and a testament to the power of sustainable tourism in marine conservation.

tiger sharks

What Makes The Beqa Lagoon So Great For Shark Diving

Beqa Lagoon’s geographical features make it an exceptional location for shark diving. Encircled by one of Fiji’s most extensive barrier reefs, this natural fortress creates a serene and protected sanctuary, ideal for the flourishing marine life within. The barrier reef not only acts as a buffer against strong ocean currents but also nurtures a vibrant underwater ecosystem, providing a haven for a wide array of marine species, including sharks. Just outside the lagoon, the ocean floor descends into deep drop-offs, creating an environment where pelagic species can live and explore. This unique topography allows divers to experience both the colorful, shallow coral gardens and the thrilling depths where larger sharks roam. The healthy state of the reefs and surrounding oceans in the area is a crucial factor in sustaining a diverse marine population. This blend of a protected lagoon with the proximity to the deep ocean makes Beqa Lagoon not just a safe and accessible diving location but also a dynamic and exhilarating shark diving hotspot. This deep water surrounding the Beqa Lagoon is where the beautiful tiger sharks reside.

Why “The Colosseum” Has The Highest Rate Of Tiger Shark Encounters

The dive site called “The Colosseum”, which is a marine sanctuary operated in an agreement between the dive center Coral Coast Divers and the local Fijian community of Yanuca Island, is the dive site where Tiger Sharks are most commonly seen. This dive site is located on a reef which is very close to the outer edge of the Lagoon. So, while it may take an extra 20 minutes or so travel time via boat to reach this dive site, the increased likelihood of witnessing Tiger Sharks makes it all worthwhile. The Tiger Sharks in the area generally roam the deeper waters just outside of the lagoon. Once the bait is lowered into the water on the first dive, the scent begins traveling. The Tiger sharks pick it up and generally meet the divers on the second dive of the trip for an incredible shark feeding experience!

The Shark Diving Experience at Beqa Lagoon:

Diving in Beqa Lagoon is an immersive experience. The clear, warm waters offer excellent visibility, allowing divers to witness the majestic beauty of sharks in their natural habitat. From the awe-inspiring Tiger Sharks at ‘The Colosseum’ to the formidable Bull Sharks, the lagoon is a stage for some of the most thrilling underwater performances.

The Diversity of Shark Species: Up to 8 Species Of Sharks On 1 Dive

What truly sets Beqa Lagoon apart is the diversity of shark species. In addition to Tiger and Bull Sharks, divers can encounter up to eight different species in a single dive, including Lemon Sharks, Nurse Sharks, and potentially even the rare Silver Tip Sharks. This diversity is a testament to the health and richness of the marine ecosystem in Beqa Lagoon.

tiger sharks

A Shark Diving Capital Of The World

Beqa Lagoon stands unrivaled as the shark diving capital of the world, not just for the thrill of the dive but for the holistic experience it offers. It’s a place where nature, conservation, and culture converge to create an unforgettable diving adventure.

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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