A nice glassy morning dive before the promised wind due to arrive in the evening. I was once again out with Mark from Atlantic Scuba and we were going to look at a small reef area that was by all accounts pretty well un-dived. It’s always exciting going into new areas. You never know what will turn up, could be something amazing and then again, maybe not.
The visibility was poor but we were only diving in 19 metres of water. The bottom was a mixture of rock and broken shell and the kelp was starting to loose its fine summer gloss.
Our first encounter was with a couple of Cuckoo Wrasse. A male and female. The female was a little timid at first while the male had no reservations about coming close to see what we were and what we were doing.
It was the Cornish fishermen who gave the name Cuckoo to the Wrasse as the blue markings reminded them of bluebell flowers. In the Cornish language a bluebell is “bleujenn an gog” literally the cuckoo flower.
The Cuckoo Wrasse are all born as females and it is only in adulthood that some change into males for breeding. They then build a nest and attract a female with a courtship display.
Moving across the reef a lobster caught my eye while trying to slowly hide behind a frond of kelp and back up slowly into the nearest hole. It was in perfect condition and looked as if it had moulted recently. The younger lobsters, up to about 5 years old, can moult approximately 25 times a year. They do this because they have an exoskeleton and it is impossible for them to grow inside it. Hence they regularly shed the old shell or skeleton and grow a new one to fit the new body size. The old shell is then eaten for the calcium which will help strengthen the new one.
The lobster is a very opportunistic feeder and will consume a great variety of foods. Crabs, mussels, starfish, even slow moving fish are all part of its diet. In hard times they will even eat sea weeds and sponges as well as carrion found on the sea floor. Hence it is easy to lure them into a lobster pot with a piece of dead fish.
As I moved away from the lobster and turned to where I knew Mark was waiting, a small dogfish broke from its cover and glided further along the reef and out of sight. They usually like to sleep in the day and hunt at night.
Mark had his back to me and as I came around to see what he was doing a young Spider crab scuttled away between his legs. He had just freed it from a bundle of discarded nylon fishing net. The crab had obviously been trying to feed on the remains of an earlier victim of the net and in doing so had been caught itself. The cycle would have gone on for years into the future, silently killing all that became entangled. The Wrasse, the Lobster and the Dogfish could well have been next.
Mark brought the net up to the boat and once back at dock disposed of it. Not a world changing action on its own but if we all do the same then every little helps.
If you would like more information on ‘Ghost Fishing’ visit www.ghostfishing.org