Last year I was incredibly fortunate to get to see Orcas in the wild; this was a real ‘bucket list’ moment for me and an absolute highlight of a round the world trip Mike and I had just completed. Reminiscing on this experience the other day I was saddened by the thought that this may not be possible in the future if conservation efforts are not given a higher priority.
It is an incredible privilege to see these magnificent and intelligent creatures going about their natural behaviours, as we were able to on our trip to Vancouver Island in the stunning surroundings of the Salish Sea. The main purpose of our trip was, as ever, to go diving, however, the opportunity to go on a wildlife watching trip in an area famed for its cetaceans, pinnipeds and birdlife was not one we were going to miss!
Vancouver Island is a great place to see Orcas, as well as humpback whales, dolphins and other highly sentient creatures. If you enjoy watching wildlife, on or beside the sea surrounded by mountains and forests, then this really is paradise. Incredibly sadly though, like many of our most precious and stunning natural environments, it is under threat. I’m focusing on specific threats to Orcas here, but of course, many threats to this species also effect a much wider range of organisms. Helping Orcas, which are intelligent and long-living apex predators, benefits the entire ecosystem as a whole.
Extensive research has shown threats to Orcas include, but are not limited to:
- Noise pollution from boats and sonar interfering with Orca’s hearing, communication and hunting.
- Pollution of water sources resulting in poisoning as toxins get into fish and accumulates at the top of the food chain.
- Overfishing and dams which have depressed the wild salmon stocks. (The lack of wild salmon – many Orca’s main food source – means starvation for them. Some Orcas hunt pinnipeds, but pinnipeds are also fish eaters, so a lack of fish affects their numbers and a knock on effect on Orcas.)
- Fish farming has caused huge amounts of pollution, disease, low oxygen environments, and escape of non native species.
Fish farming is probably the biggest issue as the top three points can all be linked to the fourth.
1. Fish farms are patrolled by boats that create noise pollution.
2. Huge amounts of pollution come from fish farms.
3. Overfishing is increased by the demand for fishmeal and fish oil in pellets fed to farmed salmon.
Though they are not solely responsible, even a single large fish farm causes a disproportionately high environmental issue.
Worldwide there are more fish farmed than cattle and this causes massive environmental problems. Fish farming was once viewed as ‘taking the pressure off’ wild populations but sadly the opposite is true.
Salmon are the most commonly farmed fish. They are fed pellets made from commercially harvested wild fish and it takes approximately three times the amount of wild fish to raise one farmed salmon. Definitely not good for wild fish stocks.
Fish are kept in densely stocked pens, so to avoid disease and malnutrition they are fed antibiotics, pesticides and vitamins. Uneaten pellets and concentrated waste from the farmed fish goes directly into the environment. Large quantities of these pollutants become concentrated in small areas around the farming pens, causing eutrophication (pollutants contain nutrients that make algae bloom and the algae use up all the oxygen, creating a dead zone). Antibiotics and pesticides that can poison the surrounding water and accumulate in fish eating species. There is also considerable worry that disease and parasites present in densely populated fish farms can spread to the native wild fish populations.
Economy, jobs and shareholder profits are all important in the modern world, and are often cited when big business meets conservation. The issue is, if we ruin our natural environment, where will fish farms get the fish for fishmeal pellets? What do we do if all the water is polluted? Any industry that damages the environment so badly is not sustainable, so their profits are not sustainable. It doesn’t seem to make sense from a long-term business standpoint or a conservation one.
This may all seem a long way away, if you were not contemplating a little sojourn across the globe, however, our actions in our neighbourhood supermarket can make a huge difference to the future of Orcas and their fellow marine species.
Despite being in the UK, ordering a fillet of farm-reared salmon (often labelled as King Salmon or Farmed Atlantic Salmon) has severe consequences. By eating so much salmon in comparison with other fish, we create a demand for more than can be sustainably provided by our fisheries, leading to more demand from fish farms.
We can have a direct impact by changing our diet a little. We could choose not to eat fish at all, or eat it less often. Perhaps more realistically, we could pay a little bit more for sustainably caught local fish or simply choose something besides the most intensively fished and farmed species (such as salmon, tuna, cod and haddock). The Good Fish Guide by the Marine Conservation Society – www.mcsuk.org/goodfishguide/search – is an excellent place to start. All of us together can make a big difference if we all take the small step of changing our consumer habits slightly. In addition to helping Orcas, a small change in our diets will benefit many other species. By creating less pollution and a healthier wild fish population, the whole ecosystem benefits hugely.
Put simply, fish farming is a global problem: in Scandinavia, New Zealand and South America similar issues are affecting wildlife. Much closer to home are the fish farms of Scotland and our northern isles, where our traditional fishing industry is already struggling and our sea is much more barren and polluted than it should be. The great news here is that we have the power to force the change, simply by shopping a little wiser!
Unlike most conservation headlines we see, the story of Orcas is not all doom and gloom. In Canada, B.C. First Nation leaders have been taking their concerns to the Canadian government in order to remove fish farms from their traditional territory and talks are currently underway. In 2018, Washington State in the U.S. banned fish farms in their waters, after a series of incidents. If the ruling stands it will mean the current farms will not have their licences renewed once they expire in 2022. It is hoped that more positive news of this kind will follow in other countries soon.
So as a passionate conservationist that’s my crusade of the day: let’s help the Orcas. Orcas are awesome, they are a joy to behold, as is the incredible underwater environment they inhabit. If you get the opportunity I cannot recommend a trip to see them highly enough! And a few small changes in our habits can help preserve that opportunity for future generations.
Once in a lifetime magical sighting of an Albino Risso’s Dolphin… (Watch Video)
Is there anything more rewarding during your surface interval after a great dive than seeing unusual animals in your surroundings?
It was November and we had been for a great dive with big fishes and a lot of macro animals in one of our favorite dive sites here in Anda, Bohol. After the dive, we immediately got our coffee and started chatting and debriefing our dive, exchanging thoughts, when our boat captain spotted something not so far from the resort. We rushed to the scene and it there we had the magical experience to see a pod of dolphins in front of us with a surprise sighting of an albino dolphin! Witnessing an albino animal in the wild is such a rare phenomenon – could anything be more exciting?!?!
Albinism results from the animal’s cells failing to produce the melanin pigment responsible for some body part colorations. Hence, this animal lacks the skin cell pigment resulting in it being a pinkish-white dolphin.
As we rushed to look at the dolphins after our dive, we noticed something white. It was so obvious that we could clearly see the white animal mixed with the grey individuals at a certain distance before we arrived. The first question that raised in my head was: “What species of dolphins are these?”
As I looked and observed, I noticed the recognizable lines or scratches all over their bodies (all of them that is except for the white one). Then, looking at their faces when we were closer, it was then I realized that they were Risso’s Dolphins. The white animal that we saw was a rare juvenile Albino Risso’s swimming with them. Ohlalah…. JACKPOT!!!! This was the highlight of a lifetime!!!
I started screaming with joy calling the beautiful animal “PUTI” which literally means white. With them swimming, we went close by to appreciate PUTI and the rest of the pod every time they surfaced for breathing. Together we shared about 20mins of full excitement. And we ended our surface interval incredibly happy and ready for the next exciting dive, waiting to be surprised underwater.
I will never forget this magical moment of the albino dolphin. Hopefully, PUTI and I will meet again sometime and I will be seeing this white beauty again, healthy and adorable.
Written by: Marlon Managa – dive center manager and Marine Biologist at Magic Oceans Dive Resort.
Visit Magic Oceans Anda, Bohol and Magic Island Moalboal, Cebu… find out more at www.magicresorts.online.
Jeff chats to… Linden Wolbert – Mermaid Linden – about her passion for teaching children about the marine world (Watch Video)
In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Linden Wolbert – Mermaid Linden.
Professional Mermaid Linden Wolbert is a real mermaid whose passion is educating children about the wonders of our oceans, swimming safety and ocean conservation as well as exploration and inspiring our world’s youngest ocean ambassadors.
Linden shares the life aquatic via the “Mermaid Minute,” her successful educational web series, which “edutains” young viewers about ocean life and marine habitats. Her YouTube channel to date has 93.7K subscribers and 53,159,186 views.
She loves science and natural history. Linden has teamed up with Body Glove International, designing her own line of kid’s mermaid-inspired swim products, available on her website! She has performed and travelled all over the world for over a decade “merforming” for fundraisers, events, wishes for kids and underwater filming. Known as “the Mermaid to the Stars”, she is hired by Hollywood’s finest to entertain and spread magic through her work.
Over the coming months, Scubaverse will be sharing Linden’s video series ‘Mermaid Minute’ with the occasional video from her ‘Mermaid Wish Videos’.
Find out more about Linden at www.youtube.com/user/MermaidsInMotion
Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.
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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 email@example.com
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