Connect with us
background

News

Pierre-Yves Cousteau’s Raja Ampat

Published

on

Our planet still has exceptional wildlife. But one must travel far to witness some of the last remaining unspoiled areas. Arriving in Sorong brought back old memories of my last visit and it felt so right.

After our very first day of diving, before setting sail south to Misool, we visited a small beautiful island. A perfect postcard jewel. Setting foot on its long lazy beach towards the end of the afternoon, just as the last jet ski buzzed back to the awful mother ship that spawned it, we found a lonesome man collecting the day’s plastic litter in large bags.

Sisyphus.jpg

He told us he had moved here to flee the mad buzzings of the city, in search for peace and nature. Now, every day, hundreds of tourists invade the beach of the small island he calls home, shedding plastic litter like the physical manifestations of their stress on vacation. Every evening he collects the plastic to ship it back to the mainland, and every morning the waves of jetski-propelled crowds ebb and flow, so blissfully carefree. This modern Sisyphus was out-posted at the first crossroad of our trip, like a warning to be conscious of our every action, here more than anywhere perhaps. Don’t squander the shores of paradise.

Why am I here? I mean in Raja Ampat, not in the universe. I met legendary marine conservationist Dr. Rod Salm during the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii. Rod is one of the visionary conservationists who initiated the Marine Protected Area program of Raja Ampat, ten years ago. I asked him if he could, from the summit of his outstanding career, say what the missing silver bullet is for conservation to succeed. He laughed and replied: “people don’t even have their sh*t together, how could there be a silver bullet?” What he meant of course is that most of us live with little or no understanding of our daily impact on nature. Carelessly. Mindlessly. Like the jetski tourist sprinkling the shores of paradise with plastic. We are all like that. Not because we’re evil or anything: society is just designed this way. Water, air, nature are all blind spots into which we pour our externalities. How can we become more mindful?

raja2.jpg

I got a little sidetracked there, but it does tie back into the story of the trip. I told Rod about the project to revisit the places my father had explored half a century ago and to document the changes, and understand the why. He put me in touch with Jos Pet, one of the owners of the Seven Seas liveaboard to explore possible synergies and using their ship as a platform to revisit the South East Asia locations. Jos was very kind to ask me to join this trip, which was leaving in only a few weeks and had one free bed.

Ship.png

Exploring Raja Ampat on the Seven Seas vessel was an amazing adventure. Contemplating the complex landscapes of stone sculpted by time and the elements, bathing for hours in the heart of the coral triangle, dive after dive, the images of luxuriant coral and exuberant fish began to paint the inside of my eyelids, diluting desires, infiltrating dreams. In this heaven, where days blurred together, one creature would occasionally manifest its angelic grace: the oceanic manta ray.

mantas2.jpg

Swiveling between the pillars of the divers’ bubbles, the manta rays come to a stationary hover to clean, casting upon our exhilarated faces and flailing bodies a magnanimous gaze. Later, I become lost in an endless field of corals, the dancing sunlight above raining undulating energy into the chloroplasts of the zooxanthella who feed them. Concentric clouds of fish pulsate around the corals to an imperceptible rhythm, dancing like a membrane between home and the hunt.

corals.jpg

Above the water and between every dive, I launch the drone into the sky. Gaining new perspective, higher vantage, it feels like a widening of the mind as well as the field of view. My spirit is transferred to the small flying machine and its tiny camera. I fly at full speed only a few feet above the sea, then leap up to 400 feet to gain the overview.

raja.jpg

Scouting each island, I perhaps make the first observation ever of a hidden lake. None of the crew or the captain knew about it. It has probably been found by satellite long ago, but in case not, I baptized it Lake PY. After a quick flyby and identifying the best access route however, I was not permitted to climb the razor-sharp stone cliff that leads to it. Hopefully, this will be the object of a future expedition, and new discoveries!

Lake PY.png

As we visit areas that have been declared no-take marine protected areas, we encounter fishermen, illegally casting nets and lines from their needle-like vessels. One man who converted from fishing to making coconut oil makes a small fortune selling us his goods. Overall, the coral was amazing. This heart of the coral triangle contains more biodiversity within a football field sized area than the entire Caribbean Sea.

fishermen.jpg

Only a few dive sites had an impressive amount of fish. Frail, scarce, and terrorized sharks could sometimes be seen in the dark depths. Plastic was very present everywhere, mostly floating at the surface. Together with the passengers and crew, we must have collected a dozen kilos of it from the sea during the trip. Because the ship served any fish at all, and because passengers would have it on a near-daily basis, I’ve had to wonder how much of that fish came from or impacted this MPA or another one. I tried to follow Ryan, my bunkmate, into going vegetarian, but rapidly tired of the tempe and tofu. Meat consumption contributes to roughly one third of global greenhouse gas emissions.

jacks.jpg

By choice or by fate, we are done eating the sea. Every year our taxes subsidize the 30+ billion dollars worldwide overfishing effort, making each one of us an active participant in the devastation of the ocean, regardless of our consumption choices. Fish plays such an important role for the food security of hundreds of millions of people worldwide. It should and could be better managed. Sustainably managing marine resources could trigger societal breakthrough of the magnitude of the invention of agriculture 12,000 years ago.

ship.jpg

In Raja Ampat, one of the last remaining coral gardens of the planet, which has now been protected with no-take zones for 10 years, there is still ways to go to provide alternate livelihoods to local populations, and alternate meals and habits to visiting tourists. As fish stocks dwindle worldwide, this heart of the coral triangle needs improved surveillance and enforcement to protect its biological resources from local and international covetousness. Improved zoning and the creation of specific fishing corridors could ensure long-term subsistence fishing while conserving key sites.

sorong.jpg

Re-discovering the ship-littered harbor that’s Sorong after ten days at sea, Karen, one of the passengers, exclaimed: “wow. so much metal”. In this small harbor, handfuls of fortunate souls board wooden sailboats with eyes and minds wide open to absorb every instant. Those who disembark on the pier struggle to retain the precious images of untamed nature in their minds amidst the assaults of advertising announcements and screaming screens.

manthree.jpg

Special thanks to the Seven Seas team and Big Blue lights for sponsoring me on this trip.

[hr style=”single”]

www.cousteaudivers.org

For more blogs from Pierre-Yves Cousteau, visit cousteaudivers.wordpress.com.

Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 5

Published

on

Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for part 5 of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

After an evening of chilling out by the pool and in the bar, we are back to the Roots House Reef this morning, with Keiron continuing his RAID Master Rescue Diver Course and enjoying Moudi’s vast experience as he learns more about advanced buoyancy skills.

Not sure where the week has gone; it’s Wednesday already.  A few different things happening today… Oatsie who has just started at Hull University on a Marine Biology Degree Course wants to complete his sidemount course and this afternoon he is out with Guy Henderson to start his learning.  Swars also wants to do the course, as he wants to get into cavern and cave diving.  Swars will start his course tomorrow afternoon and both will spend a day being taught be Steve Rattle on Friday. Hopefully they will both be certified as RAID Sidmount Divers at the end of their training.

Tom putting his sidemount rig together under Guy’s watchful eye

The morning sees Swars and I working with Corey again and taking him through the remainder of skills and OW dives.  He is improving massively but we still have to work on trim and propulsion.

Keiron, unfortunately for him, has Oatsie and Michael for his diver recovery exercises; I am told there may well be an entanglement to deal with!

Conditions are perfect again as we all look forward to three great dives during the day.

90% of those we work with have mental health issues, mainly Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of serving in various theatres of war.  If you read some adaptive teaching manuals, they have a task to ‘teach a student with PTSD a skill.’ Hmmmmm how is Oatsie, Swars, Michael or Keiron any different than a student who is free from any mental illness?  The answer is they are not, they are exactly the same. Do you talk to them differently, do you demonstrate skills differently?  The answer is no.

If they have a flashback or a panic attack, then you need to step back and provide whatever assistance is necessary but only if there is a risk of them hurting themselves.  All our team have to undertake and pass the two-day Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course so we can intervene appropriately where the circumstances require it.

Do you know what a panic attack looks like?  Do you know how to respond to a panic attack?

Flashbacks most frequently occur at night time but some do experience day time flashbacks.  Flashbacks can lead to the individual feeling physically and mentally drained and can be triggered by anything that reminds them of the traumatic incident(s) they experienced.  Sometimes there might be a need for one of our medical team to be involved. Often a period of quietness, rest and possibly sleep is required.

Keiron and Corey on the House Reef

We have seen lots of our beneficiaries learn to manage their PTSD. As Chris Middleton said on a BBC programme:

“You can’t beat PTSD but you can learn to manage it.”

In addition to the scuba diving, Deptherapy also provides 24/7 support for our beneficiaries.  Beneficiaries are encouraged to attend the MHFA course with their partner, parent, relative or friend.

Many will have read comments from our beneficiaries, that once they put their heads under the water their demons disappear.  There are several factors to this: the peace, the quiet and the tranquillity that occurs underwater, the beauty of the corals and the amazing aquatic life.

Roots is very much like a retreat for us, we are miles away from any towns, there are no distractions, the nearest town is El Quseir, which is orthodox Muslim so there is no alcohol on sale.  The recent bypass of the main Safaga to El Quesir/Marsa Alam road means that at night time there is no noise, just a brilliant star lit sky.

Roots at night from the beach

Beneficiaries are encouraged to talk openly with the team and their fellow beneficiaries about their injuries/illnesses and provide overwhelming support for each other as Corey found on this trip.

Our aim is to create a family atmosphere and Roots very much contributes to the sense of family and wellbeing.

Sadly, we live in a world where those with mental illnesses are largely discriminated against.  Because few understand mental health, they are fearful of it and try to ignore it.  Please look at the Mind website or even better sign up to a Mental Health First Aid Course.  If you run a business then run the course for your staff, the benefits will be massive.

Back to the diving, Michael and Tom under Moudi’s close supervision gave Keiron some very challenging diver recovery exercises.  Poor Keiron, but he responded tremendously.

Swars, is working well with Corey, ensuring horizontal trim and making sure he uses effective arm strokes for his swimming. We are organising an SMB session, so he can work with different types of SMBs.

Although we haven’t told him, he has finished all his skills but we still have work to do on his trim and propulsion.  We want him to go beyond standards, we want him to be a very competent diver, who despite his devastating injuries, can self-rescue and support a buddy if in need.

The afternoon dive sees Michael joining myself and Swars with Corey.  This dive is about buoyancy, trim and propulsion.  Keiron is doing some more advanced buoyancy work with Moudi.

All roads lead to Roots, is this the future of Google maps?

Oatsie had a great dive with Guy using sidemounts and is looking forward to completing the sidemount course with Swars and Steve Rattle on Friday.

In the evening, and before dinner, Moudi runs the RAID O2 Administrator Course for all five beneficiaries. It is a qualifying part of Keiron’s RAID Master Rescue Diver course but we decided it would benefit all of the guys.

Tomorrow we have decided to take Corey to 30 metres and for him to complete a narcosis test. Join us back here tomorrow to find out how we get on…


Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk

Continue Reading

Marine Life & Conservation

Reef-World announces 2020 Green Fins Award Winners

Published

on

The Green Fins Award recognises the world’s most environmentally friendly dive centres

The Reef-World Foundation – the international coordinator of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Fins initiative – is delighted to announce the winners of the coveted 2020 Green Fins Award are:

  • Bubbles Dive Centre, Pulau Perhentian, Malaysia
  • Flora Bay Divers, Pulau Perhentian, Malaysia
  • And Tioman Dive Centre, Pulau Tioman, Malaysia

The prestigious annual award recognises the Green Fins member with the lowest environmental impact. This year, competition was so tight there was not one, but three winners all tied in first place. What’s more, all three of the winners and seven of the global top 10 centres are based in Malaysia!

Rosie Cotton, Tioman Dive Centre

The winning dive operators were chosen from the 600-strong network of Green Fins members by a rigorous assessment of business practices. To be eligible for the award, the operator must have had its latest assessment conducted within the last 18 months. In 2019, the proud winner was Tioman Dive Centre: a PADI dive centre which has been a Green Fins member since 2009 and had managed to hold onto the title again in 2020.

As 2020’s Green Fins Award winners, Bubbles Dive Centre, Flora Bay Divers and Tioman Dive Centre are recognised as the world’s most sustainable dive or snorkel operator, as verified by the globally-recognised Green Fins environmental assessment. Their steps to improve sustainability practices, which have resulted in this recognition as the most environmentally friendly Green Fins dive centres in the world, have included:

  • Switching to eco-friendly products and improving waste management practices: Kelvin Lim, Flora Bay Divers, said: “We switched from normal detergents to eco-friendly detergents, we are encouraging divers to bring their own water bottles to reduce plastic and came up with a general waste bin and a bin for plastic bottles in front of our dive centre. This helps tourists and locals to place thrash that’s been found on the beach easily and conveniently since there are no proper bins along the beach.”
  • Training staff in why environmental practices are important: Peisee Hwang, Bubbles Dive Centre, said: “Green Fins has helped my crew understand more about the importance of looking after the environment. Less educated members of staff would throw cigarette butts in the sea without thinking but they are now keeping their trash to dispose in the bin when they are back.”
  • Upgrading boat engines: Rosie Cotton, Tioman Dive Centre, said: “At the beginning of 2020, we upgraded our last remaining boat engine and now we run 100% with 4-stroke models. The benefits are not only to the environment but also a huge reduction in petrol usage. It’s a Win Win situation!”

Alvin Chelliah, Green Fins Assessor Trainer from Reef Check Malaysia, said: ”Most dive centre managers and owners that I have come across in Malaysia care and want to do what they can to help protect coral reefs. I think Green Fins has been the right tool to guide them towards practical actions they can take. Over the years, we have seen these dive centres put in a lot of effort and work hard at following the guidelines and they have improved steadily as a result. We hope others will follow their example.”

Peisee Hwang, Bubbles Dive Centre, said: “We are thrilled to know that we have won and we are glad that our effort is being recognised. We hope that more operators aspire to join us in pledging for the environment.”

Kelvin Lim, Flora Bay Divers, said: “We are proud to be acknowledged for our efforts to inspire sustainable diving. Our focus remains on cultivating informed and conscious divers with good diving skills and habits..”

Rosie Cotton, Tioman Dive Centre, said: “Receiving the news that we have made the top spot of Green Fins members is a fantastic feeling. Thank you so much to the Green Fins team for your ongoing support! This year has obviously been slightly different to previous years. I hope that something we can all take away from this year is that changes in our daily habits can create shockwaves of positive change around the world in a relatively short period of time. From TDC, we hope you are all safe and well at this time and are able to find some positives despite these difficult circumstances.”

Chloe Harvey, Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We’re thrilled to recognise Bubbles Dive Centre, Flora Bay Divers and Tioman Dive Centre as joint winners of the 2020 Green Fins Award. Competition between the Top 10 is always tight but the fact that there are three winners this year, when usually one centre takes the title, shows how much sustainability is being put at the forefront of the agenda across the dive industry. So, we’d like to say a big well done to Bubbles Dive Centre, Flora Bay Divers and Tioman Dive Centre. This win is testament to their hard work and ongoing sustainability efforts and they should be very proud. It’s an incredibly tight race to be named the best of the best!”

The Green Fins Top 10 list is comprised of the world’s most sustainable dive operators, as determined by the Green Fins assessment process. In 2020 they are:

  • Tioman Dive Centre, Flora Bay
  • Divers and Bubbles Dive Centre (all in Malaysia)
  • Ceningan Divers (Indonesia)
  • Scuba Junkie Mabul (Malaysia)
  • Sea Voice Divers (Malaysia)
  • Evolution (Philippines)
  • Orca Nation Rawa (Malaysia)
  • Equation (Philippines)
  • The Barat Perhentian Beach Resort (Malaysia)

In Malaysia, Green Fins is run by Reef Check Malaysia in partnership with the Department of Marine Parks Malaysia (DMPM) on the Peninsula and Sabah Parks in Sabah. Membership is not yet available in Sarawak.

For more information, please visit www.reef-world.org and www.greenfins.net.

Continue Reading

E-Newsletter Sign up!

Competitions

Expires on:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.

More Less

Instagram Feed

Facebook Feed

Facebook Pagelike Widget

Popular