A blog by Pro Dive International
*Header image: On the day of our planned night dive at the Allegro Cozumel, we had to reschedule, as any water activity during thunderstorms and lightning is considered dangerous. We still thought it was worth sharing this breathtaking spectacle with you.*
Have you ever gazed out at the open ocean at night wondering what happens down there as the sun disappears over the horizon and darkness sets in? If all marine life will be sleeping, or if there’s anything creeping along the reefs?
Here’s what really happens, including a list of our Top 5 Party Guests that make you want to add night diving in Cozumel to your bucket list.
While the Caribbean Sea is not calming down at night due to the effectively constant trade-winds in the tropics that drive ocean wave trains and cause waves to break throughout day and night, a vibrant party under the sea is just about to begin, as huge basket stars unfurl their arms into the night, parrotfish create their mucus bubble beds, giant lobsters, king crabs and octopus prepare for hunt, and bioluminescence sparkles up the scene.
TOP 5 Party Guests
1. Basket Stars
These sea stars can only be observed in their true glory at night when they unfurl their many branched arms into the darkness to filter food from the water. Some reach nearly a meter in size! Shine your torch on them and watch them curl their huge arms back towards their mouths as they eat the small creatures attracted by your light.
The perfect party costume, do you agree?
2. Cephalopods – Octopus & Squid
These fascinating creatures are rarely spotted during day dives, but at night you can see them out and about hunting the reef for their next meal. Watch as they move about changing colors and patterns in the blink of an eye! Below is a picture of an octopus spreading its body wide over the reef like a net to encircle its prey.
Did you know that octopuses were that colorful?
Safely tucked away in the back of a crevice during the day, these creatures venture out under the cover of darkness to hunt. A fantastic opportunity to finally get a close-up look at all those king crabs and plenty of lobsters you have only seen as small eyes peering out from the back of a cave.
Up for a dance?
Many fish only half sleep, needing to be alert to the dangers 24/7, but parrot fish have evolved an ingenious warning system so they can get their eyes shut. As night draws in, they find a nook to rest in and start to create a mucus like a bubble encircling their whole bodies. They can rest safely in this for the entire night, but if anything disturbs this veil, they are off like a shot into the dark!
How did this sleepy guy make it into our Top 5?
For those not familiar with this natural phenomenon, bioluminescence is a chemical process which allows living creatures like plankton, tiny crustaceans, some fish, squid and algae to produce light in their body to either attract prey, confuse predators, or lure potential mates.
As the bioluminescent sea will glow when it’s disturbed by a breaking wave or a splash in the water at night, for most of our divers the best part is covering up the torches and waving our arms about disturbing the bioluminescence into sparkling blue points of light.
This makes the perfect party glitter!
Already in a party mood? Pack your dive gear!
How to join the underwater party in Cozumel?
- Join Pro Dive International’s Cozumel Night Dives as a certified diver.
- Boost your skills and make your night dive one of the 5 Adventure Dives of the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course.
- Contact us for guidance.
Shaping Tomorrow’s Shores: The Future of Coastal Habitat Restoration
A new partnership between World Wide Fund for Nature – Netherlands (WWF-NL) , the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) and Coastal Dynamics will spearhead an initiative to define future conservation and restoration projects within Dutch Caribbean coastal habitats. Centered around mangroves and seagrass beds, this ambitious feasibility study aims to craft a portfolio of forward-looking projects. The objective is to fortify these areas against escalating threats like climate change, pollution, and unsustainable coastal development, ensuring their sustained health and resilience.
The Dutch Caribbean is home to unique island ecosystems facing challenges from overdevelopment, climate change, and other environmental pressures. Coastal ecosystems represent critically important areas, particularly in regards to their biodiversity, climate resilience, and cultural heritage. The proposed feasibility study seeks to bridge gaps in expertise, resources, and collaboration across all six of the Dutch Caribbean islands (Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, Saba, St. Maarten and St. Eustatius).
The primary goal of the project is to conduct an in-depth feasibility study under the DCNA’s Conservation and Restoration of Key Habitats Program. Key components of the study include assessing the current status of mangroves and seagrass beds, stakeholder engagement, and conducting an overall resource assessment.
The study will focus on coastal area restoration, specifically targeting mangroves and seagrass beds in collaboration with Dutch Caribbean Park Organizations. The aim is to develop a nature-inclusive approach with nature-based solutions to enhance resilience and sustainability. Overall, this project has two main objectives:
- Feasibility Study: Assess the viability of conservation efforts, including technical, financial, and human resource requirements.
- Knowledge Sharing & Capacity Building: Present findings, address knowledge gaps, and build capacity among Park Organizations for effective restoration initiatives.
The feasibility study’s success is crucial for creating a comprehensive understanding of coastal habitat conditions, fostering collaboration, and laying the groundwork for future restoration programs. By unifying efforts, the study aims to enhance communication, knowledge sharing, and resource utilization across all six islands.
Header Image: Kai Wulf
Hunting Lionfish Safely and Responsibly in Curaçao
Curaçao, a picturesque island in the southern Caribbean, is not only renowned for its stunning beaches and vibrant culture but also for its commitment to preserving its marine ecosystems. One of the key threats to these delicate ecosystems is the invasive lionfish. To combat this menace, responsible hunting practices are crucial.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly in Curaçao, including the use of pole spears (the only legal method in Curaçao). We will provide you with the top 10 safe hunting practices, including the use of a Zookeeper. We will also address what to do if you are stung by a lionfish and emphasize the importance of consulting with local experts before embarking on your lionfish hunting adventure.
Why Safe and Responsible Lionfish Hunting is Important
Lionfish (Pterois spp.) are native to the Indo-Pacific region but have become invasive predators in the Caribbean, including the waters surrounding Curaçao. Their voracious appetite for native fish species and rapid reproduction rates poses a severe threat to the delicate balance of marine ecosystems in the region. The introduction of lionfish has led to a decline in native fish populations and the degradation of coral reefs.
To counteract the lionfish invasion, responsible hunting practices are essential. Hunting lionfish can help control their population and protect the native marine life of Curaçao’s waters. However, it is imperative to follow safe and responsible hunting techniques to minimize the impact on the environment and ensure the safety of both divers and the marine ecosystem.
Understanding the Pole Spear
In Curaçao, the only legal method for hunting lionfish is using a pole spear. It’s important to note that a pole spear is distinct from other spearfishing equipment, such as a Hawaiian sling or a spear gun with a trigger mechanism. The use of Hawaiian slings or spear guns with triggers is illegal in Curaçao for lionfish hunting due to safety and conservation concerns.
A pole spear consists of a long, slender pole with a pointed tip, often made of stainless steel or fiberglass, designed for precision and accuracy. Unlike a trigger-based spear gun, a pole spear requires the diver to manually draw back on a rubber band then release towards the target, providing a more controlled and selective approach to hunting.
How to Hunt Lionfish Using a Pole Spear Responsibly
When using a pole spear to hunt lionfish, it’s crucial to do so responsibly to ensure the safety of both the diver and the marine environment. Here are some essential guidelines on how to hunt lionfish using a pole spear responsibly:
- Safety First: Always prioritize safety when diving and hunting. Ensure you have the necessary training and experience for hunting lionfish. Consider the Lionfish Scuba Dive Experience offered by Ocean Encounters. This opportunity allows participants to learn under the expert guidance of local scuba diving professionals.
- Check Regulations: Familiarize yourself with local regulations and restrictions related to lionfish hunting in Curaçao. Respect no-take zones and marine protected areas.
- Target Only Lionfish: Use your pole spear exclusively for lionfish hunting. Do not attempt to spear any other species, as this can harm the fragile ecosystem.
- Aim for Precision: Approach your target lionfish carefully and aim for a precise shot to minimize the risk of injuring other marine life or damaging the coral reef.
- Use a Zookeeper: A Zookeeper is a specialized container designed to safely store and transport lionfish after capture. It prevents the lionfish’s venomous spines from causing harm and keeps them secure during the dive.
- Respect Lionfish Anatomy: Target the head of the lionfish and stay away from its venomous spines. Aim for a clean and humane kill to minimize suffering.
- Avoid Overhunting: Do not overhunt lionfish in a single dive. Limit the number of lionfish you catch to what you can safely handle and process.
- Practice Good Buoyancy: Maintain excellent buoyancy control to avoid inadvertently damaging the reef or stirring up sediment, which can harm marine life.
- Dispose Responsibly: Once you’ve caught lionfish, carefully place them in your Zookeeper. Do not release them back into the water, as they are invasive and harmful to the ecosystem.
- Report Your Catch: If applicable, report your lionfish catch to local authorities or organizations involved in lionfish management to contribute to data collection efforts.
In the Unlikely Event of a Lionfish Sting
While lionfish stings are rare, it’s essential to know how to respond if you or someone you are diving with is stung. Lionfish have venomous spines that can cause pain, swelling, and even more severe reactions in some cases. Here’s how to respond to a lionfish sting:
- Signal for Help: Notify your diving buddy or group immediately if you are stung.
- Remove Spines: If the spines are still embedded in the skin, carefully remove them with tweezers or a clean, sterile tool. Be cautious not to break the spines, as this can release more venom.
- Clean the Wound: Rinse the affected area with warm water to help alleviate pain and reduce the risk of infection.
- Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help with pain and swelling. However, if you experience severe symptoms, seek medical attention promptly.
- Seek Medical Help: If the pain and swelling worsen or if you have an allergic reaction to the venom, seek medical assistance immediately.
Consult Local Lionfish Experts
Before embarking on a lionfish hunting adventure in Curaçao, it’s crucial to consult with local and responsible dive shops or organizations dedicated to lionfish management, such as Lionfish Caribbean.
These experts can provide valuable insights, tips, and up-to-date information on how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly, hunting locations, safety measures, and environmental conservation efforts.
Start Planning your Next Caribbean Adventure
Knowing how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly in Curaçao is not just an exciting underwater activity but also a crucial step in protecting the island’s marine ecosystems. By using a pole spear and adhering to the top 10 safe hunting practices, including the use of a Zookeeper, you can contribute to the control of the invasive lionfish population while preserving the delicate balance of Curaçao’s underwater world.
Remember that safety should always be your top priority when diving and hunting lionfish. In the unlikely event of a lionfish sting, knowing how to respond can make all the difference. By consulting with local experts and following ethical and legal guidelines, you can enjoy a rewarding and responsible lionfish hunting experience while safeguarding the beauty of Curaçao’s marine environment for generations to come. Please always dive safely and responsibly, and together, we can make a positive impact on Curaçao’s underwater world while learning how to hunt lionfish effectively.
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