DIVING-POLLUTION-ISLANDS-TOURISM

Apr 25 2011

From the steamy jungles of Brazil, the wild wind ravaged coasts of South Africa, Shifting sparkling sands of Namibia, Isolated Island Nations, Fluvial waters of South America, Groaning Glaciers, Freezing Fiords, to the Magically clear blue of the vast Pacific and it’s thousands of Island Paradises. It’s been an incredible magical journey of almost 20000 nautical miles aboard the mighty Sea Dragon.

She has performed impeccably with the minimum of maintenance in the small amount of downtime and tight schedules we’ve been keeping on this 5 Gyres/Pangaea Explorations Expedition. We have weathered storms, huge seas, calms, extreme heat, freezing cold and various equipment failures. But we’ve managed to patch and repair to make our destinations safe and sound, repair what’s needed to be done, new crew and away we go, powering into the sunset.

Over 75 new crew have had the Sea Dragon experience, everybody has taken away different feelings of life at sea, of the issues we are trying to study and life in general. A mix of scientists, activists, writers, film makers, a bit of everything, all sharing our knowledge, all world citizens.
It’s a great moment to let go, live in a closed community 22m x 5.5m for a period of time-sharing all the chores necessary for life aboard. No lattes or Wi-Fi but plenty of fresh air, stars, amazing sunsets, sunrises, moon gazing and feeling the power, beauty, changing moods and energy of the ocean first hand.

It is in this beautiful ocean that we have been trawling for thousands of miles that we’ve found littered with a soup of small plastic fragments and every type of floating plastic flotsam, barrels, nets, hardhats, toilet seats, shopping bags, caps, bottles etc. Some has come direct from land, the majority of larger items I would imagine from the fishing vessels that are indiscriminately and systematically raping our oceans of its natural resources.
We’ve seen hundreds of oil rigs with their burn off flames from miles away, calamari fishing vessels in groups of 20 every 50 miles for hundreds of miles burning brighter than any city, huge fishing vessels in dry dock for 3-5 days downtime and back out again to continue fishing as much as possible, out of control shark finning only to throw the still live bodies back to the ocean, or for their teeth to make souvenirs. We’ve caught kilometer long illegal drift nets in our keel, gone ashore at Unesco protected islands in the middle of nowhere with the beaches covered in fishing nets, floats, bins, bleach bottles with fish tooth marks. Had our anchor drag only to pull it up covered in plastic shopping bags.

Underwater is another story. I’ve had the opportunity to dive thanks to Sherwood in some of the most remote places on the planet. Ascension Island was incredible, and unique in that it was teaming with an abundance and variety of large fish. Being that it is a US and British Military outpost equipped with Radars I would imagine fishing boats don’t get to close, the 200-mile EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) doesn’t mean much to most boats if they can get away with it. Other islands aren’t so lucky.

Smaller nations, or nations with huge coastline that don’t have the resources to control their waters are constantly being illegally fished, we’ve been told of islanders seeing the lights from the fishing boats at night and in the day no sign of them.

In the remote Rapa Nui (Easter Island), the most remote inhabited place on the planet we dived with high expectations only to see very few fish and then to later learn that in only in the last five years from 160 types of fish grouped in 65 families there is only a third remaining, staggering, mind blowing. What’s happening?

In Lanzarote in the Canary Islands where I live the population has more than doubled in twenty years. Once empty dive sites are now full of divers, all the huge grouper are gone, sold to some tourist restaurant with a spear gun hole in the head.

The rubbish dumps are overflowing due to so many people, all consumers. Excess plastic bags blowing into the ocean. Rubbish everywhere. This a World Biosphere Reserve.

So, in my opinion a combination of tourism/fishing/overpopulation and exploitation is destroying island paradises. We’ve seen a trend in all the islands we’ve been to. Everyone is different with their own charms and qualities, their own issues, with waste management, but at the end of the day, the excess of one use plastic going into land fills and into the ocean is making everywhere the same.

We get used to seeing plastic on the beach, in the water, nowhere escapes it, something needs to be done and done now, individually stop buying plastic, recycle, have a look and see what really happens to your rubbish in your community. Collectively, make a noise.

We need to implement Marine Reserves all around the world, if the fish stocks have any chance of surviving and replenishing they need to be protected.
Diving today was beautiful on Pitcairn Island, we had one lonely old huge jack fish with a sad face a meter or so long accompany us as we drifted around the pristine coral reef.  I swear he had a tear in his eye.