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Save Our Fins Event – a big success!

Scubafish Shark Fin Race

In July 2010 Ko Lanta’s Dive Centres and Fish4Divers organised a ‘Save our Fins’ 3-legged fin race to help raise awareness about shark finning (and much needed funds) to help the Shark Trust continue their constant fight to protect our ocean’s sharks.

Shark Fin Race

For the event we asked divers, locals and holiday-makers from all over Ko Lanta to grab a buddy and join us for a three-legged fin tournament, to help raise awareness about shark finning. We were delighted and overwhelmed by the hugely positive response and fantastic turnout to the event. Nine Dive Centres, White Rock Resort, Opium Bar and even the Thai Diving Association joined fins to sponsor the event, and over 80 people from all over the island came to take part in the race, spectate or have a giggle at the fin-wearing racers. It even became a traffic-stopping event with cars and motorbikes pulling up to see what was going on.

Winner Luke and Ben from Blue Planet

Twelve, 3-legged teams raced in 2 heats, with first and second place winners from each heat competing for overall first place in the final. Race winners, Luke and Ben from Blue Planet Divers, used questionable, but dramatic shark-like tactics to secure their win. Reports of them beating other contestants with a giant home-made Leopard shark fin have been confirmed with video evidence that can be viewed on Facebook or You-Tube.

Fin Race Action

Donations for the Shark Trust are still being counted, but if enthusiasm and support for this event had a monetary value, this was certainly a huge success and will be remembered, and hopefully repeated, for a long time to come.

Narima Diving and Scubafish will continue to support events and causes that raise awareness about Shark Finning and other environmental issues facing our oceans and marine life.

Ko Lanta ‘Save Our Fins’ Event Sponsors:

Safe Our Fins Event – Join us to save the sharks!

Shark Fin Race

Grab a buddy and join us for a three-legged fin tournament, to help raise awareness about shark finning. We’ll meet on 17th July, 5.30pm at White Rock Resort, Klong Nin Beach.

The event is organised by Scubafish, Narima Diving, Blue Planet Divers and Fish4Divers.com. Posters and shark-fin shaped leaflets in Thai and English will be distributed around the island the publicize the event and Ko Lanta’s dive centres come together to form teams and enthuse their divers to take part. We’d like to invite all divers, locals and holiday-makers from all over Ko Lanta to grab a buddy and join us for a three-legged fin tournament.

White Rock Resort & Mr. Bean are supplying free beer and curry for the participants. And we guarantee lots of fun!

Shark finning refers to the removal and retention of shark fins and the discard at sea of the carcass. The shark is very often still alive when it is tossed back into the water. Unable to swim, the shark slowly sinks toward the bottom where it suffers predation from other fish, starves to death, dies from blood loss or suffocates and drowns, since most sharks need to keep moving to force water through their gills for oxygen. Sharks can take hours or even days to die after being finned.

Fishermen are mainly interested in the fins because shark meat is of low economical value and this conserves room in the hold. Up to 99 per cent of the shark is thrown away, a process as wasteful as slaughtering an elephant for its tusks.

Shark Fin Race

Shark fins are used as the principal ingredient of shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy which is often served at wedding celebrations so that the hosts can impress their guests with their affluence. Shark fin itself is tasteless, it just provides a gelatinous texture for the soup which is flavoured with chicken or other stock. It has also been shown to contain high levels of mercury which is detrimental to our health. Many people, especially the consumers, are unaware of the suffering that finning causes.

Sharks’ life history makes them vulnerable to exploitation. Sharks take between 7 to over 20 years to reach maturity, and produce few young over long lifetimes meaning that it takes populations a long time to recover once depleted. Fishermen report that sharks are getting smaller because they are not being given time to mature.

Sharks are “apex” predators, eco logical stablisers, when they are removed from the ocean the entire eco-system suffers.

Please say “No” to Shark Fin soup and join our three-legged fin tournament to show your support for sharks!

Orientation day in the SSS Recompression Chamber in Phuket

SSS Recompression Chamber Phuket

Divemasters and Instructors of Scubafish and Go Dive Lanta used the Low Season 2010 to get an insight into the work of a real recompression chamber. The SSS Recompression Chamber Network in Phuket offers free orientation days once a week during the low season. The orientation includes an overview of the chamber facilities and setup, recognition and management of Decompression Sickness, a pre-dive briefing and an actual dive down to 60ft in the recompression chamber. There is also plenty of time to ask questions to learn more about the various types of Decompression Sickness.

SSS Recompression Chamber PhuketDecompression Sickness (DCS) is the result of inadequate decompression following exposure to increased pressure during diving. In some cases, the disease is mild and not an immediate threat. In other cases, serious injury does occur. When this happens, the quicker the treatment begins, the better the chance for a full recovery.

During a dive, the body tissues absorb nitrogen from the breathing gas in proportion to the surrounding pressure. As long as the diver remains at pressure, the gas presents no problem. If the pressure is reduced too quickly, however, the nitrogen comes out of solution and forms bubbles in the tissues and bloodstream. This commonly occurs as a result of violating or approaching too closely the diving table limits, but it can also occur even when accepted guidelines have been followed.

Bubbles forming in or near joints are the presumed cause of the joint pain of a classical “bend.” When high levels of bubbles occur, complex reactions can take place in the body, usually in the spinal cord or brain. Numbness, paralysis and disorders of higher cerebral function may result. If great amounts of decompression are missed and large numbers of bubbles enter the venous bloodstream, congestive symptoms in the lung and circulatory shock can then occur.

SSS Recompression Chamber PhuketSymptons of Decompression Sickness include unusual fatigue, skin itch, pain in joints and/ or muscles of the arms, legs or torso, dizziness, vertigo, ringing in the ears, numbness, tingling and paralysis, shortness of breath. You can also recognise DCS by checking for the following signs: skin may show a blotchy rash, paralysis, muscle weakness, difficulty urinating, confusion, personality changes, bizarre behavior, amnesia, tremors, staggering, coughing up bloody, frothy sputum, collapse or unconsciousness.

Symptoms and signs usually appear within 15 minutes to 12 hours after surfacing. But in severe cases, symptoms may appear before surfacing or immediately afterwards. Delayed occurrence of symptoms is rare, but it does occur, especially if air travel follows diving.

SSS Recompression Chamber PhuketRecreational divers should dive conservatively, whether they are using dive tables or computers. Experienced divers often select a table depth (versus actual depth) of 10 feet (3 meters) deeper than called for by standard procedure. This practice is highly recommended for all divers, especially when diving in cold water or when diving under strenuous conditions. Computer divers should be cautious in approaching no-decompression limits, especially when diving deeper than 100 feet (30 meters).

Avoiding risk factors like deep and/ or long dives, exercise at depth or after a dive will decrease the chance of DCS occurring. Exposure to altitude or flying too soon after a dive can also increase the risk of decompression sickness.

Decompression Sickness could affect divers every day. Fast recognition is probabaly the most important key for a full recovery. Joining orientation days like these certainly helps to raise the awareness of the risk of decompression sickness. If you need more information about decompression sickness or other diving-related injuries, please visit the website of the Divers Alert Network(www.diversalertnetwork.org). More information about SSS Recompression Chamber Network you can find on www.sssnetwork.com.

Coral Bleaching Occurring at Shallow Depths

Coral Bleaching at Ko Haa

Coral bleaching is occurring at shallow depths in dive sites throughout the Andaman Sea. According to the Bangkok Post, coral reefs off Phuket, Krabi and Phang-Nga, including popular scuba diving sites such as the Similan, Surin and Phi Phi islands, have been damaged by the phenomenon.

The bleaching could get worse if sea temperatures continue to rise, says Niphon Phongsuwan, a marine biologist at the Phuket Marine Biological Centre (PMBC). The bleached corals may die if they cannot tolerate the stress, but if we’re lucky – and the monsoon winds come soon, those corals that are bleached already might survive and recover as was the case in 2003.

Temperatures in the Andaman Sea have stood as high as 31-32C for a long period this year and we are seeing temperatures as high as 33C in the shallow areas at Ko Haa, Hin Daeng & Hin Muang, Ko Rok and Ko Phi Phi.

Coral reefs in shallow waters at depths of up to 10m will take three to four years to recover. Coral at greater depths will take more time.

Coral bleaching is the whitening of corals, due to stress-induced expulsion or the death of zooxanthellae – symbiotic, algae-like micro-organisms. Under stress, corals may expel their zooxanthellae, which leads to a lighter or completely white appearance, hence the term ‘bleached’. Coral bleaching occurs when the conditions necessary to sustain the coral’s zooxanthellae cannot be maintained. If the coral colony survives the stress period, zooxanthellae often require weeks, or even months, to return to normal density.

You can report instances of coral bleaching to the NOAA Global Coral Reef Watch Project. Please follow this link to submit data: http://www.reefbase.org/contribute/bleachingreport.aspx

Other organisations that support coral bleaching monitoring include:

Scubafish – Winner of the Project Aware Conservation Award 2010

Beach Clean-Up in Kantiang Bay

To better recognise the achievements of those PADI Dive Centres and Resorts who have made significant contributions to the growth and development of diving, PADI Asia Pacific have announced the finalists and winners of this year’s PADI Asia Pacific Member Awards program which recognises the efforts of dive operators during 2009.

Beach Clean-Up in Kantiang Bay

The PADI Member Awards program was based on nine separate Asia Pacific regions; a system that ensured PADI Members compete with other PADI Members within their own geographical region for one of five Awards.
All PADI Dive Centres and Resorts within each of the nine regions were considered for nomination by a specially convened selection panel, who selected up to three finalists for each of the awards. A panel of PADI judges then considered all of the finalists within each region and we are proud and delighted to announce that Scubafish/ Narima Diving are the winners of this year’s Project AWARE Conservation Award for our region (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam).

Conservation Award 2010 for Scubafish

The Project AWARE Conservation Award “recognises outstanding ecological achievements, with a focus on fostering environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation”.

The dive team is delighted at this achievement and obviously intend to continue these efforts whilst offering a sustainable and environmentally responsible diving experience. Scubafish is now a 2 time winner of this particular award.

Protect Lanta’s Coral Reefs

There are many practical things you can do to help protect Lanta’s Coral Reefs:

Snorkeller at Ko Haa

Christmas Tree Worm

  • Dive carefully in fragile aquatic ecosystems such as coral reefs. Many aquatic organisms are delicate and can be harmed by the bump of a tank, knee, camera, the swipe of a fin or even the touch of a hand. By being careful you can prevent devastating and long-lasting damage to magnificent dive sites.
  • As a diver, practice good buoyancy control and avoid over-weighting so you do not bang into the bottom or parts of the reef whilst diving. Be aware of your body and equipment placement when diving and make sure your gauges and equipment are secured to avoid accidental contact with the reef, and never touch, stand on, or collect coral.
  • Keep your dive skills sharp with continuing education. Before heading to the reefs, seek bottom time with a certified professional in a pool or other environment that won’t be damaged. Refresh your skills and knowledge with a PADI Scuba Review, PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course or Project AWARE Specialty course.
  • Consider how your interactions affect aquatic life. Resist the temptation to touch, handle, feed and even hitch rides on any aquatic life. Your actions may cause stress to the animal, interrupt feeding and mating behaviour or provoke aggressive behaviour in normally non-aggressive species.
  • Be a role model for other divers in diving and non-diving interaction with the environment. As a diver, you see the underwater results of carelessness and neglect. Set a good example in your own interactions and other divers and non-divers will follow suit.
  • Do not touch any living organism under the water. Coral takes a long time to grow and forms a delicate ecosystem, which can be damaged by even the gentlest touch. Never stand on or hold on to any coral. Some completely healthy corals may look dead or even just like rocks, so never assume you can touch anything. Fish have a protective layer. If you touch them you can damage this protective layer and cause them skin infections.
  • Do not put anything into the water, or over the side of the boat. Feeding fish can disrupt their natural feeding habits and even affect their behaviour. Sergeant Major Fish now come to snorkel sites & dive boats in much larger schools that they ought and act more aggressively, constantly searching for food and sometimes nipping at snorkellers. This is a direct result of large numbers of snorkel boats throwing bread and rice over the side to attract fish for the snorkellers to see.
  • Do not collect shells, or coral as souvenirs. Taking a shell from a beach can deprive a hermit crab of a home. Dive sites can be depleted of their resources and beauty in a short time. If you want to return from dives with souvenirs, consider underwater photography. Avoid purchasing souvenirs made from coral or any threatened or endangered marine species.
  • Do not fish at dive sites. Thailand’s national park regulations clearly state that no marine live is to be removed from their parks. If you hunt and/or gather game, obey all fish and game laws. Local laws are designed to ensure the reproduction and survival of these animals. As an underwater hunter, understand your effect on the environment and respect the rights of other divers in the area who are not hunting.
  • As a diver or snorkeller, choose tour operators that use mooring buoys or drift diving techniques whenever possible rather than anchors that can cause reef damage.
  • Learn more about the underwater world and share your knowledge with other people. The more people understand and care about coral reefs, the more likely they are to help protect and care for them. And, don’t forget you can make a difference every day. Dispose of waste properly and collect debris each time you dive or visit the shoreline.

This information has been complied with the help of Project AWARE.

Lucky Lanta becomes a Whale Shark Mecca

Whale Shark and Manta RayDuring the ‘monsoon season’, lucky Lanta had, not only some of the best diving ever witnessed in these waters, but had the unprecedented fortune of becoming somewhat of a Whale Shark magnet. Having personally dived in this area for over 9 years, I had never encountered the sheer number, and frequency of sightings, of these magnificent docile giants that graced our waters during April and May this year.

At top dive sites, Hin Daeng & Hin Muang, divers had the privilege of 28 consecutive days of Whale Shark (and often multiple Manta Ray) encounters. The visibility through this period was superb, peaking at well over 60 metres. The regularity of sightings at Ko Haa (particularly off Island #5) was also greater than in previous seasons, and even Ko Phi Phi got to join in the bonanza with sightings occurring for about 4 days of each month.

Whale Shark at Hin MuangDivers were returning from all the major dive sites around Ko Lanta reporting the exciting news that there had been simultaneous sightings of Whale Sharks at dive sites as far apart as 70+ km.

Whale Shark Facts:

  • The Whale Shark is the largest fish in the sea, weighing up to 60 tons and reportedly measuring up to 18 metres in length
  • The largest ever recorded Whale Shark (listed in the Guinness Book of Records) was 12.65 metres (41ft 6in), and their average length is thought to be between 8-9 metres
  • With approximately 3,000 tiny teeth, arranged in 300 rows in each 4 foot wide jaw, they filter-feed on some of the smallest creatures in the sea, such as plankton and small crustaceans
  • The Whale Shark’s skin can be up to 10cm think, but is vulnerable to skin infections (which can prove fatal in extreme cases)
  • Whale Sharks give birth to live young which hatch from eggs within their mother’s body. A pregnant Whale Shark can be carrying as many as 300 embryos
  • As with most sharks, female Whale Sharks are larger than their male counterparts
  • It is believed that Whale Sharks can live to be over 100 years old and do not mature until they are 30
  • Humans are the Whale Shark’s main predator, although they are sometimes attacked by Killer Whales (Orcas)
  • The Whale Sharks protection status is – ‘Threatened’
  • The best Ko Lanta dive sites to spot a Whale Shark are Hin Daeng, Hin Muang and Ko Haa
  • Did you know – you can take a PADI Whale Shark Awareness Specialty Course?

International Clean Up Day 2009

beach-clean-upDid you know that over 6 million tons of debris enter the oceans and sea each year causing harm to the underwater environment and wildlife? Over 80% of all marine debris is plastic – it’s estimated that 1 million plastic bags are used every single minute around the world. In Thailand alone, plastic bags make up 15% of all waste with a staggering 18,000 tons of used plastic bags being disposed of every day.

International Coastal Clean Up day (ICC) fell on the 19th September this year. The ICC started back in 1986 with 1800 volunteers; today it is the largest volunteer network worldwide. In 2008, 390,881 volunteers in 102 countries collected 3,090 tons of debris from shorelines around the planet. It is now supported by Project AWARE, the Thai Department for Marine Coastal Resources, Greenfins and a multitude of local and international organisations.

Pulling a Fishing Net out of the sandHere in Kantiang Bay, Ko Lanta, Scubafish, together with Baan Laanta Resort, Phra Nang Lanta Resort, Pimalai Resort, Same Same But Different Restaurant, Drunken Sailor’s Cafe, Why Not Bar, Win Jeang Surf Clothing Shop, The Narima Bungalow Resort and Eyes Lanta Resort, managed to recuit over 200 volunteers to muck-in and get dirty to help keep Kantiang Bay beautiful and plastic free.
With plastic accounting for over 80% of all marine debris, our focus this year aimed to specifically highlight the need to reduce plastic bags use. With Event Sponsors funding re-useable, non-plastic baggies for every volunteer to take home, we hope to provide a practical alternative – ‘Do Something Drastic – Say No to Plastic’.

With this in mind, a series of environmental and educational events were organised.
• Day 1: Klong Hin School: Environmental Activities and Educational Talks with 100 students from the school.
• Day 2: Ba Kantiang Bay: Beach Clean-Up and Village Clean-Up with over 200 local residents volunteering to help.
Out of respect for the local Muslim community, these events were postponed a week until the end of Ramadan and therefore took place on 24th & 26th September 2009. This year’s activities were a resounding success and three times more people than last year turned out to join in the community spirit.

Day 1 [24/09/09]: Ban Klong Hin School: Environmental Activities and Educational Presentations.
Scubafish and Narima Diving staff were very excited about spending a day back at school! Children ranging from 4-11 years were divided into 4 teams for the days activities: Pla Tao (Turtle), Pla Shallam (Shark), Pla Mook Jak (Octopus) and Pla Hoi Kong (Nautilus).
Four environmental and educational stations were set up in Ban Klong Hin School for each group to visit, with the aim of demonstrating human impact on the environment and providing the kids with responsible rubbish disposal strategies to help reduce their impact.

Station 1 ‘Trash Timeline’: A rope time-line was set up to represent the amount of time it takes for rubbish to breakdown. Markers were placed from 2 – 1000+ years and each group had to walk along the rope and place common items of rubbish, found around the Kantiang area, at the point on the timeline they thought it would be broken down. Greenfins posters were then distributed and the group then rearranged the articles into the appropriate time bracket, and identified which of the items could be recycled, here on Ko Lanta.

Station 2: ‘Living Reef’: A video presentation in Thai that included excerpts from the Project AWARE Living Reef video, the IOSEA (Indian Ocean South East Asia) Turtle Memorandum video and local underwater footage from some of the dive sites in the Lanta National Marine Park, aimed to demonstrate global coral reef environmental issues, Sea Turtle Conservation specific to our local species and responsible fishing techniques that can be adopted to help sea turtles and other marine creatures – all practises that can be easily adopted by local communities to reduce the impact of humans on our marine environment.

Station 3: ‘Plastic Perils’: We adapted a Greenfins presentation about Plastic Bags to be more accessible and fun for the children, and to be more Thailand specific, encouraging the kids to think about practical ways they could reduce their own impact on the tragic trash problem.

Station 4: ‘Sea Scenes’: Each child drew their favourite underwater creatures and reefscapes. Their amazing creations were later mounted on a seascape board and placed on display for the beach clean up.

To fuel the day’s events, Pimalai and Phra Nang Lanta Resorts generously provided a yummy lunch and ice cream for all 100 students. In the afternoon, The Octopossible Band from Why Not Bar entertained one and all, performing an adaptation of a popular song (Yar Ting Kaya) used as a TV campaign in Thailand around 10 yrs ago, concerning river pollution in Bangkok. The lyrics were altered to relate to Ko Lanta, mention the sea, the fishermen and appeal more to children by mentioning arriving home from school! All the students soon joined in… “Ar ar ar – yar ting kaya, Tar wi sed hen na, Ting ka ya hai pen tee pen tang” (“No No No – Don’t throw your rubbish on the ground, Magic eyes can see what you do, Throw the rubbish in the right place, please.”)
Even a small change in thinking by the next generation, can make a huge, long term difference and disseminating this information to the kids is of vital importance and is, as we say, ‘Sanuk Maak’ (very fun!).

Day 2 [26/09/09]: Kantiang Beach & Village Clean-Up.
In partnership with Project AWARE, Pimalai Resort & Spa and Same Same But Different Restaurant, Scubafish recruited 206 volunteers to collect debris and rubbish from the beach and Kantiang Village. All equipment (gloves, bags, water, ice coffee, rubbish trucks) was provided along with a video briefing on safety and collection guidelines. Three separate groups of volunteers were assigned different areas to clear, including the river, the beach and the main village street. The debris was collected and information was catalogued and recorded, (e.g. drink cans, smoking-related activities, clothing, plastics etc.) to help identify the general sources of marine and coastal debris. All trash was then weighed on the Scubafish, home-made, balance scale, which became somewhat of a live show creating much intrigue, amusement and participation by the children. The scales were constructed from articles from around the dive shop, and compared the weight of each bin bag of collected debris to standard lead dive weights. The work was hard, hot and dirty but astoundingly 3,528 kgs of rubbish was collected in under an hour and a half!

Results showed that, around the Kantiang Bay area, shoreline & recreational activities accounted for almost 400 cigarette butts, 720 plastic bags, 382 glass bottles, 314 beverage cans, more than 700 straws and stirrers, almost 1,000 caps and lids, more than 300 food wrappers & containers, and unpleasantly, over a hundred diapers! Rubbish left through ocean & waterway activities included almost 50 fishing nets, over 1,000 different pieces of rope, and more than 20 light bulbs/tubes.

Scubafish and Narima Diving are proud members of Greenfins Thailand, who are joint Thailand coordinators of this event, along with the DMCR (Department of Marine and Coastal Resources). It will be their responsibility to collate all the ICC data from clean-ups like these around the country for both the Ocean Conservancy and Thai government departments.

Scubafish and Narima Diving would like to say a huge thank you to the following organisations for their generous contributions and time in sponsoring this event:

Pimalai Resort & Spa, Same Same But Different, Baan Laanta Resort, Phra Nang Lanta Resort, The Narima Bungalow Resort, Eyes Lanta Lifestyle Resort, Drunken Sailor’s Cafe, Why Not Bar, and Win Jeang Surf Clothing Shop.

We would also like to thank the following organisations for their support of this event: Ko Lanta Yai District Office, Klong Hin School, Kantiang Bay View Resort, Aqua Bar, Lanta Marine Park View Resort, Shroom Bar, 9 Art Gallery, Simply Life and Drunken Tailors.

SCUBAFISH is a small, eco-friendly, PADI 5 Star, Gold Palm, IDC Centre located on Kantiang Beach in the South of Ko Lanta, Thailand. Offering expert guidance and instruction with an emphasis on relaxed and personal service both above & below the water, we are ideally located to offer some of the shortest journey times to Lanta’s top diving destinations.