IMG_20140704_085419Koh Yawasam is a very popular dive site of the local islands here in Ao Nang and also my personal favourite. On a good day, the visibility can be incredible. On every dive I like to make my way to the north side of the island where I can find the ornate ghost pipefish and the common sea-horse, also known as the Hippocampus Kuda.

Five months ago I was guiding some customers to show them the stunning wall where the ghost pipefish calls its home. Their bodies are long and swim upside-down with their tiny mouth pointed downwards. They use their mouth as a vacuum to nibble on microscopic crustaceans. They are very well camouflaged and can bend their bodies to hide themselves in their environment. My eyes were fixed on that wall using my torch to locate the pipefish. When I turned around to check on my customers, I noticed the large pinnacle on the west side of the island had a fishing net draped over it. As if two giant hands placed it there perfectly. My heart sunk and I swam over to examine the damages. There could have possibly been more than twenty or thirty fish that had already died in that net. Crabs everywhere. I took out my knife and started cutting the net, trying to do as little harm as possible to the already devastated habitat, when I realized I was running out of bottom time. So we made our way back to the long tail boat where I informed my colleagues of the problem. Three of us then decided to jump back into the water and remove the net from the pinnacle. It took us around half an hour to remove everything but there were still small pieces of rope caught on the rock and corals.

Discarded fishing gear makes up to about 10% of all the marine debris in the ocean. If a net is abandoned, it will continue to fish for months or even years, indiscriminately killing fish and other marine animals. Many creatures unfortunate enough to get entangled in these nets die of suffocation, exhaustion or not being able to go up for air. The net was very heavy. Once we got most of it onto the boat, we put on our gloves and started to cut out the crabs and a few of the fishes that were still alive. Two of us got stung by sea urchins, even with the gloves on, but we still tried to save what we could.

When our surface interval was up, we did our second dive at a nearby dive site. And it was amazing. Each dive you see something different and it will never cease to amaze you. That’s why it makes me so sad to see fishing nets and litter on every dive I make. Overfishing causes enough harm to the marine ecosystem and not only fishermen rely on the sea for their income, tourism for example, will suffer if the marine life continues to degrade, especially because tourism is a major economic factor in Thailand. Efforts need to be made to reduce the impacts of fishing so they don’t pose a long-term threat.

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