Photography in Marine Environment

The marine world is in-arguably amazing and is filled of many wonderful specie, again and again a lot of us desired to take all the memories in photos.  It is understandable, you might not encounter this interesting animal next time and if you might, who knows when.  The present world is becoming photo obsessed and many including us divers are influenced with this social media trending.  However, we all have this important responsibility in preserving this beloved vast blue beyond. Photography under water if not judicious is undoubtedly a real threat to marine life.

Here are few do’s and dont’s while shooting that avant-garde photos in the blue beyond:

  1.  Do have good look around while resting on the bottom. Even its only sand, you might about to crush nudis or seahorse.
  2. Do capture behavior by knowing your subject, reading books and studying marine life.
  3. Do make sure your camera/housing is neutrally buoyant. There are plenty of float arms available in the market. This can help also if you accidentally drop your equipment.
  4. Do secure all dangling equipment, streamlining is the key as we have been taught from the start.
  5. Do use common sense when choosing subjects to shoot at night.
  6. Do place the welfare of plants and animals and the care of the environment over the need to get any shot
  7. Don’t even think of taking a camera underwater if you are a novice diver. Wait until you get the advance course and maybe 50+ dives! 🙂
  8. Don’t insist on taking pictures if the subject is inaccessible.
  9. Don’t add unnecessary stress to an animal who is already stressed. Be discerning in using flash, it can’t be denied that constant flash is taking toll on any subject.
  10. Don’t harass animals on night dives, avoid flashing directly your torch on them.
  11. Don’t feed the fish! This is very basic….
  12. Don’t force animals into behavior just to get a shot. Again, don’t touch any fish for that yawn effect. Such gesture is actually telling you to go away. So be sensitive!

In my diving novitiate years, I prefer having no camera at all because I can observe marine life better and I have other more important issues to attend to like the basics and protocols. Diving is simpler with less accessories. My first point-shoot camera came two years later when I felt I was ready for such task underwater. It’s true, nothing beats having photos of amazing finds underwater. But after it was flooded, I got my second point-shoot camera a year later with no rush, which I’m using until now. It was serving its purpose I guess, I got decent photos for my write-ups and I  am happy with it.  The point is, the welfare of the marine world is important than the fleeting desire to get photos. 🙂

The truth,  marine world would be perfectly thriving and safer without the photos!

NB.  Adapted from Asian Diver Mag, Colors of Asia Edition

THE BLUE WHALE

blue_whale
Photo courtesy of http://www.biganimals.com

QUICK FACTS

The Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)is the largest animal that ever lived on Earth. They can grow to 30 meters, weigh up to 181 metric tons and live 80-90 years.

Status:

Endangered (World Conservation Union Red List) due to rampant whaling in the 1960s.

They feed mostly on krill (tiny shrimp like animals) and can consumer around 3.6 metric tons in a day.

They belong to the baleen whales. Baleens are fringed plates of fingernail-like material attached to their upper jaws.  They feed by swallowing mouthful of water and expelling these through the baleen which acts as filter that trap the krill.

Blue whales are graceful swimmers and cruise the ocean at more than eight kilometer per hour, but accelerate to more than 32 kilometers an hour when they are agitated.

Blue whales are among the loudest animals on the planet. They emit a series of pulses, groans, and moans and it is thought that, in good conditions, blue whales can hear each other up to 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) away.

THEY ARE ENDANGERED

Their huge size does not spare them from human threats.

They are threatened by boat collision. Dynamite fishing, marine debris entanglement, plastic trash pollution, chemical and sound pollution.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP SAVE THEM

Help spread awareness about conserving and protecting our marine resources.

Report illegal fishing activities.

Reduce your plastic waste.

Help document presence of whales and other large marine life (do this from a safe distance).

Hotlines:

Maritime Police                               0927 893 4993
Coastguard (Dumaguete City)     0915 112 8823; 0929 674 2380
BFAR                                                    0926 357 2278
DENR                                                   0905 595 9149

A campaign of Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines

Resolutions for the Ocean

Wishes during the holidays from friends includes fantastic dives and amazing moments underwater for the coming year but more than just traveling to exciting dive sites I planned and getting blasts underwater, I reaffirm my responsibility for the environment and reinforce my vows for the marine world.

There are a lot of things divers and other ocean lovers can do to help protect and preserve the beloved ocean. But there are things not to do, some simple things we can, day to day to help. Here are five things to digress for a healthier ocean, these are nothing new actually and are not hard to do.

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Healthy water environment is free from litters!

PLASTIC
Bring canvas bags to the grocery store and say no to plastic. Plastic waste is one of the most prevalent threats to the ocean today. Look for items with less packaging and recycle as much as possible. Don’t use plastic ware or paper plates.  I cringed watching food chains’ daily dumps at the land fill, so horrible.  I can only wish that every local authorities shall ban use of plastics.

Last night was a victory as I refuse packing the fruits I bought in a plastic bag from a street stand. Nothing grand but if it becomes a habit being conscious everyday will eventually eliminate plastic wastes.  Hopefully.

TRASH
Don’t litter. This is kind of a no brainer and most people who enjoy the outdoors in any capacity follow the “leave nothing but footprints” or, in the case of scuba divers, “leave nothing but bubbles” rule. Leave No Trace should always be our policy! I always bring a nylon trash bag during my dives to collect garbage and do a quick clean up before leaving the beach. We can do this even when we trek or hike.

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Corals look better underwater!

CORAL
Don’t buy coral or other harvested souvenirs when traveling. Pieces of coral are most likely broken off living reefs, causing damage that can take years to rebuild. Instead, take pictures of the beautiful corals and shelled animals you encounter while diving. This makes a memory for you yet still leaves the ecosystem intact for the next diver to enjoy.

SUNSCREEN
Use care when choosing your sun protection. Many commercial sunscreens contain chemicals that wash off into the water which cause negative physiological changes in the environment, and therefore, the marine life within. But not to worry — there are plenty of “reef safe” products available to protect yourself from the sun’s damaging rays and treat any overexposure. Choose a lotion or spray with organic ingredients as possible, my favorite Sohoton cove prohibits sunscreen when you visit the Jellyfish Lagoon!

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Choose salads instead!

FISH
Reduce your consumption of seafood. Overfishing is a tremendous problem and demand for certain types of fish just leads to more and more being taken from the sea. Research sustainable seafoods in your area to see which ones are non-threatened species. The World Wildlife Federation publishes lists showing which seafoods are okay to consume and which to avoid.  Personally, this is a struggle since I avoid meats but alternatives are at hand. Yup, choose salads instead!  🙂

As we start this year anew, we need to change our ways!

Deeper in Albay (Part II)

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Nursery that propagates corals – pink corals, anyone?

Legaspi City Coral Nursery

Many local government units (LGUs) maintained nurseries, in agriculture parlance nurseries are where we nurture seedlings which shall later planted in its appointed time and appropriate area. It could be fruit trees seedlings, vegetable seedlings, flower and the like. In the waters, to preserve the reefs and provide shelter for the degrading marine life, many have adopted coral transplantation. Just like planting on the surface, selected seedlings are necessary to be nurtured and for this purpose that would need a coral nursery. Legaspi City is one the few local government units that installed and maintained one. It is a formidable task for the LGU alone, so in partnership with BFAR, BU, MCCF and Pacific Blue they established the facility. Last year, the brief encounter with Mr. Jin Masuda of Pacific Blue who was too optimistic on the success of the restoration efforts was too encouraging. For me, the importance of protecting and preserving marine resources can not be undermined. I just thought, this nursery is worthy for a visit!

Pacific Blue was kind enough to arrange one for me for free, the ICRM office was just beside the dive shop  and I had a good chance in meeting the sea patrol unit. Legaspi City is one of the few who are serious in the fishery law enforcement in their territorial waters which I found too interesting. I had a long surface interval discussing their activities, plans, difficulties, challenges as well as victories.

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Coral seedlings are branching out!
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Juveniles claiming their home in the restoration project

We trooped to the west end of the boulevard, took the ICRM boat donated by AECID  and had my third descent for the day enjoying the afternoon warm flat waters, I was bit excited what to find in the depths. It was only at 9 meters on a sandy area, it wasn’t long when we found the crates of the seedlings. Their technology is different from the Linamon Project but all the same, the seedlings are allowed to grow first before the transplantation. The corals are sourced out in the nearby for adaptability advantages. My two companions – Ato of ICRM and Jun of Pacific Blue got instantly busy. Cleaning, arranging and inspecting the crates. They went around from end to end, later they told me they were searching for thatone missing crate which I had no idea while down there. We found it like 20 meters away from its original location. The newly transplanted corals in the area thrive well and juvenile fishes were roaming around.

After 40 minutes of going around we ascend, it wasn’t really long (I could have stayed longer I still have much air) but what a great privilege to be one of the few who witnessed such uncommon but very beneficial project for the marine world. Mr. Masuda is right, in five years Albay Gulf would be carrying in its bosom a colorful, active, rich and productive reefs. The home of Mt. Mayon is more than just its alluring surface, something is more fascinating in its depths!

NB This is dedicated for the World Ocean’s Month

AECID  – Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development
ICRM    – Integrated Coastal Resource Management

Cleanup Ideas for World Oceans Day!

world ocean day 2015Cleanups are a great way to bring people together and enact actual change for the local environment. But what can you do with a beach clean up to make it unique? Well for starters you don’t have to clean up a beach! Here are 6 quick ideas for holding a cleanup on World Oceans Day – or anytime you want to do something for your community. Click here if you’d like to download a full-length aquatic clean up guide.

1. A clean watershed makes a clean ocean
Beach cleanups are great, but your event doesn’t need to be at the beach. You can stage a cleanup at the local watershed, river, wetland, or even underwater. Removing trash everywhere helps the ocean.

The Instituto EcoFaxina in Brazil focused on their local mangrove forest for World Oceans Day 2014 and removed 274 kg of trash! They learned about the importance of reducing plastic and recycling, while helping out their community.

2. Include everyone
Try to have activities for all ages and skill groups to do, and make sure to have relaxing ocean activities for breaks.

3. Go underwater
Even if you don’t participate in the activities yourself, try to involve local interest groups such as divers or surfers. For them, the health of the beach environment is directly important to their day to day life and they may want to help out.

4. Celebrate!
Have a fun activity planned for after the cleanup. Perhaps a beach BBQ, or a bonfire with s’mores. It’s a great time to get together and hang out with your local community of ocean lovers.

The group Sager der Samler in Denmark celebrated a successful harbor cleanup for World Oceans Day 2014 by enjoying a barbecue and live music together. Their event also included a large group of people including; sailors, rowers, divers, and anglers. According to organizer Paul Natorp, the day was great because it not only cleaned up the harbor, but strengthened bonds between the different groups who used it.

5. Get competitive for a cause
Why don’t you turn the day into a trash competition? Form teams and whoever picks up the most trash can win a prize (perhaps a WOD T-Shirt each).

6. Refresh: reduce, reuse, recycle
Afterwards you can refresh everyone’s knowledge of how to dispose of trash and recycling. Perhaps you can challenge the younger participates to reuse some of their own “trash” (such as water bottles from home) for crafts.

Have you ever participated in a cleanup? What happened in it that made it fun or unique for you?

NB. An article by Caty Fairclough for http://www.worldoceansday.org

 

Movie Review: Planet Ocean

planet oceanGot the chance to watch the film during Cine Europa 17, with the festival’s theme focusing on family and relationships, it was a surprise to me. The only documentary among sixteen (16) films shown in Cagayan de Oro leg.

Can we explain to everyone, the greatest natural mystery of our planet? Can we help our children believe in a better and more sustainable world tomorrow? These were aptly addressed in a beautiful array of underwater life and scenery. It narrates the most marvelous and also the most terrifying human experiences of our time. More than the marvelous blue planet and its current condition, it is a plea for humanity to respect the world in which we live. A call to protect the entire ecosystem – surface and depths – being relatively connected in the universe.

It is time to imagine international stewardship of the ocean, and to believe that we can all react in time. The message is that we can still change direction to remain in our Ocean Planet. The call is to protect 20% of the Ocean by 2020!

RESPECT QUOTA!

STOP SUBSIDIES FOR INDUSTRIAL FISHING!

CONTROL POLLUTION!

PROMOTE SMALL SCALE FISHING!

LIMIT DEEP-SEA EXPLOITATION!

BAN DEEP-SEA FISHING PERMANENTLY!

ONLY BUY FISH WITH ECO-LABELS!

MAINTAIN ANTARCTIC TREATY!

ENCOURAGE RESPONSIBLE FISHING!

ESTABLISH TREATY FOR THE ARCTIC!

Albay Waters by Chance!

Giant clams seeded in Misibis Bay waters
Giant clams seeded in Misibis Bay waters

Albay Gulf is a promising dive destination and I was fortunate to learn that there is an ongoing restoration works on damages due to dynamite fishing. My brief encounter with Mr. Jin Masuda, the Japanese director of Pacific Blue have raised hopes, that the surrounding waters in the region would flourish and its resources more productive, in due time the most could be five years. The diveshop in coordination with BFAR, BU, MCCF and other groups collaborated on coral transplantation and restoration, it is a formidable task but he was optimistic that the works would largely improve the marine environment in the gulf. The documentation showed the growing transplanted branching corals and juvenile tropical fishes that started to multiply in the area. For sure, the cooperation of fisherfolks in the coastal communities would be necessary for its success.

In recognition to the growing importance of responsible and sustainable tourism, Misibis Bay too has pledged its commitment to protect the environment and to improve the livelihood of the local community through its Misibis Bay Coastal Care Foundation (MCCF), a non-profit organization launched in 2009 dedicated to the implementation of various conservation projects like coastal and underwater clean-ups, giant clam planting to promote coral reef growth, solid waste management, and monitoring and prevention of illegal fishing.

Unknowingly our side trip to Misibis Bay the next day gave me the chance to dip in the waters, but not diving – it was too expensive I cringed as I inquired for the rates! Snorkeling was allowed for free, three other workmates signed up to join me. The resort has established a marine sanctuary as an added attraction of its properties. The skies were downcast but we were in high spirits for a swim, we were in good mode as we rolled off for the diveshop. The facility was off the coast near a patch of beach at the far end of the cove. We descend as it started to drizzle, our guide was insistent that life vest is a requirement as we snorkel. We were not disappointed – giant groupers, snappers, parrotfishes, sweetlips, rabbitfishes and more tropical species swarmed near the shelter. The guide pointed few of the giant clams gone a stray, he said more of its population were seeded in the deeper part. So diving in the area will include the viewing of the giant clams, unfortunately the rain started to pour we were not able to swim further. My companions suggested to end our swim as the rains continued pouring and the waters getting colder.

With this development no doubt the region is a potential as a new diving destination in the future, its attractions more than just on the surface but beyond, in its mysterious depths!
NB. Photo credits to http://www.gophilippinestravel.com