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February / March 2011 | Issue 15

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Yo u r F r e e O n l i n e D i v i n g M a g a z i n e

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Contents REGULARS

4

Ed’s Logbook

C O N S E R VAT I O N

41 Elusive Dugongs of Bazaruto

F E AT U R E S

6 Kelp Forest Magic 15 Baited Shark Diving

Travel

28 Pomene - Mozambican Paradise

Cover Photographed by Geoff Spiby

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Published by:

Cormac McCreesh & Paul Hunter

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E

d’s Logbook I’ve been thinking about sharks a lot lately. To begin with, I thought about the 100 million sharks slaughtered a year statistic … I couldn’t comprehend that number of shark. So I did some rudimentary calculations based on fin yield, average shark weight and size, the population of China, shark fin soup recipes and so on. Turns out I calculated that 100 million sharks could provide, 1 bowl of shark

And then over December, I went to Port Elizabeth and then Durban and then toured Mozambique, hoping to see sharks. Sadly the weather kept me out of the water whilst visiting Port Elizabeth and Durban but I dived (scuba and free diving) in Mozambique. I didn’t see any sharks. Well, that’s not true. I did see a small white tip reef shark scuttling off into the blue void on one of my dives and I did visit the aquarium in Durban and spent a lot of time gazing into the predator tank. Oh, and I did see dead sharks and rays in Mozambique …

fin soup per affluent Chinese resident, per weekend. Regardless of the accuracy of my calculations, that’s not a lot of soup for a lot of people who desire it.

I also didn’t see any mantas on my dives, and I’d recently been made aware of the Chinese demand for manta and mobula gills – apparently taken as a blood cleanser.

Visiting Dr Simon Pierce of The Foundation for the Protection of Marine Megafauna, in Tofu, to hear about his work on whale sharks was another of those think about shark moments. Turns out that while tuna fishing is “dolphin friendly” it’s not whale shark friendly. Purse seine nets are whipping out whale sharks along with the tuna caught. Yet down in Durban, off Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks there are sharks a-plenty (well it seems so). Anglers and game fishermen complain of sharks regularly taking their catch while dive operators there regularly bait the waters to take their clients shark diving. And then, of course, there was the debacle in Egypt over December when, with their blood lust up, hunters went out to target the shark that had “attacked” innocent tourists. Mention whales, dolphins, seals and other “cute” marine animals and the whole world gets up in arms. But talk about shark and there’s hardly a whisper. It’s a sad state of affairs and I don’t know where it’s going to lead us. My wish is that my daughter’s children (as yet unborn) will get to see sharks and the oceans as I’ve been privileged to in my lifetime. So you’ll excuse me if I head off to se if there’s something I can do to be part of the solution.

May your bubbles always be free and may you see plenty of sharks on your next dive. - Cormac P h o t o g ra p h s by : C o r m a c M c C r e e s h Pa g e 4 | www.africandiver.c om

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By Georgina Jones & images by Geoff Spiby

Kelp Forest Magic

Daylight diving in kelp is one of the most beautiful experiences around the Cape Peninsula. Sunlight strikes down through the fronds in radiant beams, glancing off the silvery flanks of hottentot or spotlighting vivid invertebrates creeping at their bases. The fronds themselves are smoother than satin and richly golden brown and the whole organism sways with incoming waves in a fluid submarine waltz. C o n t e nts

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Kelp forest magic

“... kelp forests are among the

most productive ecosystems on earth...�

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Kelp forest magic Kelp is not, strictly speaking, a plant. It falls under the heading of the Protists, and is relatively unspecialised. The part of kelp which attaches to rocks is known as the holdfast, and unlike a plant, plays no part in nutrient uptake. That is done by the fronds, along with photosynthesis, and from here, carbohydrates are produced and sent to the rest of the kelp. The stalk is known as a stipe and it has a gas-filled float at its upper end, keeping the fronds closer to the surface of the ocean. Although the California giant kelp can grow up to 30m in total length, Cape kelp, Ecklonia maxima, the sea bamboo, doesn’t normally reach much more than 12m in total length and will grow down to about 20m in depth, depending on the clarity of the water.

It’s an astonishingly fast grower, with growth rates of up to 13mm per day being recorded and in a year will produce more than six times its weight in detritus. In fact, kelp forests are among the most productive ecosystems on earth, far more so than agricultural land. They convert sunlight and the nutrient-rich upwellings from the deep sea into food for an enormous array of creatures. Interestingly, only about 10% of kelp is directly eaten by herbivores. The bulk of its energy transfer is through detritus: partly as dissolved organic matter from the living plant, which is mainly the mucus it produces to keep settling organisms at bay or else as whole fronds being ripped off and swept onto the beach, where they are food for beach-dwelling crustaceans and other invertebrates.

Fragments ripped off by wave action go to debris feeders such as urchins. Kelp feeds a myriad of bacteria, which are in turn fed upon by filter feeders and which in their turn support the carnivores, such as crayfish and fish. It is also extremely prolific. The kelp itself is asexual, and its fertile fronds produce spores at a rate of 10 000 per hour per centimetre squared. These disperse and settle and then develop into tiny male and female individuals which produce sperm and eggs. After fertilisation, the zygote develops into the asexual sporophyte form. The deterring slime which kelp produces accounts for the seductive texture of the fronds and keeps almost all settling organisms at bay, apart from some moss animals.

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“...It’s an astonishingly fast grower, with growth rates of up to 13mm per day being recorded...”


Kelp forest magic Wave action also helps, whipping the kelp stipes through the water, keeping grazers at bay and allowing denser stands of kelp to form. These dense stands also act to protect more delicate animals from wave action and mute the effect of strong storm waves on the coast, reducing erosion. The floating fronds also give shade to animals living in the understorey. This means that a dive through a kelp forest is filled with life. The holdfasts are good places to look for kelp crabs and nudibranchs. Rocking horse limpets creep up the stipes, dislodging any competition. Moss animals make lacy patterns on some fronds. And in between the kelp crawl crayfish and starfish, brittlestars and annelid worms. It’s a treasure trove of life. Pa g e 1 0

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Kelp is useful to divers too. Free divers find it handy to hold onto to stay above kreef holes. Photographers, quite apart from taking advantage of the effects it creates with light and shadow, find it a useful support when going in for a tricky shot, and many divers take shelter from surge in the kelp forest. It is also worth noting that the big sharks can’t get into dense stands of kelp, though these come with their own set of disadvantages. Not only are they difficult to swim through, but divers ascending through kelp must remember that the fronds spread out at the surface. This means that patience is required to extract oneself from their clutches.

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Kelp forest magic Better to ascend away from the kelp. But memories of their sunshot depths and the light tangling in the kelp fronds exert a magic all of their own. These spellbinding underwater forests lure divers back again and again. Pa g e 1 4 C o ntents

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Baited shark diving & shark entanglements. B y A l l e n Wa l k e r

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Baited shark diving ... On the Aliwal Shoal, off KwaZulu Natal’s southern beaches early in 2010, my diving companions and I observed a Tiger shark getting entangled in a cable securing a baiting drum (a “shark wrap”). Although the shark was quickly released, and no real harm was done, our group on the post dive discussions all agreed that a solution needed to be found, so that it would not happen again.

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Baited shark diving ...


I have been on numerous Tiger dives where the drift baiting system is used and I have never seen a “shark wrap” happen in over 50 dives. This “shark wrap” was the first incident of this nature in South Africa and, in my opinion, was caused by a change in protocol by the operator to accommodate a client’s request. I found the resulting online media outcry unacceptable for two reasons: firstly, the outcry was based on the testimony of an individual’s experience of the incident without fully reporting the circumstances – the change in protocol - and secondly because only one of the operators in South Africa was targeted when there are at least nine operators employing the same drift baiting method.

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It must also be made clear that the International outcry was not the main driver for the innovations that followed, but the simple fact that it happened and we needed to stop it from happening again. A solution was not going to be implemented “NOW” as demanded by these forums, but it was going to be done properly and in the right way. The incident seemed to have two specific areas of concern: one - the loss of teeth due to hard and sharp surfaces, and two - the actual entanglement of the shark and possible harm to the animal. There were some suggestions that the South African shark divers should use the Bahamian solution. Unfortunately what they didn’t realize was that the South Africans had already “been there and done that” and what was needed was a fresh approach to the problem. One, which would require some innovative thought that, would not only solve the problem, but also be practical and capable of being implemented.

“Unfortunately the incident led to the international dive community using online media to both exploit and sensationalize the issue.”

The best way to understand this would be to have a look at the history of tiger shark diving in South Africa.

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Baited shark diving ...

Unfortunately the incident led to the international dive community using online media to both exploit and sensationalize the issue. As a result, things got a little personal with insults being traded and the South African shark diving industry being “trashed” in online forums (often by people who have never visited these fair shores). Inevitably relationships soured between operators and certain individuals.


Baited shark diving ...

Introduction to South Africa’s Tiger Industry The S.A commercial Tiger diving industry has a long and interesting history, and has been developed over the last decade and a half for film crews and photographers by Mark Addison; owner and operator of Blue Wilderness Safaris. Thirteen years ago, the Tiger shark diving phenomenon was introduced to recreational divers, which then led to other operators following suit and offering this type of diving on a commercial scale. In the beginning, it was a fixed baiting system at the southern edge of the dive site “Eel Skins”. C o n tents

The program consisted of up to eight divers kneeling in a cave, while the baiting took place outside, thereby luring the sharks in close to the mouth of the cave.

To make things more difficult the local media and dive community was divided on the pros and cons of shark baiting, despite it then being the norm in other parts of the world.

The cave was shallow, with a roof that was just above the head height of the kneeling diver. It offered little or no protection, was at a depth of fourteen meters and became known, for obvious reasons, as “Tiger Cave”. This modus operandi was very difficult and time consuming, with divers sometimes having to take extra cylinders along due to the waiting time involved, and it needed to evolve into something very different.

At this stage most of the other operators were against baited shark diving, preferring to focus on the seasonal Ragged Tooth sharks only. But when this became a means of generating income in the lean months, this opinion would soon change.

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Baited shark diving ...

During the formative years only two operators offered these dives i.e. Blue Wilderness & African Water Sports. A few others tried, but the complexity and difficulties associated in getting it right meant them giving up fairly quickly. I remember being new to diving, and trying the Tiger shark experience with one of these operators. A Tuna was tied to the reef in front of the cave while we ‘hid’ out in the cave. We had one or two safety divers equipped with broomsticks, to ward off these fearsome creatures of the deep. I even had a turn to wield the broom stick, which to a Tiger probably resembled a tooth pick. In 2003, Mark started developing a baiting system that was called “baited drift drive”. It required significant scientific research to determine which tiger sharks frequented/ dominated the area, that resulted in knowing which tiger sharks would visit the dive and at what point during the drift they would turn up. This approach proved extremely successful and was much more effective from all points of view, i.e. both operator and diver perspective. Little did we know that Mark’s innovative approach would move the South African Shark Diving Industry away from those ‘non reef friendly’ techniques still

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used today by various operators around the world. A technique that allowed complete freedom of movement and choice to both the sharks and divers was a revelation. The other successful operator, African Water Sports, quickly adopted the “baited drift drive” technique, and as an obvious sign of its success, by the end of 2008, all the other operators in the area had followed suit. To date, most of, if not all the critics of Tiger Shark diving have had the chance to experience this awesome dive phenomenon and it has become a celebrated industry. The industry has grown and matured to feature +-9 operators with hundreds of divers who interact with, not only, Tigers but other shark species as well. Both Blue Wilderness and African Water Sports have developed their dive protocols over years of research and testing. It is fair to say that both operators were way ahead of their time. Many operators have changed these protocols to accommodate the Scuba Divers (that would be guys like me). To quote Walter: “We made our mistakes, but learnt from them and used the experience to develop the safety protocols and briefings that we use today”.

The development of ZIBS : ZIBS, a Zero Impact Baiting System, described by Patric Douglas, CEO of Shark Diver and others as a “remarkable industry Innovation. The first of its kind in South Africa and world representing a unique and industry generated evolution to sustainable baiting practices”. As someone who has become intrigued and passionate about underwater photography, you could say this passion extended itself into a passion for the environment where I spend my free time. It is only natural for me to then get involved in things that affect this environment and to try and create solutions to problems if I have access to the resources needed. My first hurdle was, as a client, to poke my nose into the operator’s business. It is not easy to voice your opinion and tell someone that they have to change, especially when what you are trying to change is near and dear to their heart. Let’s just say that sometimes it is worth the risk to make a difference where we can. Although I am no full time activist, I can maybe be a part time conservationist.

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Baited shark diving ...


Baited shark diving ...

To solve the immediate problem, two things had to be done: the first was to ensure the cable of the baiting system could be released quickly and that bait would no longer be tied to the stem, and this turned out to be easy. We came up with some ideas, checked them and these changes were implemented very quickly. Although the above-mentioned solutions were good, I was not convinced it was the best possible solution. I needed to design something better as there was still a potential for problems occurring and there was room for improvement. I decided this was my challenge, and after warnings to my wife and friends, set down to design, build and implement a new system. It was all about trying a different methodology. Do we change from Cable to PVC covered cable, or perhaps no cable at all? Analyzing where, why and when a Tiger grabs hold of the cable and where does it wrap and what could you do to change things around? I studied a lot of video footage and photographs to grasp exactly what we needed in the design of a zero impact baiting system. We needed to limit any potential damage to the shark’s jaws, the skin, teeth and eyes. The new system should have no sharp points and it had to be “soft” so it could not break teeth, but also be high grade stainless steel to ensure it’s longevity in this hostile saline environment. Pa g e 2 2

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It should be made in such a way that it would be impossible for a Tiger shark to wrap itself, no matter how big or small the shark. Finally it was important for me to create a solution that would not deteriorate over time resulting in the continuous use of raw materials to sustain a so called “Shark Friendly” baiting method, but not an environmentally friendly one. The bait stem should last around fifteen years, if not a lifetime, making it a viable solution to the other operators even though it would be initially rather costly. I needed to expand my horizons and set out to garner more information from those in the industry who seemed sympathetic to the cause. I further refined my knowledge about bite radius information, animal behaviors, depth information and the like, all provided by Mark Addison at Blue Wilderness. I knew of two other operators had been working on trying to find new solutions. Rob Nettleton from Off Shore Africa Dive Charters used a marker buoy and made a new bait system with that. Walter Bernadis from African Water Sports had also experimented with new stem products. We got together on occasions after dives or on the boat and discussed these adaptations, but I was not convinced by any of the input and decided to look outside the box.

“ I studied a lot of video footage and photographs to grasp exactly what we needed in the design of a zero impact baiting system.” Contents


I started with the “original” system as a baseline, as after all, all I was setting out to do was to re-design the tool used, not the actual baiting technique. It took a month of long evenings and weekends to design and build the whole system, from stem to bait ball. The next problem to figure out was the construction of the actual bait ball itself. I had to find someone who could build and manufacture a fiberglass reinforced sphere about 8mm in thickness, which is pretty much the same stuff you use in a sturdy white water kayak. After approaching local fabricators for a large fiberglass ball, and explaining that it was a for a Tiger shark “bait ball” that needed to handle 1-2 tons of bite pressure, my problems got worse. The reactions were varied levels of hilarity and, as you can imagine, comments such as “you’re mad” and “impossible”. It also turned out no one could build anything that was larger than a 300mm sphere, so we had to start from zero and find a sphere to use as a mould. My friend and dive buddy Hans came up with a great idea of using an Abs ball, the kind that gym devotees work out on. At 850mm the sphere was the perfect size,

C ontents

and we had our mould as a template for the new and improved Tiger baiting ball. Then it got tougher. Our original manufacturer failed in the attempt to build our first ball. After we provided him with the metal brackets, money and design specs, he disappeared, and would not return our calls. We had to go back to the steel manufacturer to replace all the brackets and bolts and find another fiberglass fabricator. The holiday season was fast approaching (most manufacturers close over the December period) and shark season opening was a little over a week away. So we were under the gun to get things done, and done fast.

After finally drilling almost 500 holes to ensure a good scent flow through the water column, we decided enough was enough and we had our final product. The guys who built the sphere and delivered it to us said “you are absolutely crazy, to go through all this effort to build that perfect sphere, only to drill holes into it, fill it full of bait and then toss it to the Tiger sharks – Happy Holidays!”

The new manufacturer was great and made the “bait ball” in one day, using one mould. We also discovered that fiberglass eats drill bits! As the size of the scent holes had to be small enough so that shark teeth could not get hung up on them i.e. no purchase points, we decided on holes of 10 mm. To create the scent holes we went through seven high tensile drill bits - they either blunted extremely quickly or kept on getting stuck and broken in the 8mm fiberglass shell. It was brutal work to say the least. Above: New fiberglass “bait ball” design Pa g e 2 3 | w w w. a fr i c a n d i ve r. c o m

Baited shark diving ...

The ZIBS system in my opinion was the way to go.


Baited shark diving ...

Testing the system in the water was the final step, and we at this point were very happy with the look and feel of the new design. We had to consider the process of getting the product out into the water, including available space on the boat, assembly at the dive site and it’s eventual deployment. The stem had to be foldable as well as being weighted. To do this we created an anti-wrapping stem that folded into a V shape if the shark came into contact with it or if it indeed tried to bite it. This would deter the shark from further action, and unlike the old cable, the unique linkage system prevented the stem from wrapping or encircling the animal. Additionally each section on the stem is designed to be quickly lengthened or shortened depending how you deep you want your ZIBS to ride in the water. This system was also designed for one or two bait balls if need be. As Tigers sometimes stay deep, they will only come up if they see something interesting, so a second shallower bait ball on the stem is very effective. This system allows for a deeper bait ball at 10-18 meters and another at 5 meters closer to the surface. This then is the final result, the world’s first “zero impact baiting system” – ZIBS. Blue Wilderness has the prototype of this new system, and it is in use right now - this was the proof of concept. We are fine-tuning the design and we have already adapted ZIBS with some changes to streamline the system even more. ZIBS will not be provided commercially, as I was looking for a solution and not a product. Local operators in South Africa will have to fabricate their own ZIBS, and to date both African Water Sports and Off Shore Africa have been provided with the new stem design. They are also in contact with the ‘Bait Ball’ manufacturer. As for the other operators, they would need to get everything manufactured, I am happy to share the design. Worryingly though, is their lack of response so far, and they show no interest whatsoever in changing their current systems.

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Baited shark diving ...

Walter Bernardis provided the following opinion “operators must not lose sight of what diving is all about, and that it is not just a meal ticket. Shark Diving has earned a lot of money for cash strapped local dive charters and carried them through the past 3 difficult years. Shark diving is special, and requires both time and patience to achieve results. It should not be prostituted into strict launch times, turn around policies and the shuttle type diving that is reef diving on the Shoal today. This lack of respect for clients and the dive itself will only lead to negativity in the international circles that the Tiger shark diving is a ripC o n tents

-off and that you don’t see Tigers. This is a fault of a “bad operator”, and not the dive itself. The negative impact that these type of operators are having on the shark industry is huge and it seems that they have no regard for the hard work that Mark and others have put in getting Aliwal on the international dive calendar. My message to the divers out there is, yes this is still the most rewarding dive of any description that you will do, and so choose the operator you dive with carefully and enjoy the experience. It is my opinion that all the operators and divers on the Tiger Shark experience, Sardine run, Wreck and

“My message to the divers out there is, yes this is still the most rewarding dive of any description that you will do...” Reef dives owe Mark Addison a thank you, for without his vision and input the diving we experience today would not be the same”. Pa g e 2 5 | w w w. a fr i c a n d i ve r. c o m


Baited shark diving ...

One cannot put so much effort and time into something like this without it being expensive, but if you want something done you just have to get out there do it. That is where my focus as a diver, photographer, and part time conservationist has been for the last six weeks, at whatever the cost. Is there a future in Shark Diving in South Africa? There are a whole lot of different techniques and diving methods in operation in South Africa, and as much as it is said that sharks are dangerous, by diving with them we are effectively changing the mindset of divers and non divers worldwide including future generations of South Africans.

We have taken another step in making the South African shark diving experience even better. Like evolution as a whole, we have learnt and grown. From the early days of bait on the reef with divers cowering in caves with sticks at hand, to today where we swim freely with these awesome animals. Blue Wilderness is already working on further improvements of ZIBS and even alternate baiting methodology. Watch this space.

The mindset of your average South African just does not accept being in the water with sharks perpetually reinforced by the Sharks Board and Hollywood. So with us being out there with them opens minds and changes perceptions. When a child of 6 gets introduced to sharks, it is not only a step in the right direction but an important facet of their development. And if they become a diver they will tell all his friends how cool sharks really are! Immediately you have changed their whole thinking on sharks. Once they get to understand sharks and the marine environment they will want to conserve our South Africa, our World and our heritage, our sharks.

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Hans and Jacqy Kristel for part sponsoring the development of the new ZIBS system. Mark Addison for sharing his knowledge, I would not have had a base to work from without his input. www.bluewilderness.co.za Gail Addison for ensuring I got the help I needed and her support of my project. www.bluewilderness.co.za

Baited shark diving ...

I want to offer thanks to a few of the people who helped make the Zero Impact Baiting System a reality.

Walter Bernadis from African Water Sports www.africanwatersports.co.za for his input to the project. Rob Nettleton from Off Shore Africa Dive Charters www.sharkdivekzn.com for sharing his knowledge. Ralph from High Tech Packaging for all the steel fabrication, twice over. Jaap from Link Africa Projects for all the brackets and clips and the nitty gritty to put this thing together. Eugene for helping go through seven drill bits and to drill 500 bait holes. And to my wife Ronelle, who watched patiently from the sidelines, although she has threatened to ban me from diving if I get too involved again, I might still test her resolve on that, I know she will always support me. South African sharks ultimately benefit from this innovation and in the end we’re here to be site stewards, animal stewards, and look at South African sharks through the lens of sustainability. My wishes: • The Natal Sharks Board will remove all their archaic nets and drum lines from our oceans and stop legally killing our heritage! • That all the other operators in the world will step up to the batting plate and be counted. I see a number of bad baiting techniques being used and we would like them to change too. I’m keen if you are.

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Pomene a Mozambican paradise

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by Paul Hunter

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Pomene Bay

When you look up the word perfection in the thesaurus you get the following results: excellence, faultlessness, exactness and flawlessness to name a few. I, however think they should add “Pomene� to that list. Pomene has it all, with its white beaches, turquoise blue ocean, flamingos, palm trees, mangroves and most importantly: remoteness. Pa g e 2 9 | www.africandiver.com

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Pomene Bay

Situated about 605km north of Maputo by road, with the last 54km contributing to the remoteness of this location. A 4x4 vehicle is definitely recommended to conquer the dirt roads and the dune forests, which take about 2 hours to navigate when the roads are in good condition. Pomene falls in a National Park, which was established in 1964, and this is one of the main reasons why the 200km2 of the park is so sparsely populated. The small community there has, for the most, had very little impact on the environment leaving the area an almost pristine coastal reserve. I recently read a news report about the record number of people that crossed the border into Mozambique this past festive season. It was also reported that the Inhambane area was swamped with tourists filling its 14 000 beds over this period. Apparently traffic in Inhambane and its neighbouring holiday hot spots (Tofo, Tofinho and Barra) flooded the small roads to such a degree that traffic officers had to direct motorists. If you are looking for crowded beaches, bustling shopping malls, thousands of holidaymakers and tar roads Pomene is not for you. However, if you enjoy an adventure, sand between your toes, solitary walks on the beach and hot weather then this is a destination worth considering. C ontents

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Pomene Bay

During my two-week stay in Pomene I stayed at Paradise Beach Lodge (Paradise) and visited and dived through Pomene Lodge (Pomene). Paradise offers rustic, yet comfortable, selfcatering accommodation and is situated on the northern bank of Pomene.

Paradise Beach Lodge

A big thank you to Frans, Carol, Tim and William for their hospitality and friendliness; they really went the extra mile to making the holiday fantastic.

The chalets are a mere 30 meters from the estuary. The units are also nicely spaced with neighbours out of earshot.

Pomene Lodge and the dive centre are run by Wendy and Neville Ayliffe and is the only dive charter in the area. Many South Africans will know and remember them from their Reefteach days in Sodwana.

All the staff were very accommodating: Frans, the owner of the Lodge, let me use his boat to travel between Paradise and Pomene to dive on a daily basis.

My experience of the dive centre was that it’s well organised and more than catered to my needs. Unfortunately, they don’t have Nitrox available (not that I ever needed it).

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The lodge itself has 10 luxury water chalets, which look absolutely awesome, a number of self-catering units and a campsite. The large pool is a huge hit with the kids and adults alike. There is a bar and restaurant and they also offer numerous activities like horse rides, kayaking and cruises, to mention a few. I can highly recommend either of these lodges as they both successfully cater to different clientele

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Pomene Bay

“..if you enjoy an adventure, sand between your toes, solitary walks on the beach and hot weather then this is a destination worth considering.�


The Estuary Part of the ambiance of Pomene is it’s vast estuary. Lined with mangroves on one side and the beach on the other, the estuary is very important to and in this area. Home to many species of bird and fish life the estuary is also used for fishing by locals and visitors alike. Flamingos roam the sandbanks at low tide, as do thousands of crabs. The estuary is used as the main launch site for diving and fishing and any other water sports. Initially I used the estuary just like everybody else to get around but then Neville convinced me to do a shallow dive one afternoon. At first I was slightly apprehensive about the estuary dive not expecting much except a sighting of the famous seahorses that had C ontents

made an appearance in the BBC Africa series and mating cuttlefish. Unfortunately for me, Neville informed me that he had not seen many seahorses since the estuary mouth had moved closer after a large cyclone a few months prior. An easy shore entry and then 90 minutes of very relaxed diving turned out to be something refreshing and one I repeated 3 times. The dive starts with a stop at the artificial reef, which Neville has created and consists of two old Land Rovers and old tyres. This is also a great place for snorkelling as it is within 10 metres of the beach and only about 4 meters deep.

On the reef itself we found a black frogfish, juvenile boxfish and a few other fish species. From here we headed towards the sea grass which is where we spent the rest of the dive exploring. Pipefish, juvenile lionfish, hermit crabs, eels, nudibranchs, decorator crabs, sea moths, juvenile scorpion fish and cuttlefish to name a few of the species we got to see. The highlight of the estuary diving was spending time observing the striking visual display and the breeding behaviour of the broadclub cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus). The colour changing display was absolutely unbelievable.

The reef has a large number of juvenile schooling fish hanging around in mid water. Pa g e 3 3 | w w w. a fr i c a n d i ve r. c o m


Then there were the males who were very possessive over their females and would use their tentacles to flare up whenever other males came near. This made for an amazing display of aggression and dominance and also appeared to impress the female being courted. For the most, the cuttlefish were so caught up in their mating rituals I don’t think they even noticed that we were there. This is a show I will remember for a long time to come. We also did a deeper dive in the estuary channel that runs alongside the mangroves. We dived it in the slack water between high and low tide. The floor is covered in large rocks that I presume are pieces of mangrove. Large trees are also littered on the estuary bed. Some of the trees stand upright underwater and almost seem to be still alive. This dive was very different and very enjoyable.

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Pomene Bay

On every dive we had 20 to 30 cuttlefish, mostly in pairs already. Watching their behaviour closely I observed that the female would gather some sand, which is used to cover the eggs and helps hiding them in the sea grass once laid. The male would then approach and if allowed by the female would link head to head with the female and pass a sperm packet across into a pocket near the mouth of the female. Within 40 days a new generation of cuttlefish would be hatched.


Pomene Bay


“Some of the trees stand upright underwater and almost seem to be still alive.�


Irrespective of whether it is diving in an estuary or the ocean, diving and Mozambique are synonymous and this area is no different. Play station, Three sisters, Steps and Batfish are just a few of the dive sites available to you and with names like that you can expect great diving. Play Station is just incredible and I managed to do 4 dives there. The site is like a maze with all its caves, swim-throughs, overhangs and gullies and the cherry on the top is hopefully spotting mantas on the cleaning station to end the dive. I had already missed the mantas on two previous occasions, so on my last dive to Play Station I had my fingers crossed. Neville first took us to a new section of the reef he had recently discovered which was fantastic. About 30 minutes into the dive I spotted a manta in the distance, but it disappeared as fast as it had arrived. With my heart racing in anticipation of seeing the manta again, I was in full surveillance mode. A few minutes later I was greeted by two more manta, which gave me a fly-by and disappeared in the distance. I was now positive they would be at the cleaning station and could hardly contain my excitement when the cleaning station came into view and there was not two, not three, but four huge mantas circling. Sitting on the sand, photographing and watching these majestic creatures, I once again realised why I dive. Here I was at 20 odd meters below the surface watching one of my favourite creatures gracefully swimming around me. At the same time it saddened me Pa g e 3 7

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that these beautiful animals are also targeted for their gills which are sold in Chinese markets. When our time came to ascend, I was left with mixed emotions both happy and sad. I truly hope the next generation gets to experience these marvellous creatures in the wild, the way we can. All the sites I visited over the two weeks were special in their own way. Three sisters is an amazing dive site, unfortunately the visibility was only great up to 16 meters and then dropped off badly the deeper we went. When we reached 40+ meters the visibility was around 8 meters and we were not granted the opportunity to admire the 3 pinnacles together. Batfish was another site I really enjoyed. As the name indicates there is a school of resident batfish on this shallow reef and is absolutely teaming with fish life which is almost aquarium-like. The only downside to diving in Pomene is that the dive sites are far from the launch site. The closest being 7 km and Three Sisters 30 km away with the rest in between. I really believe Pomene is underestimated as a diving destination and it puzzled me that so few divers are visiting these parts. The reefs are pristine and there is an abundance of fish life, add to this the possibility of seeing giant mantas and you have a recipe for success. One side of me is selfish and prefers fewer divers but the other side would like all divers to appreciate the beauty Pomene has to offer underwater

“ In the same thought it saddened me that these beautiful animals are also targeted for their gills which are sold in the Chinese markets. “ Contents


Pomene Bay

Something that caused great concern to me during my stay is the lack of conservation projects. The perception is that there is no conservation effort in this area. Although minimal there is definitely a presence of shark fining by locals. However sharks are not the only creatures targeted; as manta, eagle and devil rays as well as skate are being killed for their gills and the rest used as bait to catch sharks. A lot of people seem concerned when speaking to them but nothing seems to be happening. Just over 100 km south is Tofo where a big drive towards conservation is being pursued. It would be great to see some of that moving northward to Pomene. Pomene seems to be a popular destination for fishing and spear fishing and for good reason as I very rarely saw a boat return empty. I don’t have a problem with people catching fish for daily consumption but what I saw were people catching large amounts of fish. I’m also not sure if there are any controls in place on what can and can’t be fished or the quantities allowed but then again who is going to police this? In my ignorance it appears that when it comes to fishing and spearing everybody has free reign to do as they please. This may not be the case but is the perception I got. There also seems to be very little control over the locals destroying the Mangroves for wood as large patches are left empty and damage is apparent. It’s not all doom and gloom as something that did impress me was the abundance of bird life, something I have not seen in Mozambique to date. I encountered everything from flamingos, bat hawks, broad billed weavers, pied kingfisher and crows to name a few. It is so inspiring to see wildlife returning to Mozambique.

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Pomene Bay


Pomene Bay In conclusion I really hope this little piece of paradise does not get lost to man’s greed and remains untouched for others to experience just as I have.

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The story of the elusive Dugongs of Bazaruto Images and story by Cormac McCreesh

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Chapter I This is a story of how a large sanguine, sea grass-eating mammal humbled and taught me about the inter-connectedness of life and the impact we human beings are having on our planet and each other. It is also a story of a dream of committed people; one that remains tantalisingly close but is a long way from being fulfilled. In short, it is a story that is incomplete and this is only the first chapter.

As an underwater photographer, I have had my share of close encounters with large pelagics and mammals and been frustrated by small critters defying me macro shots. But I’ve always managed to get the photo. And photographing Dugongs of the Bazaruto Archipelago was, I thought, going to be a slam-dunk easy exercise. After all, what could be more difficult? Dugongs are slow-moving, large, cowlike creatures that like to spend their days munching on sea grass while occasionally luring ancient mariners to their doom by pretending to be mermaids.

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My story begins in the early days of African Diver Magazine when Paul and I came across an interesting web blog describing the rescue of a Dugong calf and its mother from a near drowning in a fisherman’s gill net. What made the story compelling was that because of the work being done there by various environmental NGO’s, the fishermen were encouraged to release the animals as well as bring them to the resident NGO scientists and staff for rehabilitation. Further investigation on Google took me to the website of the Bateleurs Flying Group who conducted an aerial survey of the Dugong of the Bazaruto National Park in Mozambique, in February of 2008. This was encouraging information for me to digest as I’d spent some time in the Inhambane area of Mozambique during 2002 and been told by many people that Dugong used to frequent the area but had been fished out and were no longer seen there. I continued to gather and search for information on Mozambique’s Dugongs. At first I approached the project casually as I didn’t hold much hope for there to be any remaining population of Dugong in Mozambique because everyone I spoke to

told me that the population had been decimated by fishermen who caught and ate anything that moved in the sea. And just as I was beginning to give up hope in August of 2010 I met Karen Allen of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) who had just started a program to protect the “endangered Dugong population of the Bazaruto Archipelago”. Her project and the work she had done to that point excited me – a population of around 120 Dugong had been assessed in the Archipelago and the EWT was going to protect them. The dream had vitality! But the information Karen gave me was not all good. She told me that although Dugongs were now (recently) protected in Mozambique, over-fishing, illegal fishing, gill netting and environmental encroachment were decimating the population and that it wouldn’t be long before this Dugong population too would be gone forever. She told me of how few resources were available to the authorities to patrol and “police” the area to protect the Dugong, that it would take money, effort, commitment and people to save this fragile population.

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Dugongs of Bazaruto - Chapter I

Artisanal fishermen on Dhow

And so, on the 17th of November last year I flew into Vilanculos, the busy and growing town that is the Archipelago’s nerve centre. After the chilly air-conditioned interior of the plane, the furnace blast of hot Mozambican air that slapped me through the face as I disembarked was welcoming and a perfect reminder of what is special about being a visitor to any of Mozambique’s shores. I breezed through customs and met my host, Michael Klue of Big Blue. Later, at my lodge, I looked out onto the Archipelago’s islands marooned in a calm shallow sea. Blue variations of colour characterised the shallows, deep channels and sea grass beds in front of me. Here and there Dhow’s manned by artisanal fishermen slowly tacked in the space between the shimmering blue water and the powdery blue sky. It was low tide and moored boats lay flaccid on the sandbanks. Artisanal fishermen waded the shallows looking for fish and crabs. A lone dog prowled the water line inspecting, sniffing and searching. A young boy walked past, in his hand 20 or 30 small fish strung together on a line.

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I made my way down the dunes to the beach. Past tethered goats and treading a well-worn path I accessed the beach amidst several fishermen repairing a net; a a long net – at least 200 metres in length and noticed that where they were working is a Dhow and boat building area … on the beach and complete with hand-made tools. Pa g e 4 3

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Later, in the bar, I met several expatriate South Africans. South Africa’s SASOL had made a large investment to exploit natural gas in the area and there is a huge expatriate workforce on the ground. Other expatriates are more entrepreneurial: farmers, lodge owners, construction and building contractors, hardware suppliers … Vilanculos seemed to be on the precipice of a boom and everyone wanted to be a part of it.

The following day, operation Dugong portrait began. I was up early, at 5am. Already the sun was well advanced in the sky and there was activity all around. Leisurely I set myself up for the day and checked and double-checked my gear. At around 630am I slurped down my last coffee, gathered my kit and headed off to Big Blue’s dive centre. There I met with Michael and my two guides for the day (Zito and Antonio) and we loaded up Spanish Fly; our boat. Michael, Zito and Antonio are easy-going and welcoming guys. I immediately felt at ease, especially when Zito promised me (unequivocally I may add) Dugongs on my first day out. We set out on a course for Bazaruto Island following the sea-grass beds,

stopping every now and then to ask artisanal fishermen about Dugong sightings … each time the answer was negative. Nevertheless, Zito remained positive. Out there, among the sea-grass beds, deep blue channels and myriad Dhows and fisherman I realised the Herculean task I had set myself. I now had time to assess the boating activity and it was clear that boating is a significant factor contributing to the shyness and scarcity of the Dugong. And while October to December is a closed period for netting, the abundance of netting has caused the death of many Dugongs.

So in the space of an afternoon and evening I’d already seen indications of what Karen had told me about, having ticked off over-fishing (I noticed curried crab on the menu) and, now, environmental encroachment. Development was alive and kicking in Mozambique. Crab spear fisherman Pa g e 4 4

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Dugongs of Bazaruto - Chapter I

The littoral zone I wandered was pooled with oily patches of water (from aged and ailing outboard motors) marooned by the retreating tide. Great piles of dead sea-grass lined the high tide mark and Dhows lay limply on their keels awaiting the incoming tide. Here and there, locals examined the catch of the artisanal fishermen I saw wading the shallows earlier. On closer inspection, I discovered that the main catch is crab with an occasional dogfish or sea cucumber. And it became clear that their method of catching is a long steel spear with a wickedly sharp barb.


In addition, the early morning wind had stirred up an annoying surface chop, which worried me because Dugong do not surface with a splash or tell-tale (like dolphin or whale) and spotting them in the choppy waves was going to be near impossible. Out there too, I could see that water visibility was going to be a huge factor – I could see sediment and particles and plankton in the water. We arrived at the Southern end of Bazaruto island and toned the engines down to a gentle dawdle. Michael and I kitted up and readied our gear. I dropped overboard to get a preliminary exposure and my fears were confirmed … the visibility was around a metre and a half with a wicked current flowing. Various forms of zooplankton and jellies stung my exposed arms and legs. I immediately took my strobes off my housing as I didn’t want backscatter spoiling the images.

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We drifted around in the channel between Bazaruto and Benguerra islands for some 40 minutes and I slipped into a funk thinking about landscape or wedding photography as an alternative career. There was a deep silence on the boat; four set of eyes scanned the water around us when suddenly, Zito shouted, “there, there … get ready”. Disbelievingly I looked over to where he was pointing and saw a brown, whiskered snout break the surface … Dugong; it was there!

Michael and I high-fived each other in the water and then sped off as Zito and Antonio directed us again. We flashed across the surface and then duck-dived … 8 metres down I saw glimpses of its tail and then it was gone again. And so it went on … for three hours we slowly finned across the surface under Zito and Antonio’s directions, duck diving down to the sea grass beds when the Dugong appeared, sometimes managing a few camera shots but mostly not.

Frantic, but trying desperately to be quiet, I slipped into the water while Zito and Antonio directed me. Head in the water, camera in hand I headed in the direction they were pointing me when I saw it. A big, brown, rotund shape with a cute dog-like face slowly cruised past me giving me enough time to fire off two shots on my camera. And then it was gone.

Predicting the direction of our Dugong was nearly impossible – it followed the sea-grass beds randomly, surfacing every 10 minutes or more to breathe briefly. Eventually the tidal currents sapped our strength and we gave up as our Dugong headed out into the channel and deeper water to take advantage of the incoming high tide.

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Each day when she left the inter-island channel we followed her, hoping she would take us to better visibility water. But each day, when she chose to, she would disappear and we would lose her. Over four days we sighted 5 different Dugong (including a mother and her calf) but only Christine was tolerant of us. Each day the resident fishermen of Bazaruto Island confirmed Christine’s habits and began to help us in spotting her. They had taken on our project too. Indigo Bay Lodge, on Bazaruto, also confirmed Christine’s residency. But she is wise and canny and sticks to the unclear water and dives whenever a boat is near. Pa g e 4 6 | www.africandiver.com

Dugongs of Bazaruto - Chapter I

For three more days we carried out the same routine. We learned to be quiet in the water and Christine (for by now Zito had christened her … or him) gradually became more trusting of us. She surfaced more often and closer to our boat but the tidal currents and the highly fecund planktonfilled water made underwater photographs of her next to impossible. I ended up with frame after frame of Dugong shapes obscured by countless plankton and jellyfish, despite not using my strobes.


Dugongs of Bazaruto - Chapter I

On the last day, after she had disappeared, we turned our attention to some artisanal fishers as they pulled in their nets. Deep in the archipelago’s lagoon and several kilometres from any shores two families of fisher folk worked their nets. It was an all-family affair. There were two Dhow’s, each filled with women, children and men. More women and men were in the water, standing on a low-tide sandbank, hauling in a net of some 200-odd metres. And it took everyone’s efforts to bring it in. I counted 12 people initially pulling on the net and as it got closer, everyone joined in the effort. The net bumped and dragged across the shallow seabed trapping everything in its path and mowing the sea-grass to short stubble. As the net got closer to the boat, several of the men dived in to keep the net’s shape so that none of the catch spilled out. It was an arduous task and the net was frightfully empty. When they pulled the net into the boat I saw several Bonito and squid, a baby marbled ray and a remora, as well as a small bucket-load of baitfish. And I remembered that October to December was the closed season for netting.

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“It was an all-family affair. There were two Dhow’s, each filled with women, children and men.”


Dugongs of Bazaruto - Chapter I

But no-one’s talking and we will never know. Nor will we know about her baby. So, I had found and seen the Dugong. And I had seen for myself the environmental encroachment, illegal and over fishing. I had seen the gill nets and the damage they do as well as the indiscriminate way in which these nets catch everything before it. And I had met and seen all the players in this story of interconnectedness. I had my Dugong photographs. The photographs are special, but only to me. No award-winning material and nothing to brag about and definitely not front-page material. But I was not disappointed. Christine had humbled me. She had taught me that wild animals are not there to be exploited by humans, whether as farmers, fishermen, zookeepers, circus owners, or … underwater photographers. Wild animals are exactly that … wild and free, and deserve our respect and love and caring.

Net being dragged across sea grass bed

At the end of our four days, I reviewed my photographs. Christine is a big Dugong – in excess of 200 kilograms. I assume she has figured out to stay away from humans. There are myriad scars on her body – perhaps from nets she has escaped. Dugong hunting has only recently been banned; no mean task because a Dugong is a huge supply of meat for an island family. It is likely that Dugong hunting still goes on because there are not enough resources to patrol the archipelago Pa g e

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Michael had shown me photographs of a female Dugong that had washed up on the Vilanculos beach. Her breasts were full with milk but her calf was nowhere to be seen. There was no visible cause of death and an autopsy was conducted (she was not pregnant) with “natural causes” being cited as the cause of death. Of course she could have drowned in a net and been released by the scared fishermen to wash away in the current.

The Bazaruto Archipelago is a microcosm of the bigger picture, facing planet Earth. Big business finds resources to exploit and this brings entrepreneurs who find business opportunities. Both offer employment. Both attract job seekers. Beautiful places attract tourists (and photographers). All need food. All impact on the environment. All are connected. Christine and her kin are a small string in a complex web of life and right now humans are straining the web. Contents


Dugongs of Bazaruto - Chapter I

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Dugongs of Bazaruto - Chapter I

The fisher folk have rights too and it is all too easy to criticise them and their methods. They too need to eat and it is unfair to ban them from fishing or criticise their methods when tourists charter fishing boats to catch game fish off the islands. The Bazaruto Archipelago (and most of the Mozambican coastline) is a Mecca for big game anglers and the message being sent to locals by these anglers exploiting the fish stocks is simply that there’s plenty of fish in the ocean. All of the lodges in the Archipelago have an extensive seafood menu – tourists expect to eat fresh fish when holidaying on the coast and Mozambique is no exception. And the fish, crab, prawns and crayfish seen on the menu is sourced and purchased mainly from local artisanal fishermen. The crab fisherman seen in the photographs accompanying this article earns 2 500 Meticals (local currency) per month. A bag of rice which will feed his family of 5 in a month costs him 1 200 Meticals. So he supplements his income by crabbing every day; selling the crabs to the local lodges. And so the forces of demand and supply play out their game in Vilanculos and the only loser in the game currently is the marine environment Throughout my travels in Mozambique I have heard countless stories of the exploitation of fishing on the part of local artisanal fishermen. From sharks and mantas and mobulas to reef fish. And I have heard criticism about every method of fishing used by local fishermen. But the local fishermen are only pawns in the game. The Chinese (shark fins and manta gills), the tourist, the expatriates, the anglers and the divers … we are all guilty of exploitation regardless of whether it is the fish we catch, the fish we eat or the roads we drive on in Mozambique. It inflames me to listen to lodge owners, expatriates, anglers and divers criticising the local fishing practices while munching their way through a seafood platter. We are part of the problem … and the solution.

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Dugongs of Bazaruto - Chapter I

Post note: I returned to Vilanculos in January 2011 and saw Christine again. She seemed well and sticking to her old habits. Sadly, in the time between my visits two more dead Dugong were washed up on the Vilanculos beach, one savagely butchered and, its carcass mauled by sharks.

And in the bar in Aguia Negra in January, a local asked me a question:

I travelled from Vilanculos to Barra, Morrungulo and Tofu and received reports of Dugong sightings (in particular a mother and calf) along that stretch of coastline.

So, now I am looking for that too. I am told that the lodge owners in Morrungulo have seen Dugong droppings on their beach …

“Do you know what’s more elusive than a Dugong? … Dugong poo!”

I looked every morning I was there … the story continues and the search for that elusive perfect photograph too. Pa g e 5 3 | www.africandiver.com

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Dugong Dugon A few facts Dugongs and Manatees, also known as sea cows, are endangered species belonging to the scientific Order Sirenia. All four living species are vulnerable to extinction from habitat loss and other negative impacts related to human population growth and coastal development. One species, the Amazon Manatee, lives in fresh water; the other two Manatees are found in the sea as well. The fifth species, the enormous Stellar’s sea cow, which lived in the Beiring Straits and weighed over 5 tons, was hunted to extinction a mere 27 years after discovery by Beiring’s crew in 1741, showing how vulnerable sirenians can be. They move with an up and down movement of the spine derived from the mammalian gallop as opposed to the side-to-side wave motion of the spine of a swimming fish or running lizard.

Manatees and dugongs are the only marine mammal herbivores. Unlike the other marine mammals (dolphins, whales, seals, sealions, sea otters, walruses, and polar bears) sirenians only eat seagrasses and other aquatic vegetation. Unlike other marine mammals, sirenians have an extremely low metabolism and zero tolerance for cold water. Their vegetarian diet requires an immensely long gut and a low energy budget. Like dolphins and whales, manatees and dugongs are totally aquatic mammals that never leave the water - not even to give birth. The combination of these factors means that sirenians are restricted to warm shallow coastal waters, estuaries, and rivers, with healthy ecosystems that support large amounts of seagrass and/or other vegetation. Manatees and dugongs are named after the Sirens of ancient Greek Mythology. In Homer’s Odyssey, Sirens were half-woman, half-bird creatures that tried to lure Odysseus and his ship onto their island with sweet songs of love. Later, some authors confused Sirens with mermaids (mythical creatures described as half-woman, half-fish), which eventually led to naming of the scientific Order Sirenia. Early European explorers imaged manatees and dugongs were mermaids, possibly because of their pectoral breasts, dexterous forelimbs, and fish-like tails. In 1493, when Columbus wrote about the “mermaids” he had seen in the Caribbean, he commented that they were not as lovely as he had expected. Indigenous cultures in Africa, Australia, and the Americas each have their own unique creation story about how manatees and dugongs “came to be”. Some legends say that manatees and dugongs came from human ancestors who were transformed into sirenians by a curse or other misfortune of living near the water. The evolution of manatees and dugongs has been well studied despite the limited fossil record, which indicates there were once many more species of sirenians, especially during the Miocene Epoch (5-23 million years ago). Although Sirenian evolution is not fully understood, scientists believe the order originated in the African region during the Eocene Epoch, 50-55 million years ago. The oldest known fossils were found in Jamaica (Prorastomus sirenoides), but scientists suspect that sirenians evolved in the Old World (Eurasia/Africa) and spread around the world’s coastlines within a few million years.

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Textbooks say that the elephant’s closest living cousins are the hyraxes. But recent analysis shows that we must include Dugongs and Manatees in the mix, perhaps even as the closet living relatives of the elephant. Most fossil records are from the dugong family, even in the Caribbean areas where only manatees are found today. Manatees evolved later, probably in the South American region during the Miocene, with the oldest fossils found in Brazil and Colombia (Sirenotherium pirabensis;

While illegal hunting is still an issue in some areas, development is a greater and more widespread issue. As coastal areas are developed for human use, dredging, wastewater discharge, and sediment runoff negatively impact sirenians habitat. Seagrass beds are destroyed by increased sedimentation. Greater human use of waterways means increased entanglement with fishing gear and increased collisions with boats for sirenians. Sources: Sirenian International, Inc. and The Ancestor’s Tale. Richard Dawkins

Potamosiren magdalenensis). Scientists do not know for certain what caused the decline of sirenian diversity, but we suspect some combination of climate change, availability of aquatic vegetation, and/ or competition with other marine herbivores. Today, the greatest known threats to manatees and dugongs come from competition for space with human beings. As the human population continues to grow, more and more sirenian habitat is developed for residential, recreational, and commercial use. Human populations are growing the fastest in coastal areas -- in the same places that manatees and dugongs depend on for their survival. As herbivores, sirenians must stay in shallow coastal waters or rivers where vegetation is abundant. Pa g e 5 5 | www.africandiver. com

 

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2010

A GREAT YEAR FOR THE SOUTH AFRICAN SHARK CONSERVANCY

By Tamzyn Zweig images courtesy of SASC

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SASC

2010 has been an extremely exciting year for SASC. To mention in detail all the projects developed and implemented by SASC in 2010 would require more words than I have been allocated for this article. With the assistance of the first SASC international interns (thanks girls you know who you are!) the first of a multitude of educational programmes and awareness events were launched. The Breede River bull shark research - now in its third year - is always worth mentioning and as good a place as any to start. In January the team returned to the Breede River with the hope of learning more about the elusive bull sharks‌ Pa g e 5 7 | www.africandiver.com

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SASC

Capturing bull sharks in the Breede River:

To bring everyone up to speed with SASC’s Breede River bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) research project here is a brief background (full story featured in African Diver issue 10): Meaghen McCord - SASC’s founding managing director – spearheaded the project which led to the capture of a new global size record for bull (zambezi) sharks in the Breede River in January 2009.

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Scientifically the capture of the bull shark was exciting news - not only was the maximum size record rewritten - the discovery represented a further 366 kilometer southern distribution of bull sharks in South Africa. Upon morphological examination, the female shark appeared heavily pregnant therefore the possibility of an undocumented pupping ground was also added to SASC’s list of record making and breaking! The shark - nicknamed Nyami Nyami - was tracked in the river for over 300 hours.

In January 2010 Jeremy Wade - presenter of Animal Planet’s adventure fishing series River Monsters - accompanied the SASC team to further explore the presence of these amazing predators in the river. Jeremy successfully captured two male bull sharks measuring 299cm (TL) and 297cm (TL). Genetic samples and biological measurements were collected and the sharks – each fitted with a continuous acoustic tag - were actively tracked for a collective 115 hours. Pa g e 5 8 | w w w. a fr i c a n d i ve r. c o m


SASC

The documentary filmed during the January 2010 expedition titled Hidden Predator debuted in South Africa on the 30th January this year. Hidden Predator was aired in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK where it received great reviews. Throughout 2010, SASC returned to the river to determine whether the sharks reside in the river permanently. Pa g e 5 9 | www.africandiver.com

The sharks were not located during the cooler winter months and as they say: “no science is still science.” The absence of the bull sharks in the river during winter months may coincide with the migration of their preferred prey species, kabeljou and spotted grunter, out of the river. In order to verify this theory, SASC is currently planning an expedition to the river in to deploy VR2 receivers into the river.

The upcoming project will include tagging grunter and kabeljou and serve to clarify the relationship and movement patterns of the sharks in relation to their prey species’ movement in the river. The outcome of the project, funded by the Save Our Seas Foundation, can ultimately assist in the management of bull sharks in Southern Africa Contents


SASC

EDUC ATIONAL

PROJECTS

March 2010 saw the debut of SASC’s educational programme pertinently titled Shark Camp. The programme - now a permanent school holiday attraction at SASC - is designed for children between the ages of 6 and 12 years. Shark Camp takes place over two mornings and features interactive activities and shark lab experiments as well as art projects and rock pool exploring. With the intention of encouraging high school children to pursue a career in marine science, SASC developed the High School Marine Biology Programme which was launched in the 2010 September school holidays. The students received factual information regarding elasmobranch evolution, biology, ecology and behaviour. C o n tents

The participants were treated to a field trip to the Icthus fish processing plant in Gansbaai. The highlight of the two day course was undoubtedly the teens experience in the art measuring, tagging and releasing captive sharks who have served their time in the SASC shark lab and catching (with their bare hands!) replacement endemic shark species used as educational displays in the SASC’s marine tanks. To end off an exciting learning experience parents proudly watched their children present their findings collected during the dissections performed on commercially caught smooth hound shark (Mustelus mustelus) specimens.

Still on the subject of educational programmes introduced in 2010, SASC developed and implemented the White Shark Cage Diving Programme. The programme - aimed at white shark cage diving industry members – was well received and attended by operators from Hermanus, Gansbaai and Cape Town. The programme presented the attendants with information regarding all aspects relevant the to white sharks including biology, current research statistics, behaviour and management. The aim of the programme is to arm operators with accurate information with which to educate the public supporting their industry.

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SASC


SASC

OUTREACH PROJECTS: World Ocean’s Day 2010 theme Oceans of life – pick your favourite, protect your favourite - was celebrated in true SASC style. Local school kids donned their craziest, friendliest and slimiest sea creature fancy dress outfits and gathered to join the Unity for Diversity Parade in Hermanus. Despite the wind, rain and hail the children demonstrated their passion. The children armed with banners paraded through Hermanus’ streets chanting and collecting litter. The parade ended at the Whale House Museum where Hermanus’ mayor, Theo Beylevled and the children expressed their dedication to conservation by signing a pledge book with their handprints. The children announced their support for sustainable fishing and ethical consumerism by attaching South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) species cards to a life size reconstruction of a whale shark which is now displayed for all to see on SASC’s roof.

During the annual Hermanus Whale Festival a record breaking amount of visitors came through SASC’s doors. Over 2500 people visited the SASC facility to experience the public shark dissections; feeding time in the Shark Lab; shark related film screenings; guest speakers and guided tours.

To commemorate the 25th International Coastal Cleanup Week SASC arranged an underwater and coastal cleanup at the Old Harbour in Hermanus. The event, sponsored by the Fima plastic federation and Plastics SA, was well attended by local dive groups and Hermanus residents, although onlookers were apathetic and continued to litter while the cleanup participants collected their debris! Unfortunately due to bad visibility scuba diving was not possible. The divers were not deterred by the bad conditions and donned snorkel gear to clear the area in front of the SASC facility of marine debris. In total 15 bags of litter were collected by the volunteers. It has become a well known fact that the source of marine litter is land based. The litter collected was entered onto data sheets provided by the US Ocean Conservancy and entered into their database with the aim of identifying the sources of marine litter and changing the behaviours that cause it. C o n tents

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SASC

The Two Oceans, SASC and Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF) Annual Bronzie Competition: In December 2010, SASC and SOSF collaborated with the Two Oceans Angling Club organized the first annual Bronzie Competition. Held in December 2010 at Macassar beach, the objective of the competition was to collect data on the biology and population dynamics of bronze whaler sharks (Carcharhinus brachyurus) in False Bay. The catch and release competition was nearly swept away by gale force winds but the intrepid fishermen managed to land, tag and release eleven bronze whalers.

Committed to research, conservation & sustainability As 2010 was such a huge success at SASC, 2011 can only bring more exciting events and innovative research. Anyone who would like to enquire more about any events or programmes featured in the article please contact Tamzyn at tamzyn@sharkconservancy.org Pa g e 6 3

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Contents


WHAT IS THE RIGHT DIVE GEAR FOR YOU? Selecting dive gear is a challenging and sometimes confusing affair! Cost is not the only consideration. Nor should fashion, colour or other people’s recommendations be the final word on your choice. Selecting the right gear is essential for enjoyment and safety of diving. It should be undertaken wisely! Article by : MornÊ Christou Images by : Paul Hunter Contents

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too many choices!

DAN - What is the right dive gear for YOU ?

Nearly all dive gear manufactured under well known brands and sold in typical diving stores is basically “good”. Safety standards ensure that all equipment is safe and reliable, provided it’s used and cared for properly. The trick is deciding what is better for you! Budget considerations aside, most divers can get affordable gear that is appropriate for them if they do their homework and shop with the right attitude.

So, perhaps you don’t have any SCUBA gear at this stage and you would like to have your own. Or perhaps you want to upgrade old dive gear and you are not sure who to turn to for advice. Don’t worry help is available, and we are not only referring to this article: DAN Business Members can be a great source of information and assistance when looking to purchase new dive gear. Their commitment to us – and to you – is to always ensure the safety and enjoyment of the diving customers they serve. Pa g e

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Contents


DAN - What is the right dive gear for YOU ?

So what are the key considerations when selecting dive gear:

1

Comfort is essential

2 C ontents

If you have gear that doesn’t fit properly or is uncomfortable diving will be unpleasant, at best, and possibly hazardous! You need to choose dive gear that fits and makes you feel comfortable in the water. This builds confidence and helps you stay relaxed in the water. Your dive gear should be an extension of yourself. If you remember nothing else, comfort is the key. Don’t let the colour, cost or a “coolness” factor sway your purchase. Colour changes underwater. Each diver has a different price range and the fact that you are a diver makes you “cool” enough already!

Future planning Before purchasing dive gear check the availability of parts to service your gear in the future. Many of the DAN Business Members provide gear maintenance services and are willing to assist divers. They usually send their staff for regular gear service courses at the manufacturers which allows them to provide divers with the best service possible. It’s important to ask your DAN Business Member what warranties are offered on gear purchased as some manufacturers offer great deals if you service your gear regularly.

3

Hassle free Even though there is a range of gear pricing schemes available, don’t feel pressurized to purchase gear if you aren’t sure or if you are uncomfortable with the offer. Our DAN Business Members ensure that divers make the right choices when purchasing gear which promotes comfort, safety and customer satisfaction. Depending on the type of diving you plan on doing, make sure to purchase gear that gives you the best versatility. Find gear that is suitable for most diving conditions. If you aren’t ready to part with your hard earned cash then renting equipment is a great idea. This will allow you the freedom to test different brands before deciding on what suits you best. Experienced dive operators usually select rugged, durable equipment that is hasslefree. So this is usually a good clue. Most of the DAN Business Members rent the same brands they sell. Ask if this option is available and take advantage of it to make sure the gear is for you.

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DAN - What is the right dive gear for YOU ?

“...renting equipment is a great idea. This will allow you the freedom to test different brands before deciding on what suits you best.”

The best advice is to ask the DAN Business Members’ staff or even the manufacturers as many questions as possible. You can even ask other diver about their equipment and find out works for them. Remember you will never be short of options! Eventually all regular divers choose to invest in having their own dive gear. We trust that when that times comes, you will be equipped to ask the right questions There is a full listing of DAN Business Members on the DAN-SA website: www.dansa.org Pa g e 6 7 | www.africandiver.com

Contents


Featured Photogragher

CJ. Coetzee

introducing

Contents

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Featured Photogragher “ The year spent in the Caymans changed my life.”


Featured Photogragher

When I was a teenager my dad returned from

the States with a massive Canon SLR, which he had no idea how to operate. So I started playing around with it: and so began my love affair with photography. I was only 16 when I landed my first freelancing job for a local skateboarding magazine. I only started diving 5 years later, which coincided with a decision to start travelling. Not long after, I found myself working for an underwater photo and filming company on a small, idyllic rock called Grand Cayman. Before I left the African shores I had never taken a camera underwater, but on the job advert it stated that all I needed was photo experience with an Advanced diving license. A year later I returned with over 700 camera dives under my belt and some breathtaking Caribbean photos.   The year spent in the Caymans changed my life. After that, I continued my diving career and qualified as a PADI instructor in 2009. I set off to Inhambane, Mozambique where I found an underwater film and photo company called Moz Images. I started working by filming local dive operators and selling the edited DVD’s to the masses of tourists that came to witness Tofo’s unique brand of spectacular diving: humpbacks, mantas and whale sharks. A few months later I finally bought an underwater setup for my SLR, which opened countless doors to our aquatic realm.   Inhambane gave me the opportunity to photograph some of the most diverse and breathtaking marine systems I had ever seen or heard of. Anything from giant manta rays, to the smallest shrimp, most common potato bass or world’s largest - and most illusive - stingray, the smalleye. C ontents

“Inhambane gave me the opportunity to photo some of the most diverse and breathtaking marine systems I had ever seen or heard of.”

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Featured Photogragher After a few months of working for Moz Images they asked me to join their production crew as photographer for their shark fining movie Shiver; a documentary about the shark fining industry and over-fishing along the Mozambican coast line. This was a rare opportunity that I happily embraced; a true once in a life time experience. Â Currently I am travelling the tropics, pursuing marine life through every nook and cranny, crevasse and swim-through, opening a window into our unique underwater world.

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Contents


Featured Photogragher - CJ Coetzee


Issue 15  

Happy new year and may 2011 be a fulfilling and dive-filled year for you. To kick off your new year we bring you the 15th issue of African D...

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