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July - August 2012 | Issue 23

w w w. a f r i c a n d i v e r. c o m

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

w w w . a f r i c a n d i v e r. c o m


Contents REGULARS

3 Ed’s Logbook

43

Aaron Gekoski

Wo m e n & D i v i n g

Destinations 4

Cover Photographed by

Nuno SÁ

Editors:

Published by:

Cormac McCreesh & Paul Hunter

African Diver cc

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Postnet Suite 215

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Musgrave Road

Adele Sherratt

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083 708 3847

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editor@africandiver.com

Email: editor@africandiver.com

Paul: 083 391 8961

C o n s e r va t i o n 15

Shifting Baseline Syndrome

23

Paddle out for sharks

Georgina Jones

4

+ 27(0) 83 391 8961

Editorial Enquiries Cormac: 073 036 5829

31

Azores

www.africandiver.com

Fax: 086 503 7177

Pag e 2 | www. af r icandiver.com

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E d’s Logbook Sharks and shark attacks dominated news headlines during the third week of April. It began with the capture by Mexican fishermen of a white shark that may be the longest ever recorded and ended with the death of David Lilienfeld who was attacked by a white shark off Kogel Bay near Cape Town. The day before David’s attack, 5 tiger sharks died in the shark nets off Scottburgh near Durban. Locally, David’s attack sparked debate and activism aimed at scientific researchers using Ocearch’s infamous “Shark Men” methodology to SPOT tag and obtain data of white sharks in the Cape area. In addition to questioning the methodology, the debate also weighed in on the practice of chumming for sharks, linking the chumming to David’s attack. The death of the tiger sharks near Durban raised a similarly heated debate about chumming with some local surfers and bathers blaming the tiger shark dive operators for attracting tiger sharks to the area. Local divers, dive operators and other surfers reacted to this by staging a “paddle out” in memory of the tiger sharks and all marine animals that regularly die entangled in the nets. Social media remains awash with shark news, opinions and debate. It’s become almost all consuming. People opine and debate and share articles in a cyclone-torrent of electronic news. Yet nothing gets done. Sharks continue to be slaughtered en mass and we continue to radically disturb the balance of our oceans. It will come back to haunt us, or our children or their children. Sharks are one tip of a vast iceberg of overfishing and abuse of marine resources and it’s going to take exceptionally strong political leadership to change the course of the history we are writing each day. Thankfully there are organisations out there that are working towards this end and I urge you to seek them out and give them your support. And your support should be more than just the paying of conscience money. Get involved, find out what you can do, pressurize your local politicians. Do something, even if it really small. The more involved we all become, the more our children will forgive us for the disrespectful abuse we heap on our oceans now. African Diver Magazine will be focussing on the shark nets employed in the KwaZulu Natal province over the next six months. We are engaging with the authorities responsible for these nets and it is our aim to contribute significantly to reducing the catch of sharks and other marine animals in these nets. The projects we have lined up for the next 6 months will impact on our ability to produce our magazine every two months and so for the remainder of this year we will only produce two more issues instead of three. So our publication dates for the next two issues are 1 September and 1 December. Our aim for these issues is to be able to report back on our findings and our achievement. Be sure to stayed tuned to our website and look out for our newsletter. Cormac Co n t en ts

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Hot Spot - Azores

Article and images by Nuno SĂ

An Oasis in the Atlantic

Pag e 4 | www. af r icandiver.com

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Hot Spot - Azores

In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, almost half way between the United States and Europe, lie the most remote group of islands in the Atlantic ocean, The Azores. For the many species that migrate the Atlantic, the Azores is an oasis in a big blue desert. The Azores is at the epicenter of the cold and nutrientrich currents of the North and the warm waters of the Gulf Stream from the South. These currents meet to create an upwelling resulting in an explosion of life every year. The beginning of this cycle starts with the spring “bloom” as the water gets warmer and fills with microscopic algae, giving it a greenish hew. This attracts the biggest and smallest of the ocean’s animals. This microscopic algae, or phytoplankton, attract zooplankton, which in turn attract and serves as nourishment to giant travellers crossing the ocean. Blue, fin, bryde’s, sei and minke whales arrive, stopping in these nutrient rich waters, to gather strength and food in order to complete their migration north to the cold Arctic waters. During their visit to the islands, these large baleen whales meet the Azores’ resident giant of the seas, the pods of sperm whales that hunt for squid in the deep waters that surround the archipelago. When the first days of summer arrive the water gets clearer by the day, yet the food chain continues with the microscopic plankton giving way to large bait balls of fish and the multitude of predators that follow. As the warm summer breezes arrive so do the Co n t en ts

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Hot Spot - Azores

more tropical species such as large pods of Atlantic spotted dolphins, pilot whales, loggerhead turtles, devil rays, blue and mako and whale sharks and finally, the large schools of fish. The archipelago of the Azores comprises nine islands and lies over five hundred kilometres (approximately three hundred and ten miles). These nine islands are the most isolated in the North Atlantic, situated one thousand, three hundred kilometres (approximately eight hundred and seven miles) from the southwestern coast of mainland Portugal. Diving is possible at all of the islands of the archipelago and encompasses shore dives, cave dives, wreck dives and the Azores highlight - diving on distant underwater mountains (seamounts) where dozens of manta rays and big schools of fish are a common sight. The archipelago can be divided into three groups - eastern, central and western. Within each group, the islands are in close proximity to each other (just four miles from Pico to Faial in the central group), but each group can be up to Pag e 6 | www. af r icandiver.com

over a hundred miles away from the next. Yet, each island is so different from the other that it is hard to describe them as group. What they do have in common is peace and quiet, breathtaking volcanic landscapes and cows everywhere ‌ roads included. Underwater, these islands are as diverse as they are on the surface, with blue sharks at one island and whale sharks at another. Or a World War II shipwreck on one island and 15th and 16th century wrecks on another. Coastal dives are however, rather similar throughout the archipelago. Because the islands are of volcanic origin the islands underwater rock formations are very impressive, with large arches that originate from ancient lava flows and deep caves that inter-connect to several chambers Typical sea life includes large dusky groupers, curious triggerfish, and several species of nudibranchs, morays and octopus amongst the rocks. Colorful red hogfish are normally more common at greater depths of twenty meters or more where the black coral (Antipathella wollastoni) branches are also quite common. C o n te n ts


Hot Spot - Azores

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Many small and colourful species such as peacock wrasse, parrotfish, Azores chromis (Chromis limbata) and Mediterranean rainbow wrasse can also be seen. Large shoals of pelagic fish such as guelly jack, almaco jack, yellow mouth barracuda, Atlantic bonito or, for the luckier, a majestic devil ray, a turtle or an ocean sunfish are occasionally sighted on coastal dives. But the offshore underwater seamounts are definitely the place to visit for big pelagics and are what makes the Azores a unique diving destination.

Hot Spot - Azores

Azores Highlights Some of the most well known diving experiences in these Islands are the Princesa Alice offshore seamount, and diving with blue sharks in high seas. Both these dive experiences are to be found in the central group of islands and are done from Pico or Faial Islands. Diving offshore seamounts is among the best diving these islands have to offer and the Princesa Alice dive is definitely second to none. Located about forty-five miles from Faial Island (three hour trip) this seamount erupts from a depth of in excess of five hundred metres to around thirty-five meters below the surface. Offshore dives in high seas are completely unpredictable, but big groups of curious devil rays and big shoals of thousands of large pelagic fish, such as yellow mouth barracudas, jacks, and especially Atlantic bonitos, are among the main attractions. Several species of shark, ocean sunfish or manta rays are also among the most sighted species. Of course, with the Azores being home to over twenty different species of whales and dolphins, the trip to Princes Alice always includes some ocean travellers such dolphins, sperm whales or loggerhead turtles. Pag e 8 | www. af r icandiver.com

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Hot Spot - Azores

The Azores is also one of the few places in the world where you can dive with one of the sea’s most beautiful predators – the blue shark, and Pico and Faial are the birthplace of this new activity. Diving with blue sharks is done “in the blue”, either snorkeling or scuba diving, and is definitely an unforgettable experience. Just minutes after a container with bait hits the pristine water subtle shadows can be seen shooting from hundreds of meters deep straight to the surface. Cautious and elusive at first but settled as their confidence grows, these predators of the deep are extremely curious. They approach and inspect every diver, sometimes even lightly brushing divers with a tactile test along the shark’s sensitive lateral line. On a typical dive divers are surrounded by eight to fifteen of these beautiful predators of the high seas, with the occasional elusive mako shark showing up for a quick visit. Santa Maria Island situated in the eastern group, is probably the Azores best kept secret. It is a small island with white sandy beaches and is completely off the beaten track boasting whale

Co n t en ts

sharks and groups of devil rays just thirty minutes from the harbour. Although big groups of devil rays are typically seen on offshore seamounts, Santa Maria is the only island of the Azores where you can see dozens of these majestic animals slowly gliding around divers on a daily basis just three miles from the coast. This happens in a place called Ambrósio, and you can literally see up to fifty devil rays on a single dive, as well as large shoals of pelagic fish ... topping it off with the occasional whale shark. Up to three years ago whale sharks were a very rare sight and mostly described by tuna fisherman after encounters in high seas. However since 2008 the biggest fish of the sea has chosen the island of Santa Maria to spend the summer. Nonetheless spotting this colossus is not for the faint of heart, as they usually appear about six miles from the coast, which involves setting aside a day to search for them and being prepared for many hours out at sea. But when you do get lucky the experience is priceless; pristine blue water several hundred meters deep, shades of sunlight descending beneath you and a massive

whale shark followed by hundreds or thousands of tuna hitching a ride through the Atlantic. Around twenty-five miles south from Santa Maria (or about fortyfive miles north from São Miguel) are two of the Azores most well known offshore dives – Formigas and Dollabarat. Formigas is a series of small rocky islets in the middle of the ocean where a small and uninhabited lighthouse was constructed to prevent ship collisions (unfortunately there were many before it was built). Dollabarat is an underwater seamount just three miles from Formigas, so making the trip usually involves diving at both sites. What both dives have in common is amazing visibility (up to forty metres and more) and the chance to see big shoals of oceanic pelagic fish such as wahoo, yellow mouth barracudas, jacks, and Atlantic bonitos, as well as devil rays, hammerhead sharks and the occasional manta ray or whale shark. Between dozens of devil rays at Ambrósio, going out for the whale Pa ge 9 | w w w. a fr i c an di ve r. c om


Hot Spot - Azores

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Hot Spot - Azores

sharks, taking a trip to Formigas and Dollabarat (including a few species of whales, dolphins and sea turtles on the way there), and a few sunsets at Praia Formosa beach, it is no surprise that the divers who are lucky enough to have these experiences like to keep this island a secret. Aside from the abovementioned highlights, each of the nine islands of the Azores has excellent and different dives. The western group (Flores and Corvo) being the most remote of the islands is known to have breathtaking landscapes, the most pristine waters and is the best place to see large groupers. Terceira Island in the central group is the top place to see 15th - 16th century wrecks, and São Miguel Island on the eastern group is home to the Azores’ most famous wreck dive – the World War II Liberty Ship – DORI.

Visiting the Azores : The Azores’ nine islands offer world-class diving, amazing landscapes, fewer tourists and a lot of peace and quiet. With reasonable coastal dives and the chance of unique experiences on offshore dives, the Azores offers dives for every taste and level of experience. However thinking you can visit all of the Azores “highlights” in just one trip is simply an illusion.

Image taken under special permit of the Azores Regional Government. Pag e 11 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

The distance between islands means you should plan some of the more isolated ones as a destination on its own. Yet it is possible to dive in two or three islands in a one to two week trip and still have time for whale watching and sight seeing. C o n te n ts


Hot Spot - Azores

When to go: July to September are the months with the warmest water, best weather, best visibility and best chances to sight pelagic species. Water can get as cold as 16 - 17cº in the winter, and is a pleasing 25cº in the summer. Air temperature, not surprisingly, approximates the water temperature since the islands are very small and hugely influenced by the surrounding mass of water.

Getting there and around : There are airports and daily connections between all the islands, as well as regular boat connections in the summer. TAP (www.tap.pt) and SATA (www.sata.pt) have direct flights to the Azores from Lisbon and several other European capitals as well as Boston, Oakland, Montreal and Toronto. There are 2 official boat operators in the Azores as well as plenty of private taxi services. Transmaçor (www.transmacor.pt) only operates in the central group, while Atlanticoline (www.atlanticoline.pt) connects all the islands. Boat connections work very well in the Western Group (Flores and Corvo) and also between the “Triangle Islands” in the central group (Faial, Pico and São Jorge) with several daily connections. However moving between any other Islands can sometimes be very time consuming and it’s well worth taking a flight. However if you don’t mind taking a day off for the trip it can be very nice (and cheaper) to take a boat trip along the Islands. Other than that just relax, and get into its easygoing ambiance. After your first visit I am sure you will feel you have discovered a small paradise in the Atlantic.

Pag e 12 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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Hot Spot - Azores

Co n t en ts

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Pag e 14 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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Conservation - Shifting Baseline

Shifting Baseline Syndrome

Article by Dr Camilla Floros

Failure to notice change in the world today

1995

2011

St Croix coral reefs, then and now. Coral reefs are threatened globally for a myriad of reasons. The predominant causes are coastal development, acidification, bleaching, overfishing and pollution. Photo credit ŠDavid Arnold, doublexposure.net/Marine Photobank. Pag e 15 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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Conservation - Shifting Baseline

From the surface the visibility seemed endless and the reef stretched before us; colourful and vibrant. Eagerly, our group donned their dive kit and jumped into the turquoise water.

The reef crackled with

invertebrate activity and swarmed with goldies, damsels and wrasse. But as the dive progressed, excitement turned into disappointment as beyond the prettiness were signs of an ecosystem disturbed. Broken coral fragments and bleached white colonies littered the reef. In certain areas, depressions in the coral were distinctly anchor shaped. The fish

Biodiversity on ice. Large reef fish such as rockcods and the humphead wrasse are in high demand in Asian fish markets. Their slow growth rate makes them highly susceptible to overexploitation. Credit: Camilla Floros

were bright and plentiful, but none were over 30cm in length. Where were the

This is a simple example of when people

Pauly in 1995 in his paper “Anecdotes and

turtles,

have an inaccurate idea of what a healthy

the shifting baseline syndrome of fisheries”.

sharks, snappers and morays? On returning

reef should look like. Changes had occurred

to the boat, the DM and the group were

to this reef over time, either by human or

Pauly was not referring to coral reefs in

very confused by our questions. “Did we

natural disturbance, probably both. But the

his paper but used the term to illustrate

not enjoy the colourful fish? What about

changes had gone unnoticed so that the

how fisheries scientists sometime fail to

the lovely clear water? Did you see the

degraded state of that reef was taken as how it

identify the correct “baseline” population

pipefish?” It was obvious that we were

should naturally appear. This is referred to as

size and thus work with a shifted baseline.

alone in thinking that this reef was not how

the shifting baseline syndrome and was first

He described how in fisheries management,

it should look in its natural state.

introduced by the fisheries scientist Daniel

experts used the state of a fishery (e.g.

kingfish,

Co n t en ts

rockcods,

parrotfish,

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Conservation - Shifting Baseline

abundance of a species population) at the

manatees, dugongs, sea cows, monk seals,

taxpayers have been paying billions of

start of their careers as the baseline, instead

crocodiles,

swordfish,

dollars in subsidies to vessel owners so that

of assessing the fishery in its untouched/

sharks, and rays are other large marine

they can keep exploiting dwindling marine

unexploited state. The gravity of this is that

vertebrates that are now functionally or

stocks and expanding commercial fishing

exploitation levels or quotas were being

entirely extinct in most coastal ecosystems.

into remote territories.

determined on fish stocks that were already overexploited.

codfish,

jewfish,

Place names for oysters, pearls, and conches conjure up other ecological ghosts of marine

The result has been a rapid disruption and

invertebrates that were once so abundant

degradation of the marine ecosystems in all

Unfortunately, determining the point at

as to pose hazards to navigation, but are

oceanic regions. An additional consequence

which marine resources and ecosystems

witnessed now only by massive garbage

has been a shift in the composition of landed-

resemble their natural state is an almost

heaps of empty shells,� says Jackson.

species from long-live predatory fish to

impossible task. Humans have harvested the

short-lived

invertebrate

and

plankton-

ocean for thousands of years and it was only

At present, the future of the marine

eating fish. Basically, we are eating the bait

recently that scientists began to understand

environment hangs precariously in the

that our grandparents used to catch their

and accept the true depth and magnitude of

balance. A global fisheries crisis has been

dinner.

this exploitation.

declared yet countries still compete to catch the last remaining fish stocks to sustain

Jeremy Jackson, of the Scripps Institute of

The problem of degraded reefs is also a

populations.

global issue and many DMs and divers are

Oceanography, was the first to demonstrate

Governments have been a major player

unaware that the reefs they dive are less

that human impacts on marine resources

in

the

than healthy. So what should a healthy or

could be traced to the colonial expansion

overexploitation of ocean fish. The global

pristine coral reef look like? No one can be

of Europe, some 500 years ago. The mass

fleet of over a million industrial and semi-

100 percent sure because coral reef ecology

slaughter of marine megafauna that ensued

industrial vessels has been operating at an

is a relatively new science and few reefs

was so intense that it resulted in the

annual loss of some $50-billion each year.

remain that are undisturbed or that can be

extermination of many species. “Whales,

To

called pristine.

Pag e 17 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

rapidly

increasing

contributing

compensate,

human

significantly

governments

to

or

rather

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Conservation - Shifting Baseline

The reasons for the decline in reef health are wide ranging, but the main causes include pollution, climate change, direct damage, overexploitation and destructive fish practices. All of these are a result of human activities. Natural disturbance such as cyclones and tsunamis can and have destroyed large areas of reef or entire reefs. Yet, coral reefs have historically had the power to rebound from such events. Today, the stresses of human activities have reduced this recovery capacity and the future of coral reefs looks bleak unless severe and rapid action is taken. Damaged coral and small fish are signs of heavy diving and fishing pressure on coral reefs Credit: Camilla Floros

Despite the pending doom, there is a glimmer of hope. One atoll in the central Pacific Ocean stands as a stark reminder of what an untouched coral reef system should resemble. The remote Palmyra Atoll consists of only 283 hectares of terrain but beneath the waves boasts thousands of hectares vibrant coral reef. It is not the 130 species of lush coral that cover the reefs, but the domination of the fish community by large predators that has catapulted this isolated atoll into the limelight. Scientists have been amazed by the staggering numbers and large size of the apex predators that incessantly patrol the reefs. Palmyra has more sharks, groupers and kingfish (trevally)

South African sanctuary reefs have high numbers of large predators such as potato bass. Credit: Camilla Floros Co n t en ts

than any other reef known to science. When compared to

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Conservation - Shifting Baseline

Bottom trawling is one of the most destructive fishing practices. For every 1 ton of prawn caught, 8 tons of ‘bycatch’ such as stingrays, turtles, starfish, corals and sponges has been discarded. Credit: Desmond Hayes.

the average exploited reef, there are almost

Maputaland coast of KwaZulu-Natal. The

20 times as many big fish at Palmyra.

reefs boast an amazing variety of species,

Sanctuary reefs are critical for monitoring

Fortunately, this last remaining piece of

high coral cover and large shoals of fish.

and management because they provide

paradise is a national marine monument,

The sanctuary coral reefs are particularly

scientists and reef managers with examples

owned by the Nature Conservancy whose

important because they prohibit all forms

of undisturbed ecosystems.

aim is to keep it in its natural state and use it

of human activity. The benefits of such

as a center for scientific study.

exclusive protection can be clearly seen in the

There are still a few places in the world that

Like Palmyra, South Africa also has special

fish communities which have three times as

allow us a glimpse of the prolific marine life

coral reefs and they are situated along the

many large reef predators than nearby reefs

witnessed by the early explorers.

Pag e 19 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

where fishing and diving are permitted.

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Conservation - Shifting Baseline

We should use these examples to reset the baselines and strive through various means to preserve, conserve and protect our marine resources so that all marine creatures are a living part of our future and not just a feature Pretty reef but no predators present. Credit: Camilla Floros Co n t en ts

on National Geographic. Pa ge 2 0 | w w w. a fr i c a n di ve r. c om


Conservation - Shifting Baseline

Overfishing has depleted many shark populations by more than 50% in the past 15 years, with scalloped hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini) decreasing by 89%, thresher sharks (Alopias vulpinus and Alopias superciliosus) by 80% and white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) by 79%. Credit: Marcia MorenoBaez, University of Arizona/Marine Photobank Co n t en ts

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Photo by: Nuno SĂ

Co n t en ts

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Surfers sit atop the shark nets while a diver places commemorative flowers

Conservation - Paddle out for sharks

Paddle out for Sharks Sunday 6th May, Scottburgh Article by Cormac McCreesh Photo by Ivan van Heerden Pag e 23 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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Conservation - Paddle out for sharks Divers express their feelings

Photo by Dori Moreno

At first light on the 6th of May 2012,

The

KwaZulu

Natal

Sharks

Board

is

over 100 people gathered on dive boats,

mandated to protect this, and other beaches,

jet skis and surfboards at the shark nets

from shark attack and they choose to use

off Scottburgh. In the surfer ’s tradition of

nets to create a barrier between sharks and

a “paddle out” the gathered community

bathers.

honoured

animals

that

have

died

in

The Scottburgh nets fall within the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area. These nets have long been the focus of marine conservationists and the local dive operators, who argue that the nets are

shark nets in KwaZulu Natal South Africa

However, these nets catch not only sharks,

indiscriminate in the marine life netted

since the 1950’s, most recent of which were

but also whales and other large marine

and have an irreversible impact on shark

5 tiger and 1 white shark.

animals such as dolphins, turtles, rays and

numbers.

mantas. Co n t en ts

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Surfers gathered at the nets spend a quiet moment

Conservation - Paddle out for sharks

Photo by Allen Walker Pag e 25 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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Conservation - Paddle out for sharks A diver looks at a ray that was caught and died in the nets

Sharks are animals that have been demonstrated

to

be

necessary

for

maintaining healthy oceans. Emotions were at a high, with many present signifying their disagreement to the presence of nets in their choice of apparel. In addition to honouring the animals that have died those gathered at the paddle out stood together to express their hope for a new beginning - towards a future where shark nets are no longer needed, where a better way to protect bathers has been found and where sharks are protected too. This was the first time that the diving and marine conservation community stood together to demonstrate their concern about the nets and their resolve to find a solution to the problem. Flowers were cast onto the water and several individuals took the opportunity to express their personal feelings and hopes. Photo by Allen Walker Pag e 26 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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Conservation - Paddle out for sharks The community shares a quiet moment

Photo by Dori Moreno Pag e 27 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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Photo by Dori Moreno

Conservation - Paddle out for sharks

The dive operators then set off with their clients to enjoy the splendour of the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area, but the paddle out closed on a gloomy note when a ray, with visible lesions, from struggling to free itself from the nets, was found dead. However,

the

participants

of

the

ceremony are firm that the presence of so many concerned individuals speaks volumes and has drawn attention to the nets, and that the positive energy played out at the ceremony would be garnered to engage the KwaZulu Natal Sharks Board. The event was made possible by the following dive operators: African Watersports, Agulhas House and Diving, Aliwal Shoal Adventures, Aqua Rush, Blue Vision, Blue Wilderness, Diving in Africa, Oceanworx, The Shoal, Umkomaas Lodge Dive Charter.

Co n t en ts

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Conservation - Paddle out for sharks

Fast Facts • 1/3 of sharks caught in the nets are caught on the beach side of the nets i.e. these sharks are caught inside the nets. • Nets are laid in two parallel rows approximately 400 metres offshore and in depths of 10 to 14 metres • The nets are open to the sea and do not enclose a beach area. Sharks can swim over, under or around the ends of the nets. • Nets function by reducing shark numbers in the vicinity of protected beaches. • Nets have a limited physical barrier effect • Nets are serviced Monday through Friday. They are not serviced over weekends, which are high-bather utilisation times. It follows that animals caught in the nets after servicing of the nets on a Friday will remain in the nets until Monday. This means the caught animal will die and possibly even serve as an attraction to sharks in the area. (source http://www.shark.co.za KZN Sharks Board website)

Photo by Allen Walker

Pag e 29 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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Photographed by Evert Nel

Pag e 30 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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G eorgina Jones I n t r o d u c i n g C a p e To w n ’ s u n d e r w a t e r n a t u r a l i s t

Pag e 31 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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Georgina thinks of the underwater world as a treasure house of mysteries waiting to be explored and enjoys unravelling the secrets of interactions between all sorts of marine animals. It’s a fascination which requires a high tolerance for long hours spent poring over scientific references and translating the academic jargon to generate a glimmer of understanding of what is known about the marine life around the Peninsula. A background in economics and biochemistry has definitely helped with the literature trawls, though without the constant spur of the ongoing mysteries of marine life, she thinks she might be less enthusiastic about the research hours. She is passionate about sharing what she learns and is part For us regular folk who prefer diving in tropical waters clad

of a collective, the Southern Underwater Research Group

in a shortie wetsuit, diving in the frigid waters of the Cape

(see www.surg.co.za), which aims to help divers identify

seems anathema. Yet for Georgina Jones donning a drysuit over

what they see underwater, as well as providing observations

layers of warm clothing and submersing herself in Cape Town’s

and input for academic work. What makes diving in Cape

abundant waters is her bliss.

Town so rewarding is that, despite it being the most studied water around the country, she keeps finding undescribed

You see, Georgina has an insatiable curiosity for the multitude

species, and noticing animals in places which the scientific

of species that inhabit the Cape’s capricious waters. In Georgina’s

literature doesn’t expect, as well as unknown behaviours.

case while curiosity may have killed the cat, the satisfaction of

It’s an ongoing magical mystery tour that is an enduring

understanding and learning more, brought it back.

source of inspiration and fascination.

Pag e 32 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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The tasselled nudibranch (Kaloplacomus ramosus) was found on the deep wrecks in Smitswinkel Bay as well as on the Aster in Hout Bay in 27-35m, significantly shallower than the literature said, given that it is supposed to be found in 90-400m. Pag e 33 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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Proving the value of digital underwater photography this image of a dwarf spotted anemone turns out to be an animal that Charles Griffiths had been looking for 20 years.

Georgina’s main drive is to find out as

surrounding its re-discovery by Georgina

dying

much about the underwater world as

(refer to the image and caption on page

specimens brought to land or on decks in

possible given the limitations of being a

37).

nets.

land-based mammal.

Marine life has, until very recently, mainly been

studied

through

dead

or

Georgina learned to dive in Cape This means that many aspects of marine

A case in point being her work on the

Town and got the usual reference

animal behaviour are completely unknown,

Cape long-legged spidercrab; once lost

books – George Branch’s Living Shores

but are now starting to be revealed with the

to science this animal carries on its life

of Southern Africa and the Branch/

advent of scuba diving.

oblivious to the scientific revelation

Beckley/Griffiths bible, Two Oceans.

Pag e 34 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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But she kept coming across marine animals in the Cape that she couldn’t find in the standard books. Which embarked her upon a voyage of discovery that seems unlikely to end. While she has been lucky enough to have been given an enormous amount of advice and

information

from

George

Branch

and Charles Griffiths as well as overseas authorities able to answer the question ‘what is this?’, in many cases, the answer, excitingly to her, is, ‘we don’t know, can you try to find out?.’ The increasing popularity of underwater digital photography means that many people who would otherwise have been shrugged off as being narced for reporting seeing, for example, Moorish idols off Smitswinkel Bay, can now provide photographic proof. The prospect of mobilising recreational divers as a significant resource for revealing what goes on in the ocean excites Georgina. The sheer number of hours collectively spent underwater by divers provides a huge trove of images and observations to add depth to scientific knowledge of marine animals.

Co n t en ts

Serpent-skinned brittle stars brood their babies inside their bodies and here the young can be seen emerging from the parent’s genital slits. Pa ge 3 5 | w w w. a fr i c a n di ve r. c om


This is a shrimp that makes its home from shell debris. While this is strange, this particular one uses the shells to move around, much like a stiltwalker. It seems to be an undescribed species and also, though a family of shell-­ house building shrimps is known, none of them are mobile or used for mobility. So it’s both unknown to science and its engaging behaviour is also mysterious.

This is a shrimp that makes its home from shell debris. While this is strange, this particular one uses the shells to move around, much like a stiltwalker. It seems to be an undescribed species and also, though it belongs to a family of shell-house building shrimps, none of its relatives use their shell houses for mobility. So it’s unknown to science and its engaging behaviour is also mysterious. Co n t en ts

Pa ge 3 6 | w w w. a fr i c a n di ve r. c om


The Cape long-legged spidercrab (Macropodia falcifera) was first described by an American crustacean specialist in the 1800s but the type specimen was destroyed in the great fire of Chicago in 1871 and the species was subsequently lost to scientific knowledge and dropped from the official lists for its genus in 2008. New type specimens collected by Georgina are now being described for its restoration in the scientific records Pag e 37 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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Red-chested sea cucumbers reproduce by spitting the fertilised eggs out of their mouths, catching them in their feeding tentacles and inserting them into brood pores in their skins. In August, Cape reefs are covered in pink baby red-chested sea cucumbers, seen here, emerging from their birth pouches

Pag e 38 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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Left: This tiny myzostomid worm, (Mystostoma fuscomaculatum) is so far only known from False Bay. These strange little animals have short legs and are believed to be polychaete worms, though there is still debate as to whether they should be in a phylum all of their own. They are found in association with feather stars and eat their wastes and other unwanted food. Above: This crinoid shrimp is known to the scientific literature as Hippolyte catagrapha and is also commensal on feather stars and only known from False Bay so far.

As if satisfying her curiosity for marine animals is insufficient a challenge, Georgina has embraced underwater photography to record her observations. She has been fortunate to have fallen in with a group of keen divers, as well as some very skilled photographic experts like Geoff Spiby and Jean Tresfon, who have given her advice and examples. This has helped with showing people what she sees underwater though she has discovered that underwater photography is a sure way to remain humble. There’s always a better shot. Or maybe that’s just a reflection of her current skill level. Pag e 39 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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Above: This animal might be a flatworm, except it’s not flat. Or it may be a bristleworm, except it doesn’t have bristles. Or it may be a nudibranch, except it doesn’t have rhinophores. In short, no‐one has any idea even which phylum it belongs to. An individual has been sent off to a worm expert for investigation.

She has explored quite a few underwater environments around the world. On the tropical side, muck diving at the Lembeh Straits, current diving around Raja Ampat, the submarine fish kingdom of the Maldives and the sheer wealth of marine life of Sodwana are current favourites. She has also dived the Poor Knights Islands off New Zealand and would like to dive in other temperate systems, with Antarctica, the Galapagos and Vancouver Island at the top of the list. But Cape Town remains her home base and the place that has engaged her fascination. She started work on a marine field guide to the area in early 2003 and managed to publish it five years later. Pag e 40 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

Above: This picture shows an animal commonly known as a candelabra nudibranch and which seems to be as yet undescribed by science. The general consensus is that it is a species of Eubranchus, but the details await inspection by one of the world nudi experts.

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At that stage she realised it would never be finished and that five years, when studying the ocean, is only a beginning. At the moment, Georgina is working on a project which aims to promote South Africa as a diving destination both to locals and to overseas visitors. She is sure that we, as South Africans, have an alarming tendency to take our marine environment for granted. She hopes to help change that. She’s also working on a new book project which aims to give people an accessible source of knowledge of beach, rock pool and marine life. Georgina fills her days with marine enquiries, research and writing for magazine articles, as well as her ongoing big projects and finds the hours not long enough. But her primary thrill is the diving. So if you’re looking for Georgina when next you’re in Cape Town, pause during your dive and look for the diver completely absorbed by the life on the reef. She won’t notice you because her interest in the interactions between reef animals means she is more likely have her attention taken up by a minute amphipod on a snail or a brittle star giving birth than on what might be swimming overhead.

Would you like a copy of this book? You can get a copy from all good diveshops & bookstores nation-wide or visit:

www.surg.co.za or email Georgina:

georgina@surg.co.za Co n t en ts

Pa ge 4 1 | w w w. a fr i c a n di ve r. c om


Imagine a world without

sharks Sharks face a unique threat.

Shark populations have been decimated over the past thirty years, some by as much as 90%.

They are hunted mercilessly, and few people view sharks as creatures that need saving. The demand for shark has risen dramatically to feed increasing consumption of shark fin soup. This has led to the annual death of as many as 73 million sharks worldwide. Find out how you can save sharks by visting www.sharksavers.org

The thing we should fear the most about sharks is their looming

extinction. DESIGN © Mitra Nikoo IMAGES © Mary O’Malley Copyright © 2012 Shark Savers Inc. All rights reserved.

Pag e 42 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

C o n te n ts


Featured Photographer - Aaron Gekoski

Featured Photographer

Aaron Gekoski

Immersed in a school of fish, Pinnacles, Cape Town Pag e 43 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

C o n te n ts


Featured Photographer - Aaron Gekoski

Photo: Gemma Catlin

Introducing

Aaron Gekoski Hailing from London, Aaron is a writer, photographer and filmmaker currently based in Cape Town. His work appears in publications all over the world. Along with travel writing, he explores conflicts between man and wildlife. His recent jobs include; living in the shark finning camps of Mozambique; covering the annual seal cull on Namibia’s Skeleton Coast; infiltrating the ‘tortoise mafia’ in Madagascar; reporting on a controversial lion breeding initiative in Zimbabwe; and traveling to Dhaka where 100,000 turtles are killed for a religious celebration. Much of Aaron’s work has a marine theme but more recently he has begun to explore conflicts affecting landbased animals such as the controversial lion breeding initiative in Zimbabwe. Photo: Gemma Catlin

Photo: Gemma Catlin

Clockwise from the top: Aaron photographs a guitarfish caught by Vezo fishermen in Belo sur Mer, Madagascar. Due to diminishing fish stocks, members of this semi-nomadic tribe spend up to 12 hours a day at sea in their hand-carved pirogues. Guitarfish are highly sought after because of the size of their fins. Aaron, with Dave Charley and Chris Scarffe. These three produced Shiver, a film on Mozambique’s shark finning crisis. Here they examine some dried fins at one of the country’s remote fishing camps. A set of fins can fetch more than a local two-month wage. A team of ex-soldiers run the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) in Zimbabwe. Aaron spent some time there recently, training as an anti-poaching ranger. Along with being taught hand-to-hand combat, he also learned the arts of camouflage and concealment, tracking, and detainment. With Africa’s rhino poaching problem escalating almost daily, the work of organisations such as the IAPF is vital to stopping their extinction.

Co n t en ts

Pa ge 4 4 | w w w. a fr i c a n di ve r. c om


During filming, the crew spent some time living with the ‘shark hunters’. Whilst shark fishermen are often portrayed as ruthless killers, Aaron claims those he got to know were welcoming and kind people, doing all they had to in order to survive

Featured Photographer - Aaron Gekoski

Shark finning Pag e 45 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

C o n te n ts


Aaron, Dave, Chris and presenter Carlos Macuacua put on screenings in the fishing villages, using a projector and sheet. Shiver was very positively received by the local people and created much debate. Here, children play draughts using pieces of shark vertebrae and bottle tops, before watching the film

Co n t en ts

Pa ge 4 6 | w w w. a fr i c a n di ve r. c om


A local fisherman next to a bull shark he’s just caught on a longline. Aaron, Dave and Chris camped out for a week, waiting to document sharks being brought in. Day after day, the fishermen would return empty-handed from their arduous trips out to sea. Just a decade ago they would pull in between 10-15 sharks a day; today they’re lucky to catch one.

Pag e 47 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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A shark is dragged off the beach, before being finned. At one time the community would then cook up the shark meat: but following Shiver - which contained shocking information on its level of Methylmercury – the carcass is now discarded

Co n t en ts

Pa ge 4 8 | w w w. a fr i c a n di ve r. c om


The Vezos’ way of life is being threatened by industrial fishing companies in Madagascan waters. Although it’s not in their culture to catch sharks, selling the fins provides much-needed income to support their families.

Pag e 49 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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Featured Photographer - Aaron Gekoski Blood money: a turtle trader operating in Bangladesh. Turtles are in serious trouble - scientists believe they are the most threatened vertebrates on earth. Around the world they are hunted for their meat, eggs, shell, skin and oil.

Turtle poaching Pag e 50 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

C o n te n ts


During religious celebrations in Bangladesh, up to 100,000 turtles are killed on a single day. At the markets in Dhaka, turtles are butchered with crude blades and then sold – body parts still writhing – to customers who then eat them. This turtle awaits its fate.

Co n t en ts

Pa ge 5 1 | w w w. a fr i c a n di ve r. c om


The bizarre-looking northern river terrapin is one of the most endangered animals on earth. Only around 25 are known to exist, including this one, which lives in a pond in Chittagong, southern Bangladesh. It took an elderly local man hours to locate the animal in the pond, which he did by feeling for it with his feet. This year, another individual was found on Dhaka’s markets, about to be chopped up and turned into stew

Pag e 52 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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Madagascar has five endemic species of tortoise – and all are endangered. Here, a radiated tortoise looks out over the cliffs at Lavanono, one of the most remote and beautiful parts of the country. Along with losing their habitat and finding themselves in cooking pots, Madagascar’s tortoises are facing a new threat: a ‘tortoise mafia’. The animals are being exported for Asia’s exotic pet trade by their shell-load.

Co n t en ts

Pa ge 5 3 | w w w. a fr i c a n di ve r. c om


At the tiny village of Ampotaka, Madagascar, locals crowd around crates of radiated tortoises, which were confiscated at the airport, on their way to Asia. The tortoises’ reintroduction into the sacred Spiny Forest was cause for much celebration amongst one tribe where it’s a fady - or taboo - to harm them.

Pag e 54 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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Tortoise poacher with shells This man knows little else but tortoise poaching. For years he has collected and sold the animals, some over 50-years old, to his mother for some R5 each. She then trades them at local markets. He explained to Aaron that although he doesn’t enjoy his work, he is a poor man and there are very few ways of making a living in the village.

Co n t en ts

Pa ge 5 5 | w w w. a fr i c a n di ve r. c om


Africa’s lion populations have decreased by up to 90% over the last 30 years. A controversial lion-breeding initiative in Zimbabwe claims to offer a potential solution to this crisis, with a proposed four-stage Rehabilitation and Release into the Wild Program. The aim of this program is to release the wild-borne offspring from rehabilitated captive-bred lions, by raising awareness and funds to source suitable release sites for the lions.

Featured Photographer - Aaron Gekoski

Lion breeding Pag e 56 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

C o n te n ts


Critics question whether the offspring of captive-bred lions - like the two playing here at dawn - can be successfully reintroduced into the wild. Until stages three and four have been launched at Antelope Park, the jury’s still out.

Co n t en ts

Pa ge 5 7 | w w w. a fr i c a n di ve r. c om


Cape fur seals are at the centre of one of the most contentious wildlife issues on earth. Every year, up to 80,000 pups are killed along Namibia’s Skeleton Coast for their pelts; clubbed over the head, stabbed in the heart and left to bleed out. The bulls, on the other hand, are killed for their penises which are shipped to Asia and used in traditional medicine.

Featured Photographer - Aaron Gekoski

Seal culling Pag e 58 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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This seal (left) was snapped during Aaron’s undercover mission to report on the cull. It is likely it would have been killed within weeks of this image being taken. The culling season starts again in July, meaning many more caved-in baby seal skulls (above) will litter the beaches.

Pag e 59 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

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Francois Hugo of Seal Alert SA is one man leading the fight against the trade. The Namibian government claims that seals are emptying their seas of fish, though Hugo vehemently denies this. He runs a seal sanctuary based out of Hout Bay harbor and tends for animals that have been caught in nets, injured or abused by local fishermen.

Co n t en ts

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Leaving at the start of June, Aaron has signed up to co-present Out on a Limb.

Featured Photographer - Aaron Gekoski

This series follows double amputee Bushy McKelvey on a three-month mission around southern Africa. The team’s mission is to seek out Africa’s most inspiring, little-known NGOs, charitable organisations and individuals. They will also be visiting some fantastic marine initiatives, with the aim of gaining exposure for those that are doing incredible work, but without the resources. Oh...and they’ll be having a bloody good time along the way.

Aaron and his business partner, Chris, are looking for partners and sponsors to help raise awareness of wildlife crises around the world Email info@aarongekoski.com for more details or visit www.aarongekoski.com. You can see a video of the guys doing what they do best here: http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=QYtORi953t4 Pag e 61 | www. a fr ica ndiver.com

On a daily basis, Mozambique’s rural fishermen brave perilous shore breaks to bring in their meagre catch. The future for these communities is one of uncertainty. C o n te n ts



African Diver Issue 23