After two weeks of training, our multi-national team has left the nest and become full-fledged Green Fins Assessors! Upon leaving Aninuan, we had to split up and head to our respective placement sites – Moalboal, a second year Green Fins site, and Malapascua, a new site. It is hard to believe that we’ve already been on Malapascua for two weeks! It has been busy – we hit the ground running with recruiting dive centers, giving presentations, performing assessments, monitoring coral, investigating fishing practices and exploring waste management options. Whew! Our very first day we went on a bright and early 5 am dive to Monad Shoal where we saw our first thresher sharks! We were also able to observe the damage to the reef first hand. This damage is caused by divers kneeling or lying on the reef itself to wait for the threshers to appear at their cleaning stations. Much of the dive sites we’ve seen have been reduced to little more than rubble. But hopefully with education and awareness, the remaining reef will continue being healthy and supporting life.
Since arriving, we have visited all 14 dive centers, successfully recruiting 11 (so far!). It is so exciting to see such enthusiasm for the marine environment. Now known as the Green Fins girls, my colleagues and I are a regular sight walking up and down Bounty Beach, sweating away our carefully applied sunscreen and bug spray in our black polos or perhaps getting drenched by the random and torrential rain in our bright green ICON shirts.
The dive sites of Malapascua have been a joy to explore. The warm water and excellent visibility are a new thing to me, having come from the cold, nutrient-rich waters of California. Where I come from we have lush kelp forests and abundant marine mammals, large waves and hazardous rocky shores. Around Malapascua the dive sites are rich with gardens of hard coral instead of kelp and vibrantly colored active fish rather than our tranquil camouflaged rockfish. Soft, sandy beaches are abundant and the water’s surface is often as smooth as glass, except when there’s a storm about of course! We recently visited the House Reef, an artificial reef (with sunken Jeepneys!) that is one of the only places that is guarded day and night from fishing. And the threshers… they are such fantastic animals. Graceful yet muscular, menacing yet oddly adorable. For my birthday we decided to do a 4 am dive and were rewarded with FIVE threshers on a single dive. It is an other worldly experience to have this amazing shark come within two meters of you, with it’s long ribbon-like tail swishing and it’s black eyes looking right at you. It is no wonder that people travel from all over the world to see them.
The last 4 weeks have flown by and I anticipate the remaining 4 weeks to be quite similar. I’m excited to see what we will accomplish both here and in Moalboal. I leave you with a Happy Holidays and a very festive picture of the Green Fins girls!