Jun 242015
 

In late April/early May, an enormous baitball (composed of the fish masbango and others) appeared in front of the popular dive and snorkel spot Bachelor’s Beach.  Divers and underwater photographers were in awe over this incredible natural phenomenon.  Both locals and tourists alike flocked to the beach to witness this spectacle. But as the news spread on land, a very sad situation emerged.  Fishermen descended upon the beach with gigantic nets and laid them over the reef (which is in the Marine Park) in an attempt to harvest the mass of fish. What ensued was an intense debate, both in real time and on Facebook.  Much to the amazement of many, STINAPA declared this activity to be legal.

Bonaire resident Adnan Hassan has written a thought provoking piece about this situation, and I’d like to share it with you.  It has been published in this week’s Bonaire Reporter.  To read it, please click on this link and scroll down to page 10.

I applaud Mr. Hassan for his efforts in spreading the word about this situation.  It’s a great first step towards policy change, which is much needed in situations such as this.

Tell us what you think about this situation in the comments section.  We would love to hear your views on this topic.

 

Note to my readers, I’m sorry for the dearth of activity on the blog this month.  Issues related to my Rheumatoid Arthritis have curbed my ability to spend time writing and photographing for the past few weeks.  The good news is that things are looking up!

May 162015
 

Many divers fly right over them, in a perpetual search for the big stuff.  Some divers have never seen one. Others don’t even know they exist.  But there’s a contingent of fish watchers and macro enthusiasts who patiently comb through the seemingly featureless sand or rubble in search of these shy bottom dwellers.  They have a devoted fan club.

Blennies are petite creatures.  Most measure only 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) in length.  Couple that with the fact that they like to hide, and you can see why many divers miss them altogether.

Inspired by Anna DeLoach’s amazing shots, Steve and I have recently been on a quest to find and photograph as many different blennies as possible in Bonaire.  Here are some recent finds.

Tessellated Blenny

Tessellated Blenny

Southern Smoothead Glass Blenny

Southern Smoothead Glass Blenny

Redlip Blenny

Redlip Blenny

Ringed Blenny

Ringed Shy Blenny

Twinhorn Blenny

Twinhorn Blenny

Secretary Blenny

Spinyhead Blenny

Secretary Blenny Full Body Shot (a rarity, due to their shy nature and tendency to hide)

Spinyhead Blenny Full Body Shot (a rarity, due to their shy nature and tendency to hide)

For the blenny lovers out there, be sure to check out The Blennywatcher Blog for lots of great photos and info. And if you’re on Bonaire, you may find the Blenny Guide/map especially useful.

Apr 272015
 

In my Part I of this series, I touched on the mission of Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire (CRF) and promised to show you how the restoration work is carried out underwater.

But first, I think it’s important to explain the meaning of coral restoration.  Simply put, coral restoration is the transplantation of nursery-raised coral fragments to needy reef sites where they are secured to the seabed with marine epoxy or tie wraps.

The coral nursery is the epicenter of activity for coral restoration.  “Coral Trees” are constructed using PVC pipes and fiberglass rods.  Then, coral fragments are hung from the tree on monofilament line.  A tree can hold as many as 160 coral fragments (all of the same coral species- staghorn or elkhorn in this case).

Divers in the coral nursery on Klein Bonaire

Divers in the coral nursery on Klein Bonaire

Here a diver prunes the coral.  The new fragment will be affixed to a new spot.

Here a diver prunes the coral. The new fragment will be affixed to a new spot.

Pruning the coral

Pruning the coral

A diver affixing coral fragments to a tree

A diver affixing coral fragments to a tree

Monofilament line for affixing coral to the tree

Monofilament line for affixing coral to the tree

Each coral fragment will be tied and affixed to monofilament line and hung separately on the tree

Each coral fragment will be tied and affixed to monofilament line and hung separately on the tree

A volunteer diver hangs newly pruned coral fragments to a tree

A volunteer diver hangs newly pruned coral fragments to a tree

New volunteer divers learning to hang coral

New volunteer divers learning to hang coral

Staghorn coral fragments affixed to a coral tree

Staghorn coral fragments affixed to a coral tree

Once the corals have been affixed to a tree, regular maintenance is needed for optimal health and growth potential.  The tree “branches” and the monofilament line both require frequent cleaning.

Closeup of monofilament line before cleaning.  Notice the algae build up.

Closeup of monofilament line before cleaning. Notice the algae build up.

Here I am cleaning the tree branches to remove algae build up

Cleaning the monofilament lines to remove algae build up

cleaning coral 2

A diver cleans the tree trunk, removing algae and other build up

A diver cleans a tree trunk, removing algae and other build up

Cleaning a tree branch

Cleaning a tree branch

Diver tending to a tree

Diver tending to a tree

Diver at work cleaning tree

In addition to cleaning the tree, predators and fire coral must be removed as part of its routine care.

A diver removes fire coral that has grown on a tree branch

A diver removes fire coral that has grown on a tree branch

Once the nursery-raised corals have grown to the appropriate size, they are carefully transported to a specially selected site for attachment to the sea floor.  They are then tagged and monitored routinely.

In Bonaire, both tourists and residents alike are encouraged to volunteer with CRF.  In order to volunteer, you must be a certified open water diver, and you must complete the PADI Coral Restoration Diver specialty course.  The course is offered weekly at Buddy Dive Resort, and it is designed so that tourists can have both a fun and educational volunteer vacation.  For more information, please visit Buddy Dive’s website or send an email to info@crfbonaire.org.

Steve and I are very excited to be involved with this organization, and we think it will have a positive and noticeable impact on the health of the coral reefs which surround Bonaire.  We would like to thank Francesca Virdis, the project leader for CRF Bonaire, for helping us become “coral lovers” and for her dedication to Bonaire’s reefs.

 

Important notes

-You may notice that some divers participating in coral restoration activities are wearing gloves.  This is due to the potential for coral cuts or fire coral injuries.  Recreational divers are not permitted to wear gloves on Bonaire.

-Divers volunteering with Coral Restoration Foundation are specially trained in handling coral.  In keeping with good diving practices, it is not OK to touch coral or any other marine species on recreational dives.