Dive-In Limassol Wins Travel and Hospitality AWARD

For the second time for outstanding customer service. Jonathan Wilson and his wife Deborah have been running the PADI 5 Star IDC Centre Dive-In Limassol in Cyprus, based in the 5 star Four Seasons Hotel, for many years. Their dedication to making diving fun and safe really shows… not only by this award, but in their glowing reviews over multiple customer driven platforms such as TripAdvisor and Google. As their PADI Regional Manager, this AWARD only goes to show that the PADI System is the one that the people choose, and Dive-In Limassol is the resort that people choose and love! It’s a proud moment for everyone involved and thus needs a public shout out to everyone involved.

 

Keep up the good work Johnathan and Dive-In Limassol team!

 

Get yourself covered all year round, worldwide

As a PADI Professional, it is critical that you can get on with what you do best. Teach students the world’s most popular dive curriculum, show them the wonders of the ocean, and transform their lives. To help you do this, PADI has teamed up with Divers Alert Network Europe (DAN Europe) to offer PADI endorsed professional liability, personal accident insurance and FREE dive accident cover for an unlimited number of your students so you can have peace of mind while you teach.

Maintaining current liability insurance is not only good risk management but PADI Pros working within the PADI Europe, Middle East and Africa territory may need to carry professional liability insurance to remain in PADI Teaching/Active status.

As a PADI dive professional, you’re a champion of safety working on the front lines every day to protect the divers in your care. The PADI endorsed DAN Europe insurance program provides PADI Pros access to risk-mitigation and safety programs to protect both divers and dive professionals.

Features of PADI endorsed DAN Europe insurance program

    • Personal accident cover for diving emergencies that is valid all year round, worldwide
    • Access to the renowned DAN specialised multilingual hotline, 24/7
    • Unlimited cover in case of hyperbaric treatment and repatriation
    • Travel insurance provided for non-diving medical emergencies abroad
    • € 4,000,000 professional liability cover, including legal defence, per occurrence
    • EXCLUSIVE PADI FEATUREFREE dive accident insurance for an UNLIMITED number of your dive students up to PADI Advanced Open Water Diver (AOWD) and PADI Advanced Freediver level*

In addition:

    • Members benefit from specialized consultancy services from the DAN Legal Network, so you have access to a worldwide network of legal experts and lawyers who are knowledgeable in diving-related disputes

Exclusive pricing for PADI Pros – Get Pro Silver for the price of Pro Bronze!

PADI Pros get access to discounted DAN Europe insurance plans receiving Pro Silver coverage for the price of Pro Bronze!

Sign up for the PADI endorsed DAN insurance program today

 

*The dive accident cover for an unlimited number of YOUR dive students is for the following PADI courses: Discover Scuba Diving, Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, Basic Freediver, Freediver and Advanced Freediver.

Student dive accident cover includes:

  • Alarm Centre and management of medical emergencies 24/7
  • Worldwide emergency medical treatment & medical evacuation (€15,000,00)
  • Search & rescue of the missing diver (€ 2,500,00)

PADI and The Reef-World Foundation Embark on a Global Venture to Make Sustainable Diving the Social Norm

PADI® and Reef-World have joined forces to promote sustainable diving practices for the protection of the marine environment. This partnership will raise awareness and deliver tools to implement the Green Fins standard of best practice, helping to ensure the long-term sustainability of coral reefs, recreational scuba diving and local livelihoods.

Green Fins is the only internationally recognized environmental standard for dive and snorkel operators, established through a partnership between UN Environment and The Reef World Foundation. Green Fins uses a unique and proven three-pronged approach; green certifications of dive centers, strengthening regulations and environmental education for dive staff, divers and government.

As the largest diver training organization in the world, PADI has the reach and influence to mobilize divers to be citizen activists. With 6,500 PADI Dive Centers and Resorts, 135,000 PADI Professionals and more than 25 million divers around the world, the PADI network has tremendous potential to make an impact on critical environmental issues.

PADI is committed to supporting social and environmental efforts through its Pillars of ChangeSM, designed to empower divers, and the dive industry, with information to get involved with causes they care about in tangible ways. With PADI’s support and more dive operators worldwide adhering to the best practices outlined by Green Fins, the dive industry can play a significant role in creating a more sustainable future.

“Reef-World is working in partnership with UN Environment on the front lines alongside business, government and the public to be the driving force for making sustainable diving and snorkeling the social norm globally. Our ultimate goal is to reduce local threats to coral reefs, allowing them to be more resilient to global impacts such as climate change. We’re thrilled to work with PADI, alongside other dive industry leaders, who can engage divers and diving businesses worldwide, helping us to scale solutions with the urgency that is required.” – JJ Harvey, Reef-World

Many locations are experiencing increasing numbers of tourists who are attracted by vibrant coral reefs. Ensuring that every diver and dive operator in all corners of the globe are equipped with appropriate training and knowledge will help relieve pressure on the marine environment.

“Unquestionably, there are serious and formidable issues threatening the world’s coral reefs. That said, I’m a firm believer in engagement, problem identification and mitigation. The PADI organization is committed to acting as a force for good. By empowering divers and connecting them to the PADI family and global issues relevant to our industry, we can help people be a powerful catalyst for change.” – Drew Richardson, President and CEO of PADI Worldwide.

“Saving coral reefs as a source of livelihoods and as a business asset requires collaboration between industry, civil society and governments. This partnership is set to raise the sustainability bar of the diving industry and will help establish environmentally friendly diving as the global norm” – Jerker Tamelander, Head of Coral Reef Unit, UN Environment

The partnership between PADI and Reef-World aims to reach more divers and businesses with the Green Fins lessons and tools. This will be achieved by:

  • Collaborating to help scale the proven solutions of Green Fins: PADI supports market research efforts for the development of a new Green Fins online support system for broader global implementation and easy adoption.
  • Promoting the Green Fins approach: PADI Dive Centres and Resorts are encouraged to adopt the Green Fins Code of Conduct and, where available, seek Green Fins certified membership.
  • Help deliver on PADI’s Pillars of Change focusing on marine animal protection and sustainable tourism by raising awareness throughout the diving industry about available tools and materials to promote change in business practices and reduce environmental impact.
  • Promoting sustainable dive tourism and coral reefs protection through the development of new online media content that inspires environmentally friendly actions.

Working collaboratively provides greater opportunity for dive operators around the world to be better informed and equipped to apply sustainable dive practices, using Green Fins’ guidelines. Reducing environmental threats and pressure on the fragile marine environment will result in improved coral reef resilience and increased sustainable tourism at dive destinations. The partnership delivers on the goals of Agenda 2030 of the United Nations, specifically SDG 12 (Sustainable Consumption and Production) and 14 (Life below water).

About Reef-World:

Reef-World supports governments and communities in sustainable consumption and production of coastal resources and marine life. This is done through the Green Fins initiative, established and implemented in partnership with UN Environment. Green Fins is a free membership program for participating businesses that provide scuba diving or snorkeling activities and pledge to follow a set of best environmental practices. Within the 550+ businesses that have implemented Green Fins across nine countries, consistent reduction in threats to the marine environment has been measured, reflecting continued improvements in environmental practice. Specific areas of change are seen in reduced single-use plastics and chemical cleaning products, more responsible underwater behavior among divers and improved environmental awareness within our target audience. For more information visit reef-world.org and greenfins.net.

PADI announces its 2019 Shows!

PADI has been busy planning its 2019 events schedule and is excited to announce that it will be exhibiting at the following shows:

Salon de la Plongée (Paris, France): 11 – 14 January – PADI Village.

BOOT (Dusseldorf, Germany): 19 – 27 January – PADI Village.

DIVE MENA Expo (Dubai, UAE): 26 February – 2 March.

EUDI (Bologna, Italy): 1 – 3 March – PADI Village.

PADI will also have a presence at these shows:

Moscow Dive Show (Moscow, Russia): 31 January – 3 February.

Duikvaker (Houten, Netherlands): 2 – 3 February.

DykMassan (Stockholm, Sweden): 16 – 17 March.

Additional 2019 shows will be added as they are confirmed. Check in regularly for an updated list.

We hope you’ll join us at one or more of the shows. If you’d like to partner with us in one of the PADI villages please contact your Regional Manager for more information.

Dive Opportunities in Salalah – Oman

When it comes to dive center ownership, location is everything. You need access to good diving, good transport links for customers to reach you and a demand for diving that will sustain your operation. Salalah, the capital city of Dhofar province in the Southern region of Oman, provides these qualities for PADI Dive Centers.

What can you expect from owning a dive center on Oman’s Southern coast?

Like most places on Earth, dive store owners here can expect seasonal variance. In real terms, June to September is considered the low-season due to the Indian Ocean climate change. Although monsoon rain settling over the mountains turn the typical Arabian landscape into lush green scenic views, the diving grinds to a halt. Heavy rains wash out many dive sites and turn the underwater flora from vibrant coral fields into dense kelp forests. The strong winds and limited visibility make diving opportunities in Salalah difficult in this Khareef (autumn) season.

To learn more about the unique nature of Oman’s diving, visit the PADI Blog.

Once the Khareef is over, the diving starts! As to be expected from a Gulf country, everything goes back to normal sunny days during September. The green mountains fade for another year, giving way to the beautiful wild and white beaches. Temperatures average 30 degrees and are twinned with a pleasant constant ocean breeze. The water warms up and divers are ready once more.

Where to dive and what to expect?

Mirbat – Beach Diving and shallow waters. PADI Dive Centers can conduct all of the PADI Entry Level Courses in Mirbat.

Mirbat is approximately a 45-minute drive from Salalah. It is reached by 4X4: halfway on a scenic highway, paved alongside the Dhofar’s mountains, and the remaining part of the journey is an off-road drive above sandy dunes. All the dive sites in Mirbat are characterized by easy access directly from the shore. Underwater, the abundance of sunlight and limited depth provide the perfect conditions for corals to flourish. Mirbat’s diving environment not only offers stunning coral gardens, but also a great range of fish: from the tiniest Nudibranches, Flat Worms, Shrimp and other crustaceans to Clownfish, Octopus,  Morays, Stonefish …and if you keep an eye on the blue, it is not unusual to spot different Rays, Turtles  and Barracudas.

Main diving spots are: Eagle Bay, China Wreck and Aquarium.

Salalah – Boat Diving and depths of 30m offer a wide range of diving opportunities for a PADI Dive Center

Differently from Mirbat, diving in Salalah is operated by boat – departing from the fisherman’s port, which is easily reachable with a short drive from any accommodation in town. Dive sites are all located West of the port and along the cliff’s faces. Bottom’s depth in this area averages from 7 to 30 mt. therefore dive sites vary in topography each with something unique to offer; depending from your certification level, you can choose the better depth range that fits your needs. Given the location, marine life here changes with the season, constantly offering something new to admire: there is a large variety of Morays, Crocodile fish, Cuttlefish, Frogfish, the occasional huge Turtle and gigantic – up to 2mt.-Stingrays. During the dives, it is a good habit to monitor the surface as there is always a chance to find yourself caught in a school of Sardines being hunted by Trevally or even Mantas searching for Plankton.

Main diving spots are: Port wall, Raysut point and Donkeys Head east/west

What are you waiting for?  For more information on diving in Oman, contact PADI Regional Manager Teo Brambilla

 

An Action Packed EUROTEK 2018 Awaits

EUROTEK 2018

EUROTEK – the European advanced and technical diving conference – takes place 1st-2nd December 2018 and you’re invited. You don’t need to be a technical diver to attend, just an enthusiastic one, keen to learn more about our amazing sport.

Wondering why you should head to EUROTEK?  Here are five reasons;

  1. EUROTEK is a top quality professional learning event – this is your opportunity to engage with world class experts and get the low down on cardiac issues in diving, Immersion Pulmonary Oedma and changing concepts in decompression
  2. Network with like-minded divers from 22 countries and make valuable connections, both personally and professionally. It’s the perfect place to get invited on exciting dives
  3. Learn about the latest diving equipment without getting the hard sell. Our exhibitors have time to discuss what kit solutions you need for your current diving and future adventures
  4. Keep pace with the latest information on Hypoxia (the silent killer) and CO2 monitoring in rebreathers from an outstanding keynote presenter: Professor Simon Mitchell
  5. Hang out with explorers – our speakers are receptive and helpful. Come with questions and leave with answers

Hang on! We’ve got even more reasons…

Thai Cave Rescue Team

  • Want to know what really happened in Tham Luang cave this summer? Rick Stanton and Dr Richard Harris tell you the truth about the Thailand cave rescue
  • Are you are training disabled divers? Wheelchair user Tom Hughes recounts the challenges he faced to become a tech diver
  • Next year is the 100th anniversary of the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow. Renowned skipper Emily Turton gives us the low down these iconic wrecks and reveals survey secrets from HMS Hampshire and Vanguard.

Wow!  What an awesome line up.  And if that has whet your appetite, how about starting your weekend early at the Big Fat EUROTEK Friday night curry. Then celebrate friendship and success at the UK’s biggest scuba diving party on Saturday night. You could win a KISS Rebreather, an Otter Drysuit, an awesome goodie bag or a holiday to Buddy Dive Bonaire whilst raising money for the British Cave Rescue Council.

This opportunity is too good to miss so to find out more, or book your delegate pass log onto www.eurotek.uk.com.  Choose to attend for a day or the weekend. If you come on Saturday and love it so much, you don’t have to buy a Sunday pass, just upgrade to a weekend pass by paying the balance.

See you next weekend at The Rep Theatre in the heart of Birmingham, UK.

PADI Awards Medal of Valor to Thailand Cave Rescuers Who Represent Diving’s Finest Hour

Leadership and rescue divers instrumental in the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand earlier this year will be the first-ever recipients of PADI’s Medal of Valor. This high distinction will be awarded to Rick Stanton, John Volanthen, Dr. Richard Harris, Dr. Craig Challen, Jason Mallinson, Jim Warny and Chris Jewell. The courage, strength, honor and dignity displayed during the rescue operation propelled the PADI organization to create the medal to formally recognize their contributions to one of diving’s greatest moments in history. Rick Stanton and Jason Mallinson will represent this distinguished group and accept the PADI Medal of Valor at the PADI® Social on 13 November during DEMA Show 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

In June and July 2018, the world watched as top cave divers and other experts from around the globe converged in Thailand to find and save the “Wild Boars” soccer team, which had become trapped deep inside the Tham Luang cave system. For 18 days, the international effort involved more than 1,000 men and women, who combined their collective talents for the extraordinary recovery of the team.

“It was an awe-inspiring example of humanity at its best, focused on a single noble purpose,” says Drew Richardson, President and CEO of PADI Worldwide. “This complex rescue operation demonstrated action and focus propelled by the unshakeable conviction that those boys would not die on diving’s watch. Rick Stanton, Jason Mallinson and everyone who was part of this effort faced and accepted the difficulties, dangers and risks inherent in the rescue. On behalf of the entire PADI family, it is an honor to recognize these heroes and extend our immense gratitude for representing diving’s finest hour.”

Rick Stanton and John Volanthen were a driving force in the Thai cave rescue operation. The pair was the first to discover the soccer team, which had been trapped in the flooded cave for nine days at the time they were found. Together, with Mallinson and Jewell, the divers led the dive rescue and carried the boys out of the cave to safety. Both Stanton and Volanthen are regarded as two of Britain’s foremost cave divers, with more than 35 years’ experience in extreme cave dives and rescues, having led a number of high-profile rescue attempts in the past.

Dr. Richard “Harry” Harris played a critical role in the rescue, administering sedatives to the boys to facilitate their extraction under extreme and complex conditions. Working in anesthesia and aeromedical retrieval medicine in Adelaide, South Australia, Harris has expertise in cave diving, wilderness medicine and remote area health. Dr. Craig Challen, an Australian cave explorer, early adopter of closed-circuit mixed-gas rebreathers and avid wreck diver, dived alongside Harris facilitating the successful execution of the rescue.

Jason Mallinson and Chris Jewell were integral to the mission, taking food to the those trapped and working alongside Stanton and Volanthen to carry the boys out through the flooded sections of cave. Mallinson is an exploration and rescue cave diver with 30 years in the field. His achievements have led him to set distance and depth records in caves all over the world. He has assisted in multiple rescues and is a member of the United Kingdom’s international cave-dive rescue team. Jewell is a UK-based exploratory cave diver with more than 12 years’ experience leading cave diving. Belgian cave diver Jim Warny, who currently resides in Ireland, was instrumental in the coach’s extraction.

 

“Their daring mission is a wonderful opportunity to show the world what the diving community is made of, and what can be accomplished through a combination of proper training, trust, courage, passion and perseverance,” says Richardson.

Industry stakeholders and PADI Members are invited to stand together to thank these heroic divers. Join PADI in honoring these men at the PADI Social on Tuesday, 13 November 2018, from 6:00-8:00 pm at the Westgate Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.

All are invited for a special meet and greet with Rick Stanton and Jason Mallinson at the DEMA Show in the PADI booth (booth 1524) on Wednesday, 14 November from 5:00-6:00 pm. Please join PADI in celebrating these heroes and thanking them for their courage and honor.

Khaled Zaki: underwater photographer and environment ambassador!

PADI member since 1994, Khaled started diving in Sharm El Sheikh – Red Sea, at the end of the 80’s, learning – as he says – by some of the industry’s world-class diving professional at that period of time.

 

After a successful career as PADI Instructor in the Red Sea, Khaled moved to Qatar – where he still lives – in the late 90’s: here he expanded his professional abilities by specializing in underwater photography, film making and rebreather diving, without – of course – quitting his passion for teaching by training thousands of PADI divers (and becoming PADI Master Instructor) !

After winning several prizes as photographer and film maker and having some of his photos selected to promote Qatar worldwide …he has now a mission:

<<Working as a professional UW photographer & film maker gave me the opportunity to dive more often and travel around the world …this made me understand how scuba diving could have a positive impact on the environmental and economic state of different countries >>.

 

Khaled, now involved in several Environmental projects, has a clear strategy:
<<I like to use my knowledge and skills in photography and filming to attract new souls into the underwater world and make them ambassadors of the environment>>

 

That’s exactly what he does: Khaled regularly runs Photography workshops for non-divers, he constantly appears on TV shows/programs and magazines where he talks about diving and the positive impact and huge contribution that a certified diver can provide to the environment.

 

In April 2017 he was invited at the Underwater Life Conference (sponsored by UNESCO) in Salalah – Oman, as a guest of honour to talk about scuba diving and the positive effects of scuba diving on economy and environment.

 

On behalf of PADI, thanks Khaled for your continuous support and contribution to the diving industry’s growth in Qatar !

You can follow Khaled on his new environmentally dedicated Facebook page: Little effort = Big impact

…. Or on his social networks:
Youtube
Instagram
Facebook

The poisonous pufferfish: Their true story

A floating ball of spines drifts past. This ball of spines is actually the most poisonous fish in the world and is responsible for multiple human fatalities every year. But what are the facts? Should you be worried? No!

Pufferfish are a diverse family of fish. They are found worldwide and have over 100 species. Although some species have adapted to live in brackish and freshwater the majority are encountered around the tropics and subtropical ocean waters. In the Maldives we have 5 genera and 18 species. They have a distinctive appearance with their long tapered body and large round head. These pufferfish can range from two centimetres long to almost one metre. In the Maldives the largest pufferfish is the Starry Pufferfish which grows to almost one metre and the smallest is the White-spotted Pufferfish which is around eight centimetres. Pufferfish are mostly bottom dwelling, inhabiting either reefs or sanding flats. Larvae are pelagic and a few species are completely pelagic.

In the Maldives we also have four species of porcupinefish which are in a different family to pufferfish – they belong to the Diodontidae family. They are very similar to pufferfish; the defining difference is that the porcupinefish’s body is covered in visible sharp spines that become upright when inflated. Pufferfish spines are not so visible prior to inflation. Porcupinefish in the Maldives are uncommon and are encountered individually. During the day they take shelter at depth, at night they become more active. Sometimes large porcupinefish can be found hovering around shallow reefs during the day – the reason behind this is currently unknown.

Whilst some pufferfish species have distinguishing bright markings over their bodies to show off their toxicity, for example the Saddled Pufferfish others camouflage themselves to match their surroundings. They are a scale-less fish with rough or spiky skin, beady eyes and all four teeth are fused together to form a beak. Big pufferfish use their beak to crack open and consume clams, mussels and shellfish. Smaller pufferfish prefer algae and smaller invertebrates.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Most pufferfish are highly toxic due to containing a toxin called tetrodotoxin. The fish obtain this poison from vibrio bacteria which is found in the animals they eat, specifically from eating starfish and turban shell. Tetrodotoxin is a neurotoxin which is flavorless, odorless, heat stable and causes nerve paralysis. The location of the poison changes between species and is generally found in the liver and ovaries. To humans this poison is 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide and there is enough poison in one pufferfish to kill 30 people. Additionally there is no known antidote. It is believed that pufferfish underwent a spontaneous mutation that caused structural changes in the fish allowing them to incorporate this bacteria containing the lethal toxin in their bodies to their advantage. Sharks are the only known animal to be immune to pufferfish poison. Although the toxin will kill, current research is testing whether low doses have medical benefits. Studies show that the toxin may relieve pain particularly with cancer patients. This could be an alternative to opiate use and it has also been shown to reduce opiate withdrawal pain.

Even though it is well known that pufferfish are highly poisonous and can kill it doesn’t stop people eating them! Pufferfish is popular to eat steamed, roasted, in broth or hot pot and as sashimi. In Japan and Korea it is considered a delicacy. A pufferfish dish, called Fugu which means swell up has been eaten in Japan for over 2000 years, although during this time there have been restrictions. For example, in the 16th century Japan’s supreme war lord ordered that the eating of Fugu was illegal. This was in response to some of his troops dying after eating Fugu whilst he was rallying them to invade the Korean Peninsula. Whilst some people continued to eat Fugu in secret prohibition did not end until 1887 when Japan’s first prime minister went to a restaurant. The local fisherman had not caught anything and only Fugu was available – the prime minister was served it and he loved it. The year after this the ban was lifted in that region. Other regions shortly followed.

In Japan there are now 22 different species that have been approved to eat. To serve pufferfish the chef must have a certification. Training for this certification takes seven to ten years and includes a written examination, together with the chef being able to gut and remove the poisonous parts of the fish within 20 minutes. Two types of pufferfish are very popular: Torafugu (luxury option) and Mafugu (cheaper alternative). Typically one kilo of Torafugu costs $200USD.

The process of toxin removal has improved over time with it now being possible to completely remove the poison from the ovaries of fish. The ovaries are pickled for one year in salt and then for a further two years in rice bran. During the pickling process fermented sardine extract is poured over the ovaries to mature them. This removes the poison and delivers flavour. The science behind this process is unknown and only a few places are permitted to produce it. Additionally in some aquaculture facilities poison free pufferfish are being bred. They are bred in sterile environments where no vibrio bacteria are present. Theoretically the pufferfish should not be able to store the poison because there is no poison in their diet. These facilities are focusing their research on the liver. They have sampled 4000 fish livers over a nine year period and none of these fish were found to have the toxin. Now in special places poison free liver can be eaten and it is said to be very tasty.

The poison is a major deterrent for predators, but this is not the pufferfish’s only defense. When the pufferfish is threatened they can inflate by 40% making them harder to eat since they become a large stiff ball. For a mature fish this process takes around 15 seconds. Inflation is as a result of the fish unhinging their jaw and rapidly gulping large amounts of water (or air if the fish is out of the water) which causes their body to expand/puff up. The ability to inflate is mainly due to the pufferfish having an elastic stomach – the stomach has a special large and folded lining which allows it to expand and accommodate a large volume of air or water. The pufferfish’s skin also has collagen fibers which allows it to stretch and not break. Additionally most pufferfish lack some ribs and have no pelvis which allows them to become a ball shape. It takes the pufferfish around six hours to return to normal size and during this time they are vulnerable due to their increased size and lack of mobility. The process of puffing up is also very exhausting and can be damaging to the fish. For these reasons it is important that divers and snorkelers are respectful of pufferfish and avoid triggering their inflation by scaring or antagonizing them.

We have a variety of pufferfish that can be seen around Gili Lankanfushi. So next time you’re here grab your snorkel and camera and take a look!

PADI’s guest blogger Emma Bell introduces herself:

I am a marine biologist and scuba diver from England. I have had the privilege of working in Greece, Seychelles and Maldives. I have worked in an aquaculture research centre where I focused on hormonal manipulation of a pelagic fish species. In addition, I have experience with coral restoration projects including frames and ropes; habitat restoration – crown of thorns, drupella and invasive plant species removal; educational activities and social media updates including blogs. I have also monitored population dynamics of bird, turtle, shark and cetacean species to aid in their conservation. I started my career working in the Maldives and I have done a round trip via Greece, England and Seychelles, I hope to increase my skills set and knowledge further whilst I am at Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives.

 

Dolphin encounters in the Maldives Part – 2

The Maldives is a tourist hot spot for dolphin cruises. These majestic animals are found commonly around Gili Lankanfushi and never disappoint with their impressive aerial displays and playful attitude.

The Maldives is a dream destination for wildlife seekers and ocean adventurers. The ocean temperature averages between 27 – 31°C, contains plentiful fish and has incredible visibility. This makes it an ideal location for cetaceans: whales, dolphins and porpoises. They are aptly named as the word cetacean means huge fish.

Spinner Dolphins:

Spinner dolphins are a common species of dolphins seen in the Maldives and worldwide. They are easily identified due to their tricolor pattern, the upper side is dark grey, the middle a light grey and the underside white. They have a defined dark line from the eye to the flipper and an elongated nose. They get their name due to their unique jumping behaviour, they are the only species of cetacean to spin laterally in the air. The maximum number of spins recorded is seven. These spinning displays can vary, these variations are thought to be caused by habitat differences.

Spinner dolphins are usually found in coastal environments generally associated with island chains or atolls. Spinner dolphins have a high re-sighting rate which indicates high site fidelity. During the day they use bay areas to rest and socialise, at night they venture offshore to hunt. These resting bays are generally in close proximity to feeding grounds, have a flat and sandy bottom with a depth around 20m. These features allow the dolphins to use only vision (instead of echolocation) to keep a look out for predators. If visibility is poor the dolphins are unlikely to rest as they are vulnerable to predation.

Reproduction in spinner dolphins varies greatly between sub-species. Their calving period is year round with a gestation time of 10.5 months, after birth the calf will nurse for two years. The period between calves is three years. Females reach sexual maturity earlier than males (seven for female and seven to ten for males).

Spinner dolphins have predictable daily patterns but there social structure is variable. Group size varies with habitat, with some open ocean populations traveling in groups numbering thousands. Group size could be dependent on the size of the sandy bay bottom and activity, for example resting group size is smaller than hunting groups. Dolphins living in remote reefs and atolls have higher affinity to each other whereas coastal population are more changeable. In coastal environments individual groups rest separately during the day and can come together at night to hunt. These dolphins typically hunt prey that live in deeper water but migrate vertically at night following the plankton. Feeding occurs at depths between 200 – 400m and includes fish, shrimp and squid. The size of the prey is small (five – 15cm) with males preferring lantern fish and females cuttlefish. Spinner dolphins along with bottlenose dolphins are vulnerable to a variety of human activities and developments.

Potential Threats:

The majority of bottlenose and spinner dolphins in the Maldives reside in coastal environments which makes them highly susceptible to human activities. Coastal habitats are becoming degraded and as such management of coastal environments is critical for dolphin survival. Both species of dolphin are particularly vulnerable to human activities including dolphin watching, swimming with dolphins, pollutants including acoustic and chemical pollution, gillnets, by-catch, hunting, habitat degradation, boat traffic, sea planes, climate change, purse seines and trawling fisheries.

As awareness about the threats to the planet grows there is a shift from activities that degrade wild animal populations to activities that educate and raise awareness. The number of participants for dolphin watching activities is growing and highly profitable. Dolphin watching has many positives; less invasive than swimming with dolphins, reduced desire from aquariums, alternative employment, reduced hunting and by-catch. Unfortunately some dolphin watching activities have little or no regulations and can be conducted in a manner that is negative for the dolphins. These activities can alter feeding, resting and reproductive behaviours. Stressed behaviour can be exhibited as changes in swimming speed and direction, changes in communication, respiration rate and aerial behaviours.

It has been observed that cetaceans avoid areas with heavy boat traffic and it is thought that disturbances to dolphins could lead to increased injury rate, unsuccessful reproduction, increases stress and damages survival probability. Prolonged disturbance may lead to permanent relocation of dolphin populations. A common misconception people have with dolphins is that they can leave if they aren’t happy, dolphins can find themselves too stressed, confused and blocked in by boats to leave. Additionally, many dolphins are reliant on coastal environments, moving away from the coast can lead to diminished survival chances. As more research is conducted it has become apparent that dolphin watching can be executed in a sustainable way.

PADI’s guest blogger Emma Bell introduces herself:

I am a marine biologist and scuba diver from England. I have had the privilege of working in Greece, Seychelles and Maldives. I have worked in an aquaculture research centre where I focused on hormonal manipulation of a pelagic fish species. In addition, I have experience with coral restoration projects including frames and ropes; habitat restoration – crown of thorns, drupella and invasive plant species removal; educational activities and social media updates including blogs. I have also monitored population dynamics of bird, turtle, shark and cetacean species to aid in their conservation. I started my career working in the Maldives and I have done a round trip via Greece, England and Seychelles, I hope to increase my skills set and knowledge further whilst I am at Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives.