Whale rescue in Seychelles carried out by Qatari PADI divers

On the 13th of November, a group of divers from Doha , leaded by PADI MSDT Edison Marinda,  were enjoying their holidays in Seychelles.

While sailing South East of Mahe, the crew noticed a huge splash in the distance; curious about it, the skipper steered the boat towards it and suddenly a baby-whale broke the surface and slapped the fins on the water while another whale – bigger in size – from below the surface kept on spraying form her blowhole.

Here below Edison words ….

<<It looked like the baby-whale was alerting us that her mother was in trouble; everybody on the boat started shouting “whale – whale” … we grabbed our freediving gear and cameras and we all jumped in the water, leaded by the local dive guide. As soon as we approached the whales we could see the tragedy that was taking place: the whale was entangled in a massive fishing net, more than 50 meters long, filled with dead fish …including a juvenile shark. I felt sad and angry in seeing a gigantic 16-meter humpback whale, together with her calf, hovering powerless!>>

The team immediately headed back to the boat: in few minutes a rescue plan was in place, everybody knew what to do and they all jumped back in the water equipped with scuba gear and knives.

It was an hard mission that lasted more than one hour, as the distressed whale kept on swimming and diving to depth carrying the group of divers, who were holding on to the net, to 30 meters. At first, the rescue team was able to cut the net surrounding the mouth but there was still more entangled on the caudal and pectoral fins. It seemed that they couldn’t do any more than that and, due to dive profile and air consumption, the divers surfaced and went back to the boat. Few moments later the whale surfaced again, the team went back to the water and they were finally able to remove the remaining net and set the animal free!

<<It was an amazing feeling and experience to unleash this mighty creature. Thinking back, it was a highly dangerous mission: the whole team and I risked our own safety to save a life. This is a life lesson and an eye-opener to the world: a fishing net can endanger or even worst can kill sea creatures. We all have to be more responsible for how we act>> (Edison Marinda).

 

How Can We Protect More of Our Oceans?

For more than two decades, scientists have been telling us that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are one of the keys to long term ocean health. While some debated their worth early on, today there’s little dispute. As reported by Smithsonian Magazine, MPAs with full protection have four times as much life (biomass). Species grow larger and reproduce proportionately more. MPAs and the areas around them recover more quickly from environmental damage, and (along with fishery management) have higher fish catches — so much so that commercial fishing comes out ahead despite the loss of fishable area.While established as big wins for everyone, global governments arenot on track to meet a U.N. goal to have 10% of the world’s ocean under full protection by 2020. Officially, we’re at just under 6%, but some say it’s really under 4% because some declared MPAs have no enforcement and nothing’s changed.

Moreton Bay Hope Spot Anemone Fish – Photo By Chis Roelfsema

But thanks to Hope Spots, we can help catch up and get ahead of the curve. Hope Spots, if you’re not familiar, were conceived by Dr. Sylvia Earle, with coordination and oversight by Mission Blue, a not-for-profit organization Dr. Earle founded to unite people and organizations for this cause. Hope Spots are unique marine areas identified as particularly distinct due to the diversity of species found there, the habitat’s importance for reproduction, threats from human activity, community economic needs or any other attribute that makes a location central to marine environmental health.

The idea is to conserve and preserve Hope Spots by leveraging public perception and attention so they receive appropriate protection (not necessarily becoming MPAs, and some Hope Spots are already MPAs). As you’d expect, the PADI organization formally partnered with Mission Blue in 2017, adding the weight of 26 million+ PADI Diver voices to the Hope Spot cause. Thanks to Dr. Earle, Hope Spots are a conspicuous example of how one person with a great idea can inspire millions to unite across borders and cultures for a common purpose.

Global Hope Spots map. Photo: Mission Blue

Today, there are almost 100 existing and proposed Hope Spots, and they are important, even though preserving them will not, in itself, halt global climate change, clean up the oceans, stop overfishing, etc. These bigger problems call for big, broad and deep social changes (that are not impossible), but we still need Hope Spots for several reasons:

  • By creating areas with proven biological productivity, they help us buy time addressing some of these challenges. For example, Hope Spots won’t solve overfishing, but by providing areas in which fish reproduction functions unchecked, we prop up fish populations as we sort through the management issues.
  • Hope Spots help preserve biodiversity. Some scientists see this as helping the ocean bounce back with as many species as possible as we make positive changes. Others, accepting that some change is permanent, see biodiversity as central to marine ecology. That is, some coral species tolerate heat better than others; having a diverse genetic supply of such species may be important in a warmer ocean.
  • Hope Spots are inspirational and visible. Hope Spots draw attention. They remind communities just how close and personal ocean threats are, but that we can (and must) act to offset them. As a source of local pride, Hot Spots inspire area divers and ocean advocates to speak up for and fight for them. Mission Blue, PADI and other supporters use social media to highlight Hope Spot stories to make and keep them in the broad public eye.

As a diver, you can support the PADI organization, Mission Blue and others united behind Hope Spots. You can nominate a Hope Spot, and you can participate in events promoting/protecting a Hope Spot (many led by PADI dive shops or instructors, and may tie in Project AWARE as well). Of course, you can contribute to Hope Spot funding – check out mission-blue.org. If you live near or visit a Hope Spot, talk about it in person and on social media – especially with those who may not be aware of it. Finally, get involved with Project AWARE and your local PADI dive operation to make every dive count. Millions of people like you and me passionately preserving, conserving and restoring the ocean is the best hope there is.

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

A Force for Good: The Researchers

Everyone knows that global environments in general, and the oceans in particular, are threatened. Climate change, coral bleaching, overfishing, runaway plastics – it’s a long list and every day, another study makes the list longer and more daunting. It may seem like everyone’s jumping on the bad news bandwagon, but I look at these reports in a positive, enabling way: the future we don’t want must be predicted to avoid it.

So, besides studying current issues, marine and environmental researchers show us problems before they arise. For example, in August marine scientists Wortman, Paytan and Yao (University of Toronto and University of California, Santa Cruz) released a study that suggests that, beyond warming, elevated atmospheric CO2 would reduce oceanic oxygen, making the deeper depths toxic and significantly damage fisheries through it effect on the food web. Yes, that’s bad news, but thanks to these researchers we know now, while we still have time to do something about it.

And, this leads to the second reason researchers are a crucial force for good. It’s about predicting problems, but also finding the solutions andsharing them. In a previous blog, I mentioned Dr. Vaughan’s breakthrough in coral restoration – shared research that directly addresses a massive global challenge that’s close to the heart of all divers. In Cuba’s Guanahacabibes National Marine Park, biologist Dr. Dorka Cobián Rojas teams with global scientists and “citizen scientist” divers to research causes and implement solutions to coral loss and the invasive lionfish. There also, Dr. Osmani Borrego similarly researches plastic pollution. These are critical research efforts because Guanahacabibes’ reefs are healthy, making them a biological resource oasis needed to find the problems and solutions we need to protect, preserve and restore the world’s reefs and fisheries.

Let’s not overlook “citizen scientist” involvement, because it is vital. Professional full-time researchers like Rojás and Borrego do not have the time or resources to gather all the data and trial the solutions. Solving massive, world-scale problems calls for massive, world-scale participation – in the ocean, that means you and me. As Project AWARE likes to say, don’t let your dives go to waste. Every dive we make can contribute to research. Dive Against Debris, for example, isn’t simply about picking up litter underwater or pointing fingers – it’s part of finding out how we can stop it.

Another effort is Reef Life Survey, founded by Dr. Graham Edgar, which trains volunteer divers to survey marine organisms. More than 200 RLS divers have already surveyed more than 2,000 sites in 44 countries, creating one of the largest global biological databases in existence. Using these data, researchers expect a shift in fish and invertebrate distribution as the oceans warm – a conclusion only possible thanks to these citizen scientist divers.  India.mongbay.com reports that in India, scientists train fishermen and other volunteers to dive (if they’re not already divers) as citizen scientists for involvement in multiple initiatives, and it has another benefit – public support. “The research also gets community buy-in when their people are involved,” the report quotes University of Kerala’s aquatic biology department head A. Biju Kuma. Go online and you can find literally dozens of ways scientists embrace divers like you and me in researching the solutions to environmental threats.

There’s a lot to do, so let’s make every dive count. Join Dive Against Debris if you haven’t already, and/or any other citizen scientist effort. We can be researchers while still making images, exploring or doing everything else we love about diving. And, let’s be restorers who use what we’re learning to rebuild, revitalize and recreate a healthy global environment. Let’s be reachers and teachers who use diving to spread what we’re learning and doing, and pass it to the next generations.

Regardless of what today’s trends are, the future is not inevitable. With 25 million PADI Professionals and Divers helping lead the way, and with a new generation of divers to come, we’re already changing course to a different tomorrow with a thriving, healthy global environment. When it comes to gazing into the crystal ball, I like what author-educator Peter Drucker said:

The best way to predict the future
is to create it.

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

AWARE Week Successes and Stories

As AWARE Week wrapped up on 23 September, the amount of dive operators, instructors, and dive communities that participated in events throughout the world was impressive. From Project AWARE Specialty courses, to neighborhood barbecues to Dive Against Debris® events collecting over 22,000 pounds of trash, here’s how our fellow dive operators helped make AWARE Week a success.

United Arab Emirates: Divers Down UAE

Divers Down UAE collected over 110 pounds of marine debris during their Dive Against Debris event. As a way of creating shark awareness, they also conducted an AWARE Shark Conservation Specialty course for 14 of their PADI divers.

Thailand: Crystal Dive Koh Tao

The team at Crystal Dive Koh Tao spent the week conducting Dive Against Debris and AWARE Shark Conservation specialties. To finish off the event, they celebrated with a free barbecue night for all of the participants.

Curacao: Blue Bay on Curacao

A group of volunteers came together in Curacao for a beach clean-up at Hole 6. In addition to the two full boats of divers and snorkelers, participants signed up for the PADI Invasive Lion Fish Specialty Course to assist in catching the invasive species.

Australia: Dive Centre Manly

The group at Dive Centre Manly gathered 30 people for their “Blue Backyard Cleanup.” The majority of the items retrieved were plastic wrappers, single-use coffee cups, straws, cutlery, Styrofoam, and hundreds of unidentifiable pieces of plastic. As an added reward, the nearby Hawkesbury Brewing Co. gave the participants a very well-deserved free beer.

Spain: Balky Sub

In Spain, Balky Sub’s group were on one of the area’s cleaner dive sites and still recovered more than 11 pounds of plastic in one day – mostly consisting of plastic bottles and bags. And since every day is AWARE Week for this team, they make an effort to pick up trash from the ocean and beach on a daily basis.

Philippines: Dive Funatics

Before they conducted their monthly Dive Against Debris event on 22 September, Dive Funatics, located in the Philippines held a peak performance buoyancy clinic to ensure all of their divers had a chance to polish up their buoyancy. To thank their divers, participants received a T-shirt in addition to a bracelet made of upcycled debris collected from their August Dive Against Debris event.

Jordan: Deep Blue Dive Center

Deep Blue Dive Center teamed up with the Tala Bay Resort team by hosting a Dive Against Debris at Tala Bay marina on 12 September. The result: The crew cleaned up over 140 pounds of waste in 20 bags. But they didn’t stop there. The following week, a group of 15 divers conducted another clean-up.

Bonaire: Dive Friends Bonaire

From 15-21 September, Dive Friends Bonaire organized a range of activities to fight ocean pollution. With seven locations and five house reefs on-island, the group worked to promote conservation with Dive Against Debris dives on every house reef.

Florida: Rainbow Reef Divers

Since Rainbow Reef divers host a Dive Against Debris event every month, they were quick to jump into action for AWARE Week. In September, their boat removed and recorded over 2,000 pounds of marine debris.

AWARE Week may be over, but there are countless ways to keep your local community involved all year long. Here’s How to Make Every Week AWARE Week.

 

PADI Supporting the UK Dive Community

It has been a successful and busy summer of diving around the United Kingdom. As Regional Managers we have been out and about supporting Dive Centres and Instructors with a host of activities and events.

So, what has been happening? Member forums, charity events, EVE training seminars, business development workshops and AWARE Week, are just a few of the many events across the UK. We would like to thank you for your continued commitment and support at these forums, training days and events.

It has been particularly inspiring to see how many PADI Professionals have taken part in the PADI Adaptive Techniques Speciality Course this season. This focuses on increasing awareness of varying diver abilities and teaches PADI Pro’s student-centered and prescriptive approaches when adapting techniques to meet diver needs. This is a valuable course to enrol in during the winter months which can then be used for next year’s summer season of diving.

So, as we come into the winter months, we would like to see you all at Dive 2018 and offer our continued support and guidance to help increase marketing activity for all RRA’s.

Dive 2018

DIVE 2018 is coming to the NEC, Birmingham on 27th – 28th October. This is a weekend not to be missed. The show attracts a large range of exhibitors showcasing the latest diving holidays, training courses and dive gear. Not only this, but there will be presentations from inspiring speakers who are shaping the Dive Industry. As well as a TekPool, the event will feature a Try Dive Pool making it a great event to take friends and family to who are interested in becoming divers. PADI have teamed up with DIVE 2018 to reward our PADI Members and PADI Divers with a 2-for-1 ticket offer. Please see here for ticket details. Both Emma Hewitt and Matt Clements will be at the show on the Saturday, so get in touch or seek us out at the show as it would be great to catch up and run through anything that you would like to work on.

 

Marketing & Event Support

The winter months are a great time to work on marketing material ahead of the 2019 summer season. There is a range of support available as well as assets ready for your use. Be sure to use the PADI Dropbox account for access to the latest marketing materials. As well as this, the PADI YouTube Channel and the image library on Flikr is a great source of visual content available for use. One of the surprise findings from the Dive Centre survey was the lack of branded vans, so why not apply for a PADI designed van wrap? There is also a host of support available if you are looking to step outside your centre and run an event or take part in a show.

Please email Matt Clements or Emma Hewitt for any further information and support. Matt Clements – matt.clements@padi.com –  Emma Hewitt – emma.hewitt@padi.com 

Teach the Project AWARE Speciality course this winter

AWARE Week 2018 was a great success around the United Kingdom, with many UK Dive Shops participating in a number of ways. The week entailed film nights featuring ocean conservation films, Dive Against Debris® events, beach cleans and even a baby lobster release.

To compliment AWARE Week, PADI® and Project AWARE® announced the launch of the updated Project AWARE Speciality course. This course can be taught by all Instructors and Assistant Instructors. PADI Divemasters who have completed the Speciality Instructor training with a PADI Course Director and applied at their PADI Regional Headquarters also qualify to teach this course.

The newly revised Speciality course provides information and support to help individuals take responsibility for ocean health, based on Project AWARE’s 10 Tips for divers. The purpose of the course is to unite scuba divers and water enthusiasts to make a difference. It makes individuals aware of the most pressing problems facing aquatic environments and how to protect them.

The participant’s prerequisites are that they only need to have an interest in the aquatic environment to enrol. There is no minimum age or experience requirement and it is run as a dry course, or “fins off” as Project AWARE like to call it.

With the winter months starting to close in, the Project AWARE Speciality course gives you a chance to get your dive team and customers together to learn about the pressing problems facing our oceans as well as the everyday actions that can be taken to help protect them. This is also a great course to reach out to youth groups and schools to get involved with, in order to teach young people about the importance of ocean protection. If you are a Centre and would like to know more about the PADI Approved Youth Training Scheme for your Centre then please contact your PADI Regional Training Consultant – Emily Petley-Jones (Emily.petley-jones@padi.com).

There is a 10 Tips for Divers Toolkit on the Project AWARE website which includes Divers Handout and the poster. The instructor guide is on the PADI Pro’s site available as a free download and there are also lesson guides to help you in running your courses (Training Essentials> Curriculum> Specialities> Project AWARE Speciality Instructor Outline – v30).

The Project AWARE Specialty focuses on guiding participants toward the following personal commitments and actions they can take to help the environment…

10 Tips for Divers to Protect the Ocean Planet

  1. Be a Buoyancy Expert
  2. Be a Role Model
  3. Take Only Photos – Leave Only Bubbles
  4. Protect Underwater Life
  5. Become a Debris Activist
  6. Make Responsible Seafood Choices
  7. Take Action
  8. Be an Eco-tourist
  9. Shrink Your Carbon Footprint
  10. Give Back

 

A Force for Good: the Restorers

One thing about divers and the tenacity of the human spirit is that when we face a challenge, we size it up and then find a way over it, around it or through it. We’re handling coral stress and decline the same way. Today divers, partnering with scientists, have been at the heart of dozens of coral restoration initiatives, with research and practice in coral farming and transplanting growing and spreading. In my last blog post, I linked to the Coral Restoration Project, birthed by diver Dr. David Vaughan of Mote Marine Laboratory, who in starting some of the first coral nurseries, discovered how to grow coral 25 to 40 times faster than before. His discovery is one of the major breakthroughs we needed to start replacing coral on a large scale, and is just one example.

Jump to PADI AmbassaDiver Andre Miller MSc in Barbados. Recognizing that documenting coral damage is important but not a solution, Andre spearheaded a local effort to relocate endangered corals and to repopulate damaged heads. With a 90+% survival rate, this effort has already spread to several destinations in the Caribbean. Check out this link for locations and some amazing before and after images.

Coral Restoration Foundation Restoration Program Manager Jessica Levy hangs coral fragments on a new tree in Coral Restoration Foundation’s Tavernier Nursery.

One more example, the Coral Restoration Foundation™ and Curacao, with extensive participation by local PADI Dive Centers, visiting divers and the local dive community, their emphasis is staghorn and elkhorn corals, which are important because they provide structure and habitat, yet are listed as threatened by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Today, the Coral Restoration Foundation in Key Largo, Florida, has the capacity to grow more than 22,000 corals to a reef-ready size in one year, and has, to date, planted more than 74,000 corals back onto the Florida Reef Tract.

All the ways divers are central to restoring and reviving the underwater world could go on for pages, but three important points:

First, there’s a place for you in coral restoration. Head to tropical water and chances are the dive community’s doing it or getting it going – and needs your help because coral restoration requires divers. There is a lot of caretaking and routine maintenance to grow and transplant coral and to do this properly. Several dive operators teach PADI Coral Restoration distinctive specialties or host experiences that get you involved hands on. If you’re local and can participate regularly, even better. And, the coral colony you plant tomorrow could still be there — and much larger — when your descendants swim by on some dive in the distant future. Pretty cool.

Second, preservation is a pivotal part to coral restoration. Although restoration is accelerating, globally, coral decline is ahead. We have to address the drivers that accelerate coral loss as well as replant more to close this gap. Besides, replanting ultimately fails if new coral can’t survive anyway. So, every time you reduce your carbon footprint, recycle plastic, reduce debris, choose sustainable seafood, vote for the protection and conservation of aquatic resources and the marine environment and so on, you are helping to restore coral.

Third, we need to be realistic but also optimistic. Twenty-five million plus divers is an overwhelming force – with more than ten times the world’s largest military force, and an allegiance to a healthy, livable planet, it is a positive force that can change things. So, as I said before, the seas are in trouble, but the situation is far from hopeless because you’re on their side. We’re already moving, but let’s do more, faster. If you’re not sure where you fit in best, start your own journey and informed discussions with others.

Dr. Drew Richardson

PADI President & CEO

Divers Already Make a Difference

When you hear reports about overfishing, global climate change, coral bleaching, shark finning . . . and the list goes on . . . it’s tempting to question whether the situation is hopeless. Will we have coral reefs in 30 years? Will anything be living in the seas in 50 years?

Yes, and yes. The seas face formidable challenges, but they have formidable allies – you, me and more than 25 million other divers around the world among them. It’s not just that you and your fellow divers can make difference, but that you’re already making a difference through personal efforts like recycling, responsibly consuming only sustainable seafood, reducing our carbon footprints and campaigning to protect endangered marine animals. These are vital efforts, none of which are wasted, with millions (and growing) of divers and nondivers doing these – which is great. But, compared to some outdoor groups, divers raise the bar for environmental stewardship and leadership. Beyond the forefront of conservation and preservation, divers are at the forefront of restoration.

Did you know that, working alongside scientists, divers help grow and replace coral? Use 3D printing to create artificial structures where real coral and coral species can live? Remove debris (like plastics!) from almost every dive site? Replant mangroves, sea grasses and other vegetation vital to coral and oceanic health? Use different methods to protect and repopulate turtles, fish and other species? Gather data we need to identify and implement ongoing and new solutionsTeach kids and cultures what we’re learning and that we do make a difference so that saving and restoring the planet continues, expands and strengthens? These are not small local experiments – these are fins-on-the-ground, proven-results initiatives in action.

The truth is, we face a much bigger threat than the issues facing the seas, and it is this: loss of hope. We don’t want our heads in the sand, but let’s not lose perspective amid the doom and gloom. There are thousands of healthy coral reefs and other dive sites around the world. By staying informed, innovative and engaged, we can not only visit these, but preserve them, learn from them and leverage them to rebuild and restore.

I believe in realistic optimism and hopeful future, partly because the data support them, but also because really, we have no choice. With hopelessness comes inaction, resignation and surrender, which solve nothing. Hope anchors our souls to what’s possible, to action, and to doing what needs to be done. This isn’t Pollyanna – no one expects the global environment to be like it was in 1618 – but it can be vibrant, healthy and growing. A healthy Earth with healthy seas can be the ultimate heritage we leave our children and theirs.

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

 

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.

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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.

 

AWARE Week Events Inspiration

AWARE Week: Activities & Events Around the World

With AWARE Week, 15-23 September, quickly approaching, it’s never too late to get your dive community in the conservation game. Here are some unique activities and events to check out for inspiration.

THAILAND: Crystal Dive Koh Tao

The eco-minded dive operator, Crystal Dive Koh Tao, plans on hosting a different event each day. Already on the agenda: beach and underwater clean ups, coral restoration, scientific research projects, and Project AWARE specialties.

AUSTRALIA: Geo Divers

This Sydney PADI 5 Star IDCs has never been shy when it comes to promoting Project AWARE Specialties. This year, the team is conducting a Kids Aware program at their local school and inviting them and their parents to participate in the shop’s Dive Against Debris® event on Sunday, 23 September, followed by a barbecue.

NEW ZEALAND: New Zealand Sea Adventures

Wellington’s PADI 5 Star IDC has always had a strong focus on rebreather and technical diving as well as educating their divers on the importance of ocean awareness. During AWARE Week, they are offering free Project AWARE Specialty Courses to their local dive community.

BAHAMAS: Bimini Shark Girl

Shark Girl Jillian Morris has been educating youth on the importance of conservation since she was a kid herself. Today, she’s a shark advocate, camerawoman, and Executive Director, Education at Oceanicallstars. This year, she’s going to continue spreading the message during AWARE Week with Sharks 4 Kids, her shark education program.

FLORIDA: Rainbow Reef Dive Center

It’s no secret that the dive community in the Keys is passionate about protecting their reefs and coastline. Rainbow Reef Dive Center, located in Key Largo, is going to host a Dive Against Debris event on 21 September for guests and local divers.

UNITED KINGDOM: The Fifth Point

Located in Northumberland, The Fifth Point has been incorporating conservation into their dive programs since they opened up shop four years ago. This year, they’re taking full advantage of AWARE Week with a beach clean-up, snorkel clean, egg case hunt, Dive Against Debris, lobster release, marine talk and Dive Against Debris Specialty course.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Divers Down

We all know shark populations are rapidly declining, so Divers Down Fujairah is inviting its divers to take part in the Shark Conservation Specialty course on 22 September, in hopes of raising awareness of shark conservation issues.

Interested in bringing a unique event to your local dive community? For more info, or to download the AWARE Week Toolkit for help hosting an event in your area, visit the AWARE Week website.