Return from beyond

Mark and Sharon got back from California finally after their long sabbatical.

Welcome back to El Crucero, we’re going to have lots of fun this season. I wonder who we’ll get to sing and entertain this year… somebody interesting always shows up. In any case, it’s always fun with Budgie, Sharon, Mark, Will and William around in the evenings at the old Crucero bar.

El Crucero Bar

Posted in General comments and suggestions, Tulum accommodations | 1 Comment

Lobster harvesting and eating.

Many people do not realize that lobsters play a vital role to reefs. They clean all the organic garbage up by eating it. Without them, the corals eventually start to die, probably due to bacterial infections or lack of oxygen due to decomposing debris.

I once had a lengthy conversation with an aquantance, a very intelligent and accomplished lobster fisherman in South Andros in The Bahamas on the subject of sustainable lobster fishing. We discussed the sustainability of various fisheries and in his opinion , the way things were going, the current levels (this was in 1999) and methods of Lobster fishing was not sustainable in the long turn. He said that he had personally observed that the reefs in the areas where the lobsters had been decimated, were not as healthy as those in less accessible areas. He was convinced that this was because the lobsters were not around to clean up. He felt an internal conflict between his need to make a living and his enjoyment of his life on the sea and the certainty that his and others’ activities was seriously harming the environment.

The lobster boats range far and wide throughout the vast Bahamian seas. They travel for a month or more with Large, 100 ft plus ‘mother’ ships with huge freezers on board. Each mother ship tows a dozen or so small speedboats, each with their own compressor each of which is typically shared by 2-3 fishermen.

In The Bahamas it is illegal to use scuba tanks to fish and so they get around that by using surface supplied air or in shallow areas many still do free dive. They have honed their techniques for maximizing the harvest that they get and have established thousands of “lobster condos”, even in the remotest areas, constructed of concrete sewer pipe segments stacked on their sides in pyramids.

The lobsters love the tunnels that are so nicely provided for them and quickly fill them up and use them to live in. Once lobster season opens they are really easy to scoop out of the pipes and the harvest is much quicker and easier than when they used to have to scour the reefs for their prey. On the positive side, at least the ‘collateral’ damage to the reefs is reduced since the fisherman does not have to poke and search in all the nooks and crannies. Some people argue and claim that the condos actually increase the numbers and size of lobsters on the reefs. This may be true.

Almost all the lobsters taken in The Bahamas are shipped to the US and purchased by the large restaurant chains and suppliers. Some even contract individual boats at guaranteed prices for everything they take.

The Bahamian lobster fishermen earn up to US$3000 per week or more which is a lot of money for where they are. I’m sure the mother ship owners are making huge profits. Most of the fishermen spend all their earnings on drugs, drinking and partying in Nassau between trips and within weeks after the end of the season are broke again and looking for ways to make a living. I mention this to illustrate that for the most part, there is very little long term gain for the community and area.

The fishermen of The Bahamas have long provided much of their food for their communities and families from the reefs surrounding their islands. It seems that the health of these reefs may be now put at risk by the mass harvesting techniques that modern technology and human ingenuity have allowed and developed.

So, what’s the message?

My take on it: The demand for seafood creates the market for the fishermen. They then invest in lots of boats and equipment and develop more and more efficient ways of “harvesting” lobsters and other species and throughout the world, this type of situation almost always leads to eventual collapse of the natural population of the targeted species and or fishery in a given area.

For a bit of reference take a look at the World Resource Site for instance. There is a long list of reference books there for those with access to that kind of thing. Or you can just read the summaries and be an armchair expert like me :-}

Let’s look at wildlife, not eat it!!

Speak out in what you believe. It might just make a difference however small.

Posted in Ecological discussion and conservation forum, Tim's soapbox | 1 Comment

Sustainable fishing? Where?

A few anecdotes and opinions on the subject……

Almost every time we used to have a night dive at our moored site at Tankah Reef, there is a boat there from a local restaurant (since destroyed by Hurricane Dean) fishing for lobsters and anything they can kill using scuba gear. In most countries of the world it is actually illegal to spear fish while using scuba gear.

I have been diving in places, most notably the Dominican Republic, where fishing by locals has stripped most reefs of nearly all the fish. I have done dives on reefs with lots of corals, anenomes, sponges etc. but only saw 4 or five fish over 6 inches in an hour long dive and certainly no lobsters. Still I saw two or three poor looking local fisherman fishing from little boats in the same area we were diving. Obviously the fish on these reefs will never have a chance to recover to a reasonable level because the locals need to catch the most they can in order to feed themselves and to sell for local restaurants.

I regularly express my views on this general topic to customers, friends and staff. Almost all eat fish regularly and I frequently get comments back to the effect that just eating or killing a fish here and there doesn’t do any harm or that a few locals taking a few fish for themselves or to sell does no harm. My position on this which can be readily supported by many studies and arguments is that this is just not the case. Reefs throughout the world including here in Mexico, are being systematically and steadily depleted of life. As soon as you attach a monetary value to wildlife, it begins to be exploited. It is rare to see large fish anywhere in the world, other than the remotest areas or ones that are effectively protected from human predation.

Our reefs are being rapidly depleted of their fish and other animal populations by local fishermen. They are pretty good at what they do and find a ready market, mostly selling to restaurants. The problem is the nearly insatiable appetite that the majority of visitors and locals have for seafood creates a market for the fisherman to sell their wares.
I don’t blame the fishermen for trying to make a living. The problem lies in the demand and the blithe disregard of the general public for the massive depletion of the wild populations of the creatures in our seas.

I have a few questions for you divers:

  • When was the last time you saw a really big grouper on a dive in a non protected area, yes it happens but not often.
  • How often do you see schools of mature, large snappers, just about never I bet.
  • Reef sharks in the Riviera Maya anyone?

Just a few of the more obvious examples that come to mind.

Anyone who wants to learn more on this subject can!

Ref: A Sea Change by Sylvia Earle
Ref: The Unnatural History of the Sea by Callum Roberts

Let’s look at wildlife, not eat it!!

Speak out in what you believe. It might just make a difference, however small.

Posted in Ecological discussion and conservation forum, Tim's soapbox | Leave a comment

Shark population declines.

Anybody like sharks? At least it’s nice to see a reef shark now and then when diving and Bulls and Hammerheads are a thrill and rarely do they harm humans. In any case they are a vital part of the marine systems they live in as more and more studies are showing.

Here’s a quote from a Dalhousie University report which you can find at http://communicationsandmarketing.dal.ca/media/2007/2007-03-29.html

“Now, by examining a dozen different research surveys from 1970-2005 along the eastern U.S. coast, the research team has found that their original study underestimated the extent of the declines: scalloped hammerhead and tiger sharks may have declined by more than 97 percent; bull, dusky, and smooth hammerhead sharks by more than 99 percent.”

Anyone still think it’s ok to kill sharks?

Or from the Myers and Baum study at Dalhousie in 2003

“Overexploitation threatens the future of many large vertebrates. In the ocean, tunas and sea turtles are current conservation concerns because of this intense pressure. The status of most shark species, in contrast, remains uncertain. Using the largest data set in the Northwest Atlantic, we show rapid large declines in large coastal and oceanic shark populations. Scalloped hammerhead, white, and thresher sharks are each estimated to have declined by over 75% in the past 15 years. Closed-area models highlight priority areas for shark conservation, and the need to consider effort reallocation and site selection if marine reserves are to benefit multiple threatened species.”

We don’t see “Caribbean” Reef sharks on our reefs here in Tulum more than once every year or two. We do however regularly see longlines either in the water, in this case not so very long only a few hundred metres, or washed up. The longest line we recovered was an estimated three kilometers long!!! How many big fish and sharks would that kill or did it kill before it got lost in a storm?? We have enough 1/2 inch black nylon rope to last us for years on the boats and around the shop.

Let’s look at wildlife, not eat it!!

Speak out in what you believe. It might just make a difference however small.

Posted in Ecological discussion and conservation forum, Tim's soapbox | 1 Comment

Spearfishing and Diving

Well… I have been hearing a number of stories lately of local (Tulum and Akumal) Divemasters and guides actually spearfishing while guiding a group of divers. In one case, divers from our shop actually witnessed and were a bit shocked at seeing a group of divers carrying loot bags which the guide was busily filling with lobsters, octupus and all sorts of fish. That his divers willingly participated even shows a lack of common sense. In this instance it was actually the owner of the dive shop on Tulum beach who was leading and fishing, if you want to call it that.

I have also personally seen (and yelled at) a captain of the same boat, fishing with a hand line from their moored boat while he had divers down and when we were about to start our dive also from the same mooring. This is not only ignorant but fundamentally dangerous, it is also a common practice and my own captains were doing it sometimes until they realized they would lose their jobs if I found out. Am I kidding myself, some of them probably still do it when I’m not around.
In one instance of a diver from Akumal who I was recently talking to, there were two divemasters on her dive and both were busily fishing away while she was supposedly being led on a dive. She could hardly even get their attention. I won’t name any names but lets just say it was one of the best known shops.

In my opinion, such behaviour on the part of dive leaders displays a wanton disregard not only for the laws of the land but also for the health of our reefs. So called professional divers have a responsibility to be an example of reef conservation. We teach divers not to touch anything on the reefs and leave only bubbles and meanwhile some are busily illegally raping them right in front of clients and in some cases even enrolling their help.

The owners of dive shops have a responsibility to ensure that their staff follow safe, legal standards and in my opinion also have a responsibility to do their best to ensure that everything possible is done to maintain or even improve the health of their local reefs.

I invite anyone interested in reading on the subject of (un)sustainable fishing and degradation of the health of our seas and oceans to read the following books:

Ref: A Sea Change by Sylvia Earle
Ref: The Unnatural History of the Sea by Callum Roberts

Posted in Ecological discussion and conservation forum, Tim's soapbox | Leave a comment

El Crucero shop officially open

So after a couple of months of renovations and repairs and after a few delays for little things like Hurricane Dean and vacations, we have finally decided our new El-Crucero Hotel location is officially open.

Mark and Sharona, the owners, have been mostly away for a couple of months. They are coming back in late November and are planning on sticking around until June or so. We all look forward to seeing them back. That’ll liven the place up a little.

It’s a great place to stay located right near the ruins, and a few minutes walk from the beach. The rooms are clean and cosy, restaurant is decent and the bar is always fun at night with people from all over the world mingling and having fun over a few cervezas. William and Budgie are regular figures, or you could say fixtures since they don’t move around much :-} and lately Kiwi has been joining in too. Never a dull moment with those guys around. We kind of figured that since Maya Diving had already taken hold in the bar, we might as well open up a shop there and make it officially a Maya Diving watering hole during the day too.

We look forward to a long enjoyable and successful relationship with El-Crucero and thanks to Elogio and the staff for making us welcome and helping out. Good friends, good food, great dive shop :-} and nice cold beer at the end of the day, what more can you ask for.

Posted in Tulum accommodations, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

French Grunt

Hi! I’m the Frenchie who was trained as a Divemaster here at Maya Diving and it’s been a great experience! Being the only girl-diver amidst this big school of wild instructors and Mexican fish hasn’t always been the easiest, so I sometimes had to growl at them and doing so, I earned my nickname “French Grunt ” . Anyway, it’s a load of fun being in this shop and diving with those guys! I’ve seen gorgeous turtles around here, and the cenotes around are just stunning! Voila, come and give it a shot!

Posted in Helene | Leave a comment

Posting photos or links

Hi all, so Maggie wants to post some, mmm… interesting photos but was having trouble attaching them to her comments. Seems that the toolbar doesn’t come up for comments, just for posts. Also the posts page does have a preview button mags so maybe make posts rather than comments when you want to get fancy. I think that this is not too bad since the comments area comes up on the page automatically and it might look a little cluttered with a toolbar. Photos can still be posted in comments if they are online somewhere but you just have to use a bit of html as follows: <img src=”put URL address of photo location here”> or for a link put <a href=”put URL here”> write the text you want to link from here</a>. This will create a link to another web page or blog etc. you could also use this to link to a photo if you don’t want it visible on the page.

Any questions please feel free to ask…..

Admin.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Reef Diving in Tulum, better than further North?

I get asked the question a lot whether it’s worth going from Tulum to Cozumel to dive or even Playa Del Carmen or Akumal. Some of our divers have commented that they prefer it down here because the corals are plentiful, there is little or no current and few boats about. Also our relaxed style of diving helps of course and normally no limits on bottom time for shallow dives.

Personally, I’ve been diving up and down this coast a bit and actually honestly do prefer Tankah to Pto. Aventuras, Playa and even Cozumel. Why? In a nutshell, I like small stuff and slow dives. Also Cozumel especially is noisy and a lot of boats. Coz. obviously for drift dives is really awesome but so many boats…. I may be biased so…. Any comments out there from people who might have been to a few spots.

Posted in Reef Diving in Tulum, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cenote diving

Post your comments , experiences, photos or whatever you like on the subject of cenote diving in Tulum in this category

Cenote diving in Tulum

Posted in Cenote Diving in Tulum forum | 4 Comments