Good deeds good people

Protecting the marine environment in SE Asia is extremely challenging. Cultural differences, years of institutionalized abuse, fishing rights, and areas of poverty fed only by subsistence fishing all make for threats to world under the sea.

In this desert of marine preservation there is an oasis of awareness and protection here in Kota Kinabalu; the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. The Park consists of a series of small islands just off the city’s skyline. Gaya Island is the largest in the group and the home of Dive Downbelow’s dive camp. Permitting is strict and there is a good degree of enforcement.


Downbelow also is an active participant in a great dive program, AWARE. AWARE promotes reef protection and diver knowledge and good practice. The dive community has become the marching soldiers in this fight to preserve the world we all love to visit.

One of the immediate and threats to any fish population is derelict fishing gear. We faced this problem in the Pacific Northwest. The organization I helped to establish,Northwest Straights Commission, also take a look at this news reel about the efforts;

So when the director of Dive Downbelow asked the dive master class if we would help with a net removal I jumped at the chance. Richard and his crew have been involved in many net removal projects in the marine park. We arrived at the scene and a dive plan was laid out. Caution must be taken when removing derelict nets as it is easy to become entangled in the nets. This is considered a dangerous activity and only is done by experienced divers and a strict buddy system must be maintained.

We hit the site and ten divers all armed with kitchen knives and float bags hit the water.This was a monofilament net with a long weighted line at the bottom. The net was stuck on the fragile coral and arose upwards about two meters, a deadly scene for passing fish. Our challenge was to remove the net safely and do as little damage to the coral as possible.

Using teamwork we cut the net loose as others kept it above the coral and rolled it up boat we all winced at the smell of the net, evidence that it had kept killing fish long after abandoned. The net was in a no fishing zone and so the fishermen made a hasty retreat when it got stuck. Clearly they would not report the incident so it took the divers a few days to find the net and then only by luck.

I was very happy to be able to participate in this project, a great way to end a long day of book study. After the dive I talked with Richard, it was apparent he is passionate about this work. Thank you, Richard and Dive Downbelow, for allowing me the privilege of helping remove the net. This group must be commended for their continued efforts.

photos courtesy of Dive Downbelow.