Last week Downbelow encountered a particularly nasty net that choked one of the best looking and healthiest reefs in the marine park here off Kota Kinabalu in Sabah.
After reporting it to the relevant authorities, we rounded up our crew and eager Divemaster interns, and set off to un-choke the reef.
Resident PADI Course Director Richard Swann lead the charge on the net that entangled the reef starting from a shallow coral block near the top, down to the sandy bottom at 35m.
First thing they noted whilst surveying the net was that it had already claimed the lives of a handful of sea critters, most disturbingly amongst them a small blacktip reef shark.
Richard and Wellson (Downbelow's Assistant Base Leader and OWSI) took the 1st dive and severed the net at around 20m.
They rigged the remainder of the entire deeper portion of the net and hauled it back to the surface using lifting devices, where they spent 30 minutes freeing critters from the net and educating the interns.
The second dive presented a different kind of challenge as the net had embedded itself deeply into the reef. A cautious approach was needed.
Working together, Downbelow's staff team and the Divemaster interns made short work of the entangled net and soon the reef was free again.
Although net-fishing is illegal in the marine reserve, unscrupulous fishermen will still chance a quick bulk-catch. When the net snares on the reef, it's virtually impossible to dislodge without diving, which most fishermen won't do.
After undoubtedly tugging for dear life to retrieve the net, which is not cheap to purchase, and causing reef damage to start with, they eventually have to abandon the net, leaving it to choke the reef and needlessly entrap and kill marine life.
Downbelow has gained a wealth of experience over the years having removed many nets from the various reefs in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.
We encourage locals and divers to report discarded and entangled nets to us as we're always happy, in the interest of the environment and enjoyment for divers everywhere, to preserve the environment and remove the nets at our own cost.