On the first of December I participated in yet another net removal with Dive Downbelow; today the team consisted on myself, Sevi - another international intern, Alvin (Bob) – Assistant base leader, Roy and Cyril Downbelow instructors.
As it was me and Bob that originally found the net I drew out a map of the dive site and net location and proceeded to brief our small but experienced team of five. The briefing covered the location and size of the net, potential hazards, equipment to be used, recovery procedures and buddy teams. Throughout the briefing there were several comical inputs from Richard (Director) and James (Base leader) who were overseeing the net removal but were unavailable to join us for the dive.
After the briefing we all prepared ourselves and headed to the dive boat (Satu Lagi) which took us to the dive site, here we prepared our equipment, performed our buddy checks and entered the water.
As we entered the water we saw that the conditions were good for net removal, the visibility was good (10-12 meter) and there was no water movement. We swam towards the net which was a six minute swim from our entry point, as we arrived we were greeted by a welcome site, someone had beat us too it! The Sabah Park Staff had already been to the site and removed a good portion of the net leaving a much smaller quantity of net to be removed than we anticipated. The net originally spanning an estimated 50 meters was down to a mere 10 – 15 meters.
Our buddy teams set about removing the remaining portion of the net taking diligent care not to damage the coral it was entangled on and exercising caution not to get entangled as the a portion of the net that hung a few meters up from the reef whilst I swam the length of the net checking to make sure nothing was caught in it and still alive. Thankfully we arrived in time to cut free a grateful Wrasse, one very moody crab and a distressed Porcupine fish who unfortunately had been victim to a few opportunistic predators that had taken a nibble at its fins. We also rehabilitated a beautiful Nudibranch (Chromodoris kuniei) using a piece of coral already broken off by the net, taking the utmost care not to damage or distress out colourful Nudi we moved it to a nearby coral block that had another Chromodoris kuniei already living on – the two looked content enough together so we turned our attention back to the net.
To safely recover the net we had Project A.W.A.R.E mesh bags to place the rolled net into and one very special creation of Bob’s – his very own mesh bag created from a net we previously recovered from the surface!
Throughout the course of our 61 minute dive we carefully cut free the net keeping a close eye on our air supply and no decompression limits as the net sits at 18 meters leading up to 16 meters. Eventually we had cut free the remaining section of the net and cut free any small sections of the net left behind by the previous net-busters, so we all made our safety stop and brought the bundled net to the surface where our boat and captain were waiting to pick us up and returned to the Downbelow Dive centre where our team relaxed after a job well done.
Many thanks to Dive Downbelow who made the removal possible and a big well done to everyone involved for a successful removal