On the 30th of June Sairee Cottage Diving staff, DMT’s and fun divers took part in another underwater clean-up day in aid of Project Aware’s “Dive Against Debris” campaign. Team one was led by me (Paddy) and I had fun divers Lucia, Nicole and Natacha. Team two was led by DM Lillian with our fun divers from Ireland Viv, Ronan and Seamus and team three was led by DM Sara with our DMT’s Fred and Tamara.
This month we concentrated on Hin Wong bay as it is used by a lot of fishing boats to moor up when the weather is too bad to stay out where they are allowed to fish. There is a problem with these fishing boats throwing all their rubbish over board including old nets and lines still with hooks attached. Dive site number two was light house where the snorkelling trips spend a lot of time due to its shallower waters and stunning coral gardens.
Once on the boat we had a briefing about what we should take and what had become integrated into the environment as part of an artificial reef and also what the limits were on time, depth and how much to safely bring back to the boat. Lillian, Sara and I were in charge of carrying the biggest bags for the bigger debris which could be attached to lift bags if they got to heavy while everyone else had more manageable mesh bags.
We jumped in at Hin Wong bay and the groups spread out covering as much ground as was practical within our limits. Almost as soon as we were in the water my group had a remora each attaching itself to any limb they could get onto. We found a shocking amount of nets and lines all over the site but some of them were now not much more than a tight ball of frayed ropes and had become home to fish and nudibranch colonies so were left behind. A few minutes into the dive and it was like the sun went out as a huge school of scad swam over and around all the groups. The range of debris on this dive site was so vast due to the fishing boats ranging from nets and lines to bottles, newspapers and boots and even some old computer parts. We also found a lot of bike tyres and a bike wheel but some of the tyres were protecting young corals and small groups of fish so were left behind. In the end two of the bags needed to be brought up with lift bags and we ran out of time long before any of us were happy we had finished cleaning the dive site luckily however as we were all surfacing we saw an SMB attached to some of the bigger debris we decided was too big for us to lift and realised that there was another dive boat in the same bay marking off the biggest things they could find so they could be lifted later on with the proper equipment.
During our surface interval we emptied the bags into bin liners and filled two full bags plus all the bits that were too big to go into the bin liners. We were also entertained by DMT Fred randomly falling of the boat at which team Ireland all decided to jump off and perform a slightly over dramatic rescue scenario.
Dive two was at lighthouse bay which was not as bad as the first site. This is due to the fact that it is a lot shallower so the fishing boats don’t moor up there in storms however a lot of snorkelling trips go there and they are a bit more careless with their rubbish and unaware to the effects it has on the environment. We mostly found stickers from the snorkelling trips, bottles, food wrappers and the odd tyre. Not as much was taken away from lighthouse which was good as it has some of the most stunning corals around koh Tao and is a favourite site for many dive masters and instructors. We ended up with a total of three full bin liners, five tyres and a lot of poles and plastic tubing.
Hin Wong bay needs a lot of care and attention but it looks as though at least a couple other dive schools are well aware of the problems and reasons for these problems. Light house bay on the other hand is not so much of a problem and just needs instructors and dive masters to pick up the rubbish they see while leading dives as it is mostly small pieces scattered around.
After we got back to the dive shop and the gear was all cleaned we had a group picture with the project aware banner and all went our separate ways as some of the fun divers were leaving early the next day. A huge thank you to everyone involved it was hard work on dive one and a bit nicer on dive two but good work all round. Anyone visiting Sairee Cottage Diving at the end of July is more than welcome to sign up to our next clean up.