On the morning of the 1st of February the Sairee Cottage dive boat sailed out to Chumpon Pinnacle with a number of students and fun divers, only to find huge areas of the dive site covered by a fishing net. There were a large number of Fusiliers and Groupers caught up in the net, and unfortunately many of them were already dead.
Divers from many different schools across Koh Tao were working hard to cut free those fish that were still alive, and untangle as much as possible. However, you can only do so much when you are leading students and customers.
It was clear teams needed to go down with the specific objective of removing this net before too much damage was done, or before any accidents happened, as there were many suspended areas of net with a lot of marine life trapped inside. We called the shop during our surface interval and organised our smaller dive boat to be equipped with all the tanks, gear and spares we could possibly need for an afternoon clean up dive. A few calls were made and we gathered 8 members of staff and DMT’s who were not working and were happy to give up their afternoon to help clean the dive site.
We went down with 3 teams of 2, with one person designated as net cutter and the other rolling the net up, and 2 safety divers keeping an eye on everything and taking pictures. We were the only boat on the dive site that afternoon which was a nice treat, and meant we didn’t have to worry about other divers while we were using lift bags. Due to the size of the net and the size of our groups we knew we could only lift parts of the net rather than the whole thing. Only small parts of the net were stuck on Coral but it had clearly been dragged a while before the boat cut it loose, as many Corals had been damaged on one side of the pinnacle. The majority of the net lay on a carpet of Anemones so we had to be careful when lifting that we didn’t touch these. Once enough net had been untangled we cut along the sides of the section we wanted to remove and attached the lift bags to slowly raise the net away.
We successfully removed a large area of net but more work was needed to be done. However, as Chumpon Pinnacle is one of the most popular dive sites around Koh Tao we knew dive schools from all round the island would also be going out to do their part.
A big thanks to everyone involved who helped in any way, and thanks to every other school who have done their part in removing the net. For more pictures from the day check out our Facebook page.