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My heels were raw from swimming nearly a mile burdened with a heavy camera, a thick wetsuit and an annoying current. Zig-zagging back and forth along the contours of the deep reef compounded the misery. From time to time my safety diver and I exchanged brief glances and kept kicking. After an hour I had a migraine. I love diving, but this was too much.

The private charter I was on cost me a pretty penny, and it was starting to look like an expensive debacle. I'd recently had quite a few such flops, and my unrestrained optimism was taking a hit. Second thoughts flooded my conscience. What fool hires a boat and crew for a sawfish charter? I didn't know it at the time, but Adam, 20 feet to my right, was even more apprehensive. He had seen five of the critically endangered fish just two days earlier on the same reef and assured me that our chances of finding them again were excellent.

I had given up hope when suddenly, at the end of our underwater marathon, Adam's wild gesticulations jolted me. I followed his gaze, and 60 feet below us rested three massive smalltooth sawfish. They faced the current, with their saws (known as rostrums) slightly elevated. One had a ball of monofilament fishing line, which resembled a dirty little pompom, on the tip of its rostrum.

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Scuba equipment failure or malfunction is a relatively rare factor in diving-related accidents and fatalities. When it does occur, the most common and hazardous malfunctions involve regulators and buoyancy compensator (BC) power inflators.1 Thus, a recent report to DAN® of a regulator failure was not necessarily surprising, but the cause in this particular case turned out to be quite unusual.

Although the diver involved in the incident managed the situation very well, and no one was harmed, an inexperienced or nervous diver might not have been so fortunate. It was particularly strange that although the diver's cylinder was not empty, the gas flow had slowed and then ceased in a way that resembled an out-of-air situation. Closer examination of the equipment led to a puzzling discovery: A large amount of yellow crystallized material was blocking the inside of the braided second-stage regulator hose. The hose had been in use for a few years but showed no external abnormalities or signs of deterioration.

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Photogenic coral reefs and majestic kelp forests deservedly garner much of the dive industry's interest: They are beautiful, and they significantly contribute to marine diversity. Unfortunately, linked habitats such as sand and rubble slopes, seagrass beds, mangroves, rusting shipwrecks, piers and docks are habitually overlooked because they are perceived to lack traditional aesthetic value. As a result, many people do not fully appreciate these habitats' ecological importance.

Piers and docks in particular act as artificial reefs, harboring an abundance of shallow-water fish. While not intentionally designed to attract marine life, these partially underwater structures often serve as oases for both common and extraordinary organisms in locations that may otherwise amount to aquatic deserts. Even though the diversity of life under piers may seem to be relatively sparse when compared with healthy Pacific coral reefs, the sheer variety of animals, plants and microorganisms drawn to these man-made formations can be vast and the associated food web exceedingly complex.

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British Columbia (BC), located just above the US state of Washington, on the northwestern coast of North America, provides all of this and more, along with countless topside activities like fishing, skiing, hiking and great wildlife viewing. I have listed below a sample of some of these areas and what you might see when exploring them.

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The Indianapolis sank in 15 minutes on 30 July 1945, in the war’s final days. The ship was on its way to the Philippines when torpedoes from a Japanese submarine struck the ship. Of the 1,196 men on board, just 316 were rescued—the largest loss of life at sea in the history of the US Navy. Nearly 300 people went down with the ship, and of the 900 who abandoned ship, only 317 would survive after four to five days in the water suffering from exposure, dehydration, drowning and shark attacks. It took the Navy four days to realize that the vessel was missing.

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Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) discovered that some fish have learnt to stay within marine reserves where they are safe from fishing, demonstrating the importance of such facilities. They made the discovery after modelling the movements of skipjack and bluefin tuna and great white sharks in the ocean.

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In the last couple of decades, people all over the world in countries where the sport was previously almost completely absent have started scuba diving. Furthermore, new businesses in many of these countries have become significant players in the international scuba diving industry. Planet Scuba is much bigger these days than it was and it is growing fast.

This may come as something of a surprise to readers who live in the scuba diving heartland of the United States and Western Europe where the diving population has aged and the number of new divers has been falling for a while. But in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, parts of South America and especially in Asia, scuba diving is booming!

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Say the word lobster and you will likely get a variety of reactions ranging from kids who smile from thinking about some of their favorite cartoon characters to adults whose mouths water thinking about a culinary treat. Still others might cringe, thinking of lobsters as strange sea creatures. In many reef communities around the world lobsters are among the more conspicuous invertebrates and, as a result, many experienced divers naturally think back to a favorite diving memory when they saw, photographed, caught or tried to catch a lobster. Commercial fishermen often call some species of lobsters “red money,” a reference to the body color of several commercial species and the fact that a good haul can yield a pot full of cash.

We’ll take a look into the natural history and some of the nuances of the secret lives of a group of creatures whose common names include terms such as spiny, hairy, slipper, elegant, regal, rock, emerald, banded, red-banded, Maine and American.

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You’ve heard the adage, “Use it or lose it!” There is a lot of truth in that. In Open Water class you learn just enough to get you out there diving safely in the environment in which you were trained. Then the learning process continues; experience and continuing education are great teachers.

But if you don’t follow up and begin using those newly acquired skills within a reasonable time, they deteriorate and eventually disappear. The scuba unit removal and replacement skill is a good example. If you don’t occasionally practice it, your ability to perform it effectively will diminish substantially.

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The Ribbon Eel

Ribbon eels are thought to be ‘protandric hermaphrodites’, meaning they are born male and change sex to female. The change in gender occurs as the Ribbon eel reaches full size (approximately 1 metre/3 feet). Not only are they able to change sex, but they are also able to change colour. The Ribbon eel is the only moray eel species know to be able to do so. When a male Ribbon eel becomes female, it changes colour from blue to yellow.

Deep Sea Anglerfish

Female Deep Sea Anglerfish have an extremely interesting relationship with the males of the same species. During mating the male bites the side of the female, they then become fused to the female even sharing the same bloodstream! The male begins to disintegrate and becomes a small parasitic ‘growth’ on the female fish. This is beneficial to the female as they can use the male to fertilise their eggs whenever they chose. Females have been seen with up to six males on their body at one time!

Bdelloid Rotifers

Bdelloid Rotifers have no need for males or mating at all. Every Bdelloid Rotifer found has always been female. Scientific studies have confirmed that Bdelloid Rotifers do not mate to produce young, instead the females ‘clone’ themselves and produce daughters that are genetically the same as they are.

Oysters

Oysters can change sex multiple times during their lifetime. Like Ribbon eels, they are ‘protandric hermaphrodites’, born as males and changing to females as they age. In their first year they are males and release sperm in the water to spawn. After two to three years, they change to female and spawn by releasing eggs into the water. Female oysters can produce an astounding 100 MILLION eggs in just one year. Because oysters’ reproductive systems contain both eggs and sperm, it is actually possible for an oyster to fertilise its own egg.

The Tripod Fish

Tripod Fish are asexual, meaning they possess both male and female reproductive organs. This amazing evolutionary development means Tripod Fish are able to reproduce even the absence of a partner. Due to their often solitary existence, Tripod Fish can self-fertilise by spawning both sperm and eggs into the water column. If they are able to find a mate, one will deposit sperm and the other eggs into the water column

Nudibranchs

female marine animals - Nudibranch
Like the Tripod fish, Nudibranchs have both female and male reproductive organs. During mating, both the Nudibranchs will play female and male roles in fertilisation simultaneously. Unlike Tripod Fish, Nudibranchs can’t self-fertilise but, during mating, partners fertilise each other so that both become pregnant and lay eggs. Nudibranch can lay millions of eggs at any one time!

 

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Of all the things an animal could eat, corals are arguably one of the toughest, thanks to their thin, mucus-covered flesh packed with venomous stinging cells spread over a razor-sharp skeleton. Perhaps that explains why of the more than 6,000 fish species that live on the reef, only 128 are known to feed on corals. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on June 5 have discovered how at least one species of coral-feeding fish does it. They "kiss" the flesh and mucus off the coral skeleton using protective, self-lubricating lips.

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Now that a cannon that rested in waters off Rhode Island’s shore for two centuries has been raised, U.S. Navy archaeologists are hoping to confirm that the ship that sank at the site was a schooner commanded by a War of 1812 hero.

In thick fog and heavy swells, the USS Revenge became ensnared in a reef off Watch Hill in Westerly in 1811. Oliver Hazard Perry ordered his men to jettison guns, masts and the anchor, but lightening the vessel didn’t free it. It sank.

The treacherous reefs, rocks and poor visibility kept the cannon and other artifacts hidden until 2005.

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ver since I was a little girl I have been enamored by the ocean and the creatures that live there. How my beloved Free Willy video cassette didn’t become destroyed from being played on repeat is a mystery.

This love of the ocean lead me to become a scuba diver and dive all over the world. Recently Antonio and I have had close encounters with scalloped hammerhead sharks and whale sharks while diving Malpelo Island. Sharing a moment with animals in their natural habitat is a powerful experience.

One of the pioneers of big creature experiences is Amos Nachoum. He is a professional wildlife photographer, explorer and guide. He is the owner of Big Animals Expeditions, a tour operator that specializes in worldwide, small group expeditions to experience large, wild animals in their natural habitats. I have long been a fan of the work Amos does and when I was writing this post I couldn’t think of a better person to get in contact with. He was very kind in allowing me use his photography in this post to illustrate the power and beauty of these creatures.

Here iss my list of ocean creature experiences I want to have in my lifetime.

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Sea animals and fish are frequently the victims of negative publicity. More often than not, browsing through wildlife documentary channels on television will reveal a disappointing trend. Many of the documentaries have names such as "Killer Squid" and "The Deadliest Octopus". No wonder some new divers are frightened by aquatic life!

Marine animal behavior can appear threatening to divers who do not understand the purpose behind the behavior. Many sea animals are completely docile but just "look scary," and some animals that appear friendly can actually be quite aggressive.

Almost all aquatic life injuries are caused by defensive behavior on the part of the animal. As I tell new divers, don't try to pull eels out of their holes, poke the lobsters, or attempt to ride the stingrays, and you should be just fine. Don't bother the fish and they won't bother you.

Learn about some of the animals that divers commonly fear and to discover which are dangerous and which are not.

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Shark-related dives in Florida generated more than $221 million in revenue and fuelled over 3700 jobs in 2016, according to a new report from Oceana. This compares to the total U.S. shark fin export market of just $1.03 million.

The demand for shark fins is one of the greatest threats facing shark populations around the world. Fins from as many as 73 million sharks end up in the global market every year.

This shark fin trade has led to the wasteful and inhumane practice of shark finning – cutting the fins off of a shark and discarding its body at sea, often still alive, only to drown, bleed to death or be eaten alive. While shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters, shark fins – including imports from countries that allow finning – continue to be bought and sold throughout the U.S. Many shark populations have declined by more than 90 percent in recent decades due to overfishing.

To assess the importance of sharks to Florida’s economy, surveys were sent to 365 active dive operators in the state asking
1) How many total diving trips their business made during the last 12 months;
2) What percentage of those trips were shark-related diving trips (a shark-related diving trip is defined as a trip where divers have expressed a desire for shark encounters and that the dive site chosen had a high probability that sharks would be present);
3) What percentage of their dive trips were specifically marketed as a shark dive (where divers expected, and were specifically told, that shark encounters were the primary objective of the trip); and
4) What was the average number of divers taken on each dive trip.

Shark-related dives in Florida alone generates more than 200 times that of the shark fin trade in the whole of the USA.

Of the 365 operators that received the survey, 237 responded and results were weighted to represent all active dive operators.

Nearly one-third of all divers seek experiences where there is a good possibility of encountering sharks.

“There has been a dramatic rise in diver interest in observing sharks in their natural environment. Shark diving is being featured more extensively in diving business advertising and the percentage of trips dive operators make each year,” said report author Anthony J. Fedler. “Conserving and sustainably managing shark resources are becoming increasingly important to local economies where over-exploitation has been the norm for years. The non-harvest value of sharks will only continue to grow as the public seeks to observe, understand and appreciate the unique role sharks play in our lives and the world’s ecosystems.”

According to an Oceana report released last year, a nationwide ban on the trade of shark fins would reduce the international fin trade, improve upon current enforcement capabilities and reinforce the status of the United States as a leader in shark conservation. Last year, Oceana released a poll revealing that eight in 10 Americans support a national ban on the buying and selling of shark fins.

Just last week Florida senators watered down a bill that would have banned the sale and trade of shark fins

Grey shark
Photo by Tim Nicholson
Healthy shark populations are vital to ocean ecosystems and equally important to local economies. Sharks are caught and killed, on average, 30 percent faster than they can reproduce,2 and because of this, nearly one in four species are threatened with extinction. Human activities are the leading cause of these population declines.

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Most animal lovers wouldn’t dream of harming an animal for fashion. Fur? No, thank you. Leather? I don’t think so. Yet they might be unknowingly killing sharks — and highly endangered kinds on top of that — for their beauty routine.

Unbeknownst to most, one little ingredient in products like sunscreens, moisturizing lotions, lip balms, lipsticks and face creams is responsible for the death of over three million sharks annually.

Killer ingredient

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“Squalene is a naturally occurring compound found in large quantities in the liver of sharks,” explains the shark protection group Shark Trust. “A sharks’ large oily liver helps to control its position in the water column, however many cosmetics companies use the oil (and an associated compound called squalane) as a base for their moisturizing and skin care creams, lipstick and gloss, as it is non-greasy and softens skin.”

Sharks are then killed for their livers. The process is sometimes very similar to the now infamous shark finning but instead of taking the animal’s fin for the production of questionable medications and shark fin soup and tossing the rest of the body back in the ocean to die, fishermen take the animal’s liver. The practice is known as shark “livering” and since most deep sea sharks have larger livers, they are its primary targets.

The horrifying attack on sharks is having a toll on their population, says Bloom, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the marine environment. Sharks used to be fished in the North-East Atlantic but now the practice has moved south because of declining populations. Since sharks reproduce slowly — they start at 12 or 15 years of age and only have one to two pups during each reproductive cycle — 11 types of sharks are at risk of extinction and 74 types are listed as threatened.

The solution

What is one to do then if they want to protect sharks and they have already ditched the shark fin soup and don’t contribute to bycatch by eating a plant-based diet? Reading the labels of all cosmetics is the best bet.

“Non-shark squalene can be created synthetically or extracted from vegetable sources like amaranth seed, olives, palm, rice bran and wheat germ,” explains beauty blogger Tricia Chaves. “Look for the words ’100% plant-derived,’ ‘vegetable based’ or ‘vegetable origins.’ If the label doesn’t indicate its specific source, ask the manufacturer if a product contains squalene derived from sharks.”

Due to pressure from animal protection organizations, major brands like Unilever, L’Oreal and Estée Lauder have agreed to no longer use squalene on any of their products so those are safe as well — though they’re still tested on other animals.

And for those wanting to swim the extra mile for sharks, cruelty-free brand LUSH has a special edition Shark Week soap made with nourishing seaweed and all proceeds from sales go directly to grassroots organizations working to save sharks around the world.

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What is the coral crisis about?

We are at a critical stage in coral endangerment. Some predict that most corals will be gone by 2050. Reef ecosystems are the most genetically diverse on the planet, providing habitat for more the 25 percent of marine species.

It’s important to know corals are not rocks, but complex organisms: invertebrate animals with a symbiotic algae partner giving them their brilliant colors and providing them food through photosynthesis. Coral polyps feed at night also, but they rely on this plant partner to survive. When the temperature rises 1 degree Celsius higher than the hottest yearly average, corals are at risk of dispelling their algae partners — a process known as bleaching.

Corals are also at risk of damage from pollution, poor fishing practices, tourism, and ocean acidification, which weakens corals’ ability to build its exoskeleton with calcium carbonate.

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Eco-entrepreneur Alasdair Harris is passionate about conserving marine biodiversity, and he’s doing it in unusual ways. While most marine conservationists focus on what’s in the water, Harris’ company Blue Ventures works with people in poverty-stricken coastal communities to engage them in rebuilding tropical fisheries and in the process of protecting both their ecosystems and livelihoods. The company’s approach: eco-tourism.

We spoke to Harris about why humanity’s marine conservation efforts to date haven’t worked — and his vision to change that.

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Four muscular Navy divers, all volunteers, file carefully through the first two interlocking pressure chambers on their way to "Charlie" chamber. From there they will climb down into a cylindrical, water-filled chamber — large enough to house a school bus — that constitutes the base of the U.S. Navy Experimental Diving Unit's (NEDU) Ocean Simulation Facility.

The divers, each designated by a number for the purpose of the experiment, wear Navy Mark 16 (MK-16) closed-circuit rebreathers equipped with full-face masks. The rebreathers are charged with either trimix 12/44 (12 percent oxygen, 44 percent helium, 44 percent nitrogen) or heliox 12/88 (12 percent oxygen, 88 percent helium) — the divers haven't been told which mixture they have.

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Written by DAN Staff

In the first metre/three feet of a descent, your ears experience 10 percent greater pressure than they did at the surface. At two metres/six feet that percentage doubles, and at three metres/10 feet, there’s enough pressure differential to rupture ear drums, or burst blood vessels and draw fluid and blood into the inner ear.

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U/W Bike Race

eventsiconJoin us on July 4th for this annual event benefitting the Children's Mile of Hope.

Lionfish Tournament

eventsiconWe need your help to make Carteret County's 5th Annual "If you Can't Beat 'em, Eat 'em" Spearfishing Tournament a success! This Tournament is a joint effort between Discovery Diving and Eastern Carolina Artificial Reef Association (ECARA).

Treasure Hunt

eventsiconFood, prizes, diving, and fun! Proceeds benefit the Mile Hope Children's Cancer Fund and DAN's research in diving safety.

ECARA Event

2013Join us June 3rd, 2017 in support of the East Carolina Artificial Reef Association.  Click here for more info on this great event and how you can help to bring more Wrecks to the Graveyard of the Atlantic.