We sailed off from Lankayan early this morning in the pure spirit of adventure. The itinerary was unknown to all of us until we happened across a beautiful, isolated spit of sand and palm trees near a larger but equally serene New Zealand-esque island. Curiosity overcame us and we anchored off for an exploratory dive. What goes on under the surface of this beautiful place?
It was an excellent decision; I found this to be one of our best dives. Descending to 26 meters and climbing the steep drop-off slope toward the island, we found (aside from the huge blotches of destruction) an abundance of beautiful, colorful corals and a healthy population of reef fish such as butterflies, squirrelfish, parrotfish, clownfish and Moorish idol. Striking starfish and anemone speckled the reef.
But while we were diving we heard a sudden BANG! in the water. Christian Miller’s “First, I was thinking that someone’s tank exploded, or that Pangaea exploded. It sounded like the anchor or something…
The second time we heard it, it was very clear to me that it was dynamite fishing. I couldn’t see half of my group, and what if they dropped the bombs right atop of us? I have never heard dynamite fishing before but it really made me realize how fish would feel… the loud noise gave me a little time freeze; a vertigo. It was scary,”
On these abundant reefs we could see the many, massive blotches of destroyed and decaying corals; mostly caused by dynamite fishing. In the dynamite fishing method, fishermen throw bombs into the water which blow up the reef and kill the fish. When the fish float up to the surface, they are collected and taken back to the market. In shallow reefs, this is the least sustainable fishing method possible because the habitat is destroyed and cannot be fished again for many years. Fishermen continue to practice this method because it is effective and inexpensive.
Finally, we sailed in to the city of Sandakan in Borneo, where we will spend the remainder of our expedition meeting with schoolchildren and working with the Sandakan community to express our project.