Perched atop a tall tower structure on Bellian Island of the Sulu Sea, watching the sun set; I reflect on this beautiful and profound day. With a slow start, catching up on lots of missed sleep, the Young Explorers began by snorkeling around the shallow reefs surrounding the island to assess the state of our ecosystem. To our dismay, wide bands of reef destroyed by anchors or dynamite fishing or trolling made highways of between the reefs. This ocean desert is no adequate habitat for fish, sharks or turtles. There is work to be done, but we are optimistic about the diversity and abundance of the corals that we do have; with a little bit of tender, loving care from humans this ecosystem can be restored to its original, beautiful state.
In the afternoon, we did a beach clean up around the island. Most of what we found was Styrofoam, which cannot biodegrade and is instead ingested by turtles and fish that think it is food. We also found hundreds of plastic bottles, a trolling net, and most unfortunately several cyanide tubes indicating cyanide fishing. Cyanide is not deadly to the fish directly, it merely stuns them so that they can be captured more easily, but it is destructive to the ecosystem and reduces the mortality of the fish.
With 9 full bags of garbage, we returned to the jetty for an amusing game of volleyball with the Malaysians. A picturesque end to a wonderful day!