We’ve had one of those incidents recently where you’re glad for the experience, but saddened that you have to get the experience.
I’m talking about net removals, which we do here in Kota Kinabalu’s TAR Marine Park on average once a month.
Being a marine reserve, fishing with nets is actually illegal in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Still, sometimes you get the rogue fisherman who, for whatever reason, takes a chance and drops his net in the hopes of a quick catch.
Often, they get stuck. An expensive exercise for the fisherman who loses his net – not cheap, and damaging to the reef and the park’s environment.
We discovered this net last week and reported it to the authorities – it was choking one of the most beautiful and healthiest reefs in the park.
After one of our instructors, Wellson, spotted a small blacktip reef shark that got caught in the net and died, we decided to jump in and get rid of the net as soon as possible.
It was a tricky one, because it was entangled all the way from the shallow coral block at the top of the reef, down to more than 35m deep to the sandy bottom.
Luckily our resident PADI Course Director Richard has access to not only the experienced Downbelow staff, but on this occasion also a crew of enthusiastic Divemaster interns, for who it would give invaluable experience for their future careers.
During the first dive Richard and Wellson took care of the deeper part of the net, cutting it in half at about 20m.
They took the deeper part of the net back to the surface and, together with the rest of the team, spent 30 minutes picking out and releasing the trapped marine critters, which included crabs, lobster and also the peculiar looking horse-shoe crab.
During the second dive it was all-hands-on-deck as the shallower part of the net was deeply entwined with the reef and required careful and slow removal.
With numbers on our side, we quickly and literally cut the net down to size, freeing the reef once more and chalking up another environmental victory.
Hopefully our interns can apply this valuable experience to their future professional careers and help make the ocean a better place all.