Schools of fish like we have never seen and three separate Manta Ray encounters. This week we are focusing on how conservation and scientific research can be amazing fun!
The highlight of the week was definitely the Manta Rays, but before we start, here is a short movie of Trip #5 on the Hallelujah Similan Liveaboard. Thank you to instructor Masaru!
Manta Ray at 5:01
[az_video_embed class=”” link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Dinhpja9Vg”]
Fish, Fish, Fish!
The smaller fish were relatively overshadowed by the Manta Rays this week. However, the size of some of the schools of fish we saw were not only hugely impressive, but maybe quite important for the future of the Similan Islands, Thailand. To go Scuba diving and be completely surrounded by marine life is an amazing feeling.
Koh Bon and Richelieu Rock were particularly amazing. Koh Bon had an incredibly large school with a combination of Long nose emperor fish, Trevally, Rainbow Runners and more. We watched the school rapidly approaching us over the top of a large ‘Green Monster’ (Thermocline) rising from the deep. If this wasn’t enough it was soon followed by a 1.5m cobia and a similarly sized marbled ray. There was also a Manta Ray sighting but we will get onto Manta Matcher in a bit. In summary, Koh Bon was amazing!
Richelieu Rock was equally impressive with its large schools of Snapper. You can swim right inside the ball and pose for some wonderful photos. 30m visibility and calm seas just made the day even better. But why are there so many more fish than last year?
The Fishing problem
The Similan Islands is of course a National Park. However, the surrounding waters are only protected within a radius of a three kilometres. As soon as a fish swims a few kilometres away from the Similan Islands then they are fair game to the fishermen. If the surrounding waters are overfished, it will affect the population of marine life on the dive sites for sure.
Thailand’s 2015 Fishing Regulations
In January 2015, the EU threatened to ban all imports from Thai fisheries if they were unable to meet certain regulations. Thailand had to start cracking down on illegal fishing practices like ocean bottom trawling and the use of push nets. In July 2015 the Thai government ordered all fishing boats to register under the new regulations and if they failed to meet standards then their licences would be revoked. Last month over 8000 fishing vessels had their licences revoked. They ranged from small 2-man boats to huge commercial ships.
So this year not only does Thailand have less fishing boats out at sea, the boats that are out there are much better regulated. It seems to be no coincidence that fish stocks seem to be replenishing. This is great news for anyone that loves Scuba diving and now seems to be an excellent time to visit the Similan Islands, Thailand.
Manta Rays in the Similan Islands
This trip on our Similan Liveaboard we had 2 Manta Rays at Koh Tachai and 1 Manta Ray at Koh Bon. It was fantastic diving, particularly at Koh Tachai. Amazing visibility, hardly any current and so much to see. Not only were there Manta rays, we saw a large schools of barracuda, fusiliers and trevally. The Manta Rays were playful and inquisitive as they circled around several times to get a better look at us. This gave us a great opportunity to get some good identification shots for Manta Matcher.
How to get an Identification Shot of a Manta Ray
Every Manta ray has its own unique markings that effectively act as a fingerprint. On the belly of each Manta Ray are a grouping of black spots that can be used to identify it. The image below shows you the exact area you are looking for.
This image is taken from www.mantamatcher.org. If you visit their website you can get all the details you need to report your encounter. This is a great website with lots of useful information about Manta Rays and how you can help to protect them. The identification information is invaluable to science and can really help with global conservation efforts. Information is undoubtedly king. If there is a large amount of information about how many Manta Rays are spotted, where they are seen and how far they are travelling then it makes it easier to come up with international protection strategies.
Manta Ray Identification shots for this weeks Similan Liveaboard
It is easy to upload you Manta Ray ID shots to Manta Matcher. But if you need help then we are happy to help you. This week Instructor and conservationist Ric Parker has uploaded three Identification shots to the Manta Matcher website. Here are all the details for our three new amateur scientists. Thank you for your contributions.
New Manta Matcher encounter submission: 997c9bed-05be-4625-8fbb-f68ff0d8bc5d
An Amazing Similan Liveaboard Trip
Thank you to everyone that joined us on the Hallelujah Similan Liveaboard this week. It was an unforgettable trip. I dodn’t even have time to mention the Seahorses, Frogfish, Nudibranchs and all the other Macro marine life we saw. I’ll have to save that for next time. At Big Blue we are so happy to see the Scuba Diving has been so good this season. Thank you once again and hopefully we see you again soon