On Wednesday we successfully completed two Reef Check survey dives. The first with a nurse shark sleeping at 09:00 along the transect tape for the duration of the survey – we didn’t seem to bother him at all!
The second dive culminated in a motivated group effort to retrieve a huge discarded fishing net from the substrate. Rex, Shamee, Francoise and Lars were the instigators, and although it had become ensnared in the coral, they had enough air left to disentangle it painstakingly. Back on the dhoni, we cut out 50 cm squares for identification purposes for part of a Maldivian effort to trace the origins of such ’ghost’ fishing nets and get a clearer picture of the illegal fishing trade in the archipelago. Good work!
On Thursday we were not sure what this morning’s dive was going to reveal as it was on a patch reef (and the last patch reef we dived had been completely colonised by coralliomorphs). However, this site was free of them (good news!), but had an exploding population of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish (not so good news!).
In the afternoon, after an excellent whale shark talk by Shamee on behalf of the Maldivian Whale Shark Research Programme, half the team surveyed, while the other half took a lazy dive down to the depths where huge shoals of snapper hung in the mouths of a caverns, and giant sweetlips fed on deep water crustaceans.
Although the expedition was not quite over, with still the megafauna transects to complete, Jean-Luc presented the Reef Check data. Thank you to everyone for working so hard and collecting so much valuable data in such a short space of time! Your work has added to the global picture of post-bleaching reef regeneration.