Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Conclusion

Dive #22 [ 07:59 | EAN30 | 49' | max.34m, avg.18m | Dirty Rock ]
Dive #23 [ 11:06 | EAN32 | 48' | max.30m, avg.16m | Punta Maria ]
Dive #24 [ 14:57 | EAN34 | 45' | max.23m, avg.13m | Manuelita ]

Most divers come to Cocos Island for its schooling hammerhead sharks. And while they definitely still are here in unknown numbers, they rarely came close enough for us to see more than their shady contour in the distance. Personally I only got to glimpse a few small packs of up to twelve or so, i.e. no 'hammer wall' like in the Galapagos just two and a half years ago. Relatively bad visibility of course didn't help us getting a good look at these rather shy creatures. A couple of times though, a few of them did come a bit closer out of curiosity, giving me at least a chance to get a snapshot or two as souvenir.

The prowling white tip reef sharks however more than made up for our troubles getting here. Especially my three nights out with them were in themselves reason enough to come back. Note though that according to my logbook scribbles from twelve years ago (12/1996), their number has seriously decreased, as has the population of marble rays.

Yearly and seasonal variation can account for a lot, as does daily timing and luck, but still, June-August is supposed to be the best time of the year for diving, whereas December-January is normally only better weather-wise.

During my first visit here I also witnessed huge schools of swirling jacks, hanging like great dark clouds below the waves, forming massive columns of silver rising from the ocean bottom to the surface, in numbers beyond counting, in congregations in which I could disappear and loose myself. This time however we only saw a few comparatively small schools of jacks.

Another dramatic difference was the total absence of mobulas and pacific mantas. And it's not just the big boys that are scarcer: small fish, lobsters & turtles too are no longer as present as they used to.

According to a park ranger with whom I had a brief chat, I'm not the only one to mention this apparent general decrease in underwater populations. Not surprisingly I guess considering the relentless illegal fishing going on around here. Tuna and shark fins are big money indeed. Nothing a few rangers with a dingy can do anything against.

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