Earth Week – Mermaids Environmental Awareness – with fun!
Mermaids Dive Center Pattaya Thailand organized an Earth week for the dive interns. It is one thing just to clean up a beach or reef feeling that we have done a good job – and largely we have but there is a lot of benefit in environmental education too. Not only do we like to play our part in being pro-active with reef clean ups but also share good information whilst having fun to ensure that a positive message sticks. Earth Day is a clean up – Mermaid’s Dive Centre took it a step further having a week of fish identification, reef survey, clean-up, resource management survey and of course some fun with dolphins!
Below is a brief summary of the happenings for the week.
Day 1: Beach Clean up at Koh Keung Badaan
The guys form Mermaids left Bali High pier Pattaya armed with gloves plastic bags with the destination of Kon Kueng Badan in mind. 10 bags of rubbish were lifted from the area around the island and reef , and a further 30 bags from the beach – including 478 flip flops!! Dave Ottoway, studying to be a dive instructor on the internship program was astounded – ” I want to open a second hand flip flop shop, but there aren’t many pairs.” 23 people took part in the clean up. Terry Wilkins an IDC staff instructor suggested beach clean ups every month which has now been implemented.
Day 2: Fish ID and Reef Survey
The fish identification course conducted by Sheena, an MSDT and Adam IDCS (PADI IDC Staff) from Mermaids. 12 interns were made aware of the major fish groups, and how to identify them. Adam gave some interesting insights, having recently finished his marine biology degree in the US. Everyone then went on 2 dives to Koh Man Wichai, to survey the reef, and sent the recorded data to PADI. Emily, an intern at mermaids studying to be an instructor was amazed by the variety of fish, once she knew what she was looking at. “There is so much more to see once you have a bit of knowledge on the subject” she commented.
Day 3: Marine Resource Management
The Marine Management course conducted by Sue MSDT and Tom IDCS from Mermaids. 10 interns. This involved learning about symbiosis of the ecosystem, and how coral is vital part of this. Dave was amazed at how fragile the systems are, and has recently written a power point presentation to give everyone starting an internship with learn-in-Asia valuable information on how to interact with the reef, and perform responsible diving practices. “The diversity is amazing, and I learnt loads – a great course” he said. A recent graduate of the internship, Crowley, has also started putting systems in place to safe guard our dive sites, and increase diver awareness. “People don’t seem to realize that if we don’t do something, the scuba diving industry will be very different, and not in a good way” he said. “We must protect the corals and wildlife that we have, or there won’t be anything to see”.
Day 4: Swim with Dolphins & Rayong aquarium
Swimming with dolphins is something most people dream of doing, but somehow only a few actually realize this dream. 7 dive interns with Mermaids Staff went to Oasis Sea World in Laem Sing (Just outside of town). Besides breeding the Irrawaddy and pink humpback dolphin species they also care for accidentally captured or injured animals that the fishermen from a nearby stationed fishing fleet occasionally bring in.
Both the pink dolphins as well as the Irrawaddy dolphins are indigenous to Thailand, but their numbers are rapidly declining due to excessive droughts and fishing net related accidents.
After a display, the interns actually got in the water with the dolphins, and it was commented by all that the Dolphins seemed to enjoy every moment of it also. Everyone thought it was very cool, and the dolphins were very gentle.
After a fabulous lunch then it was off to Rayong aquarium. Danny’s first comment was of the fabulous labeling of all the fish, and he really enjoyed the tunnel walk through, and being surrounded by a dazzling array of fish.
Day 5: Pattaya Aquarium
Underwater World Pattaya is the largest and most modern ocean aquarium in Asia, with a 100-meter-long, 6.4-centimeter-thick Plexiglas pedestrian tunnel through an underwater environment filled with dozens of marine species.
The park covers a total area of 12-rai (approximately 5 Acres) and is housed in a structure similar to a large circus tent. This enables the place to have natural light that nurtures the algae. The aquarium houses more than 4,000 marine animals, comprising more than 200 different species from the region as well as some rare creatures from overseas.
Interns went swimming with the sharks (4 snorkelers and 2 divers) A fantastic experience, if a little scary. The Pattaya Aquarium allows swimming with big nurse sharks, Leopard sharks as well as black tips.
Day 6: Beach Clean up #2 at Koh Rin
Koh Rin was the target of a reef clean up in February and the reef was remarkably clean, only 2 bags of rubbish was collected. The beach at Koh Rin gained 30 bags of waste (more shoes and flip-flops) and over 200 bottles. This area is generally very clean with the majority of the waste coming from fishermen or day trippers dropping bottles and bags over their boats or leaving the rubbish on the beach. With a contact in the Thai Navy an education day for the local fishermen is to be implemented. All the days’ cleaners were thanked by Mermaids boss Steve Blumenthal, and systems have since been put in place to make this a monthly event.