Ocean News in Review – Part 2: New Discoveries

 

Welcome back to my review of last years oceanic changes and trends – part 2: New Discoveries! In part one, we considered tropical storms, the single-use plastic epidemic, and the impact of global warming on the world’s coral reefs. While all of these topics are important, they can be a bit depressing, which fortunately isn’t the case for the entirety of this entry! Read on to learn about some fascinating new inventions and discoveries that scientists  made in 2017, including a few new species and even whole new animal civilizations that were formed right beneath our noses!

 

One such type of civilization that we didn’t know existed until so recently is the concept of octopus cities! For the longest time, scientists believed octopus were solitary creatures, only meeting up with others to mate. This was proven wrong in 2017, when not one but two different civilizations of Octopus were discovered. Dubbed “Octlantis” (mapped below) and “Octopolis”, these octopus-made cities consisted of a collection of dens nestled together among shells and other junk the animals had scavenged in the area. While this behavior seems to be derived from a social cue, scientists think that the area was initially a naturally productive area for scallops, a favorite food for the octopus that leads to multiple octopuses building dens in a small area, which scientists believed lead to a social circle being formed over a period of time. With so many octopuses living in such a close area, the potential for high predation was there, however it wasn’t observed while the scientists were studying these unique cities. This finding goes to show how just how little we know about the oceans, where entire civilizations could be hiding right under our noses. Who knows what else we’ve been missing?!?!

 

FRAMED-Octlantis

 

With one amazing discovery of the happiest proportions, comes one that is a bit more humbling. Both the North Atlantic Right Whales and Vaquita porpoises experienced a continuing decline in populations during 2017. With only an estimated 100 breeding females left of the Right Whale species and only 30 individual Vaquita porpoises remaining on the planet in total, it is surely only a matter of time until these two species join the list of extinct species. But….while the odds look tough, especially for the Vaquita, they aren’t gone yet! Scientists are working tirelessly to provide as much protection for these animals and are working on ways to try and increase their populations. Both species have been negatively impacted due to human causes, with numbers declining mostly due to ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement. Therefore, if we can lower such impacts on these species, then they still stand a chance of surviving, along with some special help from our keen-minded scientists!

 

2017 was also a big growth year in terms of human inventions based on the physical characteristics of animal. However, acknowledging the magnificence of the animal kingdom and trying to mimic its many ingenious designs isn’t a new revelation. In past years, inventors have manufactured more efficient fan blades for collecting wind energy based on whale flippers, while others have designed new car panels that are stronger yet lighter than ever before, based on the design of a bill of the Toucan! Furthermore, underwater adhesives were created, with researchers hoping to mimic the method in which a remora is able to attach itself to its bigger counterparts. Not only that, but Tuna’s ability to quickly turn due to its ability to raise and lower small fins on the top and bottom of its body has lead scientists to investigate a way to allow future robots to swim! These continuing studies just go to show that humans as a species have so much to learn from all the other animal species on this magnificent planet; all we need to do is open our eyes and listen!

 

Octopolis-octopus-city

 

While the previous points are very interesting in their own regard, the fact that researchers are continually discovering new species every year is also remarkable, with 2017 being no different. Last year saw the revelation that instead of the previously believed three species of sunfish residing in our oceans, it was determined that there is in fact 4 species, with Mola tecta being officially confirmed as the additional genus. The word tectus in Latin translates to hidden, which just goes to show you that scientists can have a sense of humour too! Additionally, a new species of surgeonfish was discovered in the Philippines. This particular species of fish (Acanthurus albimento) has a bright orange face, with iridescent blue streaks located on its body. This was a surprise to the scientific community as the Philippines has been a site of surgeonfish research for many years, yet this new discovery was made at the heart of the existing study area!

 

Acanthurus albimento- a new species of surgeonfish discovered in 2017
The new species of surgeonfish discovered in 2017: Acanthurus albimento

 

Apparently, humans have much left to learn, which is what makes this upcoming year so exciting. Who knows what could be swimming along (or in hiding!) waiting to be discovered at this very moment?!

 

Master Divers Commitment to the Environment

If you’ve already visited Master Divers, or have been following us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, or reading our blogs for a while, you will have noticed we take our environmental responsibilities very seriously.

As ambassadors for our underwater world and also Koh Tao in general, we are passionate about doing everything we can to minimise the environmental impact we have, as well as implement programmes, policies and events to educate others too. This is something that we are incredibly passionate about – and its not just paying lip service with us, when it comes to environmental awareness, we’re the real deal!

Beach Clean up in Koh Tao, Thailand

Thankfully, we are not the only business on Koh Tao that is becoming more environmentally aware. We do, however, offer a lot more than the bare minimum when it comes to doing our bit. Some other dive centres get together once a month for a clean up day. Every little helps, so this is a great initiative, but we believe more than 1 clean up a month between half a dozen businesses is required to really make any impact.

So….What does Master Divers Do Differently?

We employ a full time Eco instructor, Hayley, who organises weekly beach and roadside clean ups for staff and guests to help remove garbage that has washed ashore, and prevent any further trash from being taken by the sea.  Having just a few people volunteer an hour of their time to spend cleaning up the beachfront or road area makes a huge difference. This year, we plan on weighing and tracking how much trash we collect, so we can keep a tally of how much trash we’ve removed.

Beach and Ocean Clean

Hayley also works with the Koh Tao local government and local businesses to educate and encourage others to be more environmentally friendly in their practices – for example how to reduce plastic bags in local stores, and looking at solutions to reduce plastic waste from cups and straws in bars and restaurants too.

We run regular snorkeling and scuba diving clean ups at various dive sites (depending on which are the most in need), and have championed the abandoned beach of Laem Thien as our responsibility too.

Environmental-Policies-Master-Divers

We have environmental policies in the shop and onboard our boats. We do try to educate those outside the island as well as our own customers and those who live here.

We’ve written several blog posts on the topic on environmental initiatives, such as the ‘top 10’ things to reduce your plastic waste, and how to make natural household cleaning products to reduce your chemical waste.

The emblem for the no-plastic movement on Koh Tao

We sell reusable straws as well as reusable drinking bottles and cloth shopping bags and encourage our guests to reduce their usage of plastic – and single use plastic in particular.

We are heavily into recycling. In the corner of the reception area, there is a custom made collection bin in which our customers – and even passrs by – can dispose of their recyclable goods (water bottles, batteries, aluminum cans, and paper or cardboard products).

Master Divers sells eco-straws as an alternative to the single-use variety that are often used in restaurants

We offer Marine Conservation Packages and Marine Conservation Adventure Dives with our courses, which provide customers with a deeper insight into the issues that face the ocean environment. This includes a presentation evening and a marine conservation dive.

We run Coral watch dives to monitor and report on the health of our reefs, and also report into the DMCR (Department of Marine and Coastal resources) on any sightings of any species of rare/endangered/protected marine life that our divers or staff spot.

Coral-Watch Framed

We have created and deployed structures which have increased the scope and size of artificial reefs.

We sell natural and environmentally friendly sun screen and mosquito spray.

Sunscreen is important for skin health

We have strict no feeding and no touching policy for all of our dive and snorkel trips, and display codes of conduct for interactions with marine life at the dive centre and on our vessels – and ensure this is covered in our boat and dive briefings.

We are an official Shark Guardian Dive centre, and run regular events and presentations to educate divers, other tourists and local residents on how they can do more to protect marine life.

Be a Whale Shark Guardian

We don’t throw any waste into the ocean. Even biodegradable waste like leftover fruit gets brought back to last and disposed of properly (we use it for compost!).

Our smaller boat is 100% no smoking to eliminate accidental littering. There is a designated smoking area on the bigger boat, and while our customers are welcome to smoke on the larger of our vessels, you wont find our staff smoking on either of our boats.

We are heavily involved in local government meetings on conservation policies. We are committee members in planning the annual Save Koh Tao Festival, organise special events for all Ocean Days, and we are one of the founders and main organisers of Koh Tao Earth day.

Earth-Day-2017-framed

We have a free water refill station, so our customers don’t need to buy plastic bottles every time they need a drink. We are also an official refill station for Trash Hero bottles. So anyone who has one of the metal trash hero reusable bottles can come in and refill for free!

We have reusable cups and mugs both in the dive centre and out on the boats. In the dive centre we also have reusable plates and tupperware containers our customers can use on their lunch breaks so they don’t need to get any food in plastic bags or in single use containers.

Koh-Tao-Eco-Bottle

We use environmentally friendly cleaning solutions so as not to add chemicals to the water supply. We flush our toilets with salt water which preserves the sometimes scarce ground water supplies.

We ensure that both sides of every piece of paper is used, and old/discarded paper is used for scrap/to do lists etc.

We offer PADI eLearning (online), PADI Touch (app based) and digital manuals, all of which replace the need for physical books. This not only offers divers convenience but also saves on the paper used to create the book

PADI-digi-materials

We try to reuse or re purpose everything we can – even the most obscure things can have a second life. Right now for example, we are saving up all of our old fins, and hope to be able to build an artificial structure with them, or even fashion them into slates to make a roof for a shelter at our local animal clinic!

You can read more about our environmental activities by looking at the environmental category on the blog.

The Eco-conscious Island of Koh Tao

 

Exciting news….Koh Tao could soon be known as one of the most eco-conscious destination of South East Asia! Many businesses, including most dive shops, are working together to try and ban single-use plastic items on Koh Tao, including plastic straws and plastic bags. On top of this, efforts are being made to install a recycling program for businesses to have their recyclable goods picked up rather than throwing them in with their everyday rubbish. This was all made possible by Koh Tao’s inhabitants having an eco-conscious mind set and the determination to fight for change.

Koh Tao is full of postcard worthy beauty
Koh Tao is full of postcard-worthy beauty, such as Koh Nang Yuan.

 

The term ‘eco-conscious’ is floated around a fair amount in the media these days, but what does the term really mean?

An eco-conscious individual or business has a way of thinking where they look at how their actions and choices impact the natural world. Dubbed eco-warriors, these people/companies are both very aware of the threats faced by our fragile world, and also work to reduce and ultimately eliminate their impact on those threats. Where plastic is concerned, this largely revolves around ‘The Three Rs’… Reducing  plastic use, Re-using any plastic that is used, and Recycling whenever possible.

Here on Koh Tao, with diving being the primary activity that draws tourists to the island, many inhabitants are already far too aware of the global plastic problem, ans its impacts on our oceans and marine life, and have been puching for changes for some time now.

As an island, there has already been some success in previous years. Just over 4 years ago the local government banned the use of styrofoam boxes, which were commonly used as takeaway containers from restaurants. This milestone showed that the community was willing to make sacrifices when alternatives are present, and when it was in the best interest of the island. Once a few people come around to a more sustainable way of living, it soon catches on, and now we have several key figures in the municipality on board, including the Mayor of Koh Tao! He understands that the island’s natural beauty (both above and below the ocean’s surface) is one of the main reason people choose to spend their vacation here, so it is worth making rulings to help protect it.

The emblem for the no-plastic movement on Koh Tao
Emblem of the no-plastic movement on Koh Tao

 

The latest introduction to Koh Tao to reduce and eliminate plastic waste is the sale of reusable straws (paper, metal and bamboo), with the hope that if the alternatives are available, single-use plastic straws will be phased out entirely.

So, first it was styrofoam, now plastic straws and the next step will be to remove plastic bags from our little island paradise. Its a huge goal, but with enough people involved and the right mindset, we’re not alone in pushing for change and committing to making it happen!

So, what can you do to help?

In short, the best thing you can possibly do is STOP USING PLASTIC as much as possible in your day to day life! And especially single use plastic. The great news is that alternatives are already available. Master Divers is proud to be a vendor of paper, bamboo and metal straws, and our retail section is well stocked with reusable water bottle and cloth shopping bags, meaning you’ll have no need for plastic bottle or cups, plastic straws or plastic bags. And the best bit? You get to take them all home and spread the word!

Please do join us in considering the environment, and not just in Koh Tao. It does not take much effort to live with less plastic in your life, it just takes a little more planning and forethought, but the results are well worth it!

If you’d like to know more about environmental initiatives and events on Koh Tao, feel free to follow us on Facebook or drop us an email 🙂

 

Master Divers Marine Conservation Packages

 

As divers, we enjoy the thrill of experiencing a different environment, interacting with its inhabitants, and simply enjoying the beauty of the underwater world. Unfortunately, this environment that we care for so dearly is in danger of being damaged beyond repair. I think Sir David Attenborough said it best when he stated: “being in touch with the natural world is crucial”. This connection is vital; without a connection to the natural world, what motivation do people have to help try and save it? Here at Master Divers, we pride ourselves on our passion for conservation, with our eco instructors specializing in information related to the ocean, its inhabitants, and the threats that the ocean faces. Come and see how that knowledge is passed on through one of our marine conservation package courses!

“What humans do over the next 50 years will determine the fate of all life on the planet”- Sir David Attenborough.

It is a common belief that this revolution to help save the planet and its oceans starts through education. Learning about the aquatic environment, how it relates to humans, and what we as individuals can do to help is vital. At Master Divers, all instructors try to nurture an interest in the natural world and try to share this passion with our guests. In taking a course here, you will be able to learn more about the marine environment and how we, as divers, can work to protect it. We care deeply about our environment and work hard to do what we can, not only to mitigate our impact but help preserve and nurture what we have.  So we developed our Marine Conservation Packages for the dual purpose of helping our oceans, and also to help you, our divers, become more environmentally aware and active.

Marine Conservation Packages are available on both PADI Open Water, and PADI Advanced Open Water courses, and a conservation dive is included as standard in all of our professional level courses, as we believe ALL dive professionals need to have a base understanding of environmental issues so they can better educate their students.  What this means is that in addition to receiving the regular high-level instruction and materials, you will also receive the following:

 -Re-usable Master Divers Shopping Bag

-Reusable Water Bottle

-Project AWARE Dive against debris bag

-Conservation evening

-Conservation dive

Items from the green packages: re-usable shopping bag, Project AWARE dive against debris bag, and re-usable water bottle
Items from the green packages: re-usable shopping bag, Project AWARE dive against debris bag, and re-usable water bottle

 If you are not taking a course with us and still want to get involved, fear not, you can join us on a conservation dive and presentation for just 1500THB!

For the conservation evening and presentation, you get a meal supplied by the amazing Coconut Monkey beach cafe, which specializes in delicious and healthy meals. Your eco instructor will give a presentation on an ocean-related theme that is connected to the conservation dive you will be doing. Topics of these presentations are basically anything ocean related, but marine debris (plastics), pollution, and coral bleaching are personal favorites of mine. In my opinion, raising awareness of the risks that our coral reefs face is the first step to resolving these issues,  and are incredibly important subjects for all divers to learn about.

Coral Watch Divers Adi & Agnes from December 2017
Coral Watch Divers Adi & Agnes 

 

If this has peaked your interest, please don’t hesitate to drop us an email and book yourself a slot for a conservation dive, or add it to your existing dive course booking.

 

 

Cut out plastics by using a glass cutter!

We have a brand new gadget here at Master Divers that will hopefully ‘cut’ our plastic usage over time. It’s a glass cutter! This gizmo allows us to safely cut glass bottles into glass cups, therefore reducing the amount of cups we may buy to use at our water refill station.

Allowing us to safely cut glass bottles into glass cups.

Our New Gadget!

Recycling is good, but currently of 14% of plastics received for recycling, only 5% is actually made into a new object, the rest is lost as a by-product. This is technically down-cycling as the usable material is reduced, and will often lose the valuable properties of the original plastic. Recycling is better than wasting, but it is not a perfect system yet and technologies require greater development to recycle higher proportions of materials. Instead, by reusing current materials and objects, by re-purposing them or reusing them 100%, we can truly reduce our waste and reduce our requirements for new materials.

Our glass cutter gadget put into action

How to use

So, how does it work?

First of all, you place your chosen glass bottle into the glass cutter and tighten the screws to grip the glass. This can be done on any round glass, however thicker glass may be harder to separate at a later stage. Once secure, you can adjust the black levers to add a little extra pressure to the bottle, and to lower the glass cutting needle into place against the bottle.

Now the needle is against the glass, slowly rotate the glass bottle within the glass cutter so that a thin line is scored all the way around the bottle. This takes a bit of practice to make sure the cut is accurate and lines up in a perfect circle. Be careful to do this with glasses and gloves over a safe area, as the bottle may crack or shatter at an undetermined weak point.

Now that we have our line, we need to repeatedly heat and cool the bottle by rinsing/soaking it in boiling water and ice water alternatively. This expands and constricts the glass, making it prone to shatter. Fortunately after several bathes, the bottle should shatter neatly around the score mark that previously weakened the glass making it fragile along the line.

This is the first step to seeing the final product

Step 1

With a bit of practice, the bottle separates into a usable cup and additional funnel. Use a bit of sandpaper to smoothen the edges and… you have a new, reused and reusable glass cup!

Carefully lift the top off the bottle

Step 2

A cup you can safely drink from

The finished product

Small initiatives like this can help reduce plastic production whilst educating others on the global plastic problem. Cheers!

#RandomActsofConservation 4th – 12th February’13

#RandomActsofConservation is a campaign designed to suggest one simple, quick and easy random act of conservation every day.

 

Monday 4th February

Ask for a ban on harmful, toxic chemicals in our food and drink containers!

 

Tuesday 5th February

Find out why keeping Orcas in captivity is bad!

 

Wednesday 6th February

Become an Ocean Citizen and help protect the sea!

 

Thursday 7th February

Help Save the Arctic!!

 

Help Greenpeace save the Arctic. The melting Arctic is under threat from oil drilling, industrial fishing and conflict. You can Save The Arctic.

 

Friday 8th February

Take some Climate Change action!

 

Saturday 9th February

Help a Hero!

 

Sunday 10th February

Share a shower with a friend!

A cheeky one to finish the week….

To really get involved join the campaign on Facebook, or follow the Twitter #RandomActsofConservation. Feel free to add you own voice to the campaign by posting ideas to our Facebook page or Tweeting using the #RandomActsOfConservation #Hastag.

MOST IMPORTANTLY SHARE THIS PAGE USING THE BUTTONS ON THE LEFT. SHARE THE FACEBOOK POSTS AND RE-TWEET THE TWEETS.

#RandomActsofConservation 28th – 3rd February’13

#RandomActsofConservation is a campaign designed to suggest one simple, quick and easy random act of conservation every day.

 

Monday 28th January

A One Planet Future

If everyone in the world consumed at the same rate as the UK we would need 3 worlds to support us. But we only have 1 planet and all our futures depend on it. Help WWF UK campaign for a One Planet Future

 

Tuesday 29th January

Do without Plastic Bottles!

They release harmful chemicals into bloodstream and tissues of almost every one of us. Take the Plastic Pollution Coalition Pledge…

 

Wednesday 30th January

We haven’t walked to work for a while!

Let’s have a walk to work Wednesday, can’t walk…can you ride a bike? Or car share with a work mate?

 

Thursday 31st January

Help stop the barbaric practice of dynamite fishing!

Mike and the guy’s at CM Divers have put together this petition to ask the Malaysian Government to put an end to this practice that kills everything in that area including the corals.

 

Friday 1st February

Fish free Friday!!!

Fish stocks are decimated to the point of collapse so cutting out fish will help – even for one day …

 

Saturday 2nd February

Do you really need that plastic straw?

Over 500 million plastic straws are used A DAY in the US alone.

 

If you are in Thailand “My ow luud Kap” is what you need !

 

Sunday 3rd February

Help WWF petition to Protect the protectors
 

To really get involved join the campaign on Facebook, or follow the Twitter #RandomActsofConservation. Feel free to add you own voice to the campaign by posting ideas to our Facebook page or Tweeting using the #RandomActsOfConservation #Hastag.

MOST IMPORTANTLY SHARE THIS PAGE USING THE BUTTONS ON THE LEFT. SHARE THE FACEBOOK POSTS AND RE-TWEET THE TWEETS.

#RandomActsofConservation 21st – 27th January’13

#RandomActsofConservation is a campaign designed to suggest one simple, quick and easy random act of conservation every day.

 

Monday 21st January

Help protect the turtles of Turtle Bay!

We live on Turtle Island(Koh Tao) and have the privilege of being able to dive with them on a regular basis and we also like to help them out any chance we get…

 

Tuesday 22nd January

Wildlife needs protecting….

Petition the Government to make sure this keeps happening!

 

Wednesday 23rd January

Do you need it?

Consumerism is one of the main driving forces behind climate change, poverty, famine, pollution and strips land of its natural resources. So the next time you go to buy something ask the question “Do I really need it?”

 

Thursday 24th January

Yesterday we ask the question ‘do I really need it?’

Today lets find out why!

 

Friday 25th January

Help protect the Polar Bears by spreading the word!!

 

Saturday 26th January

We want a Worldwide Shark Fin Ban

 

Sunday 27th January

A nice Sunday walk!

Unplug everything a go for a nice walk and Take 3 for the sea!
 

To really get involved join the campaign on Facebook, or follow the Twitter #RandomActsofConservation. Feel free to add you own voice to the campaign by posting ideas to our Facebook page or Tweeting using the #RandomActsOfConservation #Hastag.

MOST IMPORTANTLY SHARE THIS PAGE USING THE BUTTONS ON THE LEFT. SHARE THE FACEBOOK POSTS AND RE-TWEET THE TWEETS.

#RandomActsofConservation 14th – 20th January’13

#RandomActsofConservation is a campaign designed to suggest one simple, quick and easy random act of conservation every day.
 

Monday 14th January

Tell President Obama to suspend Shell’s Arctic drilling permits

Help Greenpeace International petition President Obama

 

Tuesday 15th January

Say YES to Sustainable Seafood

Take WWF’s Pledge

 

Wednesday 16th January

This one goes out to all the Americano-Frappa-Choca-Farta-lotta-Mocha-Latte kids and those of us that luv a nice cuppa tea too!

Get yourself a reusable cup for your take-away beverages…

 

Thursday 17th January

Stop the land grab!

Sign up and find out how you can help Oxfam Stop the land grab…

 

Friday 18th January

Help the Herring!

Help the Pew Environment Group help the Herring.

 

Saturday 19th January

Invite your friends round for food!

Power one house for the night, make it meat and fish free and tomorrow we’ll walk it off!

 

Sunday 20th January

Unplug everything and go for a nice walk.

While you at it Take 3 for the sea!
 

To really get involved join the campaign on Facebook, or follow the Twitter #RandomActsofConservation. Feel free to add you own voice to the campaign by posting ideas to our Facebook page or Tweeting using the #RandomActsOfConservation #Hastag.

MOST IMPORTANTLY SHARE THIS PAGE USING THE BUTTONS ON THE LEFT. SHARE THE FACEBOOK POSTS AND RE-TWEET THE TWEETS.

#RandomActsofConservation 7th – 13th January 2013

#RandomActsofConservation is a campaign designed to suggest one simple, quick and easy random act of conservation every day.

Monday 7th January

Ride a bicycle… 

This one comes from Thelma ……ride a bicycle, not only does it not pump out toxins, it’s good exercise, quiet, cheap to run, easy to park and you get to see the beauty around you instead of the crazy traffic in front of you.

 

Tuesday 8th January

Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth!

Bathroom taps will give you 10 litres of water in a minute on full flow. If you brush for the whole recommended 2 minutes that’s….erm…..loads of wasted water every time you brush.

 

Wednesday 9th January

Do without Plastic Bottles!

They release harmful chemicals into bloodstream and tissues of almost every one of us. Take the PlasticPollutionCoalition Pledge….

 

Thursday 10th January

MEAT!!!! take a day off from eating meat

For most of us it’s hard to see the harm meat has on the environment. The facts are that millions of acres of potentially productive farmland is used for cattle to feed on. On top of that over half the grain grown in the world is fed to livestock. This requires huge amounts of water and energy to feed just the wealthy. Just a small amount of that grain used for cattle could feed the starving of the world.

 

Friday 11th January

Fish free Friday!!!

Fish stocks are decimated to the point of collapse so cutting out fish will help – even for one day ….

 

Saturday 12th January

Help try putting an end to Wildlife Crime!

Take action today with the WWF’s campaign to put a stop to Wildlife crime.

 

Sunday 13th January

A nice Sunday walk, and take our TwoHands with us!

Unplug everything and let the world breath a bit easier, take a walk on the beach or the countryside so we can breathe a bit easier and take twohands with us and pick up some rubbish and let the ocean breath a bit easier too. How about inviting some friends and family along with you.
 

To really get involved join the campaign on Facebook, or follow the Twitter #RandomActsofConservation. Feel free to add you own voice to the campaign by posting ideas to our Facebook page or Tweeting using the #RandomActsOfConservation #Hastag.
 

MOST IMPORTANTLY SHARE THIS PAGE USING THE BUTTONS ON THE LEFT. SHARE THE FACEBOOK POSTS AND RE-TWEET THE TWEETS.