The Enemy dresses White

As a dive instructor, I love my job. Actually, I am sometimes ashamed of calling it a “job”:

I spend my life in beautiful places surrounded by so many different people, I take thousands of photos with stunning sunsets and sunrises ( ehm..ok, sunsets are easier) basically everyday, the scent of the Ocean is always with me and, above all , I get paid to DIVE! And sometimes, the more I dive , the more I get paid!

It sounds like heaven on Earth, and It’s indeed a pretty nice way of walking my path towards the old age !

But of course there are some Not-So-Nice things I’d rather avoid, if just possible. Sometimes the divers are not the most pleasant examples of humanity ( of course not YOU. If you are reading here, you belongs to the “good guys” group ).

Sometimes the early wake up is VERY early...But the worst thing to me is when the water is not so warm. Underwater I get cold... I mean really REALLY cold, like I start shivering and almost lose consciousness and cannot think anything but getting out of the water and jump in a hot shower.

I think I am one of the most sensitive person in the universe to the low temperatures. Like, i usually use 5mm suit in all the tropical waters, the hood is always a welcome friend, I cannot even imagine myself taking a plunge in some mountain lakes, or anywhere the water doesn’t reach at least 25 Celsius Degrees.

I have been probably blessed by the Gods, but luckily as far as I can recall , during my Scuba Instructor career I always managed to find a job where the Ocean has an affordable temperature and I don’t have to show the worst part of myself.

Even in the Maldives, I never give up on my faithful 5 mm suit! The Motto is “Underwater is never too hot”. But, actually, this year is not like that. It started one day as a joke, last november: the water was so nice and appealing, I tried to dive with just rush-vest and surf shorts... And It went well! Very well! Being in direct contact with the big Ocean, without any layer in between, its just magical! And I didn’t even get any cold, at all. Just perfect!

And from that day, my wetsuit is enjoying a well deserved relaxing holiday in my box: I love my new configuration, I feel warmer and warmer as the months pass by, I am so proud of myself!

The thing is not that I am getting stronger, or less sensitive, or maybe more fat , seal-layered like. The thing is , I am afraid, that the Ocean is changing. It is less cold...Or, if you prefer, warmer. Actually, hot.

Hey, as a diver-snorkeler-swimmer, this is super nice: you can spend ages splashing around without any discomfort, enjoying your holiday time as much as maybe never before.

Sadly, when talking about the Ocean, we are not those most involved: there are literally millions of creatures living their lives below the surface, and as long as I know they never complained about feeling any cold just because being stucked down there...They have always been happy with their habitat temperature...So far.

I like warm water, many people do, but the Ocean World Citizens ... They don’t enjoy it at all. And now they start to show us their unhappiness : Everything went slow at the beginning, but now things are really running fast. I am talking about the Maldives, the place I know better, so I cannot speak for the rest of the World... But what I have been witnessing in the last three or four months it is really scary, sad...heartbreaking.

Big fish are still there, of course! Sharks gather around, jacks and tunas keep on hunting in the channels, mantas feed and get cleaned at the usual spots, but the tiny and delicate creatures are disappearing :

The beautiful and colorful nudibranchs are more and more hard to be found, only the strongest and most common Phyllidia remains all alone munching the sponges; the lovely leaf fishes, so precious to the dive guides because they always live for years in the same areas, giving us the chance to show ourselves and our skills in finding them, they are disappearing from their usual nests; ghost pipe fishes, never super common in the Maldives though, are now something like an almost impossible found...

> What is more evident hence more frightening is the white color working his way where beautiful shades of green usually were. So many anemones are losing their tint, transforming their dress in a pure white one: it is really photogenic, and actually stands up very good in your pics! White anemone, orange clownfish and blue water : WOW! Just the perfect colors combination! Sure, but a white anemone is a dying anemone. White means that no more micro algae live within the anemone , therefore no more nutrients for his host.

The same thing happens with the corals : these gigantic formations - one of the underwater treasure of the Maldivian Sea, owe their strength and beauty to the tiny tiny algae too, if the algae dies, they slowly share the same destiny. Once they start bleaching, they loose their strength, then break, then that’s it. Yesterday an heavenly dressed up piece of reef, today a gray, broken cemetery.

Something like this already happened back in the '98 : that year El Nino, this periodic warm current, was actually a bit too warm and literally boiled the corals behind him. It took 20 years for the corals to start to recover... And now, again. But in a way bigger scale, you see.

So...What does it mean?

Is this Global Warming really happening? Isn’t it just another of the several catastrophic alarms we are nowadays used to face, and that eventually never turn in something so horrific? Is the Ocean, as we used to know it, intended to change forever ? Does it mean we won’t be able to enjoy a dive anymore ?

Well, all of those are really big questions, and somebody like me cannot give an answer to any of them. But what I can do, and what all of us can do, is to try to start to be a little bit more caring and protective of the Big Blue, and to give back some of the love it ( He? She? ) deserves from us.

We HAVE to give something in return for all we got from there :

Let’s all try to avoid using tons of sunscreens, wearing a t-shirt when snorkeling instead;

Let’s make an effort and let’s use fewer plastic products, take the plastic trash out of the sea with us and leave to where it could be recycled. Plastics that end up as ocean debris contribute to habitat destruction and entangle and kill tens of thousands of marine animals each year!

Let’s stop being greedy consumer of all kind of seafood, specially the most endangered ones: I know a lobster dinner on the beach could be the most romantic thing in your love story, but soon there will be no more lobsters left down here.

Let’s stop illegal fishing excursions, if what you catch back are a bunch of micro juvenile poor babies which will never have the chance to reproduce.

When purchasing seafood at the supermarkets, some endangered spieces are sold under unrecognizable names, it's sometimes hard to make the connection. For example : the so called "Chilean Sea Bass" - an expensive white-meated fish, is actually the endangered the Patagonian Toothfish, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society dedicated a whole campaign trying to stop the poachers in the Antarctic Sea, where the fish is illegally fished.

Let's avoid buying products exploit marine lifes, like jewelry made of coral or sea turtle shell and shark products, remember : if there is no dealing, then there will be no more killing.

Let’s keep a double eye on our buoyancy while diving, even more if we are photographers! We are divers because we love what we see underwater, there is not one single picture which justifies us for breaking corals or harassing sealife: for us is just a pic, for them, it is life!

I don’t know if with a good behavior we will be ever able to reverse the situation and bring the Ocean back to how it was in the past... It will be probably impossible actually. But I think that the minimum we have to do is showing a drop of interest and at least, do not perpetrate the disaster.

Some of the most pessimistic predictions say in about 30 years we will have an Empty Ocean.
I wish with all myself they could remain predictions .

@ This article is written by Olga Martinelli (PADI Instructor #961509), please give respect to her copyright!
This article is not to be reproduced or distributed without written permission of Olga Martinelli.

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Here is a film make by @Simon Spear on Vimeo, simply but inspiring : What would you Say ?

What Would You Say? from Simon Spear on Vimeo.


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