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Current Upwellings
The Latest Dive News

Last updated August 7, 2001

Caribbean Bargains
Galapagos Sea Lions Mutilated
Asia on the Cheap
Papua New Guinea Coral Bleaching
Bonaire Fund Raiser
Honduras Chamber Destroyed

Caribbean Bargains August 7, 2001

American Airlines has cut Caribbean vacation package rates by as much as 35 percent. You must book by Friday, August 17 and travel between August 18 and December 14. Resorts include the Divi Flamingo Beach on Bonaire, Young Island (St. Vincent), the Anchorage on Dominica, and the Sands at Grace Bay, Providenciales. Typical price: flight from Miami and 4 days, 3 nights at Divi for $381/person. Call your travel agent or American Airlines Vacations at 1-800-321-2121. Or visit www.aavacations.com. Travelocity.com also has their Caribbean Fall Sale. Reserve by August 24, 2001, for travel from August 18 through December 15. You can also call 1-800-249-4302 to get up to 35 percent off normal rates.

Galapagos Sea Lions Mutilated August 7, 2001

At least 35 sea lions in Ecuador's Galapagos islands were found dead in July, on the beaches of San Cristobal Island, where hunting and fishing is prohibited. Their skulls had been cracked and their genitals removed, presumably to be sold in Asian markets as an aphrodisiac.

Asia on the Cheap August 7, 2001

Why spend the money for Palau or PNG, when you can cover the Indian Ocean for $999. That's the price of Cathay Pacific's All Asia Pass, which includes roundtrip Economy Class air fare between New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles and Hong Kong, plus 21 consecutive days of Economy Class travel to any or all of 16 other qualifying Asian cities like Bali or Bangkok. Go to: http://www.cathay-usa.com/offers/aap20012002.asp

Papua New Guinea Coral Bleaching August 7, 2001

We ran a reader's comment on coral bleaching in Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea a couple months back. In response, we heard from Maya Srinivasan, School of Marine Biology and Aquaculture, James Cook University, about Kimbe Bay, roughly 400 airmiles from Milne Bay:

"For 3 years, I have been doing fieldwork for my PhD on coral reef fish ecology in Kimbe Bay and monitoring coral health for the PNG Divers Association at several reefs in the bay. On almost all the reefs I have been monitoring, levels of bleaching have been relatively low, with roughly 10-15% (or less) of the corals partially or fully bleached. Only one or two reefs were badly affected (20-25% corals bleached). This is nowhere near the extent of bleaching in areas such as the Maldives and Palau, where many reefs experienced up to 80% mortality of corals following bleaching. . . .Rates of recovery following bleaching have been high on most reefs I have been monitoring. Many corals regained their normal levels of pigmentation within 6 weeks. These reefs remain in relatively pristine condition and are among the worlds most healthy, diverse reefs. . . .Observations by recreational divers can often lead to either under- or over-estimates of what is really happening. As bleached corals tend to stand out to the untrained eye, levels of bleaching can often be overestimated. Proper quantitative surveys need to be done to accurately estimate levels of bleaching. Your reader commented that ‘the side effect of this bleaching... was a notable absence of fish.' As a fish ecologist, I can safely say this cannot be true. Ecological interactions on coral reefs are quite complex and fish populations do not respond immediately to changes caused by coral bleaching. Corals first have to die and become overgrown by algae (which can take several weeks) before fish even begin to be affected. Even then, only fish that feed directly on coral polyps are affected at this early stage. Also, while you might find a change in the composition of the fish community on a reef that has been badly damaged, the overall number of fish won't necessarily decline. The numbers of corallivores (e.g., butterflyfishes) may decrease, but numbers of herbivorous fishes will increase. Since many coral reef fishes (including many damselfishes, surgeonfishes and parrotfishes) feed on algae, fish numbers might even increase. In addition, a recent study has shown that fish diversity is highest at intermediate levels of coral cover (i.e., 40-60%). This means that a reef that has 100% coral cover often has the same low number of species as a reef with 0% coral cover, of course the species that are there will be different."

Bonaire Fund Raiser August 7, 2001

To support the after school program for Bonaire's kids, the youth center is trying to get divers to enter what is billed as "The World's First Internet Banquet and Scuba Dive," Your $30 donation will get you a shot at round trip airline tickets between the USA and Bonaire, free hotels, and other prizes. Have a look at www.jongbonaire.org

Honduras Chamber Destroyed August 7, 2001

In Utila in late July, the building that housed the Bay Islands College of Diving and the Hyperbaric Chamber was destroyed by fire. Rick Reno, the PADI Course Director there, told us via email that "the chamber, which had been run for ten months, came about by the efforts of Kisty and Jim Engel (owners of Utila Lodge), who built the facility, raised a little money, financed the rest of the project themselves, got a chamber, furnished the trauma center, then assembled a group of dedicated volunteers to make the whole thing work. It's treated about 20 injured divers. Many, but not all, were tourists. But we also remember the commercial fisherman Indio who'd done ten dives deeper than 100' in a morning, been paralyzed soon afterwards, and came to us that night after this wife's failed attempts to exorcise the demons by soaking him with very hot towels. After three treatments, he walked out, unaffected and with a little better understanding of the effects of pressure. He knows now that it wasn't the demons but the ten dives that got him. Sadly, he's returned to diving, but hasn't been back to the chamber. . . .We have begun rebuilding the facility and locating a chamber, a $250,000 effort. If you are interested in helping us get back to the business of serving our community, we'd welcome any help. Funds collected are tax-deductible and may be sent to:

Wesley United Methodist Church
C/O Utila Fund 3890 Dowlen Rd.
Beaumont, Texas 77706

You can contact the chamber administrator, Jim Engel, at 011-504-425-3143 (FAX: 011-504-425-3209) or email him at : bicdive@hondutel.hn or ulodger@hondutel.hn

-- Ben Davison, publisher

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