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March 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 32, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the March, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Exuma's Famous Swimming Pigs Poisoned. Being given the wrong food -- maybe rum -- by clueless tourists has possibly poisoned a third of the 21 pigs familiar to divers to the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. The government has outlawed feeding of the surviving pigs on Big Major Cay, and will implement that law as soon as it is practical, they say. (See our August 2016 review of the Aqua Cat in The Bahamas)

An Illegal Reef in the Gulf of Mexico. Fishermen at an illegal man-made reef about 10 miles off Bonita Beach, said they have been fishing it for years, but no one knows who dumped the mound of concrete. It's sitting in about 40 feet (12m) of water and rises to 20 feet (6m) from the surface. In early February, a dozen divers helped retrieve a huge shrimping net worth $20,000 from the "reef," noting that turtles will be arriving for mating season soon.

Goliath Groupers at Risk. Off limits since 1990, as early as next year Florida might allow anglers to start catching Goliath groupers. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is studying how a limited harvest of the species might work. Some divers and fishermen say the mammoth fish is hogging prized crabs, lobsters and fish, sometimes snatching catches right off fishing lines. Ecologists counter that Goliath grouper still face way too many threats to allow killing them. And they shouldn't be eaten; even a medium-sized specimen would have excessive mercury levels.

America Cleans Up! Americans dominated the World Shootout, otherwise known as the UW Photo Olympics, in several categories. The competition is organized each year by David Pilosof in Israel. For the five best images, Steven Kovac won the top prize of a 24-night vacation for two in PNG (worth $20,000) at both Tawali and Tufi resorts, plus 10 nights aboard the liveaboard FeBrina. Fellow Americans Renee Capozzola, Ron Watkins, and Jeff Milisen won the team prize worth $34,000 in vacations and diving equipment. Talented underwater videographer Ed Shermann picked up $1000 for the best video clip. www.worldshootout.org

Wet Dining and Flat Champagne? Brussels' Nemo33 is a pool designed for training scuba divers and as such is 33m (107 feet) deep. Now, if you dive 16 feet (5m) below the surface, you'll find a 2m-wide (6.5 feet) sphere, which serves as a restaurant. For US$106 per person, you may enjoy foie gras, lobster salad, and champagne, delivered in waterproof containers by scuba diving waiters. You'll need to don your scuba gear to swim down before surfacing inside the sphere, and we suspect the champagne will taste a little flat served at one-and-a-half times normal air pressure.

Grant for Turks and Caicos Reefs. The T&C Reef Fund, the only active environmental non-governmental organization in the Turks & Caicos Islands, has been awarded a EUR50,000 grant from the European Union to study the coral reefs off the coast of East Caicos. Don Stark, Chairman of the Fund, says, "East Caicos' remoteness, the island's uninhabited status, and its limited use have historically protected the island's marine resources from significant degradation." Undercurrent awarded them $1,000 a few years ago, which is what we do with our profit from book sales.

The Sound of Music. A study by scientists at the University of California, Davis, demonstrates that the soundtrack accompanying shark documentaries can clearly affect viewers' perceptions of sharks. Participants who viewed a 60-second video clip of swimming sharks set to ominous background music regarded sharks more negatively than those who watched the same video clip set to uplifting background music or to silence. Notably, participants who did not watch the video clip, but only listened to the 60-second uplifting or ominous audio clip (or waited in silence for 60 seconds), generally regarded sharks less positively than those who watched the video clip. Luckily, we divers only hear the sound of their own breathing!

The Power of Social Media. Thefts from retailers are a problem everywhere, especially in big cities. When Ocean Leisure, a big dive store in central London, recently lost two Nauticam underwater housings with value approx $2500 (NA-RX 100 IV Serial # A118003 and NA-RX 100 V Serial # A237881) to shop-lifters, the information was posted on more than a dozen underwater photography Facebook pages so that even the British Nauticam distributor, on vacation in Indonesia, immediately knew about it. Buyer Beware! Caveat emptor!

Costa Rica Finally Gets Tough. Taiwanese businesswoman Tsung has been sentenced to six months in prison in Costa Rica after authorities discovered her fishing boat Wan Jia Men 88 loaded with illegally caught shark fins. Initially acquitted in 2014, she was found guilty on appeal. The sentence is a clear message that Costa Rica will not tolerate shark finning in its waters, says DiverLife. It has banned such activity since 2012.

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