Climate Change from a Diver´s Perspective

In times of devastating hurricanes like Harvey and Irma, destructive bush fires spreading across the north-west of the US and a president of one of the most powerful nations in the world still claiming climate change to be a hoax, it’s more important than ever to raise as much awareness as possible to science-based facts and self reflect on what options every single individual has to support our unique and badly endangered ecosystem. As a diver, no matter wether you’ve just done your first certification or you’re a ‘pro by heart’, you should act as an ambassador to and protector of our oceans.

One of the most important facts for divers and non divers to understand, is that this sport does not interfere with nature on a higher level than any other sport practiced outdoors such as hiking, skiing or mountain climbing. Diving might even have a smaller footprint than those mentioned above – from your very first stage of training, a dive instructor should provide you with guidelines and techniques on how to preserve the seascapes and in what manner to interact with the dwellers there, whereas there is no mandatory briefing before people set out on their first hike ever or ski down a slope. Mountain climbing instructors do not necessarily have to provide information on how to protect the stretch of land they’re practicing on. Dive instructors do.

Ocean deoxygenation and coral bleaching

Ocean deoxygenation describes the loss of oxygen from the ocean. While studies show that during the 20th century oxygen levels were continuously decreasing due to surface warming, there is a prediction of a further loss of 3-6% of oxygen concentrations in the 21st century. Warm water can’t hold as much oxygen as cold water, so when the surfaces of the oceans heat up due to climate change it causes a direct loss of oxygen. But hand in hand with a rise of the surface temperature comes a change in density of the now warmer water. The cold water from below is way thicker than warm water from the surface, which makes it more complicated for the two layers to mix up. In the end this doesn’t only leave us with the heated up surface water, which can’t hold as much oxygen as it used to, it also brings along a malabsorption of the narrowed amount of oxygen from the surface layer.

The process commonly known as coral bleaching is induced through increasing water temperatures. The collaboration between corals and algae is a rather special one. The corals have very high light requirements, which emerge from the symbiosis with the algae, which live in the cells of the coral and also provide them with their rich colors. The metabolic waste produced by the coral serves as fertilizer for the algae and in return they receive part of the vegetational photosynthesis products. A lot of coral subspecies depend on this as main nutrition as plankton alone can’t feed them sufficiently. Certain circumstances, incl. high water temperatures, can cause coral to reject the algae, and therefore loose their color and suffer death by starvation.

Shark and Whale diminution – and the impact on our climate

It’s no secret that the numbers of big marine predators like sharks are constantly decreasing. But recent studies from different marine conservation organisations display a new consequence. With the shrinkage of predatory fishes through fishing and fining, the biomass of smaller fishes and zooplankton expands tremendously, which produces more CO2 in general and decimates a fair amount of the important phytoplankton through nutritional consumption by said fishes. Phytoplankton, as proved in multiple studies, nowadays is responsible for 70% of Earth’s oxygen.

Whales are enhancing the growth of phytoplankton in a completely different way – by feeding at a depth of up to a few hundred meters and defecating at sea level they transport essential sources of iron and other nutrients across layers of water that otherwise wouldn’t mix. The phytoplankton at the surface thrives on this nutritional diet and therefore multiplies and absorb more CO2.

As divers, we should all try to display exemplary behaviour when interacting with the environment and living organisms above and underneath the surface and engage in our local diving industry to support diving with a minimal damage – e.g. by installing buoys where possible, so boats won’t have to drop the anchor.

For those who want to take the extra step towards a compensation of carbon dioxide released in regards of their (remote) dive holiday check out

https://www.atmosfair.de/en or for tips on personal cuts in rewards of reduced CO2 emissions https://www.carbontax.org/whats-a-carbon-tax/.

So while North America starts to evaluate the damage Irma has caused on its horrific way across the Caribbean Islands and onto mainland Florida, I hold my breathe and pray for the vast underwater landscapes and its inhabitants, that had to endure this powerful storm without any kind of protection. Hopefully those precious marine sanctuaries are still in a position in which they’re capable of rejuvenating themselves and won’t suffer too much from the damage they had to withstand.

-by Nina Berti Sep 2017

 

Sources

Keeling at al. 2010

IPCC 5th Assessment Report

https://www.nabu.de/natur-und-landschaft/meere/lebensraum-meer/02888.html

http://www.nationalgeographic.org/activity/save-the-plankton-breathe-freely/

https://www.sharks.org/blogs/science-blog/sharks-in-decline

https://theconversation.com/how-overfishing-and-shark-finning-could-increase-the-pace-of-climate-change-67664

Photos: The Ocean Agency

My divemaster training (DMT) at PDC

Four months of hard work and a lot of fun are coming to an end. My divemaster internship in Panama Dive Center (PDC) finally ended and I will soon be a certified divemaster, a new Pro member! The enlightenment does not go as far as to having a white bright aura around me but it feels really great. Yes, I made it! Four months of learning, swimming, diving, dealing with clients, filling tanks, loading up boats, fixing equipment, workshops, practical skills and much more, all of that at the rythm of the divemaster song – despacito, suave suavecito, pasito a pasito!

I arrived as a recently certified Advanced Open Water diver with hardly 30 dives and still not completely confident about how to set up equipment and will leave as a divemaster with 115 dives and ready to guide, assist in courses, fix equipment and much more. Anything I could say would not make justice to the experience. Four months learning from great professionals in their day to day work, being part of it. Joy, fun, laughters, but also occasional frustration and exhaustion. All a person can ask for a truly unforgetable experience. This has been a long, exciting, challenging and very fun process that could only be possible thanks to all the wonderful crew that I had the chance to work with.

I am truly grateful to Camilo and Sabina, the owners of PDC for giving me the opportunity of being part of their team, sharing the passion of their lives with me and creating a very personal experience. Camilo has been my mentor during this 4 month journey across the wonders of professional diving. A lot of what I know now about diving is thanks to him. He has always performed with endless patience, optimism and great vibes and his trust in me has always been immense, which I really appreciate. If you end up in the right place with the right people, like I did, any 3 week divemaster course will never get even close to the quality of this experience. I have had not one but four professionals from whom to learn. My success in the course is not only the result of the great work of Camilo, my main instructor, but also de work of the entire team of PDC instructors: Sabina, Kim and Sofie. I have had the chance to watch their outstanding professionalism and learn from it every single day during these 4 months, both at the dive center and in our playground, the underwater world. Moreover, I shared this very enriching experience with another lovely divemaster trainee, Anais, and a team of other fantastic students – Lu, Katrin, Nina, Ari and Ani, that collectively made this experience worth a thousand regular courses. I have learnt something from every single one of them. I will remember Sabina for her oustanding teaching and organizing skills;  Kim for her rigorous and methodical work and her great humor; Sofie for her contagious enthusiasm and craziness; Anais for all her support and cheerful attitude during all our exercises and time together; Ani for her creativity and help 

and every single one of them for their valuable and unique ideas, opinions and ways of working, apart from all the fun we had together! And of course, although not a member of PDC, I also owe my success in the course to my girlfriend and PADI scuba instructor Alba. Not every one is as lucky as I am, having an instructor at home during his training! She is one of the best instructors I have met and I have learnt a lot from her, apart from benefiting from her continuous support and love.

From our fun scenarios for the Emergency first response course where someone would for example fake electrocution, to our assistant role during fun dives. From our Rescue exercise number 7 – which took quite some time until we performed it at demonstration level, namely, despacito, suave suavecito, pasito a pasito, to almost drawning during our swimming skills! Equipment exchange, discover local diving, search and recovery, night dive, discover scuba dive, snorkel guide…a looooooong list of tasks, tests, exercises that challenged us, exhausted us and most important, made us all laugh and enjoy. I am leaving a group of life-lasting mentors and friends.

I will miss Coiba and its wonders. The long boat rides under a burning sun or under a stormy apocalyptic sky, either of them equally amazing. The exciting dives under a strong current that brought to us the magic of the sea in all its splendour: hugeschools of jacks, snappers, barracudas, grunts, stingrays, eagle and devil rays… The more relaxing dives and all the wonderful reef inhabitants: gigantic moray eels, octopuses, frog fish, sea horses, triggerfish, and all the colorful fish like the moorish idol, the barber fish, parrot fish, angelfish and all the different kinds of puffer and porcupinefish. The unforgetable encounters with the lazy white tip sharks, the elegant turtles and the impressive humpback whales breaching the surface and delighting us with their magical songs. Pure, concentrated awesomeness.

I will also miss Santa Catalina. The beautiful Estero beach, the quietness and clean air, the sound of the waves at night and of the birds in the morning, the ‘carros’ bringing loads of veggies and fruit, the mango and avocado trees, all the coconuts we used to pick up on the beach, the multiple pot luck dinners we shared with friends, the surfers riding the waves…four truly unbelievable months!

It is over now and the only thing left is to wish a similarly amazing experience to all newcomers at PDC. Enjoy it. Take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the experience. Take from them and give back! Thank you all PDC members for an awesome time!

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Rainy Season Visitors – Part 2

Humpback whales are easily recognized because of their enormous size, their majestic whale songs and their stunning aerial acrobatics, often breaching the water despite their large bodies and landing with a tremendous splash. A fully grown humpback whale weighs more than 5 adult elephants and measures up to almost 20 meters in length, the size of a big bus. Humpbacks possess a massive tail fin called fluke and unusually long pectoral fins (1/3 the length of their body!), which they use for navigation through the world’s oceans. The only known predator of such huge animal is a pack of very hungry killer whales.

Humpbacks have a very diverse diet consisting of krill, plankton and small fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel. Humpbacks do not have teeth but baleen plates, with bristles attached to them that prevent small prey from escaping but allow water to easily pass through. Since they don’t have teeth they have to swallow their preys entirely. The way they hunt is a real spectacle. They use a technique known as bubble net fishing. This involves a group of humpback whales swimming around their prey in a circle, blowing bubbles around their prey in order to herd the fish into a tight ball and creating  loud vocal sounds to scare the fish to the surface of the water. Then, the humpbacks slap their fins against the water to stun the fish and immobilize them. Finally, the whales will swim up with an open mouth and engulf thousands of small fish in just a single gulp, using their baleen bristles to separate water and debris from prey and their tongue to push the water out of the mouth and to swallow their prey.

Humpback whales feed mostly during the summer feeding season, building up blubber (fat) reserves that they will use during their migration and mating season. They make huge annual migrations from summer feeding grounds near the poles such as Alaska and Antarctica, where they enjoy cold nutrient-rich waters, to warmer winter breeding waters near the Equator where they mate and bear offspring. This means that the visiting humpback whales that we can see in Coiba have travelled thousands of miles all the way from Antarctica, making this the farthest migration of any mammal! Moreover, during this long migration and their time in Coiba, they will be fasting, hardly feeding and living primarily off of the blubber reserves acquired during the feeding season! Their time in Coiba is mating season so here they either breed or, in the case of pregnant females, they give birth. Females produce a single offspring once every 2-3 years. The average gestation period is 11-12 months. This means that a female humpback in Coiba will get pregnant one year and then migrate back to the South Pole while pregnant. Once there it will be feeding for a few months and will then migrate thousands of miles still pregnant and fasting  back to the safer warm waters of Coiba, to give birth to her only calf! The mother will nurse the calf for about a year, with calves drinking up to 600 L of her mother’ s milk in just one day! A calf will continue growing until approximately the age of 10, when they reach full adult maturity.

A humpback’s song is beautiful, unique and can last for a long time. Imagine that you are underwater and all of a sudden you start to hear a very complex and loud mixture of low-pitched moans, whines and howls. You look around trying to find the source. The sound wraps around you but you cannot see where it comes from, and you know this orchestra is the work of one of these huge fellows which is perhaps a few miles away from you, since their magical songs can travel for great distances through the ocean. Can you imagine it? Believe me, it is a truly unforgettable experience. And it is even more amazing given the fact that humpbacks do not have vocal cords and are unable to breath through their mouth, so all their sounds are produced by pushing air out of their blowhole. The songs are still surrounded by mystery. We still don’t understand the impressive humpback’s ability to produce songs of such complexity, and we are not certain of the purposes behind them. Typically one population of male humpback whales will sing a variation of the same song. Because whale songs are sung exclusively by males, it is believed that the song could be a mechanism for mating used by males to show off their vocal abilities and appeal to females. If this is correct and you have the chance to hear a whale song, think you are listening to one of the most complex acoustic mating rituals in the animal kingdom. However, female humpbacks have very rarely been recorded approaching a singing male whale and male humpbacks do not exclusively sing during mating season. Therefore, some scientists believe that there has to be another purpose behind their songs. Perhaps songs act as synchronizing symphonies guiding the migration of groups of whales. We simply don’t know.

At one point these amazing creatures were considered highly endangered due to excessive hunting and commercial whaling. Since then they have made a huge comeback thanks to protecting laws and a general increase in environmental awareness among the public. Most populations today  and are no longer considered a concern from a conservation standpoint. However, they still face a number of threats from humans such as entanglement in fishing gear, harassment by whale watchers, boat collisions, overfishing that compromises their feeding grounds, and water and noise pollution as well as other environmental impacts on their habitat. Entanglement in fishing gear and other marine debris is known to occur during long migrations. Shipping channels and coastal developments may displace whales, discouraging them from breeding in an area that they would normally use. The population migrating in Central America is among the populations still at risk. Do not be discouraged, a lot is being done to improve their situation. I only ask you, if you want to see whales, wherever that may be, make sure you look for responsible operations that follow adequate guidelines for whale watching.

-By Rodrigo Villarino

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Rainy Season Visitors – Part 1

This time of the year is particular in Santa Catalina.  We have special visitors who, like every year, visit Coiba during the months of July-September to delights us with their majestic and beautiful presence. These friends of ours, with whom we share the wonders of Coiba for a few months, are the humpback whales.

People know that during these months Coiba offers the possibility to see these amazing creatures. They come to our dive center asking us to confirm whether they have the chance to see them underwater or at least on the surface during our boat rides. We can see and feel their excitement about that possibility and we all in Panama Dive Center obviously share that excitement too. Whales have that effect on us. Their beautiful, powerful and secret nature inspire our imaginations! When I see the excitement in our clients about the possibility of these encounters and their smiles, exclamations and expressions in absolute awe when it actually happens, I think to myself: “this is what I live for”. When I see their happiness after a dream becomes true, a dream that gets them closer to nature, I feel truly realized.

Although sightings underwater are extremely rare events, seeing them on the surface throughout the day happens often in these months. It sometimes begins with someone spotting a jet of water emerge from the ocean up into the sky. At other times we see a group a whales swimming on the surface and yet, at event other times we are lucky to witness the full power of these wonderful creatures in one of their spectacular jumps out of the water, which is known as breaching! In any event, what follows is always the same very loud “whales!!!!!” from whoever sees them first, and then everyone stands up too excited to remain calm or quiet. If the whales are visible, everyone shouts expression of joy and excitement. If whales disappear, then everyone stays quiet and still, fully alert and scrutinizing the surface, waiting for the next blow. The joy of seeing these massive creatures is thrilling.

I haven’t been one of the extremely lucky persons seeing them underwater yet, but an instructor who recently saw them while diving described to me the experience, and I got a glimpse of the magnitude of the encounter. I saw a special light on his expression while describing me the event. I found the respect and love that he professes to these animals really contagious. I pictured myself there and how amazing that must be. He described them to me as something from another world, his eyes almost popping out while telling me the size of their fins, their elegance, their mysticism, their power. They truly are from another world.

What are you waiting for? Come to Santa Catalina and visit Coiba, where you can enjoy the beauty and mystery of these beautiful animals. In the meantime, if you want to know more about humpback whales, visit our blog next week for another entry full of interesting facts, photos and videos about these mysterious creatures! Let us share the magic of the ocean! We are waiting for you!

-By Rodrigo Villarino

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Santa Catalina, Panama – A little ‘know-how’ from paradise

If you’d have asked me five years ago what I think to know about Panama I would have said the same as two months ago – Panamanians speak Spanish (or at least most of them speak something that sounds quite similar to commonly known Spanish), it’s probably really warm and I’d really like to visit it someday. Two months ago it seemed as likely for me to travel to Antarctica as to live in Santa Catalina – but here I am, establishing my life in this idyllic and authentic little fisher village in the southwest of Panama.

I’m a German expat (the latter by heart) and fluent in English, but until my plans to be a part of Panama Dive Center in Santa Catalina took shape my Spanish skills were limited to ‘vamos a la playa’, tequila and the main chorus of ‘La Cucaracha’. With the endless help of my lovely coworkers and my close friend Rosetta Stone (editor’s note: language teaching software, currently tested for Spanish, French and German in Panama Dive Center) I do plan on being able to at least have basic conversations in Spanish when I have to leave Panama in November. Until today my most said sentences definitely remain ‘Disculpe, hablo solo un poquito español’, ‘¿Cómo se dice … en español?’ and ‘una Balboa, por favor’. But to encourage all those who might be in the same situation: Don’t let missing language skills hold you back from an adventure in Central America! Everyday it feels like I’m learning twice the amount of vocabularies I already mastered, but constant progress is the most desirable kind of reward when it comes to learning a new language.

 

Thinking of Latin America I can’t help myself to associate every nation with a few of their traditional dishes. Whether it’s the North with Mexico’s spicy Tacos and Enchiladas, Gallo Pinot in Nicaragua or the world-famous Argentine Asado (grill). But what’s the most common food in Panama? I was sure to at least never have heard of a typical panamanian dish before. It didn’t take me long to fill this lack of information: Along the Pacific and Caribbean Coasts the usual diet consists of fresh seafood, tropical fruits and lots of root vegetables. Panamanians also have one other main common feature with the United States of America next to the shared currency: They love to deep-fry everything that might be fitting for nutritional desires. But who am I to complain, that habit provided us with Patacones, which are deep-fried discs of green plantains – a recipe that already made it in my repertory composed of only two other dishes from around the world.

One of the best and to me most surprising parts regarding the food are the various options for meat-lovers, vegetarians or even vegans – although I consider myself part of the veggie-faction most of the time I think it’s fairly easy to sustain any kind of dietary around here. Even I have days which I start off with a fresh coconut from the beach (in case you’re having difficulties figuring out how to open them yourself: our Divemaster Trainee Rodrigo can be of great help to establish those kind of life saving skills), stuff myself with an absolute unreasonable amount of melon slices, help myself with some banana and pineapple pieces from the local food truck over the afternoon and enjoy some cooled mangosteens with an even colder fruit juice in the evening – as for me I can say eating healthy rarely was this easy!

What I appreciate most about the restaurants in Santa Catalina most definitely is the variety. You’ll have to choose from an awesome pizzeria (Jammin Hostal y Pizzeria), an argentine restaurant (Los Pibes) and a great diversity of other restaurants that even offer such exotic dishes as sushi.

 

Closely connected to the food section is the average price range which is not as low as one may think. While an average dinner for one including drinks can be done with about 13$, it’s the secluded location of Santa Catalina which makes it possible for a package of toothpaste to cost about 3$. Cosmetics in general are more expensive than in other countries or even Panama City. Regarding food it displays mostly in western luxuries such as cheese (about 5$ for a fist-sized piece) and milk (approximately 2$ for one liter). Cheapest accommodation ranges from around 15$ for a bed in a dormitory (Hostel Villa Vento Surf) to 20$ for a Private Room (Cabañas Las Palmeras) but can go up to 80$ per night/pP (Hotel Santa Catalina). As a tourist I predict I would spend about 30$ a day for food and accommodation, excluded special day trips such as diving, snorkelling or whale and dolphin watching. A surfboard can be rented for around 10$ per day. The most famous domestic beer is the ‘Balboa’ (which also is the name of the local currency, bound to the US$ with an exchange rate of 1:1) and usually available for 1-2$ per bottle.

 

So how is it to live in a touristic little fishing village, where you share your everyday life with locals and passing-through tourists? I’d best describe it as my personal paradise, although there are potentially troubling facts I haven’t considered up front: Let it be the humidity which will keep you and all of your clothes, towels and bedsheets moist and damp all day long (assumed it doesn’t rain anyway. Have I mentioned that rain season lasts from around April until November with various amounts of rain per day?), the mosquitos and ants, which make it impossible to leave your lunch unattended for even a second or just the complete and utter loss for any kind of date and day-related issues (thanks to my shifts in Panama Dive Center I’m at least able to keep a rough track of time). But all those small little mischiefs stand in no relation to the love and gratitude I have towards this special place! Let it be the long evenings with good friends and a nice bottle of wine, the sunsets on the beach, the first time trying to ride a wave on the beaches that brought up internationally-known surf legends, the infinite richness of the local flora and fauna or the breathtaking ‘other world’ that hides away right under the surface in Coiba National Park. With its about 400 residents Santa Catalina really is a village and if you plan on staying for longer it won’t take you long to get a grip of the vibe. Everyday someone else takes over the task of filling your day with passionate, spanish music from around midday to long after the sun set, you’ll see more and more familiar faces throughout your daily routine, most of more than happy to integrate you into the community and you’ll start to realise which are the best and cheapest fruit trucks.

 

Like mentioned before – Santa Catalina is a potential paradise. Whether it will be for you depends on your personal principles and values but the foundation the setting itself offers is a fairly fascinating one and there is no other way of knowing as to try involve and engage in the laid-back and relaxed lifestyle in an environment where others are usually restricted to a few days of their yearly paid-leave.

-By Nina Berti

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Pufferfish

If you´ve had the chance to dive in the Coiba National Park in Panama, you surely had the opportunity to admire the variety of pufferfish present on the site. Indeed, these intriguing little fishes traverse the reserve in great numbers and surprise us with their variety in colors. However, we know very little about this species, its peculiarities and its habits. This article will try to answer some of the questions and attempt to give a little more insight about these fascinating creatures.

What is their real name?

Beyond balloon fish, globe fish, puffer fish, their real name is Tetraodontidae (smooth puffers) or Diodontidae (spiny puffers), much less simple to pronounce.

What do they look like?

There are 121 species of puffer fish, so it is possible to meet individuals of many types. What they have in common is the shape of their bodies, elongated and globular. All puffers have five fins, two pectoral, one dorsal, one abdominal and one anal. Their skin is hard, smooth and without scales. Some of them have bright colors that indicate their danger and toxicity, while others have more discreet colors that allow them to blend into their surroundings. In addition, many of them have the ability to change color to adapt to changes in the environment. These changes can be discrete, variations in hues, contrasts, or very surprising, total color changes from yellow to black with white spots. In terms of size, there is also a great variety: it is possible to meet species of balloon fish of only 2.5 cm in length while others can reach up to 100 cm in length.

What are they feeding on?

The diet of puffer fish is mainly composed of invertebrates and algae. They have four teeth, two centered on the upper jaw and two on the lower jaw. This dentition has the appearance of a beak and allows the largest specimens to break the crustaceans which are also part of their diet.

Why do some of them puff?

Puffer fish are very slow and it is very difficult for them to escape from their predators. Thus, inflating allows them to scare their assailants. They can indeed reach up to three times their original size. To achieve such a transformation the globe fish uses the impressive elasticity of its stomach and quickly ingests a large amount of water or even air if necessary. It then looks like a kind of ball, often covered in thorns, which dissuades most predators from coming closer.

What are their other defenses?

Despite their slowness, puffer fish have very good eyesight and they are able to orient their eyes independently. They are also able to maneuver easily in all directions in the water. These two assets allow them to spot any threats in time to hide or swell up to a balloon.

In addition to inflating some puffers are covered in spikes which stick put upon inflation and make them inedible. In addition, almost all puffer fish produce tetrodotoxin, a very toxic substance present in their internal organs and skin. It would appear that they create this toxin by synthesizing the bacteria present in their food. Thus, if a predator catches them before it swells, it may regret it. Indeed, this substance is1200 times more dangerous than cyanide and lethal for almost all the predators. The dose of this toxin present in a single balloon fish can kill up to 30 adult humans, and there is no known cure. So under their inoffensive face, they  hide a real murderer potential, which even classify them as the second most toxic animal in the world after the poisonous golden frog.

How do they reproduce?

In most cases in salt water, the male brings the female to the surface where it releases between three and seven eggs, which it subsequently fertilizes. The eggs remain on the surface and hatch after about four to seven days. However, a species of globe fish stands out because of their incredible courtship: the Japanese Pufferfish. These create nests which are real architectural masterpieces to attract the females (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FV1C_HvP8P0)

In fresh water, the task is more complicated for males, which have to differentiate themselves from others to be chosen by the female. He draws her into a protected place in order to release her eggs, which he will fertilize. In captivity, it has been observed that the male protects the eggs until hatching.

A nice meal?

Their toxicity makes puffer fish very complicated to eat. Indeed, only a very precautionary preparation makes consumption possible. Despite this danger, ´takifugu´ puffer has become an exceptional dish in Japan. Although it is only be prepared by graduated chefs, every year some people are hospitalized and die intoxicated by fugu. Its consumption is even forbidden to the emperor. This danger does not frighten the Japanese for whom it is a luxurious delicacy. A dish made of fugu can costs between $20 and $50, the whole fish is sold between $100 and $200. In other parts of Japan some puffer fish farms have made them non-toxic by monitoring their diet, making them more simple to consume.

A population in danger?

Although in Coiba National Park you can come across at least 7 different types of puffer fish. This is not the case everywhere in the world. Indeed, some species are beginning to be threatened by pollution, overfishing and the destruction of reefs. This is particularly the case with the Japanese puffer, whose population has declined by 99% in the last 40 years, as well as the Canthigaster cyanetron, the red lined puffer fish and the dwarf puffer recently classified as vulnerable species in danger of extinction.

-by Anaïs Yvinou

 

Sources:

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/group/puffer fish/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetraodontidae

http://vieoceane.free.fr/poissons/familles/Tetraodontidae/fiche1.html

http://ipfactly.com/puffer fish/

https://www.aquaportail.com/taxonomie-famille-177-tetraodontidae.html

https://a-z-animals.com › A-Z Animals › Animals › Puffer Fish

https://diverswhowanttolearnmore.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/tetraodontidae-puffer fish-vs-porcupinefish/

eol.org/pages/5056/overview

Freediving in the Pacific of Panama

And the day finally arrived! On the 4th of June, Kim and I did our first day of freediving in the Pacific. After having spent nearly two weeks with the great team of Freedive Utila and getting the necessary gear together, we finally managed to find a day and try it all out.


Rubén, our captain, and his brother Melvin helping him out as assistant, found a great spot for us to let down the line, do our breath-ups and plunge into the deep. Lucky for us, Camilo accompanied us with his sidemount gear and took some wonderful video of our dives. And, as if just being down there wasn’t beautiful enough, two magical cow nose rays glided past as I reached the weights on one of my dives. A birthday gift for me from the ocean!


We are super excited to start regular training sessions and begin teaching this amazing course (starting mid July) to anyone who also wants to experience this very different kind of freedom

Click here to watch the whole video!