In March I was away again for another shoot for the lovely folk of LOF (Living Oceans Foundation). They’re still full on with the Global Reef Expedition but had moved on west from Galapagos (see my earlier blog) to French Polynesia in the Pacific. They’ve upped their ambitions too, and are also now making a one hour show for TV produced by John Ruthven (www.hiddenpictures.com). So he went out for a couple of weeks to do some interviews and catch some material for this as well as to cover the scientific activities.
The Golden Shadow was anchored at Rangiroa, and for most of the time we dived there. One of the channels into this huge atoll is famous for its sharks though they kept themselves well hidden when we did a couple of drift dives to look for them. Fairly whipped through the channel by the 2kt current, great way to cover the distance, you come up miles from where you started, definitely a place for big tall safety sausages. In the end we settled for some 3m lemon sharks in Moorea, taken to the spot by a scientist who’s studying their movements around the island. I could have used longer than 40mm in the Canon housing, they swam close, but not that close to fill the frame with teeth and the beady eye.
LOF visited some sites in the Rangiroa lagoon that had suffered extensive damage from bleaching in the 1997 El Nino. What pleasantly surprised all were how well the colonies had recovered. At the time they’d looked like write offs, but spared fishing pressure, and maybe the pollution of other sites closer to ‘civilisation’, it shows the resilience of coral reefs. It’s interesting to see examples of what I’m realising are the different time scales to bear in mind when it comes to natural systems. Evolution of them took millions of years but on the other hand a humanly conceivable time scale of 15 years can be sufficiently long in coral reef terms to recover from what can appear to be a catastrophic event like bleaching. Provided they’re not hammered in the recovery period by extra stresses. And that’s where the challenge lies, the hand of humans touch almost every part of the oceans, intentionally and unintentionally so overfishing, sedimentation overburden from coastal developments, pressure from the numbers of tourists and divers, and then climate change effects cause acidification, more bleaching events, more intense and more frequent hurricanes – all these impact on reefs and prevent their recovery. Big issues.