I recently had the opportunity to spend six days diving in Bonaire. This island in the Dutch Caribbean is known for its passion for protecting marine life. Before you make your way into the water off the island, you are required to attend a briefing that stresses your responsibility in protecting this ecosystem. Those of us who are scuba divers understand how fragile this environment can be. It is constantly under attack. When we venture underwater we get to encounter so many different, mysterious and fascinating creatures. Here are a few of these amazing fish that I saw in Bonaire and who are counting on our protection.
One of the more fascinating fish that we rarely encounter is the seahorse. You are hard pressed to call this a fish. These fish are not too big or as colorful as other tropical fish and their odd shaped body seems almost mythical. It had been over 18 years since I last encountered a seahorse. They are sometimes difficult to spot as they blend in with the coral on which they anchor themselves. Their tail wraps around the branches and they sway gently in the water. There is an excitement that comes over all of the divers as they spot a seahorse. We are privileged to be there with them and our desire to protect them is reinforced.
Frogfish are another odd shaped underwater fish. These fish come in various sizes and colors and are a master of camouflage as they sit patiently on the coral or rocks. You need to look close to spot their eyes and mouth. They wait for their next meal to swim by and strike with a quick dart. Their surprising speed of attack is at odds with their seemingly sedentary position. Finding a frogfish is not easy. We strain our eyes through our mask to catch a glimpse of that unique shape and once again realize they are depending on us to protect them from the threats to the oceans.
And then we have the smooth trunkfish. These small triangular shaped box fish flitter around the reef searching for their next meal. They dart left and right as we approach. Sometimes, they can be a little curious and look at themselves in the dome port of my camera. Their unique stout, lips and body shape always catch my eye. I wonder what they think of me when they spot me swimming closer. Do they know that I am not a threat or are they afraid of what I might do? I want to protect them but those who haven’t seen them underwater might not understand that they need our protection.
Bonaire is labeled as “A Divers Paradise” and they take seriously the measures to preserve and protect their tropical reefs. We as scuba divers also take protecting underwater life seriously. That is why, we believe that by developing our youth as scuba divers we help to create this new generation of ocean stewards who will passionately protect our oceans and everything that thrives in this remarkable environment.
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