As a child, I grew up admiring and appreciating the natural beauty around me and developed a strong affection for the sea. It was also the reason why I chose to pursue a career as a Scuba Diver. While working as a Dive Master at Maldivers Dive Center, various other dive centers and liveaboards, I had the opportunity to travel to different atolls of the Maldives and witness the drastic affects of climate change and human influence on coral reefs and their communities. Declining fish population being one of those negative effects. This inspired me to work to protect, restore and preserve those vital ecosystems.
Joining the Coral Reef Research Unit of the Marine Research Centre (MRC) was a huge step towards my goal to contribute to safeguarding our reefs. My work involves monitoring of coral reefs in 15 sites throughout the Maldives from north to south. Monitoring involved laying a transect and assessing the coral cover, as well as taking count of both the invertebrates and fish populations. This has contributed greatly in increasing my awareness and knowledge on the health and well being of Maldivian reef ecosystems.
One of the best experiences I had after joining MRC was doing research diving at Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs). Diving at a FAD requires a special permit in the Maldives and I felt extremely lucky to get this opportunity. FADs are being used all around the world to help fishermen catch tuna and other such species of fish. The reason why tuna and other species aggregate around FADs is still unknown. At the 10 metre mark on the FAD mooring line there is a device which collects the signal from different species of fish that have been tagged by the MRC. This device has to be changed every 3 months. For further information about the FADs and the work being done at the MRC click here.
Diving at a FAD in the spectacular Indian Ocean was an incredible experience. You can see the mooring line attached to the FAD disappear into the vast blue world. The current can be very strong and sometimes it is tough to stay in the water without holding onto the mooring line, but the unbelievable view in the ocean makes up for this hardship.
Even on the sunniest of days with nice weather, the unpredictable swell can make it difficult to spot the FAD and sometimes it may take hours to find it. The current is usually very strong so we jump into the water away from the FAD so we can reach it by drifting with the current. Once we go beneath the waves its a whole new world. Visibility can be as good as 50 metres in every direction. There are schools of skip jack tuna circling the mooring line, groups of Silky Sharks swimming about, schools of Dolphin Fish, Wahoos, Rainbow Runners, Trevallies, varieties of jellyfish and other oceanic fish. Surprisingly we saw fishes that are normally seen at reefs such as Seargent Majors.
Each dive even at the same location is a breathtaking experience and is never the same; from the species we see to the conditions we experience. The world beneath the horizon has much beauty and I am in awe of it. It makes me want to contribute in protecting it’s treasures so that future generations can experience it as I have done. For this to be done, we cannot be dependent on one individual or organisation, we need there to be a collective effort by everyone so that our marine world can maintain its glory for the future and beyond.
Note: Diving at FADs is not legal under Maldivian Law and it should not be attempted in anyway. These dives was done with the approval of the authorities for research purpose. Further more mooring at the FADs is not allowed.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Nishan Thaufeeg (Nishey) is a PADI Divemaster. He has been diving for the past 7 years. He has worked as a Divemaster on Liveaboards and at Dive Centres. Currently he is working at the Marine Research Centre as a Research Officer.