Monthly Archives

December 2010

Cut the line, David!

Posted by | Rants | No Comments

Posted by Vandit Kalia |

Recently, I cut the mooring line we had installed at Johnny’s Gorge.  We are going back to dropping anchor on that site.
Ironic, really, if you know the background:  3-4 years ago, a diver roasted us on the Interwebz for not following sound environmental practices because we once dropped anchor on Minerva.  Never mind that the anchor line – which *we* had installed on that site, and all the other sites, for that matter) – had been cut by fishermen, never mind that the fact that we’ve been pestering and badgering the various local officials to take action against shark finning and bottom trawling, never mind the fact that we’ve trained various members of the Zoology and Forest departments in diving and marine conservation and that we are even now conducting studies on the recovery after the El Nino effect of May 2010.
Fair’s fair to a point – the new crewman on the boat should not have dropped anchor but should have dived down and hooked it (and had we been told of this immediately instead of reading about it a lot later, we could have done remedial training a lot earlier).
Still, the roasting did rankle a bit, especially when someone who dived with us recently brought it up out of the blue.
Since then, some things have changed.  Fishermen have gotten used to the idea of bottles floating in the water (and there are enough waste plastic bottles on the island now that they no longer feel the need to liberate our floats.  How’s that for a silver lining?).   So our lines are getting cut less often.   And with a few more dive centers around who have the coordinates to our sites, maintaining the lines is getting easier.
However, we’ve always debated whether or not to put up an anchor line at sites like Johnny’s Gorge.  I’ve seen some anchor lines (ours as well as that of other dive boats) rubbing against barrel sponges and it was gut-wrenching.  We have always had a bit of a proprietary/maternal instinct about Johnny’s Gorge, given that Johnny, our senior dive guide, discovered it a few years ago and it is pretty much THE top dive site of the Andamans.  So naturally, we want to preserve it the best we can.   But we also wanted to make sure that the fishermen didn’t discover the site and start fishing there.  Johnny’s Gorge is one of the few sites which still has regular shark sightings and if the shark fishermen get wind of it, we run the risk of losing the  sharks that still remain around Havelock.
After much discussion with other dive centers, we decided to put up a mooring line – although I still had my misgivings.
So it was with a mix of alarm and anger that I came up from a second dive on Minerva Ledge a few weeks ago to see a fishing boat not just fishing on Johnny’s Gorge, but actually tied to our anchor line!  We went up to them and gave them grief for fishing on our dive sites (mostly bluffs, which thankfully they bought) and in the end, decided to cut the anchor line while they were still tied to it.
And we have a new edict at Diveindia – we are not only going to not set up a mooring line at JG, but we are actively going to cut any other lines that are put up there.
This will probably not win us friends with other dive centers, as Johnny’s Gorge requires experienced boat crew to actually hook into the site and a mooring line makes it a lot easier for DMs and boat crew alike.   This also means that I will probably have a few more gut-wrenching incidents of seeing anchors and mooring lines where they don’t belong (although we are taking steps to reduce that risk by choosing GPS coordinates which put us a little bit off the reef).   And it likely means a few more incidents of us being roasted on the internet forums by well-meaning divers with a very simple view on how conservation should happen.
So be it.    These are all risks and costs that I consider justified.
I remember what happened to Junction after we put up a line there – the fishermen from Neil wiped out the reef in about 2 months.  It has been 2+ years and there are still very few fish left on that site.   And I have also seen about an 80% reduction in shark population in the Andamans in the past 10 years.
And I have made a promise to myself to NEVER let that happen to Johnny’s Gorge – not under my watch.
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Update on Neil

Posted by | News | No Comments

Posted by Dive India |

It took a recent visit to the website and a look at the Neil section to realize how amazingly behind schedule we are.
The page still read “we expect to launch in October 2009.” I sure hope none of my former clients are reading this – in a past life, I used to make a living as a consultant managing large projects (eg mobile start-ups) and was not completely incompetent at it either. So how did we go so badly wrong?
The answer to that last question is a sordid tale of unexpected capital expenses caused by new local regulations, various delays (including my favorite – a 2 month delay caused by shortage of sand. Really. I couldn’t make this stuff up, even I want to do so) and the usual cash flow management issues that independent SMEs like us – without a big, fat-cat list of investors – face as part of their growth.
But I think we are close to exhausting pretty much every excuse and potential cause of delay (and oh lord, I think i just jinxed myself into 2012 with this statement).
What is left is to complete the wiring (as soon as the contractor sends me a plan), the plumbing (all our commodes, loving hand-picked by yours truly based on long-term seating comfort for those days when you really can’t put down the book or magazine, had arrived broken and so we had to order new ones) and the dive equipment (which should arrive in a couple of weeks time).
Hmmm. Now that I think of it, 2012 may yet be a possibility. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and provided it doesn’t turn out to be the incoming train, we should be… (excuse me if you’ve heard this before) OPENING SOON. Believe me, we are just as eager to get it started as anyone else.
They say something about the best laid plans of men and mice. All I can do is quote the unmatchable Pinky, from Pinky and The Brain: Narf!
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