[private] My first stint with scuba diving was way back in the 60s of the magnificent coast of Yugoslavia, then under Titus communist regime. Having been a total green horn to diving my expert instruction seemed a little basic as my friend put my 1st #4cu steal tank with no BC only alpack-park double-hose regulator no pressure depth ganged on me and said don’t come back till the tank is empty (not quite PADI stander) Not knowing how to enter the water of our motor cruiser which was approximately 6-8′ my instructor said “turn around” which I clumsily did with all that gear on and he kicked me over board, never mentioning equalizing of course made for a quite painful 56 dive with a mask full of blood.
Obviously I survived my introduction into scuba and strangely was from the 1st minute under water hooked on this magnificent sport. After diving 3 years in Yugoslavia where the marine life was rather small except the giant Eels I encountered, I did some cold water diving in an Austrian mounting lake and later getting a skiing contract in the USA after racing alpine in Europe. Naturally I wanted to dive in the summer so I ended up doing my 1st open water course with New England divers in Beverly, Mass. Every weekend with my friend Dug we would dive the East coast where I was lucky to hand in 25-30 lobsters in Cape Cod.
In 1970 tired of cold weather after teaching skiing in Canada, I signed up with Fathom II Expedition. After a very adventurous trip, I bounced in a 3 seat Cessna from Ceiba to Utila in a howling East breeze. Nothing prepared me for the incredible beauty the rock had to offer.
The jagged cliffs with huge breakers smashing into them with the spray flying 50 feet in the air, all the green lush of the tropics, a quiet little village and of course the magnificent Caribbean sea with its splendid couture of blue. First hour in the water I had already encountered a couple of reef sharks as they hacked a wounded Tarpon. The reefs pristine coral forest, were teeming with marine life. Later I had many encounters with different sharks (The splendid savages of the sea) so called by Jacks Costae under water pioneer. Now they are all but gone off the reef. There used to be a big school of gigantic Parrot fish off the old airport; Also a thing of the past. Lobsters, conch, whelk, etc. use to be in abundance in our waters. Now in my dives they are very rare. Even thought our equipment is rather basic, our daily catch was often spectacular.
As the years passed I saw a constant decrease of marine life on our reefs due to over fishing and lack of enforcement of environmental laws. To see lobsters by the dozens with a tail not even the size of a jumbo shrimp speared, is a disgusting sight I have seen many times thanks to BICA, unfortunately, a watch dog with no teeth as a system to protect the reef from the severe damage of anchors. Sadly there are still locals who use cement blocks to anchor on the reef and spear fish, even tourists who should know better. There is also a big algae problem due to too much nutrients in the water.
When I came to this jewel in the Caribbean in the 70s, there were only a few inhabitants and mostly bio-degradable garbage. Now we are drowning in our own trash. Some time ago coming up from my customary dive, I surfaced into the most disgusting plastic blizzard which was over 40ft deep and floated past me for 30 minutes. I want to share a little experience which happened to me last year; Here comes a big reef Snapper out of nowhere straight at me but stops 2 feet in front of me and spits a piece of plastic out. Yes, unfortunately, a lot of marine life, especially the endangered turtles, suffers from ingesting plastic which clog up their digestive track.
Another big problem is our uncontrolled migration from the main land which is mostly poor unskilled and uneducated laborers looking for a better life. Our population has quadrupled over the last decade which in turn spells more garbage, more pollution more ravaging out of our natural recourses, especially the endangered reefs. [/private]