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Where Are the Big Fish?

Photo: Butterflyfish and other reef fish at Twin Peaks dive site, Coiba Panama

The scuba diving has been challenging, I’ve found it hard to take any photos in the low visibility and strong current, part of what makes this area productive. Sylvia, Kip and I are all taking photos, making us less than ideal buddies, so we go with our dive master Kevan, and Biff. They keep an eye on us when we get distracted by our subject. We have been repeatedly disappointed not to find big schools of fish, however, Kevan who has been diving here for 20 years, says even a couple weeks ago they were seeing them on many of the dives, so we can’t attribute it all to fishing pressure. Before the park was protected industrial long liners took everything they could get. Since protection in 2005, fish are starting to regenerate, but enforcement has been a challenge, and poachers are still taking fish including sharks from the park.

On the surface we have seen mobula rays fly out of the water, manta fins splashing as they feed, turtles catching thier breath, dolphins racing and dipping alongside the boat. We know there is a lot of life in the water!

However, when were diving, the sharks and mantas are skittish and usually move off the reef once they see us. They have been killed for thier fins in great numbers, and should fear humans! It seems all the marine life is unusually jumpy around here. Could also be that I’m using a couple of video lights for photography, which I usually don’t have, and I’m with Kip and Sylvia who also look like alien spacecraft approaching with all thier lights.

What we are seeing are lots of varieties of little fish, and a rich and vibrant mosaic of benthic habitat. Beautiful gorgonian fans in blues and reds, corals of all types in a rainbow of colors, and urchins and anemones with thier companion crabs and coral fishes. And lots of jellies..I’ve managed not to get stung by wearing gloves with my full wetsuit, but the vinegar spray bottle is in high demand after every dive!