“OK, I’m thinking of something small, orange, & stripy…!”
said Dory in ‘Finding Nemo’.
Scubafish, having joined forces with the prestigious Pimalai Resort & Spa under the name of Scubafish At Pimalai, is extremely privileged to be taking part in the, eagerly awaited, 8th Annual Clownfish Release Project.
The Clownfish and Seahorse Release Project is generously funded by Khun Anurat Tiyaphorn (the owner of Pimalai), the research is headed by Dr Thon Thamrongnawasawat (Head of the Department of Marine Sciences at Kasetsart University) and his team, and is supported by the Thai Department of Fisheries.
This year, more than 70 divers and snorkelers volunteered to assist in the project and met up at 08:00am to board MV Ja Ru Pat accompanied by 200 clownfish and a special last-minute addition of 50 seahorses. The atmosphere was one of excitement and eagerness to help find each and every one of the tiny fish new homes at one of the dive sites at Ko Haa.
Over the 3 days preceeding the event itself Dr Thorn, his team, and Scubafish staff had been preparing and placing temporary refuge and protection cages around appropriate anemones at varying depths on Ko Haa Neung ready for this big day.
Dr Thorn kicked off the journey out with an introductory briefing about the project, it’s origins, history and aims. (Please refer to our previous Clownfish and Seahorse Release article for further details).
As we neared Ko Haa our snorkel guests jumped into action, transferring between 4-6 tiny clownfish (each less than an inch in size) in to bags for the divers to take on to the reef at Ko Haa Neung. Adults and children alike were involved in bagging the fish… with everyone eager and excited to participate.
Each group of divers was assigned one marine scientist and one Scubafish dive team member, in line with their experience and certification level. From experienced divers through to open water students (with assistance), each group were given the task of opening and securing the cages and releasing one bag of clownfish per protected anemone.
Releasing the fish did not prove to be as easy as one might think! A number of these rather fast clownfish managed to escape the cages during the release and securing stages, and had to be hand caught and placed back in their refuge. Predatory wrasse were also very interested in our efforts, and needed shooing away during the release!
A well-deserved and highly anticipated lunch of abundant and delicious food prepared by the Pimalai Resort Chefs was served and savored whilst we re-filled the tanks, and were briefed for the second dive of the day.
Fully satiated, our snorkellers and the kids stepped up again volunteering to bag up juvenile seahorses in preparation for their release on dive 2. This was not an easy feat either, with a number of the seahorses having linked their tails together, and not wanting to detach!
This dive involved both caged and natural release of the seahorses by experienced level divers. In both instances the diver releasing the seahorse had to wait and ensure that the seahorse had anchored on and attached itself by it’s tail to the release site before moving along. Again there were a few reluctant and less willing seahorses amongst the groups… especially amongst those being naturally released. A few would only briefly attach and then float around freely – in full view of hungry groupers! Patience was the key, and we will be checking back regularly to see how they are faring (Fingers and fins crossed).
All volunteers and participants enjoyed this special, rewarding and fun event, and it was truly a joy to see so many broad child-like smiles and grins amongst guests of all ages. Scubafish would like to thank each person that took part on the day, as well as Pimalai Resort staff, Dr Thorn and his team of fun-loving scientists – next year’s release cannot come quickly enough!
Why not ask to visit the release site at Ko Haa on your next trip and take a look for yourself!