PADI Course Director Richard Swann and one of the net removal crew cutting the net down to size

A few days ago Downbelow discovered, and reported to the authorities, a horrific find.

A fishing net had gotten stuck on Ribbon Reef, one of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park’s healthiest reefs, and stretched from where it was entangled on a coral block on the shallow reef-top, down to the sandy bottom at over 35m.

Downbelow is experienced in net removal and we have the right tools and knowledge of the importance of removing these menaces as soon as possible, so we stepped up yesterday and set about freeing the park and reef of this choking hazard.

PADI Course Director Richard Swann lead our Pro diving staff and our wonderful Professional Divemaster Interns on a crusade to slay the net.

Our first encounter with the net surfaced a sad report. Not only had the net already needlessly claimed the lives of several marine critters, but saddest amongst the tally was a small blacktip reef shark.

Richard and Wellson did the first dive and severed the net at 20m, freeing live, trapped marine life further down below the 30m mark. They then hauled the entire stretch of net from the depths back up to the surface with lifting devices (a tricky and problematic procedure).

Back on the boat they spent around 30 mins cutting free and releasing various creatures, whilst educating guests on the situation.

On the second dive the group faced different challenges. The rest of the net deeply entangled the reef and required a delicate touch, but with the full team assisting short work was made of the problem area and the net was completely removed.

In spite of fishing with nets being illegal in the TAR Park, unscrupulous fishermen still try their luck every now and then. This exercise is often expensive to both the fishermen, when they lose their not-inexpensive nets, and the reef, when the net entangles and chokes the marine environment.

Downbelow have built up a wealth of net-removal experience as we’ve conducted many, self-funded net removals over the years, which requires careful planning and skilled dive leaders.

If you ever witness net fishing or find a discarded net, please report this to the authorities or us for removal.