The team members and divers wave after cleaning up coral reefs near Charna Island. - Photo by Suhail Yusuf / Dawn.com

KARACHI Scuba divers, media persons and members of the civil society took part in the “International Reef Cleaning Day” held on Saturday on Karachi shores. The event was organized by the Karachi Scuba Diving Centre (KSDC) founded by Yousuf Ali.

 

The team cleaned up the coral reefs near Charna Island, located some 10 km away from Mubarak Goth, a coastal village near Karachi.

 

According to California based Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and Ocean Conservancy - an international group for oceans protection - the Reef Cleaning Day is observed on 25 September but in some countries, other bodies observe Reef Cleaning Week at the end of September, instead of allocating a specific date.

 

This year, hundreds of thousands of scuba divers and volunteers joined hands to clean reefs in 100 countries.  The largest volunteer effort to clean up beaches and sea bed was first launched 25 years ago.

 

KSDC collected fishing nets, old anchors, plastic bags, soft drinks cans, a tin of chewable tobacco and a knife pricked in a coral.

 

Ocean Debris

 

According to PADI, approximately 6 million tones of debris entered into the world's oceans which turned the water bodies into a huge junkyard. Removing and documenting the junk from diving and other sites is a huge challenge. Ocean debris is already killing sea turtles, small fish, reefs and sea gulls. Thus, cleaning this threat is a crucial task not only to ensure healthy oceans but for the marine life as well.

 

“Scuba divers not only enjoy the colourful life under the sea but they also play an important role in conservation of rich marine life at reefs. KSDC is doing all its efforts to promote scuba diving and to preserve the biodiversity,” said Yousuf Ali, a PADI master instructor and head of KSDC founded in 1989.

 

“We arrange reef cleaning activities twice a year, once in March and then in September,” he added.

 

Charna Island

 

Coral reefs near Charna is a great diving site which holds a spectrum of marine life such as barracuda fishes, Grey sharks, eels, Angle fishes, urchins, sea fans, oysters, ray fishes and rare Green turtles. It is as beautiful as any other diving site in the world.

 

“Plastic bags and wrappers of pan and gutka are the killers of marine life at Karachi shores. Green turtles often mistake plastic bags for jelly fish and die. KSDC arranged this event with very limited resources just because no other institute is celebrating this international event,” said Rosheen Khan, Pakistan's first female PADI master and underwater female photographer. Khan name is also mentioned in Scuba diving world record book.

 

Charna waters are important for commercial fishing due to rich marine life; however, it is turning into a junkyard due to the garbage thrown there by fishermen and picnickers. The area is not only home to different flora and fauna but many types of corals are also found near the island.

 

Ali and Khan are both frequent divers at this island. After the 2005 Tsunami in the Indian Ocean, both observed the growth of new coral verities in the water. It is thought that perhaps the currents from the tsunami brought new corals near Karachi.

 

“There are more than 60 types of corals found near Charna waters and many new corals started to flourish after the tsunami which need attention from the marine experts. So the conservation of reefs is now more important than it was in the past,” said Ali.

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