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Scuba Knights | Singapore and Tioman's top Scuba Diving School

The Problem of Waste and Muck Diving

Waste is becoming a huge problem in the modern world, be it on land or in the ocean and nowhere seems more impacted than the latter. Plastic debris killing animals, fishing lines and nets destroying coral reefs and trapping animals in it. Many campaigns for reef clean ups and reduction of plastics have been becoming more common.

Many of us have been diving in places littered with used plastic bottles, packaging and cigarette buds. Some of us have even been to places just for such dives, or muck diving for short. Muck diving is nothing you would associate with a tropical destination – no vibrant corals, no amazing visibility, no big fish. Just gloomy black lava sand, muddy sediment, dead coral rubble and waste. 

The truest muck dive sites are those where the seabed is strewn with natural detritus such as rotting tree trunks, palm leaves, coconut husks as well as man made trash – bottles, cans, tires, fishing waste. These horrid, yet perfect (on that in a second), conditions can be found in the Lembeh strait. Despite it sounding like the worst possible dive site to go to, these natural detritus littered dive sites are home to the most extraordinary critters known to divers.

Hairy Shrimp perch atop the frame off of a wreck

4 years ago, when diving in Lembeh, a beach and reef clean-up was organised along the straits and during the trip. Subsequently, during the rest of the season, there wasn’t much muck life to be found in the area. This got me thinking, could it be that the life in the muck diving regions of the world relied on these artificial, man-made wastes to thrive?

No one can argue that plastic waste is detrimental to sea-life, the time it takes to disintegrate and after which, the macroplastics will still continue to wreck havoc on the environment. Then there’s the non-plastic wastes, concrete blocks, old wooded piers and even shipwrecks some of which are extremely popular dive sites amongst divers.

Yellow Clown Goby and shrimp in a old Beer bottle.

Just like this Yellow Clown Goby and its Pistol shrimp that has found its home in an old beer bottle. Should we clear the bottle out of the ocean but in doing so destroy the home that this Goby and shrimp has made for themselves? By removing the bottle we do indeed clear the ocean of another piece of rubbish but in doing so we deprive this pair of shelter from predators.

Should you or should you not clear the rubbish? Of course if its something that has been thrown in and serves no purpose, those should most definately be taken out of the ocean as much as possible. But for those that serve a purpose to a certain extent or another, a home for critters or a structure in the reef. That is something I cannot answer for everyone.

A pair of Gobies using an old glass container as shelter from predators. Credits to George Low

But one thing is for sure, WE SHOULD NOT BE ADDING TO THE RUBBISH IN THE OCEAN. Let us all do our little part in reducing the amount of waste that goes into our oceans. Little bit at a time, from the reusable grocery bags we bring to the supermarket or the take away box we are using while taking away our meals. Every little effort goes a long way in reducing the stress that we as mankind create and inflict on our oceans and the diversity of life in it.