As the worlds oceans become overfished to the point of species extinction and ecosystem collapse, it becomes increasingly important to prioritize sanctuaries and no take zones. Of course those that want to fish will do so illegally regardless of the laws in place. That is why Palau has continued to increase it’s capacity for Policing it’s EEZ and National Marine Sanctuary.
In my capacity as a media producer I can help document this effort to raise awareness.
Now with the latest surveillance operation concluded I thought I would share some photos of the aerial component.
Flying with Pacific Mission Aviation in a Beech Queen Air Excalibur, daily sorties go out and conduct searches over vast tracts of ocean within Palau’s EEZ. The patrol boats are in the area but cannot cover such a huge area in the same time.
Each flight lasts about 8-9 hours and does an expanding square pattern out from a central point determined by visibility and altitude.
All eyes are pealed as we search
My job apart from being an observer is to provide documentary evidence so we employed GoPros attached to key parts of the aircraft.
Part of this is also for promotion and as part of the remit was to include the aircraft in the shot with 3 patrol boats I proposed that we have a GoPro attached to the wing looking back at the aircraft and then have the plane fly just in front of the boats in formation.
We trialled it first with just the housings attached and found the sticky mounts were not strong enough when the aircraft descended in a dive……about 150Knots, the result…we out both the housings. So we took to attaching them a bit more securely with bolts and this time around they survived and did so with very little vibration and rolling shutter issues.
The above video shows how precisely the pilot maneuvered the plane. We set up a WiFi link to an iPad inside the plane so the pilot could see in real time the view from the camera. At one point the plane was close to 70 ft above the water doing over 100mph banking at 45 degrees…..quite a rush.
The end result was two apprehended illegal fishing boats loaded with illegally caught fish.
Got some great news this morning, Ocean Warriors, the Animal Planet series we worked on in Palau back in October 2015 has been given the Genesis award for Outstanding Television Series.
The series follows dedicated individuals and organizations that have made it their calling to stand up and do something in the global effort to protect the worlds oceans.
For our part at Lightning Strike, we provided fixing services for the 3 man film crew here in Palau as well as drone, time-lapse, underwater media production and filming on the patrol boat PSS Remeliik. We joined the crew as they chased down illegal fishing boats near the South West Islands close to the Indonesian border.
The experience was a real eye-opener to see how a small documentary film crew works on location as well as the work being done to protect Palau’s EEZ from illegal fishing.
A big thanks to Pete Zucchini for the opportunity.
It’s the time of year again to be diving Peleliu. Both the Sailfin Snapper (Symphorichthys spilurus) and Red Snapper (Lutjanus bohar) are starting to aggregate along the east reefs of Yellow Wall and Peleliu Express to the corner.
For those intrepid divers, early morning dives just before the full moon will find them spawning in their thousands. Also making an appearance are the predators such as Bull Sharks and Oceanic Black Tips.
Here’s a quick clip of a Sailfin Snapper aggregation I shot this week, it’s still early in the season, maybe 3000 fish here but more than 10,000 likely later.
Watch this space for updates as we return to document this impressive natural event.
Many thousands of migratory shorebirds stop-over in Palau to rest and feed, one of them is the Whimbrel. In Palau it is called the Okak. The Okak has a larger much rarer cousin, the Far Eastern Curlew, so rare only around 5 birds get spotted here each year. This is the largest species of Curlew and is also know in Palauan tradition as the money bird. The story goes that it visits these shores and leaves gifts behind. It swallowed traditional money and flew to parts of Palau, where if it was left to settle and not disturbed it would eventually defecate out the money and the residents would become rich.
You can find the symbols all over traditional meeting housings and Government buildings.
Today I utilized my new canon 70-300 lens coupled to a 2x teleconverter and managed to get some nice stable footage of this Whimbrel even at full zoom. The Image stabilization of the canon lens is amazing!
Palau’s northernmost island Ngurangel and it’s southernmost Helen Reef are separated by little over 400 miles of island peppered ocean but are remarkably similar. Both are low lying sandy features surrounded by huge atoll reefs which makes them a haven for both marine and bird life.
Helen Reef filmed during an illegal fishing observer mission
Helen reef is a long thin spit of land, sparsely vegetated and has a resident population of 4 rangers, 3 dogs and about 5000 sea birds. The rangers have their own accommodations and keep an eye out for illegal fishing activities. It lies closer to Indonesia than it does Palau’s capital Koror.