The Sea-gram 

December, 2010

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HB Turtle, Cozumel

          Hawksbill Turtle photo by Paul Mila, Cozumel Mexico

Jeff Rein
Dive Buddies Jeff Rein & Paul MIla

Welcome to the December issue of Sea-gram, the monthly newsletter for ocean lovers, divers, and "deep-thinkers," from 

I think this year-end Sea-gram is the most exciting issue of 2010, thanks to some amazing adventures we brought back from Cozumel Mexico.

In Story Behind The Photo"Oh, S_ _ T !"
read about diver Dick Stuart's too close encounter with a charging barracuda during a feeding frenzy. 
My dive buddy Jeff Rein and I shot some amazing video so you can see what it was like for us in the middle of this amazing encounter. 
After reading Story Behind The Photo,
read the article Life & Death On The Reef, with videos, right column.
If you have a good photo with an interesting story, or would like to share a good dive yarn, let me know at and I'll be happy to include your story in a future issue. 
 Our Conservation Corner article, If You Can't Beat 'Em, Eat 'Em, highlights one innovative solution to the Caribbean lionfish problem.
If you know someone who would enjoy reading Sea-gram, perhaps a friend in need of a good winter "dive fix," please forward Sea-gram to your buddy using the link at the end of the newsletter. 
To view past Sea-grams click our ARCHIVE link below:

I hope you enjoy Sea-gram, and have a great Holiday Season! 

 Paul J. Mila

 Story Behind The Photo(s) . . . 
           Oh, S _ _ T !                       
                           By Dick Stuart, Sacramento, CA 
Barracuda takes a snapper 

This month's story features two amazing action photos by Dick Stuart, diving Cozumel's Paso de Cedral
with his mermaid Sylvia, dive instructor Alison, wearing yellow beanie, next to Sylvia in the above photo, and the rest of our dive group.
You certainly don't have to be a Wheel Of Fortune fanatic to solve the caption in Dick's bottom photo!
 Here is Dick's Story Behind the Photo(s):
"The picture of the bite (above) was pure luck, as I had been shooting continuously when we came upon a snapper being attacked by it's neighbors. 
I honestly don't remember taking that particular shot, so I guess it comes under the heading of, "keep shooting and maybe one in a hundred will be good." 
It was rather nice the way it came out, as Sylvia and Alison are nicely framed while watching the barracuda take the fish, and they give perspective to the shot."
Barracuda charging
OH, S _ _ T !
"This picture of the barracuda charging me happened after a second barracuda had eaten the snapper.
They were circling us, and I was watching and taking pictures when this big one headed at me.  Wasn't sure what to do, as like with a dog I figured running wouldn't work, so I just kept shooting.  He turned to my right when he got within 5 feet from me, and I managed another side-shot as he went by."
Camera Details:
Dick was using a Canon SD1000 inside a WP-DC13 Canon underwater enclosure.  He was shooting full auto, at the highest resolution, without flash.
 * * * * *
1. When your subject is within 4 to 6 feet, like this toothy barracuda, a flash (strobe) would have provided better color and a less blue photo.
For subjects more than 6 feet away, as in Dick's 
top photo, turn off the flash and hope for the best.
2. When photographing a charging predator armed with steak knives for teeth, do not extend your arms; hold the camera close to avoid losing it, along with your hands. Keep camera steady while praying.

* * * * * *
Conservation Corner . . .
           If You Can't Beat 'Em, Eat 'Em !
The Caribbean lionfish infestation is worsening, despite efforts to blunt the invasion with innovative initiatives. 

Why the concern? Dive Training Magazine (November 2010) reports that a research team has determined these voracious predators can wipe out 80% of juvenile fish on a reef in only five weeks.

In areas where lionfish populations have grown unchecked, the math is scary: In the central Bahamas, lionfish densities have been documented at 200 per acre, and each one consumes from 30 to 40 fish per day. Multiply by 365 and the math is stunning: over two million resident fish eaten from a reef per year!
Cozumel dive operators have implemented lionfish hunting tournaments, and promoted aggressive hunting by dive masters, instructors, and experienced divers like Gary Wannamaker, shown below. The results so far seem encouraging.  Cozumel's reefs and healthy and its inhabitants are doing well.

Gary With Lionfish Sushi on a Stick.

Paul Mila photo, Cozumel

Previous Sea-grams featured recipes and cooking methods to spur human consumption of lionfish.
Click here for tasty lion fish recipies:
But most experts agree the best solution would be if local fish populations  begin preying on lionfish.
To that end, Cozumel dive operator Alison Dennis ( is doing her best to teach local reef residents how to eat the predatory monsters.
Check out this video as a mutton snapper waits as patiently as a puppy while Alison prepares its meal,
the lionfish shot by Gary Wannamaker, above photo.
The snapper is hesitant at first, then figures out the lionfish is dead, and that the best way to consume it is from the front, so the poisonous spines fold down as it eats the fish. So far, local fish have been reluctant to eat live lionfish. Well, one step at a time.
Alison is an accomplished huntress. Watch how she carefully stalks a lionfish, and then dispatches it using a Hawaiian sling, a difficult weapon to master:

About is your home for exciting dive adventure novels, YouTube videos featuring ocean creature encounters, and more.
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Thanks for visiting; we'll see you next month!
Paul J. Mila 
 Paul in Cozumel
75 Titus Avenue
Carle Place, New York 11514
To forward Sea-gram to a friend, please click the "Forward email" link below.
In This Issue
The Story Behind The Photo: Oh S_ _ T ! A diver's encounter with a charging barracuda.
Conservation Corner: Lionfish Problem Worsens

Featured Article in this 
month's Conservation Corner:

If You can't Beat 'Em, Eat 'Em ! 


The story discusses attempts to control the lionfish problem by increasing local reef fish predation of the voracious Pacific intruders.

Story & videos, lower-left column.


Quick Links
Updates & Miscellaneous Features

Life & Death On The Reef:
The Great Barracuda, Sphyraena Barracuda, is documented as one of the fastest predators in the sea. They can be observed hovering, almost motionless one second, and then rocketing off in attack mode in the blink of an eye. I had heard and read about their legendary speed, but never witnessed it first hand - - until last month in Cozumel.
Our dive group noticed a commotion near a coral head on Paso de Cedral, a shallow (50-60 ft.) reef. Moving closer, we observed the local residents savagely attacking a yellow-tailed snapper. Queen triggers, mutton snappers, black durgeons, and other yellow-tail snappers were ripping chunks of flesh from the wounded fish, 
shredding its fins. Dive buddy Jeff Rein and I had our SeaLife cameras on video mode, capturing the unfolding scene.

Suddenly the attacking fish scattered, and the wounded snapper turned sharply, as if evading something. We didn't see what was coming, but they did: two barracudas barreling in from the blue at high speed, like silver metro-liner express trains.  Both Jeff and I were so focused on the snapper, that we never realized the Death Express was rushing in for the kill.
The first barracuda missed the swerving snapper, a silver-gray blur speeding past our lenses like a runaway torpedo, almost too fast to be seen in real time!  We didn't
notice it until later on slo-mo replay. That 'cuda missed, but his buddy did not! The second silver bullet hit the snapper with brutal violence, razor-sharp teeth slicing its victim in half.
Were these two predators hunting cooperatively, like a fighter pilot and his wingman, or competitively? My vote is they were competing for their prize, as in, may the best fish win.

Seconds later a third barracuda flashed over my left shoulder, and with a single bite devoured the remaining half of the snapper, floating lifelessly in misty green blood. Then several more barracuda appeared from nowhere, circling and eyeing us menacingly.

We caught the entire encounter on video! I was shooting just in front of Jeff, so he caught me in his video kicking away the chomping barracuda with my yellow & black fins. Alison is seen in the background, pulling Sylvia from the area as more barracuda arrive on the scene.
Take a look at these unique, and rare, videos of the attack:
* * * * * * *
Now that you've seen the real deal, check out ex-NYPD detective, author, and diver
Mike Monahan's exciting adventure novel, featuring a mutant barracuda that makes JAWS look like a guppy! 
Barracuda the book
Mike Monahan's Exciting Thriller 
For more details, or to order a copy, click: BARRACUDA
* * * * * *
Underwater Museum Opens in Cancun
Check out the details in this Scuba Diving Mag article:
* * * * * * *
 Sea Shepherd Update
As you read this issue of Sea-gram, members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Organization are steaming through the Southern Ocean toward Antarctica to battle Japanese whalers. 
The conservationists departed Hobart Australia on December 3rd, and will be in position to disrupt Japan's efforts to kill their self-determined quota of 935 minke whales, 50 humpbacks, and 50 fin whales, supposedly for "research."
Click the link below to read more details about Sea Shepherd's 2010 - 2011 anti-whaling campaign:
* * * * * *
Shark Savers announces new initiatives to help save sharks:
Coral Reef Alliance anounces new shark sanctuary in Indonesia. Click on:
* * * * * * *

A fun divesite, where you can rent a beachfront condo, view great dive photos, and more!
* * * * * *
 This Sea-gram was very Cozumel-centric, since I just returned from my favorite place on earth, away from home.
If you'd like to explore owning your own slice of paradise, or just visit this hospitable and safe island, explore these sites:
Contact Jaime Ramirez for details.
In the mood to explore interesting and unique places to stay on Cozumel?
Contact Cozumel Kelly; click the following link for details:
Looking for strickly beachfront locations?
The friendly folks from
At Home In Cozumel (AHIC)
will be glad to help, at this link:
Want to get a good flavor of the island and browse what's available? Click on
Cozumel Living and contact
Nancy Edwards.
  Available Link! Post a link to your web site here!
E-mail for details.

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