The Sea-gram 

July, 2011


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Palancar Hawksbill  

"Y-M-C-A!"    Hawksbill Turtle,  Palancar Reef, Cozumel Mexico; Paul Mila photo,


Paul Diving With Marilyn Holland,

Palancar Reef, Cozumel

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

I came across a great quote in an email someone sent to me:
"Life isn't measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away."
HEY-- isn' that why we divers dive?
 Greetings from Cozumel Mexico, where we were diving with our friends Marilyn & Michael Holland. I also crossed dive paths with my dive buddies Jamie & Jeff Margolies and their group of Diversified Divers (Check out their adventures in the Guest Links section).
In this issue's Story Behind The Photo, read how to Make The Best of a Bad Situation, when your equipment fails during a great photo-op.
 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 topic this month, Keeping The Lions At Bay, features a Cozumel lionfish update. 
If you know someone who would enjoy reading Sea-gram, please forward a copy to your buddy, using the link at the end of the newsletter. 
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I hope you enjoy Sea-gram !
 Paul J. Mila
 Story Behind The Photo . . . 
       Make The Best of a Bad Situation             
                        By Paul Mila, Carle Place, NY 
You're on a dive trip, and encounter some of the best photo-ops ever . . . and then your strobe floods!
Don't panic . . . learn to go with the flow, and adjust.
The hawksbill turtle cover-photo above was taken with a flash, so the colors "pop" and the details are crisp.
When I encountered another turtle with diver John Bissett closing in, my flash unit had already expired.
So I switched to underwater non-flash mode (some cameras call it Sea-Mode or some similar name). Then I attached my wide-angle lens so I could get closer to my subject to compensate for less light. One benefit of today's automatic underwater digital cameras is that in non-flash mode they automatically open the aperture to let in more light, which also brightens the background and reduces backscatter.
The result was the photo below. You can see the difference from the cover-photo above; not as crisp and the colors are muted, but still pretty good considering I had to use ambient light at 60 feet below the surface.
John & Hawksbill Turtle

John Bissett & Hawksbill Turtle; Paul Mila photo



1. Use a wide angle lens to get close to your subject and capture sharp detail -- very important if you're shooting with natural light.
2. To get this close without spooking wildlife, relax and let the subject approach you. If you approach, do so very slowly; no rapid breathing, fast swimming or flailing arms.

Be like a fish!

Conservation Corner . . .
Keeping The Lions At Bay
This month's conservation article concerns the lionfish situation in Cozumel, where divemasters are extremely aggressive in hunting these invasive, voracious predators whenever they see them.  

Cozumel Diver Spears Lionfish

Lionfish tournaments are now held in Cozumel and  thoughout the Caribbean on a scheduled basis. 
With that in mind, DAN, Divers Alert Network, has published some tips to promote safe lionfish hunting:
As a result of Cozumel divemasters' efforts, lionfish populations within the confines of the National Park seem somewhat under control. Outside the park area, and in deep water, lionfish are reportedly abundant.
During my recent visit I saw them on only three of ten dives; two juveniles spotted on one dive, and two relatively large adults on two other dives.
One Impact: Behavioral Changes
It is interesting to note behavioral changes of the local fish population in Cozumel, especially groupers and mutton snappers. Because National Park rules prohibit feeding or touching fish, these species have historically tended to avoid or ignore divers. But since divers have been feeding speared lionfish to the local residents in an effort to encourage natural predation, they now shadow divers, hoping for sushi-on-a-stick.
In this video, watch how intently a grouper follows the action: Unfortunately, Alison, usually a reliable huntress, misses a large lionfish; but watch how closely the grouper follows the action:

 Grouper Hopes For Lionfish Lunch

This video, taken last year, shows a mutton snapper waiting like a puppy dog for Alison to prepare his meal:
In addition to natural predation, the other hope is that world's apex predator, Homo Sapiens, will develop a taste for lionfish. After all, history shows that humans can drive any species to extinction if we put our minds to it.
With that intention, I ate my first lionfish at Kinta Restaurant, where it is served as a highly recommended appetizer. Happy to report it was delicious! We hope Cozumel's other fine restaurants will feature lionfish on their menus.
Check out Kinta's website and visit them:

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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: Make The Best of a Bad Situation
Conservation Corner: Keeping The Lions At Bay

Featured Article in this month's  Conservation Corner:

Keeping The Lions At Bay.

Local reef residents are taking advantage as divers aggressively eliminate lionfish.

Groupers and snappers haven't yet started preying on lionfish, but are enjoying easy meals provided by divers.

Story lower-left column. 


Quick Links
Updates & Miscellaneous Features


So many readers sent in great stories that we ran out of room. If your suggestion didn't make it we'll include it in next month's Sea-gram.


A Great Whale Rescue!


Several Sea-gram fans sent in this amazing recent rescue of Valentina a humpback whale entangled in fishing nets.

Most interesting, and moving, is the whale's reaction at the end of the encounter.

Michael Fishbach narrates his encounter with a humpback whale entangled in a fishing net on Valentine's day.

Gershon Cohen and he have founded The Great Whale Conservancy (

to help and protect whales:

   Saving Valentina


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 Sea Shepherd Update


The Sea Shepherds keep busy between major anti-whaling campaigns in the Southern Ocean. Their latest initiative, Become A Whale Warrior, shows how you can help fund future anti-whaling efforts:

Become A Whale Warrior


The Whale Wars Continue


The Japanese indicate they will continue illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean next year.

The Sea Shepherds will be waiting:

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How The Russians Handle Pirates!


Sea-gram fan Terry Gallogly sent in this captivating video showing Russian Navy commandos on a Somalian pirate ship shortly after the pirates had captured a Russian oil tanker.

The soldiers freed their compatriots and the tanker.

The Russian Navy Commandos moved the pirates back to their own (pirate) ship, searched the pirate ship for weapons and explosives and then they left the ship and exploded it with all remaining pirates hand-cuffed to it.


The commandos sank the pirate ship along with the pirates and without any court proceedings, lawyers etc. That is, they used the anti-piracy laws of the 18th and 19th centuries where the captain of the rescuing ship has the right to decide what to do with the pirates. Usually, they were hung:

Handling Pirates, 101  

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PH.D. of the Fish World!

Sea-gram reader Petya Mattys found this amazing story about the first wild fish ever documented to use tools.

The four still-photos show a blackspot tusk fish in Australia using a rock as an anvil to break open shells:

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Sea-gram fan Martha Weisberg sent in this story about the recent commercial shark fishing ban in the Bahamas. GREAT NEWS!

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A fun divesite, where you can rent a beachfront condo, view great dive photos, and more!

I came across a fascinating book, written by Bruce Parker, former Chief Scientist of the NOAA's National Ocean Service:
The Power of the SEA
Tsunamis, Storm Surges, Rogue Waves, and Our Quest to Predict Disasters
When the sea turns its enormous power against us, our best defense is to get out of its way. But to do that we must first be able to predict when and where the sea will strike. Check out the book's website:

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Check out the adventures of this fun group:

Diversified Divers


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