The Sea-gram

   For ocean lovers, divers,

            and "deep-thinkers."


July, 2012



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Orange Spotted Filefish 

          "Face off!"  Schoolmasters vs.Whitespotted Filefish; Paul Mila photo, Cozumel Mexico

Alison & Paul, Dive #400
Paul Celebrates Dive #400 With Instructor Alison Dennis

Welcome to the July issue of Sea-gram, the monthly newsletter from 

Greetings from Cozumel, Mexico, where I gathered material for July's Sea-gram.  The "mission" on this trip was to hit dive #400. As you can see from the photo, "mission accomplished." I finished the trip with dive #401. 
Most of July's issue was completed during our family beach vacation in Avalon, New Jersey, where my grand-daughter Ava, makes her Sea-gram debut.
Ava & Me 
           Ava & Me
July's Sea-gram is "Cozumel-centric," since I  love telling people about my favorite place on earth, where the diving is fantastic, the locals are friendly, the water is warm, and the beer is cold.
If you've been thinking about visiting this magical, and safe, island check out some interesting options in the lower right column.
In this issue's Story Behind The Photo(s), read about how the "techno-gremlins" struck, just when I was about to photograph the rare and elusive Blue Parrotfish.
Even though I didn't get the perfect photo, diver Julie Davenport help corral this shy fellow. I was able to get some good video showing the unique characteristics of the Blue Parrotfish in its latter phase of life: the prominent forehead and mouth on the bottom. Unfortunately, I was chasing my subject, not lying in wait as it approaches like I usually am. 
Blue Parrotfish in Cozumel
Blue Parrotfish in Cozumel
 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 concerns sea turtles.
This is turtle nesting season on Cozumel. Besides seeing hawksbill turtles, we enjoyed seeing the rare loggerhead turtle.
Diver Mikko Harkonen shot this great video of a giant loggerhead, passing just as I took a still-shot.
Notice the barnacles, algae and other sea life clinging on its shell for a free ride from parts unknown: 
Loggerhead fly-by
Loggerhead fly-by
Check out the full story, with photos and more video in Conservation Corner, below.
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 Photos . . . 
             The Techno-Gremlins Strike
                                  By Paul Mila, Carle Place, NY
During our surface interval dive operator, Instructor Alison Dennis
announced we were headed to Yucab Reef for our second dive. 
Alison selected this site because she knew I've been trying to photograph the rare and elusive Blue Parrotfish, and Yucab is where they are sometimes sighted.
This is not the more common dark blue Midnight  Parrotfish, but a pale blue, almost lavender-hued fish. Its most striking characteristics are the mouth on the bottom of its face, instead of the middle, giving it a perpetual "smile," and the forehead's prominent hump.
Blue Parrotfish  
Yucab is a beautiful and busy reef, with abundant sea
 life everywhere you look. 
 While observing a pair of spotted file fish, and the more common stoplight parrotfish, I heard the metallic jingle of Alison's rattle. I turned toward Alison, and saw her frantically pointing. I looked and there it was, just below me -- the Blue Parrotfish.
I aimed the camera, but it had shut down into sleep mode, to save power. Turning the camera on, I was about to shoot but it came on in video mode, since that was the last mode I had been using. In my excitement to select still-shot mode, I pressed the wrong button. By the time I had the camera set up, the perfect head-on angle was gone. I did my best to reposition myself, but the fish had other ideas. The result were two photos that I teach dive photographers to avoid -- shooting down from above and from slightly behind.  
Blue Parrotfish
Blue Parrotfish, Cozumel

At least you can get some idea of what this beautiful fish looks like, even though I did not get the perfect angle.


SeaLife 1000 camera, using a wide-angle lens and strobe for stills, ambiant light for video. 




It almost sounds too obvious to mention, but practice changing modes and settings on your camera before you dive. Practice until you can do it rapidly, almost without looking at the buttons. I do know my camera, but in the excitement of the moment I still pressed the wrong button and lost the critical angle.
Be aware of your surroundings and approaching sealife. In my case, I forgot what setting my camera was on, and I didn't see my subject until it was too late. Now I have to return to Yucab Reef and try again.
Well, that's not so bad!

Conservation Corner . . .

       SOS -- Save Our Sea-turtles !

Cozumel Island is a  major nesting location for

several sea turtle species, including Hawksbills

and Loggerheads. 


Hawksbill turtles are commonly seen prowling Cozumel's reefs, searching for a juicy sponge meal,

like this fellow, who looked up to watch us.


  Hawksbill Turtle on French Reef


The hawksbill population has declined more than 80% in the last century, primarily due to the trade in their beautiful shell, which is also referred to as "tortoise shell." Its  brightly colored intricately designed shell is prized for ornamental purposes, and is used as jewelry, inlay in furniture and other decorative items.


Hawksbills were hunted almost to extinction prior to the ban on the shell trade. Japan imported an estimated 2 million turtles between 1950 and 1992. Despite the fact that the international trade of their shells is now illegal, there is still a thriving black market.


Other threats include destruction of nesting and feeding habitat, pollution, boat strikes, coastal development, entanglement in fishing gear, and destructive fishing practices such as dynamite fishing. Dynamite fishing uses explosives to stun or kill fish, usually on reefs, for easy collection.

The practice also causes extensive damage to coral reefs and harms other animals.

Although illegal, this destructive type of fishing is still widespread in many parts of the world.   


Check out this video of a hawksbill who appears more interested in finding a tasty sponge than worrying about me swimming alongside.

The video shows the beautiful carapace (shell) which makes hawksbills desirable to poachers. 

Hawksbill Turtle Foraging
Hawksbill Turtle Foraging

Our dive group enjoyed seeing this large loggerhead below cruise past us on French Reef. With its massive head, neck and jaws, you can see the difference from hawksbills. Its diet is also different, crushing and eating shellfish and crustaceans with its powerful beak. 

  Loggerhead Turtle, Cozumel

 Loggerhead Turtle, French Reef, Cozumel


Threats to all turtles include loss of nesting habitat due to coastal development. Hatchlings must eventually return to their birth-beach years later to lay eggs, but are disoriented by beachfront lighting. In addition, nest predation by predators, including humans, takes a significant toll.

There is particular concern about juvenile loggerhead mortality in the eastern Atlantic from longline fishing by many countries.


What Can We Do?

1. Do not purchase turtle products ("tortoise-shell jewelry, etc.)

2. Find a turtle conservation initiative and join. You can find plenty on Google, Bing, etc.

3. Support legislation preserving nesting sites from development and destruction, banning long-line fishing, etc.


About is your home for exciting dive adventure novels (in both e-format and print format), YouTube videos featuring ocean creatures, and more.
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Click on the reading dolphin and swim
 into our website


I hope you enjoyed your brief visit to Cozumel. Thanks for visiting, and 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: A Matter of Perspective
Conservation Corner: SOS Save Our Sea turtles
 Featured Article in Conservation Corner:
S O S - Save Our Sea turtles!
Lower left column.

Quick Links
Updates & Miscellaneous Features



Swimming With Giants!


One of our divers, Mikko Harkonen, took a day off from diving in Cozumel with us to swim with giant whale sharks near Isla Mujeres.

Here is Mikko's story, and his short video clip, showing what it was like to snorkel next to these magnificent giants: 


"I arranged the trip in Cozumel, through Dive Paradise.

We traveled up to Cancun, where we boarded a boat for a one-hour ride to Isla Mujeres.


"My feelings:

In the beginning I felt nuts to jump in the water full of shark fins, but once I got there it felt incredible to snorkel with amazing 30-foot creatures.

The biggest fish I had seen earlier so close while scuba diving/snorkeling was a three foot reef shark, so that was definitely a big difference!"



Canon S95 with WP-DC38 housing

Best Regards,


Snorkeling with a whale shark in Mexico
Snorkeling with a whale shark in Mexico

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Cozumel Lionfish Update

 This story appeared in the newsletter Cozumel-4-You


Lionfish Tournament

 a Tasty Success

A grand total of 1,394 lion fish met a tasty end during Cozumel's 4th Big Lionfish Tournament. 77 participants, organized into 23 teams competed in the event which was organized by the National Marine Park. First place in the professional division went to Gilmer Nunez, with an amazing 330 fish. Throughout the day, there were children's activities, ecology awareness events and local restaurants providing samples of delicious lionfish recopies. Overall, 324 kilos of the voracious reef predator, Pterois volitans (Linnaeus), or lion fish, were removed from Cozumel's reefs.


To receive this informative newsletter, contact Laura at:


Editor's note: During my July Cozumel visit I saw more spotted drum fish during my ten dives than lionfish: just one juvenile on my first dive at Palancar vs seven drums during the week. That's a great indication Cozumel is winning the battle.


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Monster Hunter Jeremy Wade with a Pacu in the Amazon

Authorities have identified a ferocious fish captured in Illinois' Lake Lou Yaeger  as a pacu, a close, and much larger, cousin of the piranha.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is assuring people that pacus, known in some countries for biting off human testicles, have not harmed anyone in the state, but many are pointing to incidents in South America as evidence of the fish's danger.

 Pacu Feeding Frenzy 

Editor's Note: Latest Neilsen TV ratings for Illinois indicate the most popular series re-run is the Sopranos.
Could there be a connection?
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Sea-gram fan Shawn Hazlet sent in this YouTube video by underwater photographer Jim Abernathy shooting video of a hooked blue marlin, when he got the surprise of his life.

Massive Mako Shark Meets Diver
Massive Mako Shark Meets Diver

 Editors Note: Diver's reaction is one reason why you should not rent a used wet suit.


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Save The Whales!


Sea-gram reader Tish Dace

sent us this link to a website & petition to support U.S. House Resolution 714.

It will signal the importance of U.S. leadership in international whale conservation:

Save The Whales


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Sea Shepherd Update

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Organization has several new initiatives underway.

To check out their latest activities, visit their website:


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Want to visit Cozumel?
Here are some interesting rental options: 
A fun dive site, where you can rent my beach front condo at the Residencias Reef, view great dive photos, and more!
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If you're planning a trip to Cozumel with family or a dive group, here are two great houses for rent located right on the beach by Yucab Reef. 


There's even a pier for boat pick-up! Check out their websites!
For a 10% Sea-gram discount, just mention us in your email or phone call:
Even Better Than Renting:


If you want to explore purchasing your own "Slice of Paradise," contact these Cozumel professionals for more information:


Jaime Ramirez, at the Residencias Reef:


Nancy Edwards,
    at Cozumel Living:


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For the best in scuba diving, including basic & advanced lessons, continuing education, equipment sales & repair, world-wide dive adventures, and more, visit Scuba Network of Long Island, located on Old Country Road in Carle Place.
More information on their website:
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Available Link! Post a link to your web site here!
E-mail for details.
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