Dive Operators report ongoing bomb fishing activities at the premier dive sites in the Mergui Archipelago. Although hardly any threat to scuba divers, because the bomb fishers avoid the diving boats, it is one of the most pressing problem the archipelago faces today. Illegal under Myanmar law and punishable even by death dynamite fishing continues to destroy the very precious underwater ecosystem. After the major 2012 raid within the dynamite fishing mafia, which is based in the Thai-Myanmar border region, and a following decline of bomb fishing activities in the seasons 2012-2013 there’s now again a slight increase in bombs thrown onto Myanmar coral reefs.
The technique used to create the boms is very basic and the components can be purchased in normal hardware and gardening stores. The bombs do actually not include any explosives but two or more chemical compounds which are put together in a cheap clay pot and then sealed. The contact with salt water creates a cheical reaction which will result in an explosion. About 70%-80% of the dead fish will sink to the bottom of the sea instead of floating and can then be seen by scuba divers for a couple of days until bottom dwelling organisms have eaten these dead fish.
One indication of how regular coral reefs are bombed is the observation of dead fish – as they will be visible there maximum two weeks, there is also an indication of how long ago the explosion took place. Another indication to determine the amount of bomb fishing is by scuba divers hearing explosions whilst under water. As water carries sound much better and faster these explosions can be heard as far as 100 miles away. So one doesn’t even have to be in Myanmar to assess these explosions. Richelieu Rock, one of Thailands most famous and most regularly dived divesite is approximately 12 miles from the Myanmar border and 22 miles from the closest divesite in Myanmar. Divemasters diving Richelieu regularly have reported an increase in explosions they herard during their dives at Richelieu Rock compared to the 2012-2013 diving season.