“…the scads were nervously bunched into a very tight ball…”
This image was taken off of the small island of Airborek, in the Raja Ampat Islands of Indonesia’s West Papua Province.
Raja Ampat lies in the heart of the Coral Triangle—the global epicenter of marine biodiversity. Within a 100 mile radius of where this image was taken, one can find more species of reef fish, hard and soft corals, and other marine invertebrates than any other place in the world.
The day before we were to begin flying home, we were looking for a shallow dive to complete our 11 day visit to the area. Our divemaster suggested a dive off of the jetty at Airborek Island, telling us it was a nice spot to see lovely soft corals, and perhaps hunt for more interesting “critters” among the rubble under the dock.
When we descended, however, we immediately encountered a huge, tightly packed school of yellowstripe scads (Selaroides leptolepis) that was being pursued by several giant and blue spotted trevally.
Every so often, several of the larger predators would dart into the school, taking what it could for a quick meal. Consequently, the scads were nervously bunched into a very tight ball, rotating around itself and forming what is called a “baitball.”
We stayed with the baitball for over an hour, never descending deeper than 30 feet, watching the transfixing mass of fish change its form almost constantly.
The region of the Raja Ampat Islands contains 7 separate marine protected areas (MPA’s) that are co-managed by the Indonesian government and conservation NGO’s, including The Nature Conservancy. Visiting divers pay a nominal fee in exchange for permission to dive within these areas, which helps fund the MPA management.
Due in great part to the establishment and enforcement of the MPA’s, the reefs in the Raja Ampat can remain rich in marine life for future generations to observe and embrace.
I shot this image with a Nikon D3X in a Subal ND3 housing, Sigma 15mm fisheye lens, and three Inon Z-240 underwater strobes. Exposure was 1/60 sec at f11 using ISO 125.
Jeff Yonover is an award-winning photographer specializing in underwater images. More of his photos can be seen at http://www.jeffyonover.com/.