Most tourists who visit Oman’s Gulf coast are treated to pristine views and sparkling waters, but Ray Montoya, an American angler and art teacher living in Muskat, produces YouTube videos that show another side to the country. Using a small yellow kayak, the hapless eco-crusader travels along the nearly 1,000 miles of coast, frequently discovering animals trapped in discarded fishing nets and unfathomable piles of rubbish. Hit the jump to watch a video of one such turtle that would almost certainly have drowned if it hadn’t been for Ray and his handy snippers.
The hapless eco-crusader
Originally from New Mexico and a fly fisherman who practices sustainable catch and release fishing, Ray wears a Go Pro Camera with a wide angle lens that offers a unique view of the 150 or so trips that he has taken in the remote area between Masirah and Shuwaymiah.
In this video, he happens upon a turtle that is completely tangled up in a fishing net. Ray pulls the turtle out of the water and proceeds to snip away the bits of net around its neck and body. It struggles at first, but relaxes eventually as though grateful for the help.
When Ray finally gets the last of the net off the turtle and releases it back into the Gulf, it swims away furiously. That is one turtle saved, but what happens to the animals that Ray doesn’t reach?
Thousands of dolphins, turtles, and other marine mammals die each year in Oman as a result of manmade debris, Ray says in the introduction to the YouTube video that has received a surprising response from viewers all over the world.
Although he has yet to received any response to an email sent to the environment or tourism ministry, which the inadvertent activist encourages everyone to contact, several news organizations have contacted Ray about this video including MSNBC and a Japanese Television show that is going to interview him tomorrow.
“I didnt expect it would receive so much attention,” Ray told us in an email, “but I am glad it did because I have personally witnessed Oman’s coastal environment go from pristine to a complete mess.”
Although kayaking on the water probably started as a recreational activity for Ray, now he is trying desperately to raise awareness of the terrible degradation of Oman’s marine environment that has occurred in the ten years since he has been teaching art at a local high school.
He has been in touch with the Environment Society of Oman, which runs several educational programs and is currently engaged in the “Say No to Plastic Campaign,” and tries to convince other fishermen that he encounters to take a more sustainable approach to the sport.
“I am also a fisherman,” Rays tells us. “I fly fish, which is a very specialized form of fishing; we use artificial lures which we make on single barbless hooks and release about 95 percent of our catch unharmed; I’m also trying to get other sport fishermen to practice catch and release, but its tough to convince others that they do not need to kill more than they can eat. I also like to swim with whales, but have not video taped that yet…soon.”
Ray encourages people to contact the Ministry of Tourism in order to raise concerns about these environmental concerns. The addresses for the Minister and Under Secretary are as follows: email@example.com
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