Silversides back in East End

Millions of tiny silver fish are flooding the waters of East End, providing divers and photographers with an underwater visual paradise. 

Silversides have taken over the underwater world, fascinating divers as they surround them in shiny silver bubbles, and attract an array of predators.  

Schools of silversides are usually spotted in Cayman’s waters for about six weeks in summer, but the arrival was late this year.  

Steve Broadbelt, co-owner of Ocean Frontiers, said film crews from the British Broadcasting Corporation had been postponing shooting a documentary on the fish since June, and were about to give up when the silversides suddenly arrived.  

The BBC is filming the fish and the mass of predators they attract which includes tarpon, jacks and lionfish. 

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“You’re just watching the circle of life in front of you and the food chain taking place. It’s very intense,” Mr. Broadbelt said. 

“It only happens for a short period of time, once a year, and that makes it more special. It’s definitely one of the top diving experiences around.”  

Mr. Broadbelt said the fish are quite “mysterious.” 

“At night time they disappear and in the morning they are back again. There are tens of thousands of them and we don’t really know where they go at night. We don’t know where they come from, and we don’t know they have been,” he said. 

He said the annual phenomenon was referred to by the BBC film crew as “the most spectacular dive in the Cayman Islands.”  

“They separate into a perfect circle, like a ball around you, perfectly symmetrical, and when you pass through them they close the circle back up behind you. It’s 360 degrees around you, like being in a bubble,” Mr. Broadbelt said. 

While the silversides’ annual appearance was delayed in East End, it has also not yet reached other dive spots. The fish are usually spread around the island’s sites.  

“It’s not very widespread, they’re just concentrated in one area in East End,” Mr. Broadbelt said Thursday. 

Thousands of the fish can usually be spotted in the caves and tunnels that make up the Devil’s Grotto dive site in George Town. 

Sergio Coni, manager at Don Foster’s dive shop, said so far they have seen some silversides around the cove, but none in the caves or tunnels. 

He said there had been no “fairly significant schools” as in past years, and it was two months past the usual spectacle.  

“That’s what gets most people, because they are something to be seen when they are in the caves,” Mr. Coni said. 

“When the silversides are around, it becomes a very popular site.” 

Silversides

Tarpon come to feed on the silversides. – PHOTOs: ELLEN CUYLAERTS

Silversides-1

Silversides form silver balls in Cayman’s waters.
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