Rescuers Fear Divers May Have Been Electrocuted By Illegal Fishing Method
Two divers have died in mysterious circumstances while exploring a submerged section of the Great Wall of China in the northern province of Hebei.
The divers, Xu Haiyan and Sun Hao, were members of a team of Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) divers were mapping part of a 50km section of the wall that was submerged in the late 1970s to make the vast Panjiakou Reservoir.
Other GUE divers on the scene and involved in the rescue reported seeing large numbers of stunned fish floating in the water column leading to speculation that the divers may have been killed by illegal electrofishing.
GUE is a technical and cave diving association based in Florida and a group of its divers had been surveying the sunken wall. On 6 September two teams entered the reservoir for a dive planned to 50m - Xu and Sun were both certified to 75m. Only one team returned to the surface and a major search operation was launched in the remote area.
'I saw a lot of dead fish in the water, their bodies intact and not yet decayed. They looked like silver speckles when our flashlights lit up the water,' said Hai Jun, a GUE Instructor involved in the search.
Ten days after Xu and Sun first went missing, the rescue teams turned to remote-control operated underwater vehicles (ROV) to continue the search. At 5:10 pm on September 20, at a depth of 62m, an ROV spotted the body of Sun. At 10:50 am the next morning, Xu's body was also found.
Police are now investigating the deaths. Electrofishing is a growing problem in northern China - during a trial of a fisherman in April this year it was reported that the illegal fishing method kills all marine life in an area when used and that the stunned fish can cause a serious pollution problem when they slowly sink to the bottom if they are not trawled immediately.