THE CONCH QUEST OF ABACO…


Conch ©Melinda Riger @G B Scuba

THE CONCH QUEST OF ABACO…

Conchs are gastropods. They are food. They are decoration (anyway, the shells are). For some, they are a living. And on Abaco they are everywhere – alive in the waters, and as shells scattered on  beaches or piled up outside restaurants. So the quest for conch is an easy one. There are fears of overfishing, however, and an active organisation The Bahamas National Conchservation Campaign exists to protect them. Another similar Bahamas organisation is Community Conch.conchs-at-sandy-point-1 We found a nice half-buried conch shell at Sandy Point. It was full of sand grains and tiny shells – mini gastropods and bivalves - that took some time to wash out of the spiralling internal structure. Here are some studies of the shell. IMG_2438IMG_2442IMG_2444IMG_2445IMG_2448IMG_5279IMG_5278 The damage to the shell above is the place where it has been bashed in to enable removal of the occupant. In order to do so, it is necessary to break the strong vacuum that would prevent extraction if you tried by the conventional route. Effectively the conch anchors itself to its shell and must be cut out. The best way to make the hole is with the spiral tip of another conch. This breaks the suction and enables you to prise out the occupant…

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Finally, you can usually rely on me to go off-piste. So here is a video of how to make a conch horn to annoy your friends and neighbours with…

WHALES, DOLPHINS & MANATEES, ABACO: BMMRO NEWS


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WHALES, DOLPHINS & MANATEES, ABACO: BMMRO NEWS

BMMRO COLLABORATES WITH NEW PARTNER, ATLANTIS BLUE PROJECT

The ATLANTIS BLUE PROJECT is managed by the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation, a private non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of global marine ecosystems through scientific research, education, and community outreach. BMMRO is excited to now be a part of this project and in turn has received two grants from the Atlantis Blue Project for 2014 

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Stranding Response to Support Conservation of Marine Mammals in the Bahamas 

Increasing capacity and available funds to respond rapidly to strandings in The Bahamas will increase our ability to determine cause of death and/or successful rehabilitation of marine mammals. At the first stranding workshop held in the Bahamas in 2008, the Honourable Lawrence Cartwright, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources officially opened the workshop stating “I believe the establishment of a Marine Mammal Stranding Network in The Bahamas will serve to promote the conservation of marine mammal species and their habitat by improving the rescue and humane care of stranded marine mammals, advancing stranding science, and increasing public awareness through education.” This funding will provide the resources to train veterinarians on how to work with stranded marine mammals as well as provide the resources to respond to strandings.

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Field Research & Outreach to Support Conservation of Bahamas Marine Mammals

Cetaceans are long-lived, highly specialised animals with delayed reproduction and low fecundity, which makes them incapable of rapid adaptation and thus particularly vulnerable to anthropogenic impacts. BMMRO has compiled an unprecedented long-term dataset for the region, which has become increasingly valuable to inform about the baseline ecology of some odontocete species. This research will ensure that this important work continues to fill key gaps in our knowledge about the ecology of marine mammals. Additionally, we will increase awareness and build capacity amongst Bahamians, both of which will contribute to local conservation needs.

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JANUARY SIGHTINGS

For Abaco, the excitement is the sperm whale seen just off the Rocky Point area. More generally for the northern Bahamas, in addition to the manatee Georgie (former temporary resident of Abaco) and others, there was a manatee reported on Eleuthera. It looks as though these gently creatures continue to find the area to their liking.

BMMRO Sightings Jan 2014

I must be going now – thanks for visiting Rolling Harbour…blue6

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(Thanks as ever to Charlotte & co at BMMRO for permission to use and adapt their material!)

MARINE DEBRIS? NO THANKS! 10 FACTS FROM NOAA


Ten Things You Should Know About Marine Debris

monksealMonkseal being rescued from marine debris

Entangled-harbor-seal NOAA Marine Debris
Our waterways are littered with stuff that doesn’t belong in them. Plastic bags, cigarette butts, fishing nets, sunken vessels, glass bottles, abandoned crab traps…the list is endless. Some of this marine debris comes from human activity at sea, and some of it makes its way into our waterways from land.
While we know that marine debris is bad for the environment, harms wildlife, and threatens human health and navigation, there is much we don’t know. How much marine debris is in our environment? How long does it last? How harmful is it to natural resources or human health and safety? How long does it take to break down in the water? The NOAA Marine Debris Program is finding answers to these questions.

1. It doesn’t stay put

While a lot of debris sinks, much also floats. Once this marine debris enters the ocean, it moves via oceanic currents and atmospheric winds. Factors that affect currents and winds (for example, El Niño and seasonal changes) also affect the movement of marine debris in the ocean. Debris is often carried far from its origin, which makes it difficult to determine exactly where an item came from.

2. It comes in many forms

Marine debris comes in many forms, ranging from small plastic cigarette butts to 4,000-pound derelict fishing nets. Plastic bags, glass, metal, Styrofoam, tires, derelict fishing gear, and abandoned vessels are all examples of debris that often ends up in our waterways.img_0510_ss-1

3. It’s your problem, too

Marine debris is a problem for all of us. It affects everything from the environment to the economy; from fishing and navigation to human health and safety; from the tiniest coral polyps to giant blue whales.

4. NOAA is fighting this problem

The NOAA Marine Debris Program works in the U.S. and around the world to research, reduce, and prevent debris in our oceans and coastal waterways. Much of this work is done in partnership with other agencies, non-governmental organizations, academia, industry, and private businesses.The Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act, signed into law in 2006, formally created the Marine Debris Program. The Act directs NOAA to map, identify, measure impacts of, remove, and prevent marine debris.

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5. Some debris is being turned into energy

Abandoned and lost fishing gear is a big problem. It entangles and kills marine life and is a hazard to navigation. Based on a model program in Hawaii, the Fishing for Energy program was formed in 2008 to tackle this problem with creative new ideas. The program is a partnership between NOAA, Covanta Energy Corporation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Schnitzer Steel.This program offers the fishing community a no-cost way to dispose of old or derelict fishing gear. Once removed from the environment, the gear is transported to the nearest Covanta Energy-from-Waste facility. About one ton of derelict nets creates enough electricity to power one home for 25 days!

6. Marine debris can hurt or kill animals

Marine debris may be mistaken by some animals for food or eaten accidently. Often, larger items like nets, fishing line, and abandoned crab pots snare or trap animals. Entanglement can lead to injury, illness, suffocation, starvation, and even death. NOAA is working with many partners to tackle this problem by reducing and preventing marine debris in our oceans and waterways.

Sea turtle entangled in a ghost net

7. There’s a lot to learn about this problem

We know that marine debris is a big problem, but there’s much we need to learn. NOAA funds projects across the country and works with scientists and experts around the globe to better understand how marine debris moves, where it comes from, and how it affects the environment. This knowledge will help us find better ways to tackle the problem.

8. You can help us get the word out!

The NOAA Marine Debris Program offers a heap of creative products to get the word out about marine debris. Looking for brochures, posters, fact sheets, or guidebooks? We’ve got those. Like videos? We’ve got those, too. We even have a blog! You’ll find it all online.

9. This is a global problem.

Marine debris is a global problem that requires global solutions. NOAA experts work with scientists and organizations around the world to share lessons learned, discover what programs work best, and map out future strategies to fight this problem.

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10. Small steps lead to big results

Fighting the marine debris problem begins at home.

  • - Try to cut back on the amount of trash you produce.
  • - Opt for reusable items instead of single-use products.
  • - Recycle as much of your trash as you can.
  • - Join local efforts to pick up trash.
  • - Keep streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and storm drains free of trash—they can empty into our oceans and waterways.

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Click to link
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Minorly adapted from an NOAA article, with added illustrative NOAA images

CHRISTMAS TREE WORMS: FESTIVE CREATURES OF THE CORAL REEF


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CHRISTMAS TREE WORMS Spirobranchus giganteus

“PROBABLY THE MOST CHEERILY FESTIVE WORMS IN THE WORLD…”
File:Christmas Tree worms.jpgChristmas Tree Worms ©Melinda Riger @ G B ScubaFile:Spirobranchus giganteus (assorted Christmas tree worms).jpgFile:Spirobranchus giganteus (Red and white christmas tree worm).jpgFile:Christmas tree worm (Spirobranchus giganteus).jpg      File:Reef0232.jpgFile:ChristmasTreeWorm-SpirobranchusGiganteus.jpgFile:Spirobranchus giganteus at Gili Lawa Laut.JPG

DCB Xmas Credits: Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba, Wiki-Reef & RH

SHARKS! ALL YOU NEED (OR WANT) TO KNOW IN ONE SMALL BOOK


Shark ©Melinda Riger @ Grand Bahama Scuba copy

SHARKS! ALL YOU NEED (OR WANT) TO KNOW IN ONE SMALL BOOK

THE IDENTIFICATION, BEHAVIOUR & NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SHARKS OF FLORIDA, THE BAHAMAS, THE CARIBBEAN & GULF OF MEXICO

Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch, Trident Press 2000 (95 pp)

Occasionally I review books, apps, ‘meeja’ and so on, of general relevance to Abaco wildlife and ecology. You can find all this under the heading BOOKS ETC and its drop-down sub-menus. You’ll see comparative recommendations, mostly positive, with some frankly snidey comments on a few things not to waste your ‘hard-earned’ on. 

Shark Swirl ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba

Here’s a book I bought on @m@z@n for a few coins + p&p (less than $5 total) just to see what it might have to offer. The answer is, a great deal. It’s not the book for those who want a detailed exploration the intricate mesopathy of selachimorphic exo-cartilege, if such a thing exists. But it has a mass of useful information, brief but helpful identification pages for many different shark species, and good illustrations, all compressed into a slim tome.

Although this book was published in 2000, sharks haven’t changed noticeably since then, so the contents still hold good. Here are a few pages to give an idea of how simple yet informative this book is.

A tour round a shark’s ‘bits’Shark Book 6

The Contents page gives a very clear idea of the scope of the book. Pages 34 to 54 are of particular interest for anyone intending to dive, spearfish, snorkel or indeed take a dip.Shark Book 5

The entries for the Blacktip Shark and the Lemon Shark. Each entry features a useful range map, and an even more useful ‘potential danger rating’ for each species. It’s worth remembering, however, that there are sharks worldwide, and they all have teeth. Thousands of people dive and swim with many of the species every day in complete safety. There are simply some does and don’ts, mostly completely obvious, that will make the difference between enjoying their company (and they, yours); and pushing your luck with a wild creature when you have intruded into its habitat…Shark Book 3 Shark Book 4

THE SHARK TRUST FEEDING CODE

This page interested me in the light of the chumming debate. Plenty of basic common sense here.Shark Book 8

A useful illustration to help you understand what the book is all aboutShark Book 7

More shark information and some amazing images can be found HERE .

As I wrote elsewhere: “Take comfort from the fact that no fatalities and fewer than 10 injuries from shark attacks have been recorded in Abaco waters for over 250 years (since 1749)… By way of comparison, in the last 150 years there have been 36 recorded shark attacks in the Mediterranean, of which 18 have been fatal… Since 1845 there have been a number of shark attacks in British waters, with one fatality.  There were two more fatalities in an incident in 1956 , but this was an ‘own-goal’ arising from an attempt to blow up a shark with dynamite. It can hardly be blamed on the shark.

WEIRD NON-SHARK RELATED STATISTIC: Amazingly, in the 3 years 2007 – 09 in England and Wales, 42 people died from being bitten by animals, only a few of which were dogs.

CONCLUSION You are statistically far safer to spend 250 years swimming off Abaco than spending 3 years stroking a cat in Manchester. Or Swansea.”

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3 MONTHS ON ABACO WITH THE BMMRO: AN INTERN’S STORY


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The Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation LogoClick logo for website

BMMRO Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation Banner

3 MONTHS ON ABACO WITH THE BMMRO: AN INTERN’S STORY

My name is Jack Lucas and I am Marine Biology Student at Plymouth University in the UK. I came to the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation on Abaco in July 2013 for a 3 month internship, which has been an amazing experience from start to finish. Heres a summary of my summer spent at BMMRO.

Sperm Whale Fluking

I arrived at the start of July and was fortunate enough with my timing to be part of an assembled crew of scientists from all over the world coming together to start work on what was to be this summers main project; collecting faecal samples from Blainville’s beaked whales to assess stress hormones produced. This team included Dr Roz Rolland and Dr Scott Kraus from New England Aquarium, who are collaborating with BMMRO for the work, and the samples will be analysed back at their lab in the US. Also along for the ride was Roxy Corbett; a whale observer and field researcher from the US, and Dr Stephanie King; a acoustician from the Sea Mammal Research Unit in Scotland. The first day after arriving it was straight out on the boat to search for these elusive creatures and the beginning of a crash course in how to collect and store the faecal samples when we found them. For the first week the work was a mix of boat work when the weather permitted and practicing poop collection using custom-made fine-mesh nets and coffee grounds (as close to the real thing as we were willing to try!), as well as clearing out BMMRO’s garage and, under the direction of foreman Scott, the construction from scratch of a lab to prepare samples for storage.

An example of the use of coffee grounds to practise whale poop-scoop technique269RH note: NOT Jack’s arms / snappy diving suit…

Unfortunately, despite days of poop collection practice and endless hours searching for the whales at sea, the original poop team never got a chance to employ these by now highly developed skills or to see the lab being used, as the weather was so windy we barely encountered the animals let alone spent long enough with them to collect any samples. 

Despite the lack of beaked whales, we did encounter loads of marine mammals in the first few weeks, from sperm whales to three different species of dolphin; including the little-seen and even less-studied rough-toothed dolphin.

Rough-toothed Dolphin

After discussion with Charlotte and Di about a possible project for me to complete during my stay, it was to be this species that I would focus on and in between the usual office jobs it was my task to sort through the photos from 20 rough toothed encounters in the Bahamas since 1995 and create a catalogue of individuals. This initial task consisted of careful inspection, comparison and sorting of what turned out to be over 5000 photos, into an organised catalogue of 167 separate and distinctive individuals. Despite the hours of endless staring at fins, it was very rewarding as there were 13 resighted individuals found (we were not necessarily expecting any!) which suggests long-term site fidelity and association of these animals, in addition to year round use of the Grand Bahama Canyon. Even more rewarding; the results of this work have recently been submitted for a poster display at an Odontocete workshop in New Zealand this December and I am also writing up the results in a formal scientific paper, with the hopeful goal of publishing a note in a peer-review journal. 

 Scott, Jack, Stephanie and Di in the new lab at Sandy Point

Around a month in I was lucky enough to be sent by Di and Charlotte to Great Harbour Cay on the nearby Berry Islands to work with the manatees there, in particular Georgie; a recently released juvenile whose status is being carefully monitored after her rehabilitation at Atlantis’ Dolphin Cay following health problems. The work here for a week under the guidance of Kendria; a Bahamian contracted by BMMRO to monitor the manatees on the Berry Islands, consisted of tracking Georgie using a satellite tag attached to a belt around her tail. Once located, we logged her position and made any notes on her health and behaviour aswell as the other manatees that were often found with her (there are currently 6 located on Great Harbour Cay). Two days in her tag was found unattached at a locals dock (it has a weak-link incase of entanglement) and we had to locate her using underwater hydrophones to detect her belt. Once found, I had the rare opportunity of entering the water with her in order to re-attach a new tag to her belt; it was amazing and one of the best encounters I have had with any animal! It is impossible not to love these amiable and gentle creatures, especially when you observe their infamous ‘hugs’ in person! 

Georgie the Manatee

For more about Georgie’s re-release in the Berry Is. after her earlier shenanigans on Abaco, see HERE

After returning from the Berry Islands (and incidentally missing the first two poop collections of the season made by Charlotte!) it was back to hunting for the elusive beaked whales around South Abaco. During my time I had the chance to work with several interns coming to BMMRO including local marine-enthusiasts Tristan and AJ, and Courtney Cox from Florida. Oscar Ward from the UK also joined the team as Charlotte left for Scotland to complete her PhD, and was on hand during the poop-collection and other little excursions. In wasn’t until the last month of my time here that we managed to get close enough to the whales for me to get in the water and be towed alongside in the hope of seeing one defecate. One amazing morning two whales surfaced right off the bow of the boat and what resulted was again, one of the most amazing moments; swimming just a couple of feet away from an animal only a handful of people in the world have seen underwater. After nearly two months with no samples, the two weeks that followed were a flurry of boat days, poop-collection and whale watching; with a total of 7 samples collecting from beaked whales (5 in one day!!) and another 3 from sperm whales. This was the best possible end to my time here and I finally got a chance to use the much-practiced poop collection techniques. The samples included a number of squid beaks, and in one very deep dive collection a mass of parasitic worms and a weird cephalopod-type animal! We also got a chance in the last few weeks to test-run a new addition to the fleet, that included a dive compressor.

Ready to collect some poop…

Finally my time in the Bahamas had to come to an end, and I had to return home. The last 3 months has flown by and has been one of the most enjoyable and most importantly educational periods of my life and I cannot thank Di and Charlotte enough for making it all possible. The day-to-day boat runs, office work, equipment maintenance and station chores has given me a good insight into all aspects of field research. It was my first taste of life as a marine mammal scientist, and it has made me even more determined to pursue a career in this field; a perfect stepping stone from which to move forward. In addition my work with BMMRO (and what must of been a brilliant reference from the girls!) made it possible to secure a highly competitive internship in the Farallon Islands this winter tagging elephant seals amongst other work! I cannot wait to continue working in this field and finish writing up the results of my project here, and hope I have the chance to come to Abaco again to work with these amazing people and animals!Sperm Whale supplier of poop BMMRO

BMMRO would like to thank Jack for all his help during the summer, and all our interns for their assistance! To our sponsors, Friends of the Environment, Disney Animal Programs and Environmental Initiatives and Rotary of Abaco, we thank you for your continued support.

To read more about the work of Interns on Abaco with the BMMRO at Sandy Point and Friends of the Environment in Marsh Harbour, check out Oscar Ward’s excellent blog SEVENTYPERCENTBLUE. There are articles on Life in the Mangroves, the Bahamas Climate, Whale Poop Collection, and most intriguing how he and co-intern Jack both came very close to being Black Tip  Fodder… real live Chums!

The Author researching underwater creatures

BOTTLENOSE DOPHINS (VIDEO) & BMMRO ABACO CETACEAN SIGHTINGS


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BOTTLENOSE DOPHINS (VIDEO) & BMMRO ABACO CETACEAN SIGHTINGS

The legendary CONCH SALAD TV is a great resource for Bahamas wildlife and way-of-life enlightenment. Their instructive videos are very well put together, and cover Nature, Marine, Art, Science, Music, Culture, Cooking, and broader Bahamas issues. The video below is 9 minutes of Bottlenose Dolphin action, and is recommended for relaxation, gentle instruction, and Kalik-swigging accompaniment…

BMMRO Whale Camp Dolphin Image FV

It time to catch up with last month’s Cetacean sightings around Abaco. The Manatee reports are of Georgie in the Cherokee area – alas no longer resident on Abaco but safely at Atlantis where she is being cared for. To know more about the Blainville’s beaked whale on Abaco, click HEREBMMRO sightings 2013

stop pres gif BMMRO’s executive director DIANE CLARIDGE has been awarded her PhD by St Andrews University for her research on beaked whales.  Dr Claridge’s new status is celebrated by humans and cetaceans alike (see image ©BMMRO below…)Bottlenose Dolphins Abaco ©BMMRO

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SHARK FINS – OOOP! A MODEL USE OF HUMOUR TO CONVEY ASERIOUS MESSAGE (VIDEO)


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SHARK FINS – OOOP! A MODEL USE OF HUMOUR
TO CONVEY A SERIOUS MESSAGE
(VIDEO)

The CAPE ELEUTHERA FOUNDATION has produced a short video about sharks and shark fins that manages to be both amusing and to carry a powerful conservation message. It’s a hard trick to pull off successfully. Attempts to use humour to leaven a serious message or to modify earnestness in presentation so often trespass into the no-man’s land known as ‘Meh’ (twinned with ‘Wotevah’). I’m grateful to the always-interesting ABACO SCIENTIST for sharing this item. Photo credit: Melinda Riger, with thanks for use permission [I am posting this from NYC via iPhone, so any weird formatting or typos will have to be dealt with next week]

GEORGIE THE ABACO MANATEE: FAREWELL CHEROKEE, HELLO ATLANTIS


Georgie the Mantee Abaco clip

GEORGIE THE ABACO MANATEE: FAREWELL CHEROKEE, HELLO ATLANTIS

Many people have shown an interest in the adventures of Georgie the Manatee over the last 18 months or so, and the work of the BMMRO in monitoring her movements and welfare. She has travelled a great many miles in that time, to and around Abaco; settled down eventually in Cherokee; successfully shed her satellite tag; gone awol a couple of times; and happily reappeared at Cherokee each time. Recently there have been increasing concerns about her wellbeing, and a joint venture has overseen her capture & return to the Atlantis Marine Mammal Rescue Center for observations and health evaluation. The full story published in the Bahamas Weekly [click logo below] with photos by Tim Aylen is set out below. I have also included some very good pictures of Georgie and the preparations for her journey, taken by Cindy James Pinder (with thanks for permission to use them). So Abaco – and Cherokee in particular – has sadly lost its only (briefly) resident manatee. I can’t make out when the last resident manatee was recorded on Abaco, but not very recently I think. Fingers crossed for Georgie’s future – I will continue to post updates on how she gets on.

UPDATE 1 FROM BMMRO “On January 26th, Georgie was captured in Casaurina canal and transported to Dolphin Cay-Atlantis. Videos taken by BMMRO on January 15th highlighted areas of concern in regards to Georgie’s current body condition. Those videos were then circulated amongst a group of manatee researches abroad and their opinions and advice were taken into consideration by the Department of Marine Resources (DMR). Georgie had lost a considerable amount of weight since her arrival to Abaco (September 2012) and need medical attention. DMR gave Dolphin Cay permission to capture Georgie and transport her to their marine mammal rehabilitation facility until she was healthy enough to return to the wild. Health assessments were conducted the day of capture (prior to transporting her to Nassau) and on January 27th. BMMRO’s Manatee Lady (and Educational Officer), Kendria Ferguson, visited Georgie on January 29th and is happy to report that Georgie is doing well. She is currently on a meal plan that will assist her with getting the necessary nutrients she needs to get healthy. BMMRO will continue to monitor Georgie’s progress and will provide updates here on our FB page. Thank you for all your support, please help us to continue to monitor manatees in The Bahamas by making a donation on our website www.bahamaswhales.org.”

Bahamas Weekly Logo

ATLANTIS RESCUES ENDANGERED MANATEE & RELOCATES HER TO DOLPHIN CAY

By Atlantis, Paradise Island and One&Only Ocean Club     Jan 31, 2013  6:22:53 PM

W-Georgie-the-manatee-is-placed-into-a-medical-pool-at-Dolphin-CayPhoto: Tim Aylen

PARADISE ISLAND, THE BAHAMAS The Atlantis Animal Rescue Team, under the direction of the Bahamas Department of Marine Resources (BDMR) and with assistance from The Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization (BMMRO), successfully rescued Georgie, a West Indian manatee and relocated her to the Atlantis Dolphin Cay Marine Mammal Rescue Center.  Dolphin Cay is home to the only live marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation center in The Bahamas and is a member of the Bahamas Marine Mammal Stranding Network.  Manatees in addition to all marine mammals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 2005 and only authorized facilities are able to respond such requests from Government.

Georgie was first sighted in Spanish Wells in June 2010 where she was born to Rita, a known Florida Manatee.  In October of 2011 both Rita and Georgie appeared in the busy Nassau Harbor and at the request of the Bahamas Government, the Dolphin Cay Team rescued them and brought them to a safe environment at the Atlantis Dolphin Cay Marine Mammal Rescue Center where health assessments and evaluations could be conducted.  With the assistance of the BDMR, BMMRO, United States Geological Survey, and Save the Manatee Club, the Atlantis Animal Rescue Team released both Rita and Georgie in April of 2012, equipped with tags to monitor their movements for several months.  In October of 2012, it was observed that Rita and Georgie had split up and Georgie made a dramatic move from the Berry Islands release site to Cherokee in Abaco, The Bahamas.   The Dolphin Cay team made several trips to Abaco, meeting up with BMMRO to try to get a good look at Georgie’s overall body condition.  Concern was raised by BMMRO recently about her general appearance and the decision was made by the Department of Marine Resources for the Dolphin Cay team to conduct a field health assessment and relocate her to the Atlantis Marine Mammal Rescue Center.

W-Atlantis-Animal-Rescue-team-members-arrive-from-Abaco-with-GeorgiePhoto: Tim Aylen

Georgie will undergo a series of general health evaluations.  Once she is healthy, the teams will pull together once again and relocate her back to Great Harbor Cay in the Berry Islands with the hope that she rejoins with the resident group of manatees in that area.  At this time, Georgie is under observation at Dolphin Cay and doing well in her new environment.

Atlantis is the home of world’s largest open-air marine habitat with over 50,000 marine animals in lagoons and displays as well as Dolphin Cay, the state-of-the-art dolphin interaction and education center. Dolphin Cay and Atlantis are accredited members of both the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and The Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. Both the marine habitat and Dolphin Cay were created with the goal of enlightening visitors about the wonders of these remarkable ocean inhabitants. Dolphin Cay is also the residence of the Katrina Dolphins and Sea Lions some of whom were swept to sea during Hurricane Katrina.

PHOTOS OF GEORGIE DURING HER CAPTURE (©Cindy James Pinder)

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QUEEN ANGELFISH (Holacanthus ciliaris) – BAHAMAS REEF FISH (2)


Queen Angelfish Holacanthus ciliaris

QUEEN ANGELFISH (Holacanthus ciliaris)  - BAHAMAS REEF FISH (2)

The Queen Angel is one of several reef fish species where the difference in colouring between juveniles and adults is marked.  They are commonly found in the waters of Florida and the Bahamas, with a range extending to the Gulf of Mexico. Adults can grow to 3.5 lbs (to mix metric with avoirdupois) and they can live up to 15 years. Like all Angelfish, they rely on their pectoral fins for propulsion as they forage on the reefs for their mixed diet of sponges, coral, plankton, algae, and even jellyfish. As the photo below shows, they have no problem swimming upside down…

QUEEN ANGELFISH (JUVENILE) Juvenile Queen Angel ©Melinda Riger GB Scuba

Evidence suggests that adult Queen Angels may form ‘monogamous’ pairings. Brief research in the factosphere suggests that the proposition is somewhat tenuous. Maybe pairs just like hanging out - possibly to gain some territorial advantage – and anthropomorphising that into lifelong partnership terms may be overstating the relationship… Whether wed for life or not, the actual mating process is remarkably efficient. The pair snuggle up close, simultaneously releasing large quantities of sperm and tens of thousands of eggs. The fertilised eggs hatch within a day. Respect!

QUEEN ANGELFISH (ADULT)Queen Angel fish ©Melinda Riger GB ScubaQueen Angelfish ©Melinda Riger / Grand Bahama ScubaQueen Angelfish (juv) ©Melinda Riger @GBS

Photo Credits for the amazing main images: ©Melinda Riger (Grand Bahama Scuba), with thanks; header image WikiPic

BMMRO: WHALE ETC SIGHTINGS; BLAINVILLE’S BEAKED WHALES; WINTER NEWSLETTER


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Blainville’s Beaked Whale, Abaco, Bahamas

SIGHTINGS REPORT OCT – DEC 2012

The last quarter of 2012 produced relatively few open-ocean CETACEAN sightings, not least because of a reduction in spotting trips during the period, with some members of the team elsewhere in the world completing their research. SIRENIAN activity is thankfully on the increase, with reporting opportunities increased by the manatees’ preference for sticking close inshore, usually in harbour areas. Georgie has gained her first yellow spot as Abaco’s only resident manatee following her long trip over from the Berry Is. (and away from mother Rita) last summer. She has  taken up residence in Cherokee. She performed a worrying vanishing trick during Hurricane Sandy, holing up (presumably) in seagrass off-shore, and (definitely) in an inshore channel for some of the time. She went AWOL again before Christmas, but has returned to Cherokee in good condition after a short vacation. Having shed her tag (several times) it was not possible to track her. The big plus is that she has proved capable of independent living, and has not become reliant on proximity to humans and their offerings of cabbage leaves etc… This photo was taken at Cherokee a few days ago.

Manatee Georgie, Abaco, Bahamas

The other notable new entry is a manatee sighting in the Freeport area of Grand Bahama. A single photo exists – a head shot – but it hasn’t been possible to identify the creature as a known one. (S)he may be a new visitor to the Bahamas. People in the area are asked to report any further sightings in the area to the BMMRO – and if possible to get a picture!
BMMRO CETACEAN SIGHTINGS OCT:DEC 12

BLAINVILLE’S BEAKED WHALES

RANGE MAP                                                         IUCN RATING “DATA DEFICIENT”

        

Mid-frequency broadband sounds of Blainville’s beaked whales

Recent research has been carried out on the sound variations of this relatively little-understood species of whale. “Recordings from acoustic tags show that five Blainville’s beaked whales produced mid-frequency broadband sounds on all of their deep dives, with each sex producing two different sound types. These broadband sounds are atypical of the regular echolocation sounds previously described for this species. One male produced a total of 75 sounds over four dives, between the depths of 109 and 524 meters, and four females produced a total of 71 sounds over 18 dives, between the depths of 305 and 1289 meters. Ninety-six percent of the male sounds and 42 percent of the female sounds were produced before the onset of foraging echolocation sounds, and all were produced before the deepest point of the dives. These sounds may be candidate communication signals, with their production timed to mitigate the risk of both predation and hypoxia (oxygen deprivation).”

The report includes sample sounds from the 3 BBWs shown below, and the one heading the page. I haven’t found a way to embed the sounds, but I am working on it (there’s a time -consuming method involving conversion to MP3, but maybe another day…)

Blainville’s Beaked Whales, Abaco, Bahamas Blainville's Beaked Whale AbacoDA

Thanks to the prolific DEAR KITTY for a cross-reference to this topic on her website, featuring a fine video of  BBW in French Polynesia

Finally, the action-packed, information-filled, image-laden 4 page winter newsletter. Click below to open.

BMMRO WINTER NEWSLETTER 2012 (Jan13)

Georgie Manatee BMMRO SUPPORT LOGO

mantsw~1

“GEORGIE” THE MANATEE MOVIE: ON LOCATION AT CHEROKEE, ABACO


UPDATE 17 OCT I gather that Georgie is so pleased with her new home at Cherokee, she’s still there. Not sure if she is with or without her tag, but I suppose if she has decided to stay put in one area, tracking her is not a priority. Maybe the sea grass there is a particularly good kind – or perhaps she has found natural springs to her liking. Maybe it’s the folk who live there… yes, I think it must be that. I’m hoping to get some more specific news soon, and some more photos.

UPDATE 7 OCT Kendria says that Georgie has managed to lose her tag yet again. She’s still at Cherokee, but if she decides to make a move, she can now be tracked only from reported sightings. Maybe she just doesn’t like to accessorise…

UPDATE 6 OCT Georgie has taken to life in Cherokee. She is still there – the longest she has stayed on one place during her epic journey. She’s a very popular guest, of course, and  has generated a lot of local interest and affection. Here’s a BMMRO photo taken yesterday of Georgie enjoying some quality algae browsing on the pilings in the dock

“GEORGIE” THE MANATEE MOVIE: ON LOCATION AT CHEROKEE, ABACO

The story of Georgie, the young female manatee currently undertaking a round trip of Abaco, has further raised the profile of these unusual and fascinating creatures in the northern Bahamas. Like many others who have been enthused by this important conservation and research project, I’ve been following her story since her release with her mother Rita in the Berry Is. earlier this year. In June she was weaned. In September she decided to set off to sea grass pastures new –  see GEORGIE for details

Yesterday she was still in the Cherokee area, but had lost her tag. The task was to locate her, find the tag and reattach it, and check her wellbeing. All were accomplished in the course of the day and the BMMRO posted: “Today was another day in Georgie’s ‘world according to Georgie’!!! A special BMMRO thank you and Manatee high five to Andrew Lowe, Cindy & Buddy, and the community of Cherokee! Georgie is lucky to have such caring people around! She is still parked at Cherokee and BMMRO will do their best to continue to monitor her health and habitat use in the area!”

Things have moved on a bit since then, and I am really grateful to Kendria Ferguson for finding the time to email me; and to Cindy James Pinder  for permission to use her excellent photographic material from her time spent with Georgie. Her latest news is that Georgie is moving south towards Casuarina. There are blue holes in the area where she can find fresh water. Cindy adds “She may show up in the canal in Casuarina today. If you see her please offer her fresh water from a hose.”

It’s time to showcase a short video taken by Cindy at Cherokee yesterday. In order to post it here I have had to make a derivative movie from the original. It’s like an uncontentious bootleg, i.e. made with the artist’s approval (for which many thanks!). The quality isn’t as good of course, but you will clearly see what is endearing about these inquisitive, gentle and trusting creatures – and why this makes them so vulnerable and in need of protection. Only today, a woman has been detained in Florida for riding a manatee – a strictly unlawful act that has been strongly condemned.

Here are some stills also taken by Cindy yesterday, who says “…in case you are wondering . . . a manatee feels like leather!”. They depend on having some fresh water, and these great pictures show various methods of supplying it. The top one is my favourite.

HELP NEEDED If you would like to support manatee research and conservation in The Bahamas, please email info@bahamaswhales.org or rollingharbour.delphi@gmail.com 
This is the perfect place and time to post the BMMRO September 2012 Whale, Dolphin and Manatee sightings map. Last month the cetacean count was very low – no whales at all, a solitary dolphin. However, manatees are starting to feature much more, and the Abaco sightings – presumably of Georgie as she progresses round the Islands  - are the first ones recorded there (I think) since manatee sightings began to be included towards the end of last year. A cause for breaking out the fresh water to celebrate.
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MUSICAL AFTERNOTES The video music is Rizraklaru by Ralph McTell (before he arguably spoilt it all with the mawkish ‘Streets of London’) from ‘Spiral Staircase’ (credit / plug for RM). He wrote it in 1967 while living in an old caravan in deepest Cornwall. He and his mates had only mother nature’s ‘Rural Karzi’ to use, and the song title is an anagram. It’s a long story that ends, in RM’s words, “After he’d stopped laughing, Henry and I explained the title’s origin [to him] and he suggested an anagram, so we put the first letter last and spelt the whole thing backwards, and there you have it ! RIZRAKLARU !” 

ABACO MANATEE GEORGIE’S TRIP: HOPE TOWN TO CHEROKEE


ABACO’S MANATEE, GEORGIE, SWIMS  FROM HOPE TOWN VIA LITTLE HARBOUR TO CHEROKEE

GEORGIE UPDATE 2 OCT Cindy James Pinder has posted on Facebook “Oh no, Georgie the manatee has lost her tracking device. Be on the look out for it in the Cherokee area. We are going to go out and look for her tomorrow with BMMRO. We are hoping that she goes back to the dock area looking for fresh water.” 

BMMRO UPDATE 1 OCT I’ve just heard from Diane Claridge and Kendria Ferguson. They have kindly clarified the details of Georgie’s route, which makes her journey longer than my guesstimate (see below). Georgie has continued on her way, and after some resting and some quality sea grass munching, Kendria says (yesterday ) “…right now she is in CHEROKEE!”. I’m not sure where the fresh water springs are along the east coast, but I am beginning to think that Georgie may be on her way to check out Rolling Harbour and the Delphi Club, drawn by telepathic and symbiotic forces as yet unexplained, projected from the blogosphere… 

BMMRO FACEBOOK “Georgie the manatee is creating quit a stir in Cherokee! Thank you for the sighting reports! (get some photos please!) To everyone there please don’t feed her lettuce. Manatees become very dependent on humans-their fast learners! It also teaches them to come into marinas which is where their number one predator lives – BOATS!! We want to ensure Georgie’s safety whiles she is here! We are unfamiliar with the area-so if anyone knows of any natural freshwater resources (shallow water seepage/blueholes) please do share that info! It is ok to give her a hose, mainly because we are not sure if she’s getting adequate freshwater in the area. Please remember she is a toddler and her belly is never full so have a cut off limit!  See you tomorrow Cherokee!! Take care of Georgie!”

Georgie’s next stop?

BMMRO report 30 SEP Georgie the manatee continues to travel around the Abaco’s! Fitted with a new satellite tag, she is currently exploring LITTLE HARBOUR. Yesterday, scientists caught up with her by CORNISH CAY where she was taking a quick nap and feeding on seagrass. We will continue to update the public on her whereabouts. Thank you to everyone for all their assistance in locating Georgie and ensuring her safety whiles she takes a much needed vacation from the Berry Islands.

A short time ago I wondered (in print) when a manatee would next be seen in Abaco waters – the nearest candidates being the small Berry Is. population. The answer was quick. Now! Georgie – the recently weaned calf of Rita – had swum across from the Berrys to Abaco, explored the Marls, headed  north to Little Abaco, then travelled south on the eastern side of Abaco. She was spotted at Green Turtle Cay, but it had become clear that her satellite tag was malfunctioning, so locating Georgie and monitoring her progress depended on reported sightings.

The BMMRO reported yesterday “Georgie the manatee was sighted at the Sailing Club dock in Hope Town Harbour just after 2pm today! We’d appreciate any further sighting reports as to her whereabouts! Please drive carefully in and around Hope Town Harbour.” Hope Town resident Stafford Patterson was able to get 2 fine photos of Georgie. I contacted him about using them, and he has replied “Permission granted!! And we were happy to host Georgie yesterday.” So here is Abaco’s sole resident manatee (as far as I am aware) enjoying her visit to Elbow Cay.

A team was able to fit a new satellite tag to Georgie (see below), so following her adventures will now be much easier. But where will she go next? What this space or, better still, check out the BMMRO FACEBOOK page

STOP PRESS I’ve been wondering about the distance Georgie has travelled (remembering always that she was weaned only recently). So with the the help of an online map measuring thingy (Free! Cool!), here’s a calculation based loosely on more assumptions than you will find on ASSUMPTION ISLAND. For a start, I don’t know where in the Berry Is. Georgie officially set off from; nor where she was seen on  the Marls; nor how she negotiated Little Abaco and the Cays along the east coast of Abaco; nor how many times she circled round exploring as she went. However, taking the ‘as the manatee swims’ direct line approach and assuming no significant deviations, the gizmo reckons the journey was a minimum of 150 miles. With any luck the recovered defective tag will have recorded her exact route, and amply demonstrate that I have wasted 1/2 an hour on this. Still, I wanted to know…

 

And for anyone wondering about Assumption Island, it does indeed exist, located in the Indian Ocean north of Madagascar. And the spooky thing is… it is shaped remarkably like a manatee! Well, quite like one, anyway.

Assumption Island (geographically correct)  Assumption Island (manatee rotation)      Awww…Cute!!!

                                

Credit: savethemanatee.org

MANATEES: CONSERVATION, AWARENESS PROGRAMS & DISTRIBUTION MAP


MANATEES: CONSERVATION, AWARENESS PROGRAMS & DISTRIBUTION MAP

The “SAVE THE MANATEE CLUB” is a very active organisation that I have mentioned in previous manatee posts. These gentle creatures are in need of protection, and much effective conservation work is in progress. The BMMRO‘s wonderful work for the MANATEES OF THE BERRY ISLES is featured in this blog because of the proximity to Abaco (might those manatees visit one day?) – and of course because BMMRO HQ is at Sandy Point.

[ADDED 25 SEPT]…and lo, just as I pressed the ‘publish’ button, the BMMRO posted this news:

Georgie is currently exploring the Abacos. Help us monitor her movement patterns by reporting sightings!! 

“Earlier this year we tagged & released 2 West Indian manatees in Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands. These were the same manatees from Spanish Wells that were captured after they swam to Nassau when hurricane Irene passed in late August 2011. After release at Great Harbour Cay in May 2012, they explored most of the Berry Islands but centered their use around Great Harbour. In September one of these manatees, a young female named Georgie, swam from the Berrys to Abaco, has traveled within The Marls, north towards Little Abaco & is now traveling south on the eastern side of Abaco. We received a sighting of her on 23 September at the Green Turtle Cay Ferry landing, just north of Treasure Cay. We anticipate she will continue to travel south and may venture into marinas and harbours along the way. We would like to make the public aware of her presence in the area. Although we believe she is in good health and is exploring new areas, the tag is not functioning properly now so sightings from the public will help us locate and monitor her progress. If possible, please share with anyone in the Abaco area or make an announcement encouraging people that see her to report any sightings”

[ORIGINAL POST CONTINUES] The SMC is a Florida-based organisation and it recently posted a new cheerful cover picture by Natalie Prayor on its FACEBOOK PAGE. I have recently noticed some searches on the blog such as ‘Manatees facts for Kids’, so this post might be helpful. You could  even (I can’t believe I even thought of checking this out!) knit one… Want a pattern? Click HERE In fact, I might even…

To see more of Natalie’s artwork, just search ‘Natalie Prayor in Facebook. She can be contacted at dracodawnstar@gmail.com

The SMC also posts Manatee facts and advice, from which I have selected the examples shown below

This map shows the world distribution of the 4 extant sirenian branches as well as the extinct STELLER’S SEA COW of the north Pacific. It is a melancholy fact that by 1768, a mere 27 years after its discovery by Europeans, this slow-moving, tame and easily-captured sea cow was hunted to extinction. 250 years on, the world’s sirenian population remains vulnerable and, as with whales and dolphins, in need of active monitoring and protection measures

Finally, I liked this manatee cartoon from Rachel Arnow, with its incongruous and enjoyably unfeasible suggestion of manatees in Loch Ness. Rachel has a great sirenian-centric website  http://mvsm.omnomzom.com/ featuring her excellent and charming cartoon series “MAN VERSUS MANATEE”. 

Credit: savethemanatee.org

A GLIMPSE OF ARTIFICIAL REEF NIGHTLIFE – ABACO, BAHAMAS


A GLIMPSE OF ARTIFICIAL REEF NIGHTLIFE

This very short time-lapse video was posted on the always informative ABACO SCIENTIST website administered by Craig Layman of FIU (Florida International University). The site benefits from the wide knowledge of a variety of contributors in many different fields. As it says, Abaco, just like all of the Bahamian Islands, hosts a wealth of natural wonders. From parrots to whales to blue holes to mangrove wetlands, it is no wonder that scientific research is thriving on the island. The Abaco Scientist is intended as your one-stop source for all things science on Abaco and throughout The Bahamas.

The coral reefs of Abaco and the Bahamas (as elsewhere) are vital yet vulnerable eco-systems. The adverse effects of global warming (or however you describe it if you shy away from that specific term) are increasingly evident. To that damage can be added a slew of other major threats to coral survival – and to the marine life that thrives on the reefs.  There are a number of research projects in progress in the Bahamas into the effectiveness of artificial reefs as a means of conservation of the ecology of reef waters. One of these is by FIU undergraduate student Martha Zapata. In her words, We have recently been capturing time lapse video of the artificial reefs at night. Many reef fishes, like grunts, will leave the reef around dusk to forage in the nearby seagrass beds during the night. We wanted to be able to observe the fish on the reefs without influencing their behavior, so we used infrared light (which fish cannot see) to illuminate the reef. The image sequences have shown a stark difference in fish abundance from day to night. Also, we have been able to observe some of the more cryptic organisms that have made these reefs their home. Usually masters of disguise, urchins roam about the surface of the reef. Look out for the banded coral shrimp and crab that crawl up the side of the reef to graze on algae and detritus while the fish are away. Even a moray eel makes an appearance near the end!

Besides specially constructed artificial reefs, other man-made objects provide  good foundations for an artificial reefs and marine life – in particular, wrecks. There are many of these in the low waters of the Bahamas, some centuries old, others recent. Fred and Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba, Freeport, take their diving schools to wrecks because of the profusion of marine life that gathers around – and indeed inside – them.

WEST INDIAN MANATEES: GOOD NEWS FROM BMMRO, BAHAMAS


GEORGIE THE MANATEE IS WEANED

It’s good to look beyond the immediate area of Abaco and the Cays when the occasion calls for it – for example, more good news about the BMMRO’s painstaking research and careful protective monitoring of the very small West Indian Manatee population in the Bahamas. I’ve written before about these gentle, unhurried, curious creatures and their vulnerability – particularly to man’s usage of their natural habitat CLICK ===>>> MANATEES 

Kendria Ferguson’s story below shows just one aspect of the BMMRO’s commitment to the conservation of the cetaceans and sirenians in the seas around Abaco and beyond. The Manatees have excited the interest of the whole local community including the schoolchildren. If you have ever been moved by the sight of dolphins in Marsh Harbour or whales further out to sea, you can be sure someone is keeping an eye on their well-being. You might even be moved to help this important conservation work, in which case CLICK ===>>> HERE

KENDRIA’S REPORT

Adult female manatees are considered sexually mature at 6-10 years of age and have a gestation period that lasts up to 13 months. The first two years of a calf’s life is spent with its mother. During this time they are taught where to find food, fresh water, warmth and shelter. Generally, after two years the calf separates from its mother. This separation is known as ‘weaning’.

On the 14th of June 2012 Argos satellite locations received from both Rita and Georgie’s satellite tags indicated that they were no longer traveling together. Georgie had been weaned. Georgie was born on the 25th June 2010, therefore Georgie was now old enough to survive on her own in the wild

Georgie fitted with a paddle belt around the base of her tail. A flexible nylon tether is then attached to this belt with the satellite tag, which floats when it’s near the surface.Photo provided by Jim Reid-USGS Sirenia Project

After tracking Rita and Georgie for the last three months, it was hard to fathom a two year old being old enough to take on the world. But like they say – mothers know best!

Rita and Georgie fitted with satellite tags

Rita and Georgie were released in Great Harbour Cay (GHC) on April 19th of this year. They travelled to Nassau during Hurricane Irene (late August 2011) from Spanish Wells, Eleuthera and ended up in Nassau harbour. Concerned for their safety, The Department of Marine Resources gave Atlantis-Dolphin Cay permission to capture the animals and house them until a decision was made as to their release. After spending over twenty-five weeks in captivity, scientists feared that Georgie would be weaned before she was returned to the wild and given the opportunity to learn how to survive in her natural habitat. The mother-calf pair was transported to The Berry Islands on April 19th, where they were released and fitted with VHF data log satellite tags.

A map showing areas visited by Georgie pre-weaning and post-weaning

There are four resident West Indian Manatees (Trichechus manatus) residing in Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands. Notably, an adult female, “Gina” (known previously from Florida), has been residing in Great Harbour Cay since 1999. Since then she reportedly has had 3-4 calves and is currently accompanied by her female calf, JJ, which was born in the late winter of 2011.

Within Rita’s and Georgie’s first week of being released they travelled over 50 miles around the east coast of GHC to as far south as Ambergris Cays and back into the harbour where they were released. During the winter months, Floridian West Indian Manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) travel vast distances in search of warm waters. So it isn’t uncommon for these agile species to explore the shallow waters in which they inhabit.

Georgie is now re-visiting important habitat areas she visited in the past with her mother. Since their separation in June, Rita and Georgie have been seen together in the harbour by the local community.

Scientists will continue to monitor Georgie’s movement patterns around The Berry Islands throughout the hurricane and winter seasons. This data will assist us in developing a management plan for manatees in The Bahamas.

Story written by Kendria Ferguson, BMMRO’s resident manatee expert

LIONFISH: FURTHER RESEARCH INTO THE CARIBBEAN POPULATION EXPLOSION


LIONFISH – MARMITE DENIZENS OF THE OCEAN

A short time ago I posted in some detail about the poisonous LIONFISH. I included material about the rapid increase of this Pacific species in Caribbean and Floridian waters following accidental / deliberate releases in recent years. I also included videos from Grand Bahama scuba-expert FRED RIGER to balance the anti-lionfish orthodoxy, showing that the fish in fact do some good on the reefs. The post provoked a few comments, and had a surprising number of hits. Here is some further research courtesy of the excellent SEA MONSTER which adds a dimension to the debate and concludes with a very good point… Incidentally, in a recent morning snorkelling at Fowl Cay Marine Preserve, Abaco, I did not encounter a single one of these creatures (Mrs RH was unluckily stung by a jellyfish, though…). But I guess the Preserve is well policed against such intrusive species, which are otherwise found in large numbers in the area.

Why are lionfish populations exploding across the Caribbean?

Author: John Bruno on June 6, 2012

Lionfish are an exotic fish now found throughout the Greater Caribbean and eastern Atlantic that have become incredibly abundant on many reefs, especially in the Bahamas and off North Carolina. Lionfish are piscivores (fish that eat other fish) and were introduced from the Indo-Pacific by the aquarium trade in the late 1990s off Florida. Mostly likely, someone got tired of their fish and released them purposefully.

One hypothesis explaining their great success is the absence of natural enemies; predators, parasites and competitors.  This is probably compounded by the fact that few Caribbean reefs have any predators left that could eat them (thanks to overfishing).

Another – and I think much more likely explanation – is because there is so much to eat in the Caribbean! Not because there are more fish, but because it is so much easier to catch them. Unlike fish in the Indo-Pacific, native Caribbean fishes do not appear to recognize lionfish as a potential threat.  So the lionfish gobble them up, grow faster, make more babies, spread to new islands, etc.

Case in point: My lab group was working in Belize last week on the lionfish invasion. One of the things we were doing was collecting the otoliths and gonads from lionfish that we speared on a number of reefs to compare their fitness across the Caribbean (e.g., on reefs with and without native predators, etc).  We also looked at stomach contents and many of them had parrotfishes in their tummies or still in their throats!  The photo above is of the eggs from one lionfish we caught near Glovers Reef Atoll and the partial contents of it’s stomach (a juvenile striped parrotfish)!

Lionfish appear to be little more than machines that convert parrotfishes to baby lionfishes. Which is pretty much the purpose of all animals (consuming others and transforming them into your own genotype and species).  But jeez, couldn’t those aquarium hobbyists have released a herbivore that could be converting macroalgae to fish biomass? That would have been much more useful.

TRAVEL TRIVIA & WORLD OCEANS DAY


We rebooked our storm-tossed flights. We spent an extra night at Delphi and one in Marsh Harbour. We went to check in online. Zilch. Nada. Niente. No trace of Mr & Mrs Harbour. One hour on the phone and it’s sorted, and with an upgrade to World International Club Class Traveller Special Plus or similar ( = more leg room? An extra bacon roll? We’ll see…)

More importantly, though, today is WORLD OCEANS DAY

20120608-081748.jpg

You can find 100 Ocean-related quotes to sprinkle into your conversation if you tune in to the excellent BEACH CHAIR SCIENTIST from whom I have ‘borrowed’ this sea-loving image

20120608-083300.jpg Quote 33 is slightly disturbing…

Apologies for premature publication omitting title and later tweaks. Posting on an iPhone is a fiddly business.