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…

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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Shark Gif

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


BMMRO whale pic

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

GEORGIE THE (FORMER) ABACO MANATEE RETURNS TO THE BERRY IS.


Georgie the Manatee, Hope Town, Abaco (© Stafford Patterson) 1

GEORGIE THE (FORMER) ABACO MANATEE RETURNS TO THE BERRY IS.

Last year I posted about Georgie, the young manatee that made Abaco her home for several months. Georgie was born in Spanish Wells. She and her mother Rita travelled to Nassau Harbour, where in April 2012 they were rescued from the multiple shipping hazards and  released in Great Harbour Cay, Berry Is. Both were equipped with tags to monitor their movements. In June, the newly-weaned Georgie embarked on a big solo adventure by swimming to Abaco. Her tracking device showed that she called in at the Marls, before continuing right round the top of Abaco and down the east side, calling in at various Cays on the way. In all, her journey was some 200 miles long. She eventually settled down in the Cherokee and Casuarina area, and in a modest way became a lettuce-chomping celebrity.  DANA & TRISH FEEDING GEORGIE (2)

Georgie-related posts include these:

WEST INDIAN MANATEES AND THE BAHAMAS: THE FACTS

GEORGIE THE ABACO MANATEE – CHEROKEE’S SIRENIAN VISITOR STAYS ON…

GEORGIE THE ABACO MANATEE: FAREWELL CHEROKEE, HELLO ATLANTIS

The BMMRO has recently updated Georgie’s story: “Georgie remained in Cherokee Sound throughout the fall, including during hurricane Sandy but in January she was beginning to look slightly underweight. Concern was raised about her general appearance and the decision was made… to conduct a field health assessment and relocate her to the Atlantis Marine Mammal Rescue Center. “recap1

“Georgie underwent a series of general health evaluations and was fed approximately 75 pounds of lettuce each day. She gained more than 200 pounds during the course of her care and weighed 569 pounds upon her recent release”. recap4

“We are pleased to announce that Georgie has now been released once more to Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands after a successful rehabilitation at Atlantis’ Dolphin Cay. She was successfully released on Wednesday 14th August by the Atlantis Animal Rescue Team from the Atlantis Dolphin Cay Marine Mammal Rescue Center, with the help of the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation (BMMRO). She has a satellite tag attached to her which will help post-release monitoring, currently being conducted by representatives from BMMRO and Dolphin Cay.”

Georgie being let down from the boat, back into Great Harbour Cay (K. Ferguson)
Georgie with her tag shortly after release (K. Ferguson)

Georgie socialising with a young male manatee in Great Harbour Cay a few days later (K. Ferguson)

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“The first 3 weeks of Georgie’s release  showed her venturing on longer and longer journeys, with the blue circles showing her first weeks’ movements, the red her second, and finally the yellow circles her locations up to Saturday. She is doing very well and often seen with the other manatees in the area.”

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GEORGIE: THE MOVIE OF THE MOVIE

Apologies for using an iPh*ne to capture the movie – I wasn’t able to embed it directly. Updates on Georgie will be posted on BMMRO’s FACEBOOK PAGE

Credits and thanks to BMMRO and Kendria Ferguson for use of photos and the maroon text…

‘JUMPING FOR JOY’: CHEERFUL DOLPHINS IN ABACO WATERS


Dolphin, one of a pod of 50

‘JUMPING FOR JOY’: CHEERFUL DOLPHINS IN ABACO WATERS 

To be totally accurate, one or two of these photographs may have be take from the BMMRO research vessel at some point during an expedition to Andros. But since the boat set off from and returned to Abaco, with an Abaconian team on board, I have stretched a point  with the title… 

It would be hard to view a dolphin leap as high as this (top photo) as anything other than an expression of pure enjoyment. Difficult to tell the exact height, but it’s fairly spectacular. Dolphins always seem to be looking, or acting, happy. Here are a few more, a mix of bottlenose and spotted dolphins,  to spread some cheer… 

Dolphin Leap Abaco ©BMMROSpotted Dolphin, Abaco ©BMMROSpotted Dolphin Abaco ©BMMROHappy Dolphin Abaco ©BMMRO

This dolphin was one of a large pod of 28 seen on a recent BMMRO research tripOne of a large pod of 28 dolphins

Time to get my… erm… paintbox outLeaping DolphinPhoto credits: Bahamas  Marine Mammal Research Organisation BMMRO

In an earlier post I name-checked BMMRO intern Oscar Ward’s blog SeventyPercentBlue.  You can read Oscar’s account of his continuing adventures HERE

UNDERWATER BAHAMAS: REEF GARDENS (2) – CORALS


Purple Seafan Coral ©Melinda Riger @GBS

UNDERWATER REEF GARDENS IN THE BAHAMAS (2): CORALS

This is part 2 of a series that started out HERE with a selection of anemones, basket stars and Christmas tree worms. The images below show a wide variety of corals. In among them are also sponges and anemones. These photos are evidence of a healthy reef environment in the waters of the northern Bahamas. Abaco’s coral reef is the third largest barrier reef in the world (yes, I hear you – the Great Barrier… And the second is???), providing wonderful and accessible diving / snorkelling opportunities. However, monitoring shows that the incidence of coral bleaching and disease is increasing in the Bahamas, as elsewhere in the world.  It’s a sobering thought that your grandchildren may never swim in an environment with any of the living corals shown below…

Corals ©Melinda Riger @ G B ScubaCoral ©Melida Riger @ G B  ScubaCoral ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba 1Coral ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba 2Coral ©Melinda Riger @GBSImage Credits: ©Melinda Riger @ Grand Bahama Scuba

FORAYS WITH MORAYS: EEL APPEAL IN THE BAHAMAS


Wasabi the Eel 2

FORAYS WITH MORAYS: EEL APPEAL IN THE BAHAMAS

MORAY EELS are found in most oceans, with around 200 species worldwide. In Bahamian waters, the 3 most common are the green, yellow and spotted morays, all featured below. These ones have been given affectionate names by the divers who encounter them regularly in their home surroundings – Rico, Judy, Wasabi and Earl. Moray Eel

Morays have something of a reputation for aggression, though (like many creatures with teeth) they much prefer to swim away or hide rather than attack. They will defend themselves resolutely, however, so it might be a mistake the get too close.Moray Eel ©Melinda Riger @GBS

Hand-feeding morays has become a popular dive activity. However there can be drawbacks. They have poor vision, and may find it difficult to distinguish between food, finger-food and fingers. There are many cases of divers who have lost a finger while hand-feeding moray eels; in some places it has been banned. Yellow Moray Eel©Melinda Riger @GBS copy

The moray eel has strong clamping jaws, and its sharp teeth point backwardsMoray Eel mouth (interior)Green Moray Eel ©Melinda Riger @GBS

This has two effects. A finger will be held as if by a fish-hook barb; and the eel will not release the grip of its powerful jaws without them being prised apart.Wasabi the Moray Eel

Moray eels have a strong sense of smell, and curious nostrilsMoray Eel (Rico) ©Melinda Riger @GBSMoray Eel copy

Finally, here are two images of a fine spotted moray eel known as ‘Earl’, and a video of a different one%22Earl the Eel%22Spotted Moray Eel ©Melinda Riger @ GBS

Credits: All images ©Melinda Riger @ Grand Bahama Scuba

 

CONSERVATION PIECE: AN ABACO ECO-MISCELLANY


CONSERVATION PIECE: AN ABACO ECO-MISCELLANY

From time to time I post individual items on the CONSERVATION page. This comprises an assortment of articles, photos, videos and graphics with an eco-message relevant to Abaco and its waters. They accumulate gradually, and occasionally it is good to post a selection for consideration. What is the most frequently found item of detritus on a beach? Is it ok to eat striped bass? How many uses does a coconut have? How quickly does the invasive lionfish population spread? What is Fish Pharm? How many years does it take for an aluminium can to decompose? These and many other questions are answered below.

184790_196532023698608_1805444_aClick logo for website!

NOAA MARINE DEBRIS PROGRAM

Keepin’ the Sea Free of Debris!

ICC volunteers clean 10 million lbs of trash from our coasts
May 16, 2013 by NOAA Marine Debris Program

By: Dianna Parker

One rubber chicken, 117 mattresses, 4,159 candles, and 689,274 utensils. What do all of these things have in common?

They’re all marine debris collected last September at the Ocean Conservancy’s 2012 International Coastal Cleanup®, sponsored in part by the NOAA Marine Debris Program.The numbers are in: more than 550,000 volunteers came together to collect 10 million pounds of marine debris.  In the United States, volunteers found enough bottles that, when stacked end to end, equal the height of 1,000 Empire State Buildings. That’s a lot of trash on our beaches and in our waterways!This litter is threatening our marine environment, economy, and health, and the problem will only get worse unless we change the way we consume and dispose of products. There are solutions, and we can prevent litter from ending up in the ocean.So here’s a challenge: the next time you use a throw-away item: a bag, bottle, or utensil, answer the question, “Where it’s going?” How will you keep your items from becoming litter in our oceans, rivers, and streams? Head to Ocean Conservancy’s data release page for some neat infographics on last year’s trash haul. Here are the top 10 types volunteers found this year

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THE PELAGIC OCEAN: AN INVESTIGATION INTO POLLUTION – BY KIDS

Prepare to be astounded – and horrified – by the cruel damage inflicted on sea life by humans and their prolific plastic trash. Credit: Friends of the Environment, Abaco

PROPOSED MARINE PROTECTED AREAS / EAST ABACO CREEKS VIDEOAbaco-park

coconut-uses 2Bahamas Lighthouse Pres Soc Logo

BAHAMAS LIGHTHOUSE PRESERVATION SOCIETY

BLPS NEWSLETTER JAN 2013 FINAL

LIONFISH

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The debate about the seemingly unstoppable spread of the invasive lionfish species is well known. There are some who argue strongly that lionfish have their uses, and not merely as a food source. To see ongoing lionfish research by the organisation REEF click HERE To supplement the static projection graphic for lionfish spread (below), here is an active graphic that vividly shows how the species (love them or hate them) has expanded exponentially in numbers and range over a very short period

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 REEF lionfish progam graphics Conch Conservation Notice EGO -ECO graphic fishNational Geographic

Abaco Crawfish Logo

LOBSTERS – WE GOTTEM! OVERFISH THEM – WE AIN’T!

Video courtesy the fabulous CONCH SALAD TV; heads-up from ABACO SCIENTIST; campaign by SIZE MATTERS

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BAHAMAS LIGHTHOUSE PRESERVATION SOCIETY Read the Society’s 4-page January 2013 Newsletter HERE BLPS NEWSLETTER JAN 2013 

The Society was founded in 1995, and it has already achieved much to preserve and protect the lighthouses of the Bahamas. Of particular interest to Abaconians will be the news about the Hope Town lighthouse, and about the work done at Hole-in-the-Wall. If you’d like to support this hard-working not-for-profit organisation and help to preserve a part of Abaco’s maritime history, the email address is blps.bah@gmail.com  Hope Town Lighthouse

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A new environmental organisation has been announced: to find out more

CLICK===>>> BPFA 

IUCN CUBAN PARROT RED LIST RANGE MAP FOR AT RISK SPECIES
I have annotated this IUCN map of the Cuban Parrot population range. It’s worth noting that the Bahamian subspecies is now found only as a breeding population on Abaco and Inagua, being defunct on all other islands since the mid-c20. Of these populations, only the Abaco parrot breeds underground, a unique feature among the whole species.
I am puzzled by the suggestion of an ‘extant (resident)’ population on the Bimini Is. That would suggest that they breed there. I don’t know the date of the map, but I have checked with the Avibase bird database, and the Cuban parrot is indeed included in the list of Bimini birds. I’ve put a query on the map because I don’t know what the position is in 2012.
Click me!
FRIENDS OF THE ENVIRONMENT (ABACO)
This conservation organisation has recently completely redesigned its website (click logo above), and presents comprehensive and easily navigated information about a myriad aspects of conservation on Abaco and its fragile ecology. The fragility is mostly directly or indirectly caused by mankind (a broad statement, I know, but it’s an arguable stance), so it’s worth checking out the measures that are being undertaken to preserve the natural resources of the island and its cays. Below is a post about one feature highlighted on the FotE site that I am particularly interested in. Overall all the new website is definitely one for any Abaconian (or, like me, regular visitor) to study. If you want to contribute your support (either generally or to a specific cause) go to the FotE website (click logo) or visit the Rolling Harbour wildlife charity page HERE

THE EFFECT OF RISING SEA LEVELS IN THE CARIBBEAN

This map has been posted by the SCSCB, with the very interesting and definitely worrying text “The map shows projected impacts of a 2 meter sea level rise in the Caribbean. The orange is the impact of 2 meters, while the yellow is the 25 meter line. The last time the ice caps melted the sea rose between 18 and 25 meters. The most conservative estimates indicate a 1-meter rise by the end of the century (concurrent with a 2 degree C rise in temperature). From the position of planning, I am curious about the estimates being used by Caribbean resource managers in their long-range planning. For example, what percentage of Caribbean seabirds nest below 2 meters…”

EAST ABACO CREEKS NATIONAL PARK PROPOSAL

Click on the title above to see the BNT’s proposal for this major conservation proposal for the east Abaco creeks. It’s in .pdf form and you can (probably) copy / save it if you wish. The map below shows the 3 areas concerned. You can check out more details – and photos – on Facebook at EACNP

A VISUAL TO PONDER FROM ‘SCIENCE IS AWESOME’

CONSERVATION ON ABACO AND IN THE BAHAMAS

This new page (June 2012) is intended to showcase the achievements of the various organisations and individuals involved with the protection and conservation of the fragile ecology and wildlife in a small and rapidly developing area. A number of posts and articles from other pages will gradually migrate to this page.

I have posted on Facebook a statement by the new Environment Minister which praises the environmental work carried out in the Bahamas and pledges Government support MINISTER’S STATEMENT Let’s hope it’s forthcoming…

community conch logo

CONCH CONSERVATION

The supply of conchs is not infinite. Overfish them, take them before maturity  or pollute their habitat and this valuable marine resource depletes – and conchs, as with so many marine species, will become threatened. Fortunately there is a Bahamas-wide conservation organisation with a website packed with interest.  COMMUNITY CONCH is “a nonprofit organization that aims to protect queen conchs in the Bahamas, a species of mollusk threatened by aggressive over-fishing. We promote sustainable harvest of queen conch through research, education and community-based conservation”

“Helping to sustain a way of life in the Bahamas”

Much of the research has been carried out in Berry Is, Andros and Exuma Cays. However the team has recently been based at Sandy point, Abaco CLICK===>>> ABACO EXPEDITION  The full Conch Conservation post can be found at CONCH QUEST

BAHAMAS MARINE MAMMAL RESEARCH ORGANISATION (BMMRO)

The BMMRO is featured many times in this blog, in particular in the pages WHALES & DOLPHINS and MANATEES. They now have a Facebook page with all the latest news, photos, newsletters links and cetacean / sirenian goss in one easily-digested timelined place. To reach it CLICK ===>>> BMMRO FACEBOOK PAGE

For the latest quarterly newsletter, just published, CLICK ===>>> BMMRO NEWSLETTER JULY 2012

A RECENT FLYER FOR THE ‘SIZE MATTERS’ CRAWFISH CAMPAIGN

BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST PRESS RELEASE JUNE 2012

ABACO PARROT POPULATION ON THE RISE

The Bahamas National Trust  in conjunction with Dr. Frank Riviera and Caroline Stahala recently conducted an intensive survey of the Bahama Parrot on Abaco Population surveys conducted in 2002 resulted in estimates of the Abaco parrot population of about 2,500 parrots with similar values in the following years. This year Dr. Frank Rivera and Caroline Stahala, who took part in the initial surveys, helped by  BNT wardens and volunteers, conducted a 10 year follow up survey to determine the change in the Abaco parrot population since management began. The results indicate that the Abaco parrot population has increased since the BNT’s management efforts were implemented with a new estimate of just over 4,000 parrots on Abaco. The BNT has been concerned about the Bahama Parrot Population since the 1980’s. Studies indicated that the major threat to the parrots were feral cats who cause serious problems to the parrots during the nesting season by entering the underground nesting cavities and killing the breeding adults and chicks. The BNT implemented an intensive predator control effort in 2009 throughout the parrot nesting area culminating in the hiring of Marcus Davis as Deputy Park whose primary responsibility is to oversee the predator control program. During the breeding seasons the BNT has seen a decrease in the number of breeding parrots killed and nest success increase. The question, though, remained whether this effort would translate into an increase in the Abaco parrot population size. Survey results indicated that predator control has led to an increase in nest success.  In addition, the Abaco parrots have weathered several hurricanes (Frances, Jean and Irene) over the last 10 years and still appear to show  a population increase. Hopefully with continued management efforts a healthy and viable  endemic parrot population on Abaco will continue to thrive. According to David Knowles, BNT Director of Parks “This gives us hope that with continued management efforts we can continue to have a healthy and viable endemic parrot population on Abaco.”

UNDERWATER BAHAMAS: REEF GARDENS & DENIZENS (1)


Christmas Tree Worms ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba

UNDERWATER REEF GARDENS IN THE BAHAMAS (1)

Animal, vegetable or mineral? If you dive down and take a close look at a reef, you’ll soon find that it isn’t easy to tell what is what… That ‘plant’ is a magic worm;  this ‘creature’ is a tentacled plant…

ANEMONESAnemone ©Melinda Riger @ GB ScubaAnenome ©Melinda Riger @ G B ScubaAnenome (Giant) ©Melinda Riger @GBS

BASKET STARS

A species of ‘brittle star’ that, as the images suggest, like to ‘hang’ togetherBasket Star ©Melinda Riger @ GB ScubaBasket Star ©Melinda Riger @GBS

REEF MIX29801_478636495491078_987749415_n 299343_478636145491113_873966996_n 526981_465306386824089_928061136_n

CHRISTMAS TREE WORMS Spirobranchus giganteusChristmas Tree Worms ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba

               

Thanks to scuba photographer extraordinaire Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba; & wiki-minipics

Delphi Bonefish Logo

‘MEN AT WORK’: CLEANING UP MAN’S DEBRIS IN THE OCEAN


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‘MEN AT WORK’: CLEANING UP MAN’S DEBRIS IN THE OCEAN

I keep an eye on the website SCUBAZOO. As ever, the alert ABACO SCIENTIST (highly recommended to follow) has beaten me to this latest post from Jason Isley, diver / photographer and creative thinker. He demonstrates the wonders and (human) blunders of the deep with wit and style. In the gallery below, he tackles the issue of man’s pollution of pristine waters. In a simple way, he manages to use humour to get across a message  that can easily become obscured by lengthy sermonising. See what you think.            

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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

SPOTTED DRUM FISH – BAHAMAS REEF FISH (1)


SPOTTED DRUM FISH Equetus punctatus BAHAMAS REEF FISH (1)

This post is the first of a planned series on Bahamian reef fish. Those who follow this blog (I thank you both) may recall with horror (or worse, pity) my own efforts with reef fish, using a tiny cellphone-sized video camera.  Misty stills culled from video footage. Enthusiastically wobbly movies as I struggle to swim and breathe simultaneously in an alien element. I am more underwater CLOUSEAU than COUSTEAU. However, thanks to Melinda Riger, who with husband Fred runs GRAND BAHAMA SCUBA, I have kind permission to borrow and display images from her stock of wonderful reef fish photographs.

The spotted drum fish (or Jack-knife fish) belongs to a large worldwide family, the Sciaenidae. Besides other drum varieties, the family includes ‘croakers’. These species are all named for the repetitive throbbing or drumming sounds they make. This involves the fish beating its abdominal muscles against its swim bladder. If I find out the reason for this (Species communication? Food call? Alarm? Warning? A piscine ‘advance’? Happiness?) I will add it here in due course. Here an example of an atlantic croaker from the excellent DOSITS site (Discovery of Sounds in the Sea)


The spotted drum is one of the few fish of the species to inhabit coral reefs – most are bottom-dwellers (often in estuaries), avoiding clear water. These fish tend to be nocturnal feeders, feeding on small crabs, shrimp and small invertebrates. As far as I can make out they are solely (or primarily) carnivore, and do not graze on algae of other reef plant life.

Drumfish

Drumfish

The photos above are of adult spotted drums. The ones below are of juveniles, and show the remarkable growth-pattern of these fish, from the fragile slender creature in the top image, through the intermediate phase of the one below it (with the amazing brain coral), to the striking adult versions above. People like to keep these pretty fish in aquariums; fine, I’m sure there are plenty to go round, but these ones look pretty happy to me in their natural reef environment…

Juvenile Drum Fish (pre-school)Juvenile Drumfish 2 ©Melinda Riger GB Scuba

Juvenile drum fish (school-age)

Juvenile Drumfish ©Melinda Riger GB Scuba(Header image credit: Wiki-Cheers)

Finally, I’ve just come across this short video from a “Florida Aquarium”, showing how these fish swim. It rather looks as though it has been fin-clipped for some reason… or just damaged, maybe

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

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THREATS TO SEA TURTLES: ABACO, BAHAMAS… IN FACT, EVERYWHERE


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THREATS TO SEA TURTLES: ABACO, BAHAMAS… IN FACT, EVERYWHERE

The Bahamas has breeding populations of 5 of the world’s 7 sea turtle species - Green, Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Leatherback and Kemp’s Ridley turtles (the other two are Olive Ridley – occasionally found in the Bahamas – and Flatback turtles). All are endangered. There’s no getting away from the fact that Man and Man’s activities are now the primary threats. The IUCN ratings below make for sad reading.

GREEN TURTLE  (Chelonia mydas)

.Photo of turtle swimming towards surface with diver in background

HAWKSBILL TURTLE (Eretmochelys imbricata)

Hunted almost to extinction for their shells

Photo of swimming turtle

LOGGERHEAD TURTLE (Caretta caretta)

A loggerhead sea turtle in an aquarium tank swims overhead.  The underside is visible. Photo of a loggerhead swimming above a reef.

LEATHERBACK TURTLE  (Dermochelys coriacea)

The largest sea turtle

A leatherback sea turtle digging in the sand

KEMP’S RIDLEY TURTLE (Lepidochelys kempii)

The smallest sea turtle

 

A helpful source of information about sea turtles and their protection is the BAHAMAS SEA TURTLE CONSERVATION GROUP Their excellent summary of the multiple threats to these creatures (below) puts the critical situation very well. Anyone who has watched a TV program about sea turtles and their breeding will be familiar with the vulnerability of turtle nests and hatchlings to predation – and that’s before they ever get to the sea. Despite that, all the species managed to flourish until human intervention (direct or indirect) tipped the balance of survival much further against them. So if we lose one or more of these wonderful species, at least we’ll know who to blame.

1. NATURAL THREATS
In nature, sea turtles face a host of life and death obstacles to their survival. Predators such as raccoons, crabs and ants raid eggs and hatchlings still in the nest. Once they emerge, hatchlings make bite-sized meals for birds, crabs and a host of predators in the ocean. After reaching adulthood, sea turtles are relatively immune to predation, except for the occasional shark attack. These natural threats, however, are not the reasons sea turtle populations have plummeted toward extinction. To understand what really threatens sea turtle survival, we must look at the actions of humans.

2. HUMAN-CAUSED THREATS
In many cultures around the world, people still harvest sea turtle eggs for consumption. Most countries forbid the taking of eggs, but enforcement is lax, poaching is rampant, and the eggs can often be found for sale in local markets. In these same areas, adult sea turtles are harvested for their meat. Turtle products, such as jewelry made from hawksbill shells, also create a direct threat to sea turtles. Lack of information about sea turtles leads many Americans to unwittingly support the international trade in these endangered species. Buying and selling turtle products within the U.S. is strictly prohibited by law, but turtle shell jewelry and souvenirs are the most frequent contraband seized by customs officials from tourists returning from the Caribbean. Indirect threats are harder to quantify, but they are likely causing the greatest harm to sea turtle survival.

Illegal turtle shells (IUCN)IUCN: illegal turtle shells

3. COMMERCIAL FISHING
The waters of the Gulf of Mexico and west Atlantic coast are a major habitat for turtles, but are also the main shrimping grounds in the U.S. Each year, thousands of turtles become entangled in fishing nets and drown. Worldwide, shrimp trawling probably accounts for the incidental death of more juvenile and adult sea turtles than any other source. At one time, as many as 55,000 sea turtles were killed each year in shrimp nets in the southeastern United States alone. Today, all U.S. shrimpers are required to put Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in their trawl nets. Unfortunately, not all fishermen comply with the law, and sea turtles continue to drown in shrimp nets.

Sea turtle entangled in a ghost net

4. INGESTION OF DEBRIS AND PLASTIC
Thousands of sea turtles die from eating or becoming entangled in non-degradable debris each year, including packing bands, balloons, pellets, bottles, vinyl films, tar balls, and styrofoam. Trash, particularly plastic bags thrown overboard from boats or dumped near beaches and swept out to sea, is eaten by turtles and becomes a deadly meal. Leatherbacks especially, cannot distinguish between floating jellyfish — a main component of their diet — and floating plastic bags (my italics).

One sea turtle’s accumulated ingested plastichttp://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/03/sea-turtle-plastic/Credit: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience

5. ARTIFICIAL LIGHTING
Nesting turtles once had no trouble finding a quiet, dark beach on which to nest, but now they must compete with tourists, businesses and coastal residents for use of the beach. U.S. beaches are rapidly being lined with seaside condominiums, houses and hotels. Lights from these developments discourage females from nesting and cause hatchlings to become disoriented and wander inland, where they often die of dehydration or predation.

Florida at night- NASA : ISSS

6. COASTAL ARMORING 
Coastal armoring includes structures such as sea walls, rock revetments and sandbags that are installed in an attempt to protect beachfront property from erosion. These structures often block female turtles from reaching suitable nesting habitat and accelerate erosion down the beach. Armoring is especially problematic along the east coast of Florida, where beach development is occurring in the very places where sea turtles come to nest by the thousands.

ProTec-Godfrey

7. BEACH NOURISHMENT
Beach nourishment consists of pumping, trucking or otherwise depositing sand on a beach to replace what has been lost to erosion. While beach nourishment is often preferable to armoring, it can negatively impact sea turtles if the sand is too compacted for turtles to nest in or if the sand imported is drastically different from native beach sediments, thereby potentially affecting nest-site selection, digging behavior, incubation temperature and the moisture content of nests. If renourishment is allowed to proceed during nesting season, nests can also be buried far beneath the surface or run over by heavy machinery.

Beach restoration WIKI

8. POLLUTION
Pollution can have serious impacts on both sea turtles and the food they eat. New research suggests that a disease now killing many sea turtles (fibropapillomas) may be linked to pollution in the oceans and in nearshore waters. When pollution kills aquatic plant and animal life, it also takes away the food sea turtles eat. Oil spills, urban runoff of chemicals, fertilizers and petroleum all contribute to water pollution.
Although the problems of habitat destruction and exploitation seem almost too big to overcome, there are many things within our control that can be changed. Greater public awareness and support for sea turtle conservation is the first priority. By learning more about sea turtles and the threats they face, you can help by alerting decision-makers when various issues need to be addressed.

“Look on thy works, ye Humans, and despair…”  [Gulf of Mexico]Sea Turtle / Oil Pollution Boston.com / ReutersCredits boston.com / Reuters

FURTHER REFERENCES (click logos)

 Bahamas Sea Turtle Research Logo            BAHAMAS SEA TURTLE RESEARCH

BSTCG logo green sea turtles       BAHAMAS SEA TURTLE CONSERVATION GROUP

Bahamas National Trust Logo                BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST (Factsheets)

seaturtle.org         SEATURTLE.ORG (image library)

Sea Turtle Conservancy http-:www.conserveturtles.org        SEA TURTLE CONSERVANCY

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Credits: BSTCG; Wiki (images / IUCN tables); wire.com / wiredscience; Boston.com; Reuters; NASA; STC

“MANATEE MANIA IN THE ABACOS” BMMRO FALL 2012 NEWSLETTER


“MANATEE MANIA IN THE ABACOS” – BMMRO FALL 2012 NEWSLETTER

The BMMRO has just published the Fall 2012 newsletter, and it’s no surprise to find that the front page news is the arrival of young manatee Georgie on Abaco. After nosing and indeed grazing her way around Abaco and the Cays, she still appears to be contentedly moored in Cherokee after the best part of a month. Here’s the official map of her wanderings 

Besides the manatee there’s plenty more to read and look at including 

  • Charlotte Dunn’s ‘President’s Update’
  • Articles on whales, and a friendly bottlenose dolphin’s visit to Hope Town
  • Fall ‘cetacean sightings’ map
  • Students at ‘Whale Camp’
  • A quiz to make sure you have taken it all in…

To read the four-page document –  and admire the photos - CLICK BMMRO FALL 2012 NEWSLETTER