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

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…

POSTING POSTERS: 5 OUTSTANDING ECO-EDUCO-INFO POSTERS


LRE Logo

LOXAHATCHEE RIVER DISTRICT POSTERS

EXCELLENT ECO POSTERS FROM LRD: FOR WEBSITE CLICK HERE

TO ENLARGE (CONSIDERABLY), DOUBLE-CLICKLoxahatchee River District Coral Reef Poster

Loxahatchee River District Bonefish Poster

Loxahatchee River District Lionfish Poster tarponposter.inddseagrasses_poster_8.5x11

CREDIT thanks to Loxahatchee River District for use permission for this website. Please note that these posters are ©Loxahatchee River District, and may not be used without permission. Especially not for commercial purposes. Please resist any temptation to drag them out and use them without contacting LRD first (website link at top of page). RH

BTT LOGOClick me for Bonefish & Tarpon Trust

Nature Conservancy Logo

Click me for Nature Conservancy, Bahamas

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

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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.
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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…

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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.”

‘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: IS SHE RELATED TO AN ELEPHANT?


GEORGIE THE ABACO MANATEE: IS SHE RELATED TO AN ELEPHANT?

Georgie, having returned to Cherokee after Hurricane Sandy, is still around there and seems to have made it her home. While she was missing, it was thought she had headed off instinctively for the protection of the mangroves. However a number of sighting reports made since Sandy suggest that she had sensibly swum up the canal at Casuarina, where she was able to keep her head down until the storm had safely cleared northwards, and she was able to return to base. Because she had shed her tag, we’ll never know the full story… 

Georgie safely back at Cherokee after Hurricane Sandy

Recently an interesting article by BEACH CHAIR SCIENTIST considered the relationship between sirenians and pachyderms, and added some handy comparative facts (you can seen more manatee facts on this blog HERE). Thanks, BCS, for use permission (the relevant credits are contained in the article).

Are manatees and elephants related?

by Beach Chair Scientist

It might be very difficult to imagine, but manatees (also known as ‘sea cows’) share a common ancestor with elephants which might come as a surprise if you thought manatees shared a common ancestor with other marine mammals such as dolphins, whales, or sea lions. Here are 10 facts that link manatees and elephants are long-lost relatives.

1. Scientifically, manatees and elephants are classified as subungulates. Other mammals in the Subungulata superorder are hyraxes and aardvarks.
2.Manatees and elephants have an uncommon-shaped heart that is spherical. To compare, most mammals have a single-pointed tip at the base (i.e., “heart”—shaped).
3. The West Indian and West African manatee have three or four fingernail-like structures on the tip of their flippers, just like that of the toenails on the feet of elephants.
4. Manatees and elephants both have a thick, gray skin with very sparse hair.
5. Manatees and elephants have molars which move toward the front of the mouth, eventually break off, and are restored by those at the rear. Elephants have a limited number while manatees are never-ending.
6. Manatees have two incisors that bear a resemblance to elephant tusks.
7. Manatees use their large, flexible muscular lips to break apart vegetation in the water and skillfully steer food to their mouths. This is very similar to the action of the elephant eating with his trunk.
8. Manatees and elephants are herbivores. Manatees tend to feast on sea grass and freshwater plants and consume up to 100-150 pounds a day. Elephants tend to feast on small plants, bushes, fruit, twigs, tree bark, and roots and consume up to 330-375 pounds a day.
9. Male manatees and elephants are known as bulls. Female manatee and elephants are known as cows. Young manatee and elephants are known as calves.
10. Manatees and elephants are both endangered. Their numbers have dropped due in a large part to human activities.

Manatee image (c) cruisenaplesflorida.com, elephant image (c) gallery.hd.org

Here is a fantastic TEACHING RESOURCE from the University of Florida and Se Grant extension I uncovered while pulling this post together.

Credit: SavetheManatee.org

To whom thanks also for this: WHAT DO MANATEES SOUND LIKE? 


 

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.

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.

INTERNATIONAL MARINE BIODIVERSITY DAY – MAY 22


INTERNATIONAL MARINE BIODIVERSITY DAY – MAY 22

Yesterday was an important day in the marine conservation and research calendar. Me neither! I had a heads up from the redoubtable SEAMONSTER late last night. So at least I found out on the right day. I am posting the excellent logo to help to raise awareness retrospectively… I ‘get’ everything depicted in this clever sea creature globe – except for the tiny dinosaur… or is it a sea otter?

CLICK this large logo to link the the relevant website, where there are articles catering for every conceivable marine interest

LIONFISH: FACTS, VENOM & CRISIS CONTROL IN THE BAHAMAS – & A COUNTER-VIEW


LIONFISH: UNINVITED GUESTS IN THE BAHAMAS

I recently put some lionfish details and images on my MARINE LIFE page. I wrote: “…their existence and rapid increase in the waters of the Bahamas is a cause of great concern, and they are keenly hunted. Last year’s inaugural Lionfish Derby on Green Turtle Cay brought in more than 1400 of these creatures in the day, ranging in size from  a 57mm juvenile to a 349mm fish. Here, from THE ABACO SCIENTIST is where in the world the 2 species of Lionfish ought by rights to be. Well away from the Caribbean, that’s where!

 Photo credit: Brigitte Carey of Tilloo Cay

Two great lionfish photos from GRAND BAHAMA SCUBA  (thanks to Fred & Melinda Riger )

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LIONFISH Pterois

1o UNCOMFORTABLE LIONFISH FACTS

  • A genus of  spiny venomous fish indigenous to the Indo-Pacific area, of which there are 9 species
  • In the mid 1990s 2 species were introduced to the US Atlantic coast and Caribbean (see below)
  • Unaccountably popular as aquarium fish; cooked and eaten by people (though not by me)
    For recipes see LIONFISH HUNTER
  • An adult can weigh 1/2 kilo and may live up to 15 years
  • They have ‘complex courtship and mating behaviour’, presumably to avoid each other’s spines
  • Females release two egg cluster bombs every month containing up to fifteen thousand eggs…
  • Lionfish prey voraciously on small fish, invertebrates and molluscs which they gooble up in one gulp
  • They have bilateral swim-bladder muscles to alter their centre of gravity to attack their prey better
  • Apart from a tendency to species cannibalism, they have very few predators. The spines work well…
  • Sharks are not affected by the venom, and attempts have been made to train them to feed on lionfish 

LIONFISH STINGS are painful and can take several days to resolve. Tests on frogs, clams and rabbits… well, you don’t want to hear about those. In humans the venom causes systemic symptoms ranging from nausea, vomiting, fever, breathing difficulties and dizziness to convulsions and paralysis. For the very young, the elderly, the allergic or those with immune system weakness the sting can be fatal. TREATMENT: If stung it is recommended that you remove the spine(s) if possible and immerse the wound in hot water for at least 15 minutes… and seek medical treatment as soon as possible

THE CARIBBEAN INVASION supposedly started in the mid-1990s, perhaps following hurricane damage to an aquarium in southern Florida. A few earlier sightings had been recorded, possibly the result of  deliberate aquarium releases. Two of the 9 species are involved: the red lionfish P. volitans (93%) and the common lionfish P. miles (7%). It’s a measure of their rapid breeding, habitat adaptability and near-immunity from predation that the first recorded lionfish in the Bahamas was as recent as 2004. A mere 8 years later they’ve spread throughout the region. 

POPULATION INCREASE AND CONTROL The population is increasing exponentially despite efforts at control. Their voraciousness and territorial aggression must certainly be affecting the indigenous populations of reef marine life. The problem is already extreme. It is now unlikely that lionfish can ever be eradicated. Even to confine the population to its current level would require more than a quarter of the adult population to be killed monthly. Lionfish are able to reproduce throughout the year, so there is no seasonal respite. In this conservation-minded era,  official encouragement of  organised hunting bucks the trend towards creature protection. Lionfish do have food value, if natural human reluctance to eat a venomous species can be overcome, and there are now many lionfish recipes. Whether killing lionfish for sport or for food, humans are their only effective predators. Below is an example, from Oceans Watch, of the sort of campaign that will surely become commonplace throughout the region. Time to reach for the speargun…

THE COUNTER-ARGUMENT

The above is the orthodox view, widely held throughout the region. Some will ask whether the arrival of the lionfish in the Caribbean has any positives; whether they actually make a contribution to the ecology of the area; whether there is a convincing case to put forward in favour of the species; whether there is evidence to back it up. So to redress the balance I commend these 4 short videos from the enormously experienced Grand Bahama diver Fred Riger, in which he cogently demonstrates the value of this imported species. In short, the videos reveal that the adverse effect on endemic fish populations is not merely overstated but wrong; that the spreading menace to the coral reefs of choking algal growth is actually reversed by lionfish; and that important grazing crab species are thriving as a result. 
I posted the bad lionfish stuff last night; by this morning Fred had rightly taken me to task for only giving one side of the story: “Far from being a pest, lionfish are solving a huge problem created by the mother of all invasive species HUMANS, who have over fished the ocean, wiped numerous species out of existence, killed most of the world’s coral, the very stuff we in the Bahamas live on. Targeting lionfish sets conservation efforts back thirty years or more and contributes to the decline of the coral reef”. So here are the videos giving the case in favour of lionfish, and they certainly provide a fresh perspective and plenty of food for thought…
 
“LIONFISH IMPACT: THEY ARE NOT SO EVIL AFTER ALL”

BAHAMAS MANATEE UPDATE – CHECK OUT RITA & GEORGIE’S PROGRESS


The BMMRO’s brilliant new  charting the progress of mother Rita and calf Georgie after their release (and showing wonderful pictures) is becoming addictive. How far have they ventured this week? Are there any more out there? 

Here, Rita and Georgie are wearing their tags. I really recommend a visit to the  for the full reports, but here’s a quick review of the highlights of weeks 2 and 3 since their release:

WEEK 2

  • Rita & Georgie are beginning to attract a bit of a following
  • During the week their confidence grew and they undertook a longer expedition (see map below)
  • During their travels they were joined by 2 other manatees, first a juvenile male, then an adult male
  • Rita’s tag became disconnected. It was retrieved, the data downloaded, and it was successfully reattached
  • Audio recordings were made of underwater manatee communication
  • At one stage there were six manatees seen together, with manatees Gina and JJ joining the 4 others

Rita nurses Georgie

                  

WEEK 2 ADVENTURES

A far more complicated pattern than the simple explorations in WEEK 1

WEEK 3 

  • Continued careful monitoring of more complex (= braver) exploration
  • A great deal of local interest generated. 
  • A ‘Save the Manatee’ campaign started
  • Presentations for groups of school students, including involving them in actual monitoring. 
  • The juvenile male has stayed with Rita and Georgie.

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Rita examines the camera. Meanwhile Georgie checks out the bottom of the BMMRO boat…    

                                               A tender moment between calf and mother                                                                   

 WEEK 3 EXPEDITIONS 
Confidence growing, and more interest in investigating to the south


BAHAMAS MANATEE & BMMRO SPRING 2012 CETACEAN REPORTS


The BMMRO has just published two online reports that will interest anyone who follows the news about Whales, Dolphins and Manatees in the Bahamas.

The first concerns the reintroduction of manatees to the wild – and offers the opportunity to adopt one of them in order to support the continuing work of the conservation of the small manatee population of the Bahamas. You could have a guess now at the number of recently recorded manatees: the answer is right at the bottom of the page. If you have followed this blog’s cetacean posts, you will have noticed my own interest in the continuing monthly sightings (mainly off the Berry Is.) I have had to reduce the size of the article, but if you click on it once – or twice – it enlarges to make it more legible.

To see the article on the BMMRO website CLICK==>> BMMRO MANATEES

To go directly to my manatee page CLICK==>> ROLLING HARBOUR MANATEES

Click article to enlarge it

BMMRO REPORT SPRING 2012

I have summarised past BMMRO quarterly reports, highlighting particular features and photos. This time I’ve put in the whole report in (I hope) legible format. To see it on the BMMRO site CLICK===>>> BMMRO SPRING 2012

Approximately 20

GRAND BAHAMA CORAL REEF DAMAGE: CRUISE SHIP POESIA GROUNDING (3 VIDEOS)


On 7 January 2012 the enormous Panama-registered cruise ship MSC Poesia – 100 foot long, 100,000 tons, 6000 + 1000 crew capacity – ran aground on the coral reef off Lucaya Beach, Grand Bahama. She was refloated by tugs on the evening high tide, leaving a trail of destruction to the reef behind her.

Video footage posted by FREDGBSCUBA shows the predicament of this huge vessel above the surface; his subsequent underwater footage graphically shows the extent of damage and explains the longer-term consequences of the incident, including the toxic effects of the anti-fouling paint scraped off the hull (video 3).

STOP PRESS Jan 18 The first video has now been blacked out, with the message that it has been “removed by the user”. Hmmmmm. No comment.

But through the magic of techo-wizardary it has been restored to life and can be now be seen again by clicking===>>>VIDEO 1 HERE

Video 2 has survived intact

Whoops! Video 3, a scientific analysis of the toxic anti-fouling paint, has now ‘gone’ too. Let’s see if we can… Good, here it is again

I’m no mariner, but wouldn’t a ship of that size and weight in known shallow water and reef territory have (a) navigators (b) detailed nautical charts (c) depth gauges or sounders and (d) one or more pairs of eyes keeping a look out? Or does this sort of thing happen all the time?

This is not Poesia’s first brush with misfortune. I see from Wiki that in her first year of operation, 2008, “…MSC Poesia and Costa Classica collided in the Adriatic Sea near Dubrovnik. No one was hurt, and the damage was minimal. The cause of it was that MSC Poesia’s anchor loosened and precipitated (sic) her to hit Costa Classica. Both continued their scheduled itinerary with no delays”. The coral has not escaped so lightly…

I see that this ship also plies the Venice lagoon. I hope she knows not to stray from the deepwater channels: the average depth elsewhere is ± 1 metre…

The website of MSC Cruises sets out an encouragingly positive environmental mission statement (below), so let’s hope the company swiftly applies these principles and comes up with proposals for redressing the adverse environmental consequences of this episode…

The vessel’s name means ‘Poetry’ – so, an inspiration for some hot doggerel: It really is beyond belief / That she should ground upon a reef / For ‘Poetry’, once set in motion / Upon a pristine turquoise ocean / Should avoid such Eco-griefs / And steer well clear of coral reefs…

Credits: Thanks to Fred Riger of Freeport for approval for using his 3 videos

STOP PRESS For a report of the incident in the Freeport News 14 January 2012 CLICK LOGO===>>>


“SIZE MATTERS” – ABACO CRAWFISH CONSERVATION CAMPAIGN


Abaco Island, Bahamas

CAMPAIGN FOR SUSTAINABLE FISHERIES MANAGEMENT

Here’s a report I’ve turned up, which may well be of interest from a crawfish conservation viewpoint. And it’s also an excuse to post the excellent campaign song, which needs no added comment from me – see video below. The campaign slogan is… a delight. The Rare Planet website is well worth a rootle round – click the link below

Campaign manager: D’Shan Maycock
Partner:  Friends of the Environment

“When D’Shan Maycock launched a Pride campaign to rally her community around protecting marine life off of Abaco Island, she didn’t necessarily imagine her slogan becoming part of the daily lexicon for fishers, students, international conservation organizations, and even the Prime Minister. But thanks to a catchy phrase – Size Matters – and the idea of the locally-treasured crawfish shrinking due to overfishing, her campaign has caught on everywhere.

Crawfish are an important species for the biodiversity of Abaco Island, providing 60% of the total commercial fish catch and sustenance for other marine life in the region. However, due to unsustainable fishing practices and lack of local awareness, each year’s crawfish yield declines in numbers, total poundage, and average size. D’Shan discovered a heavy incidence of illegal fishing of juvenile crawfish, as well as a dearth of the formerly large crawfish that lay many times more eggs. There are 5 national land and sea parks around the island, yet it is a challenge for law enforcement to manage every landing dock. Community support is critical.  So D’Shan has gotten creative.
Progress on the campaign…
  • • Secured pledges from local fishers not to catch juvenile crawfish under 5.5 inches – their yield monitored through a new certification process
  • • Built awareness among key influencers and the general public about the importance of protecting juvenile crawfish
  • • Garnered the attention and support of high profile players in the region, including The Nature Conservancy, which is interested in taking the certification process to other islands in the Bahamas, and the Bahamian Prime Minister, who at a recent All-Abaco Expo on Food Security, called out the slogan of the campaign and pledged ongoing support for fisheries protection

To further explore this campaign, please visit our conservation community at RarePlanet.org.

(To whom thanks for this… but, hey guys, your ‘CONTACT’ page only gives long-distance phone numbers (wot no email?) Are you ok with me using this? If not please ring +44 763549390 between 19.00 and  21.00 and ask for ‘Tarquin’)

STOP PRESS: here is a news clip about the new campaign mural in M H, posted by campaign manager d”Shan on The Abaco Scientist 

MARINE BROCHURE, ABACO, BAHAMAS: CONSERVATION


MARINE BROCHURE, ABACO, BAHAMAS                             A basic blueprint for environmental protection on Abaco

The various interested organisations have produced a simple 2-page brochure designed to promote responsible preservation of the island’s natural resources. If you click on a page below it will enlarge. If you want to go to the webpage to download the pdf for yourself (or pass it on)  CLICK==> MARINE BROCHURE 

“Take only pictures, leave only bubbles…” 

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