We use plastic every day; there is no getting around it. From the cars we drive to the food we eat, plastic materials dominate our lives. Plastics have simplified our lives so much over the past century it would be virtually impossible to reduce our use. The problem with plastics is the inability to biodegrade. Plastics break down over time, but only into smaller pieces. Read More »
Category Archives: Scuba Diving and SnorkelingFeed Subscription
Artist’s Exhibits Embody “All Washed Up”
Hey, it’s Eileen again! Last summer, I posted a blog on artificial reefs and their wide range of uses and designs, but an English artist is taking this concept to a whole new level!
Jason de Caires Taylor, an underwater naturalist and diving instructor with over 14 years experience underwater, has created magnificent underwater sculpture exhibits. The exhibits are located in Grenada (Moilinere Bay) and the United Kingdom (Canterbury and Chepstow) with a sister exhibit on land in Crete, Greece. His exhibits highlight the underwater environment and its ability to change and adapt. Instead of scrubbing each bit of algae and growth from the artwork, it has become part of the exhibit.
As the underwater life reclaims each piece of Jason’s artwork, it helps illustrate his point on the resilience and adaptability of his exhibit. Most of his sculptures are of human figures, a truly haunting picture as the sealife starts to overtake them. His latest sculpture is incorporating a collection of glass bottles with messages submitted by the public and divided into categories like fear, hope, loss and belonging. Another project to be installed in Cancun incorporates propogated corals and over 400 individual sculptures.
Check out the gallery on the artist’s homepage and don’t forget these pictures the next time you are scrubbing the algae off your ornaments!
A Marine Biologist’s Trip to the Hawaiian Reefs
Cory here. I traveled to the Hawaiian Islands in June of 2008 for my honeymoon, and thought I would take Dave’s lead and tell you all about it. I have always wanted to go to Hawaii and thought that a honeymoon trip would be a perfect reason to do so. There are 8 major islands in the chain, any of which would have been an excellent choice. Since Maui is considered the “honeymooners” island, we decided to go there. We stayed 8 days and 7 nights at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa on Maui’s famous Ka’ anapali beach. The Resort was amazing with dozens of shops, restaurants, and even penguins it seemed to have it all. However, Maui had so much more to offer.
There are no longer any active volcanoes on the island of Maui, but the landscape told the story of Maui’s volcanic and violent past. Huge, volcanic mountains, covered with lush rain forests that were dotted with majestic waterfalls. Sadly, our time did not allow us to drive up to the summit of Haleakala. Haleakala is a 10,000 foot mountain with a huge crater. This will definitely be in the plans on my next visit.
I didn’t really come the whole way to Hawaii to see waterfalls, rain forests, or volcanoes. I came to see the aquatic life (and of course, to celebrate my recent nuptuals). My deep fascination for the oceans is always calling and was one of the best reasons for wanting to visit Hawaii. I have to say that 7 days was not enough time to snorkel the island. There are too many aquatic “hot spots” that needed to be investigated and we just ran out of time.
The first day took us to Honolua Bay, located on the Northwestern shore. Who would have thought the first location we visited would be the best! Honolua Bay does not have a sandy beach, only small rocks and pebbles, but we spent most of the time in the water so it didn’t matter. We spent nearly 5 hours in the water and still had to come back a second time to take in all of the amazing fish and coral. I think the most amazing thing I saw that day was a school of Convict Tangs (Acanthurus triostegus). There were over a hundred of them, caring more for the algae that they were eating than how close I was. There were Naso (Naso lituratus) and Orange Shoulder Tangs (Acanthurus olivaceus), Thread fin (Chaetodon auriga), Ornate (Chaetodon ornatissimus), and Yellow Long-nosed (Forcipiger flavissimus) Butterflies, along with dozens of other fish. Wrasses such as the Orange Saddled Wrasse (Thalassoma duperrey) and the Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides phthirophagus) were everywhere. I could go on and on listing the fish I saw, just amazing.
I am a coral junky and was really excited to see some wild colonies. I was however, slightly disappointed in the amount of coral diversity. I knew in the back of my mind that the Hawaiian coral diversity is no match for the fish. Don’t get me wrong, the coral was unlike anything I have seen in the ocean, which has been limited to the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. There were huge colonies of blue Montipora, Yellow Porites, and a large pallet of Pocillopora colonies. There was almost always a Hawkfish inhabiting the Pocillopora colonies, guarding them with ferocity. Huge Black Longspine and Orange Pencil Urchins dotted the reef cape with color and caution. I went through sensory overload on my first day and couldn’t wait for what the second day would bring.
On the second day, we took a boat trip to Molokini Island, which is located about 3 miles off the southwestern side of the island. The Island was formed from volcanic activity millions of years ago, since then erosion has caused one side to wear away, leaving a crescent shaped island. The inner portion is for snorkeling, which is where we went. The outer half has a dramatic drop off of over 250 feet where only divers venture. This is where you can find sharks and other open water fish. However, the inside portion was amazing. We were dropped off in nearly 200 ft deep, calm water, where the visibility allowed us to see the bottom. We were welcomed by dozens of Durgeon Triggers and Blue Jaw Triggers. Once on the reef, there was so much to explore, huge colonies of stony corals. There were large eels, Yellow tangs, a school of Adult Naso Tangs, and a fight between three Achilles Tangs. From Molokini, we took a short boat ride to an area called Turtle Town where they guaranteed us to see Sea Turtles. Sure enough within 5 minutes of being in the water, the first turtle was spotted. It was an amazing experience, and one that I will never forget.
The entire visit did not involve us and the water, one day was spent traveling the road to Hana. This is a very slow, winding drive through the eastern coastline of Maui. Along the way are lush, tropical plants, dozens of waterfalls and pools. I was amazed by the Rainbow Eucalyptus trees and the black sand beach. The trip took the better part of the day, but was well worth every minute. The photos in the blog are only a sampling of those we have to remember the trip.
Everywhere we went on Hawaii was amazing, from the coral reefs to the rain forests, and even the resort. We fell in love with Hawaii and plan to return very soon.
Check out the rest of the picture’s at our Facebook page here, and be sure to comment :).
The Ocean Sunfish or Mola Mola
Melissa here. When you think of fish that are swimming around in the ocean, most people think of clownfish and damsels swimming around through the tentacles of anemones with corals and live-rock creating the backdrop of that picture perfect image. Ever wonder what is out beyond the reef? There are many awesome creatures that lurk around in the middle of nowhere, far away from the beautiful reef. One of these awesome fish is the Ocean Sunfish, or Mola Mola. Ocean sunfish are the largest known bony fish, weighing in on average 2,000 lbs for an adult. One of the largest Ocean sunfish ever recorded weighed nearly 5,000 lbs!
Ocean sunfish are usually seen near the surface in open water, swimming upright or on their side soaking up the rays or the sun like a large solar panel. Don’t let their position side fool you into thinking they are sick. It is theorized that they “sun” themselves to warm up from a deep dive. It is known that they also spend a great deal of time below 200 meters. That is quite a ways down.
Ocean sunfish are among the strangest looking fish. The posterior half of their body appears to be cut short. They do not have a caudal fin, instead they have clavus which is an extension of their dorsal and anal fin rays. The fish is laterally compressed, looking like a large oval with a paddle shaped fin on the top and bottom. Their skin is like gritty sandpaper covered in a mucus layer that can be as thick as 5 cm. They are also loaded with internal and external parasites (there is a link at the end if you would like to see the list of parasites that cover the ocean sunfish). Juveniles resemble puffers with their large pectoral fins, a tail fin and body spines that are uncharacteristic of adult sunfish.
Their diet consists mainly of jellyfish, squid, crustaceans, small fish, and lots of zooplankton. As its diet suggests, the Ocean sunfish feed across the ocean depths, from the surface to deeper waters, and in some areas, even the ocean floor. You can only imagine how much food these fish must eat on a daily basis to sustain themselves! They are very difficult to keep for long periods of time in captivity, even in the largest system, so Ocean sunfish are not seen in many public aquariums, but there are a few that have taken on the challenge of keeping them on display. The Kaiyukan Aquarium in Osaka, Japan and The Oceanario in Lisbon, Portugal both have Ocean sunfish on display. In the United States, The Monterey Bay Aquarium is the only one to house a mola mola. The longest known ocean sunfish in captivity made it 10 years. In the wild, they can live 100 years or so. Their growth rate is still undetermined, but a young Mola Mola at the Monteray Bay Aquarium went from a slim 57 lbs to 879 lbs in a mere 15 months. It also sprouted to a height of nearly 1.8m. Fattened up on a diet of squid, fish and prawns, this fish had to be airlifted out by helicopter and released into the bay after outgrowing its tank.
It is generally accepted that ocean sunfish larvae will become millions of times bigger during their life cycle. As you can see, this is definitely not a fish you would find at That Fish Place, but you might come across it while scuba diving, so keep your eye out. Ocean Sunfish are found in both temperate and tropical waters. A lot that remains unknown about the secret lives of ocean sunfish!
Here are some great websites about ocean sunfish: http://oceansunfish.org/ has a fun map showing sightings of ocean sunfish
http://www.earthwindow.com/mola.html has awesome pictures of ocean sunfish.
http://www.oceansunfish.org/lifehistory.html this site has a list of parasites that have been found on ocean sunfish.
Image referenced from Wikipedia.
Artificial Reefs – Reconstructing Coral Reefs Worldwide
Please welcome back Eileen with some insight into artificial reefs.
When most people think of coral reefs, they picture crystal clear water, colorful corals and active schools of fish like those in places like Hawaii and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. As pristine environments like these are becoming more and more threatened however, the face of the traditional “coral reef” is changing. Artificial reefs are becoming more popular as methods of saving the reefs, protecting the beaches they neighbor, increasing recreation and tourism and even creating more “farming areas” for those fish popular in the aquarium trade.
Although artificial reefs are becoming more and more advanced as we learn more about what the marine life needs to thrive, the creation of reefs is nothing new. Ancient civilizations like the Persians and the Roman Empire created their own underwater barriers to help defend their harbors. Ancient fishermen were attracted to shipwrecks for the fish that would live in and around the wrecks. Japanese farmers created their own underwater farms to grow kelp in the the 1500’s and fishermen in South Carolina sunk unused timber to attract more fish to the coasts before the Civil War.
The “Osborne Reef” was one of the first efforts in the United States to create an artificial reef for recreational uses and to preserve and expand the existing coral reefs. This reef was used as the final resting ground for well over a million tires off of the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and was considered one of the most ambitious and environmentally-friendly projects. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. Marine life couldn’t grow in the tires and the tires themselves weren’t firmly anchored enough to save nearby natural reefs from damage during Florida’s active hurricane and tropical storm seasons. Though the original project had good intentions and the right idea – using items that would normally fill a landfill or have no other purpose – a multi-million dollar project is now underway to remove the tires from Osborne Reef.
Other projects have learned from the mistakes made with Osborne Reef and are now working to bolster the struggling coral reefs worldwide. The Rigs-to-Reefs program uses obsolete, unused or retired oil rigs to create new underwater reefs. The old rigs – most of which already have healthy reef populations around their bases from years of use – are either tipped onto their sides on the ocean floor or are cut in half, leaving the base intact and moving the top of the rig to a nearby location. New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is also doing their part to save the reefs by sinking decommissioned, outdated subway cars. The stainless steel cars are cleaned, decontaminated, stripped of anything unsafe for the marine life, and then sunk to a new home in the Atlantic Ocean. Numerous decommissioned boats and ships of all sizes have also been scuttled and sunk to create new reefs, some of the most notable being the USS Oriskany and the USS Spiegel Grove, two naval vessels.
While projects like these are recycling structures that may have never normally seen the bottom of the ocean, other organizations are creating new structures designed specifically with marine life in mind. Reef Balls is an organization that creates structures for artificial reef use. They have over 20 styles and 10 sizes for various uses like coral reef and mangrove rehabilitation, oyster reefs, aquaculture farming, recreational purposes like fishing and snorkeling, erosion prevention, and scientific research. Companies can sponsor and build their own reef balls and government and private grants are also available. So far, over 59 countries have reef balls sunken off of their coasts. Companies like the Neptune Memorial Reef in Florida and Eternal Reefs, a Reef Balls’ sister company, are even creating artificial reefs using cremated remains to create underwater cemeteries.
Artificial reefs are becoming more and more common. They give new life to structures that would have been scrapped in the past and are helping to revitalize struggling reef communities worldwide. SCUBA divers, fishermen, surfers, and marine scientists are all already making use of these new reefs and as the aquarium hobby grows and expands, artificial reefs will become more important in sustaining populations for our own hobby. With the support of aquarium community and marine-loving citizens worldwide, we can turn terrestrial trash into new homes to brink some of the animals we love back from the brink.
Thanks, Eileen. This is a really interesting topic. Looking forward to your next article.
Image 2 attributed to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Artificialreef.JPG