On, into, under, through and around.
There’s a problem with your Filet-o-Fish. It may be overfished. It turns out that a deep sea fish called the Hoki (Macruronus novaezelandiae) is used for many fast food fish products, including up to 15 million pounds of McDonald’s sandwiches in some years. The Hoki also serves as yet another warning about depleting our fisheries, because it was thought to be a sustainable resource.
The rise of the Hoki as a food fish was partially because the Orange Roughy (picutred below) was found to be a very fragile resource. Thought to live up to 140 years, the Orange Roughy is slow to reproduce and mature. It probably does not take a genius to realize that you should probably avoid eating things that live that long. The Hoki lives only 25 years and was thought to be abundant in the New Zealand waters where it is fished, but without actually acknowledging dwindling stock, the government there has already slashed the quota by two-thirds. It seems that this fishery, which actually won an award for being sustainable and well-managed may have already become overfished only a few years after it really became significant in the 90s. Read more at the New York Times.
A new species of Ghost Shark was discovered off the coast of Southern California. It is now called the Eastern Pacific black ghostshark (Hydrolagus melanophasma) and it is a type of Chimaera. Chimaeras are cartilaginous fish that are very ancient in design – hundreds of millions of years old. Their closest relatives are sharks and rays. These critters can look mighty odd. Here’s a photo of a Chimaera we saw in Roatan, while deep underwater in the submarine Idabel.
Aliens? No, Cnidarians. Cnidaria is a phylum of animals that includes jellyfish and anemones. Here, time lapse photography of cnidarians in aquariums is turned into video.
One is Southern Fried Science, which is a marine biology and conservation blog. They have lots of important info on sharks and why they matter. There is also The Daily Chegwin, which features over 1,000 photos of the same goldfish.
Leah Neal, one of the intrepid Lionfish hunters we met in the Bahamas, sent us a link to the Die, Lionfish, Die facebook group. This is probably going to be about the only time we advocate fish killing here, but it is a special situation and it seems that the only chance we have of limiting their spread is human intervention.
We knew about Giant Isopods that live in the deep oceans. We have also seen smaller isopods that attach to the faces of fish and live off scraps that are left when the fish eat:
Until today, however, I did not know about isopods that live in the mouths of fish. And it gets worse. The Tongue Eating Louse (Cymothoa exigua) enters a fish through its gills and attaches to the base of the tongue, where it uses claws on its front legs to drain blood from the tongue. As the tongue atrophies, the parasite attaches itself to the tongue stump and acts as if it were the tongue. Apparently the fish can even control the parasite as if it were their tongue, although how we figured that out I am not sure.
The parasites live off the blood or mucus of the fish and, aside from eating the tongue, do no other harm to their host. Normally found off the coast of California, they have also turned up in the UK in 2005 and 2009.
On our last day we decided to head to Love Beach, approximately 2-3 miles from our lodgings at Orange Hill. Known for its snorkeling, the beach was deserted when we arrived. There is a small watersports shop that opens at 10am on slow days. The snorkeling area was marked by three orange buoys.
As we swam out into the shallows, one of the first things I encountered was a pair of Caribbean Reef Squid.
We traversed the shallows, a formation of rocks with small corals and sponges growing on them. One of the strange things we encountered were these shellfish-type animals. They seemed embedded in the rock, almost like fossils.
We finished our snorkel with school of 17 Caribbean Reef Squid swimming in formation. This was probably the largest group of them we have encountered to date, and they were in shallow (approx. 6 feet) but not extremely shallow water.
Today we did four dives, the Sand Chute, which is named after a chute of sand leading out to the reef wall. Next we dove Mike’s Reef, where we encountered a feeding sea turtle and a band of Angelfish who gathered for leftovers.
Next we headed to DC-3, a site named after the model of plane that sits on the bottom. This plane was used in the nigh-unwatchable movie “Into the Blue” featuring Jessica Alba. The wreck was tight and it was very cool to see a large plane underwater.
Last, we dove the Willaurie (and the nearby Anthony Bell, a new wreck only weeks under the water). The Willaurie has an amazing trellis/scaffolding type structure that supports a wide array of sponges and corals. All in all, a fantastic place to finish the diving portion of our expedition.
Here are a few fish portraits from our second day of diving in the Bahamas. They are a Squirrelfish, a Grunt and a Yellowtail Snapper.