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MarineBio Newsletter 3

What's New?

MarineBio is pleased to bring you the 3rd edition of the MarineBio Newsletter! We welcome your feedback on the content of this newsletter and would love to hear what you're interested in reading! Send your comments to:

“What you see and hear is a perfected performance born of millions of years of concerted practice in the most competitive environment imaginable.” – Dr. Carl Safina, Eye of the Albatross

Featured Species: Caribbean Reef Squid

Caribbean Reef SquidSquid are abundant in all oceans of the world. Approximately 40 species are known to live along the west coast of North America alone. A few live in shallow water close to shore, but most live in the open ocean far from land, often at great depths.

Squids are molluscs: they are closely related to the cuttlefish and octopus and more distantly to the snails, clams, oysters and sea slugs.

Reef squid, with Sepioteuthis sepioidea called the Caribbean reef squid, are members of the 10 arm cephalopods (decabrachia) with torpedo-shaped bodies (with the hood-like part above the head called the mantle which contains the stomach, gills, ink sac, pen, reproductive organs, and digestive organs), two large complex eyes, 8 short arms near the mouth and 2 longer tentacles, tucked inside, armed with suckers to capture prey. Their fins extend nearly the entire length of the body and undulate rapidly as they swim. All ten appendages of the squid are "fixed to its head", and are arranged in a circle around the mouth. Imagine if your arms and legs grew out of your face!

The Caribbean reef squid is one our favorite cephalopods. It is often encountered among shallow reefs and is usually unafraid of divers, if not curious about them. The mantles of newly hatched squid are about 8-9 mm in length and the mantles in adult males and females reach 12-20 cm in length. Adult reef squid closely resemble their cousins, the cuttlefish, in that their bodies are broad and less streamlined than many other squids. Reef squid can also move using jet propulsion by pressing water from the pallial cavity (in the mantle) through their funnel to move through the water.

The basic coloring of a Caribbean reef squid is a mottled medium green to brown on the dorsal side with lighter coloring on the ventral side for camouflage from predators swimming below. These animals are social creatures often found in small groups that communicate through a variety of complex signals. Both cuttlefish and squid communicate by controlling the pigment in their skin. Messages such as readiness to mate, sexual identification, and alarm are flashed through various colorful spots, blotches, and background color. To signal slight alarm, their brow ridges turn bright gold and the central arms turn white. The entire body will pale if the squid retreats from its potential predator and in open water when faced with an extremely aggressive predator, reef squid will obstruct themselves and confuse the predator by ejecting a cloud of black ink. Retreating squid near the protection of the reef will often turn dark brown or reddish in color to match their surroundings.

In addition to their colorful signaling behavior, S. sepioidea display unique behaviors such as pointing their bodies upward prior to striking a fish or prey, curling upward during territorial disputes and in hostile situations, and pointing head-down when approached by a predator in open water. The main adult squid predators include the Yellowfin grouper as well as other large predatory fishes.

Compared to the overall body, squid's eyes are strikingly large. The have the largest eye to body ratio in the entire animal kingdom...

Click here to visit MarineBio's Caribbean reef squid home page

Issues in Marine Conservation

Our issue in this newsletter is the overall topic of Marine Conservation. There are a number of specific issues that fall under this category that we will be covering in greater detail both on the site and in future newsletters including:

Sustainable fishing
Habitat destruction
Ecosystem management
Coral reef preservation
Coastal development
Endangered species
Climate change

Appearances can be deceiving...
We enjoy bringing you interesting information and beautiful photography about marine life. And appreciating this aspect of alone along with other media about marine life, such as documentaries on television, may lead to the false belief that our oceans are healthy and that marine life is thriving. In a few areas the oceans are still rather healthy and life does appear to be thriving, but conditions worldwide are decreasing rapidly. The grim reality, which is rarely depicted in media photographs and film (including our own), is that our oceans are in danger of becoming barren wastelands of water. It’s because of this grim reality that MarineBio wishes to expand its educational content to include details on the serious threats confronting our oceans, on the recommendations being made, and on actions being taken to address them.

But for this issue we wanted to discuss the overall issue of marine conservation and its importance to the objective of MarineBio. We have a number of questions:

MarineBio wants answers to these questions and intends to find solutions if the answers are insufficient. Based on what we’ve learned thus far, we already suspect that any progress currently being made is insufficient to address the problems our oceans are facing. To initiate a dialogue with and among our readers, we have proposed our own idealistic solutions to some of the problems such as overfishing and ocean pollution in order to determine what is feasible, what is necessary, and what is possible. We encourage you to give us your thoughts on the issues.

We must work together to ensure that ocean policy reform is supported not only by the US government for its own waters, but also, and perhaps more importantly, by global authorities.

Stay tuned to MarineBio’s conservation pages for detailed summaries of the most up-to-date information on the state of the world’s oceans, what’s being done to protect them, and what else needs to be done to ensure the long-term sustainability of healthy oceans worldwide.

Current Research: The State of the World’s Oceans

Ocean future...?

In keeping with the theme of this newsletter, global marine conservation and ocean health, we looked at comprehensive studies of ocean health and examined ways in which they are being monitored.

The state of US ocean waters has been evaluated for the first time in 30 years by two separate initiatives:

Like the Pew Oceans Commission report, the recommendations made were based on scientific expertise and site visits to every coastal region in the US and Great Lakes. The Commission heard testimony from 445 experts, including: ocean scientists and researchers, environmental organizations, industry, citizens, and government officials. Written testimony was also reviewed.

The Final Report makes 212 recommendations and includes an analysis of the total funding required to implement the recommendations, which was estimated at $1.5 billion for the first year increasing to $3.9 billion in the following years. Currently, the US spends $14 billion a year on space exploration which has little immediate impact on the lives of Americans.

Among the 212 recommendations were:

For more detail on these reports, see the Pew Oceans Commission, and the US Commission on Ocean Policy.

What documentation exists reporting on the state of the world’s oceans? Very little according to our research thus far. Although given the magnitude of the world ocean, this is not surprising. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, whose mission is to defeat hunger worldwide, produced a document titled “The State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture” in 1996, 1998, 2000, and 2002, which provides a global view of the status of fishery resources and aquaculture, utilization and trade, and the associated policy implications. The report includes summaries of the concerns of the fishing industry, such as “sustainable exploitation” and what’s being done to address them.

The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network and Australian Institute of Marine Science published a report titled “Status of the World’s Coral Reefs” in 1998, 2000, and 2002. This report summarizes the status of coral reefs and tracks their decline. In 2000 it was reported that 27% of the world’s reefs have been lost primarily due to the massive climate-related coral bleaching event of 1998, which destroyed about 16% of the world’s coral reefs over 9 months during the largest El Niño and La Niña climate changes ever recorded. They also report on other threats to coral reefs including sediment and nutrient pollution caused by human activity and coastal development. The 2002 report gave predictions on gains in coral reef health at specific sites within the next 20 years and that work on reducing the damaging human impacts on coral reefs and establishing protected areas have been successful. However, to address those areas that are still unprotected, effort and political will are required in order to globally replicate the small-scale successes at the national and regional levels. More work needs to be done to educate and inform countries lacking national coral reef programs and monitoring plans on the extent of damage to their reefs.

The Ocean Yearbook Volumes 1-19 have been published since 1978 by the International Ocean Institute and the Marine and Environmental Law Programme at Dalhousie University Law School. Each 900+ page volume provides peer-reviewed articles and reference materials for students and practitioners of international law, ocean development, coastal zone management, foreign policy, and strategic studies. Coverage includes the global management of marine resources, international law, and environmental policy. The yearbook is probably the best resource for understanding the issues facing the oceans and an excellent research tool for both scientists and policy makers alike.

We will be conducting further research to find out how the health of the world’s oceans are being monitored and documented. strongly feels that efforts to protect the oceans are needed on a global scale and that citizens and nations need to work together in order to ensure their sustainability for years to come.

The Sea Below ~ Expedition :: Bonaire

Expedition :: Bonaire

MarineBio staff visited the island of Bonaire in the Netherlands Antilles for a 2-week expedition consisting of non-stop diving and underwater photography. We enjoyed great weather and were spoiled by the freedom of shore diving.

Bonaire is a small island located in the southern Caribbean about 50 miles north of the coast of Venezuela, and is well known to be a diver’s paradise because it’s surrounded by a fringing reef system designated as an official marine park. The climate on Bonaire is perfect – the average temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit and there is very little rainfall. The average water temperature ranges between 74-84 degrees Fahrenheit and visibility averages 100 feet making it an ideal location for photographers.

Bonaire is known for being environmentally proactive and for its dedication to protecting its own marine environment. In 1975, long before other areas with large coral reef systems, the government of Bonaire made it illegal to take coral from the water. The Bonaire Marine Park was established in 1979 with the support of the World Wildlife Fund and the Netherlands to protect the marine resources of the island - the magnificent coral reefs, sea grass beds, and mangroves. The Marine Park extends from the high water mark to the 60m (~200 feet)-depth contour all the way around Bonaire and Klein Bonaire, a small uninhabited island next to Bonaire, encompassing an area of approximately 270 hectares. The Marine Park is managed by STINAPA (Stichting National Parken Nederlandse Antillen), a nature conservancy organization run by a board of dedicated local volunteer professionals. In addition to the Marine Park, Bonaire’s topside natural resources including the Washington Slagbaai National Park, Barcadera cave system and the Karpata Ecological Centre are also managed by STINAPA.

We averaged 3 dives per day plus a night dive using NITROX tanks for extended bottom time. The average length of each dive was over an hour and the average depth was about 60 feet. There is much to see in the shallows before swimming out to the reefs, so we enjoyed photographing the abundant sea life at about 10 meters, which afforded us the luxury of long dives. The reefs appeared quite healthy and we saw a wide variety of species including: hawksbill turtles, tarpon, Queen angelfish, French angelfish, Caribbean reef squid, parrotfish, Stoplight parrotfish, trumpet fish, trunk fish, puffer and porcupinefish, file fish, Peacock flounder, Great barracuda, damsel fishes, sea horses, green moray eels, sharp tail and garden eels, sergeant majors, scorpion fish, and frogfish among many others. The hard and soft corals were also abundant and quite healthy on the reefs and included lots of staghorn, elkhorn, orange cup, and brain corals and the sponges were also widespread including tube, finger, huge barrel, and delicate vase sponges. We were able to return with more than 1,700 raw photos resulting in 700 finished underwater images to share with our readers.

At the dive site known as The Lakes the reef formations were outstanding. At the end of this dive we hovered around 5 meters for a safety stop in the shallows and were privileged to witness the graceful mating dance of the Caribbean reef squid. It was fascinating to witness. During a dive at the Salt Pier we swam among large tarpon and several large schools of “bait fish” and the pilings were covered in healthy corals and sponges making the eerie waters come alive with life.

During a day of diving on the east side of the island, we were able to see some larger species that don’t often frequent the calmer waters of the leeward side of the island, including southern stingrays, spotted eagle rays, blacktip sharks, hawksbill turtles, large tarpon, and very large green moray eels.

We also witnessed the destruction of the northern reefs caused by a rare hurricane that hit the island from its normally protected side back in 1999. Where healthy prolific reefs once thrived, we saw only rubble for what seemed like miles. Reefs are tough but even natural causes can sometimes wreak havoc on them. We also noted signs of white-band disease and minor bleaching on a few corals but hopefully this was natural and not due to increase. Lastly, we noticed a lack of larger fish, especially schooling fishes, sharks and groupers though the season may have been a factor.

MarineBio highly recommends Bonaire as an excellent spot for shore diving and underwater photography enthusiasts. Be prepared to undergo a dive briefing and check out dive when you arrive on the island to ensure that you understand the rules of the marine park, such as diving gloves are prohibited to discourage divers from touching the reefs. You’ll pay US$10.00 for a tag to attach to your BC so that patrolling park officials can verify that you are aware of the rules.

MarineBio Recommends

Arctic ice cap is melting...

The essays on Wildlife Conservation on MB
These essays, compiled by Dr. Peter Moyle of the University of California, Davis provide a brief and fascinating education in wildlife conservation and ecology. These chapters provide an introduction to the history of wildlife in North America, biodiversity, natural selection, conservation biology, ecology, conservation legislation, alien species, wildlife and pollution. They also provide some ethical and practical lessons to arm the reader with tools to improve wildlife conservation.

The Oceans book

The Oceans
This highly readable and comprehensive overview of oceanography captures the essentials to understanding ocean science. The book is very accessible to the general reader and through its education it also raises significant questions about the future of the oceans. Co-written by Ellen Prager and Sylvia Earle, the book begins with a fascinating description of the beginnings of life in the ocean between 4.5 and 1 billion years ago and, therefore, of life on earth. They also examine the physical and chemical properties of the ocean, the effects of oceans on climate, coastal upwellings, deep-sea circulation, rip currents and rogue waves. They describe in vivid detail the beauty and mystery of the sea life and its tremendous diversity. They urge governments to place higher priority on the study of oceans simply because "to preserve the sea is to preserve life on Earth." And we couldn’t have said it better ourselves. This book provides an excellent resource and interesting read for everyone interested in the oceans and marine life.

We hope you found this month's MarineBio Newsletter interesting. Click around for more species, more research and more Marine Biology News. As always, we welcome all feedback.

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