Seattle Aquarium staff members recently traveled to Hawaii to complete their sixth year of monitoring reef fish abundance off the northwest coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. The non-invasive monitoring is performed via video sampling done in cooperation with the Washington State University and the Hawaii Department of Aquatic Resources. “We’re searching for shifting baselines, an ecological indicator of changes in fish abundance and diversity that may correlate with local environmental changes or other factors such as changes in human use activities,” notes Curator of Conservation Research Shawn Larson. Data has already been used for educational and management purposes in Hawaii.
Below are Shawn’s notes from the second day of the trip.
Day 2: February 5, 2014
Today we headed south to Kona to dive our two research sites just off of the Old Kona airport. We dove with our friend and boat captain Pete McCormick off of his boat, the Hopena. Boat diving these sites is such luxury because all of our other sites are shore-based. We were able to survey both sites 3 and 4 in about three hours and then had time for one proficiency dive with Pete before heading back to the marina. After unloading the boat, we met up with our research partners from the Department of Aquatic Resources (DAR) Hawaii, the equivalent fish management unit to our Washington Department of Fish and Game. Bill, Steve and Megan joined Pete and the Aquarium team for a late lunch to talk about the research and our findings. The plan is to publish the first five years of data this year and the DAR is part of that process. Bill suggested some analyses that we could do with the data as well as a new survey site that he would like monitored. We are the only team that does underwater video in Hawaii consistently using the same methodology and going to the same sites year after year to document trends.