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 fourth day of the trip.
Day 4: February 7, 2014
Today we had just one more site to survey, end of the road in Puako site 5. We arrived first thing in the morning ready to dive and were surprised to see about a dozen surfers out and fairly good sized swells. There were breaks between sets and we knew if we timed our entry in the lulls we could get out to our dive site. But it was early so we decided to wait an hour to see if the water calmed down.
When we came back later there were still some big waves and surfers out, but the lulls between the sets were longer so we decided to go for it. The entry and exit from this site, fighting to get out between wave sets, was indeed challenging but we did it and the site itself was beautiful with lots of fish.
By midday we were done surveying all our sites! It was now time for an exploratory dive off site 1. We dove deep to 120 feet looking for wire coral and anthias fish. We found a small coral cluster that had both. It was very beautiful and the whale songs were so loud that it felt like they were right next to us. It was an amazing experience.
That night we gave a talk about the Aquarium’s research to the Puako homeowners association in an old church built in 1860 on Puako Road. There were about 40 people there who were very interested in the work that we do with otters, sixgills, rockfish and Hawaii fish. They were particularly interested in our survey results in their area where we have seen an increase in most species of fish over the last five years. We were welcomed warmly and will talk again when we come next year.