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 fifth day of the trip.
Day 5: February 8, 2014
With our core research done and one more day to dive, we had time to explore a new site that our research partner Bill Walsh asked us to check out and survey. It was an area that had a newly discovered species of coral not usually found in the main Hawaiian islands, Acropora gemmifera.
This area is accessible only by boat and Captain Pete took us down there on the Hopena. We dove this beautiful site and found the corals in a small area surrounded by dense schools of fish. It was spectacular! We spent most of our dive trying to figure out the best transect area that would incorporate most of the corals. It was challenging because many were in shallow water, right up next to a wall were the surf pounded and would be too dangerous to dive. We finally found an acceptable 100-meter transect line that included at least eight of the Acropora colonies and lots of fish. We switched out our tanks and completed two more dives and four surveys on our new research site number 8.
We are the first group outside of the Hawaii Department of Aquatic Resources to survey this site. Along with fish transects we will be monitoring the growth and spread of these unique corals. What a fantastic day.