Blog #3: Fish Collecting 101

To help with today's blog I have asked Sarah Taylor (at right) to join me. Sarah is an Aquarist at NEAq in Boston and the Trip Leader for our current expedition. She is also a very experienced diver.

Bud: Sarah, why do we do these collecting trips every year?
Sarah: We do them to replenish the fishes and invertebrates in our Caribbean reef exhibits. Simply put, we are replenishing species that die off because of their natural mortality rates.

Bud: Do we need a permit to collect in the Bahamas? Are there any restrictions on what we can take?
Sarah: Yes. We work very closely with the Bahamas Ministry of Fisheries. A Bahamian official comes on board during the trip. He monitors our collecting techniques and examines our "catch." We don't take anything on the IUCN Red List - or anything that is endangered or threatened.

Bud: How is the trip going so far in terms of what we want to bring back to Boston?
Sarah: We're happily ahead of the curve! We actually have more fish on board then expected at this stage. Great!

Bud: Are we harming the reef ecosystem by pulling out these fish and invertebrates?
Sarah: We only use nets; no chemicals. We carefully avoid damaging the corals. And, we take only a very, very small number of animals relative to the size of their populations in the wild.

Bud: How will life in captivity for these animals differ from life in the wild?
Sarah: They will be very well fed and very well cared for by the staff in Boston. Generally, they live longer and grow larger than in the wild. And, of course, because any potential predators (e.g. sharks) in our tanks are well fed, their usual prey has a much better chance of surviving longer.

Bud: How does a collecting trip like this one support marine conservation efforts in the Bahamas?
Sarah: We do species and abundance surveys to help monitor the biodiversity of the reefs. We share our data with REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation), an organization that is working to protect the reefs throughout the Caribbean.

Bud: And, by exhibiting these animals in the New England Aquarium in Boston, we teach people about the importance of reef conservation.

Today's best finds:
4 Tobacco Fish (4-5 inches) Serranus tabacarius
1 Trumpet Fish (11-12 inches) Aulostomus maculatus (above right)
2-3 Yellowhead Wrasse (5 inches) Halichoeres garnoti
Several Fairy Basslets (1-2 inches) Gramma loreto

All in all, a great day down here in the Bahamas!

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