I didn't manage any pictures of the wreck, but I did make sure to get stung by fire coral so I'd have something to remember from the dive. Mission accomplished. (Learn about fire corals and other hydrozoans here.)
Yesterday we took a different tack on collecting - we anchored the research vessel at a site called Dollar Harbor, and took inflatable boats out to a nearby beach:
The sun sets on Dollar Harbor
The amount of plastic that ends up on the shore of a tiny, secluded beach like that is pretty shocking; I saw everything from plastic water bottles to oil containers to the entire front bumper of a car. Moments like that one can be effective reminders of how long plastics stay around, and how far they can travel. Although being diligent about where one's trash goes is obviously a positive thing, I think it's always good to try to think of ways to actually reduce one's plastics use altogether, because it's very hard to be sure where those things will end up. I don't think many people toss their plastics directly into the ocean on purpose, but over time they often just get there. Seeing that much plastic on a beach as secluded as this one definitely drove this point home for me.
As we were getting off of the boat, we were told that there would likely be jellies in the water, so most people wore full-length clothes to cover their skin. Deb's Catwoman costume, of questionable purpose up to this point, proved a perfect melding of style and function for this type of event.
When we reached the beach, we unfurled a 100-foot long seine net about 100 feet from shore, and then walked it in to the beach, effectively corralling in the fish in that area. I should point out that we're very careful about only taking fish that aren't considered threatened or endangered, and that we're specially permitted by the Bahamian government to perform collecting practices like these. Sherrie is very conscientious about the entire process; she personally inspects every fish that we bring up to make sure that only those with healthy wild populations come aboard, and that none of them are too stressed out when they do. She made her way all the way up and down the seine net making sure that we only ended up with fish that fit these criteria, and everything else was let go. It was a lot of net to cover:
We did end up with several needlefish this way, and now they're safely
Needlefish are thin, surface dwelling fish who are closely related to flying fish
Mangroves were growing on the beach, and submerged mangrove roots often serve as a sort of nursery for younger fish, because larger predators can't reach them there. Back in the Boston area, salt marshes serve a similar purpose, and both habitats are very important for that reason. We did a second round of seine netting in a smaller cove, and I couldn't believe how many young, 12 to 18-inch barracudas we found in the net. We were reaching in by hand and pulling them out, and there must have been fifteen in there. It was like they were swimming out through the bottom and then swimming back in. We decided to keep a small pair of them. (Click here to meet a barracuda back in Boston who made this same journey from the Bahamas!)
Now we're back in Bimini, and tonight we'll be doing our first night dive. I'll try to get another post up tomorrow.
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Aquarium divers go on several daily dives to care for the animals in the Giant Ocean Tank (GOT) as well as lead expeditions to the Bahamas.