8: Bahamas 2013 | Grunting fish and a hammerhead sighting

2013 Bahamas Expedition | Round Two
Emma is a former Giant Ocean Tank Dive Intern on her first Spring Collection Expedition. She joined Aquarium divers in the Bahamas to help collect fish, under special permits, so that visitors in Boston can appreciate the splendor of a healthy Caribbean reef.  After a top-to-bottom transformation, the Giant Ocean Tank is expected to reopen in early summer with more than twice the number of fish than last fall. 

Today was our second day aboard the RV Coral Reef II. We spent the whole day at one amazing dive site called Moxon Rocks. Our target of the day was small mouth grunts (Haemulon chrysargyreum), named for the grunting sound they make with their pharyngeal jaw. These bright yellow and white fish will look incredible in the new Giant Ocean Tank. Captain Lou got in the water with us and helped the staff corral large schools of these fish. Our total for the end of the day was 54!

Our school of grunts in the boat’s collection tanks | Photo credit: Franco Lichauco

My buddy, Carolyn, and I chased a few filefish for most of the dive, but with little luck. The more experienced fish-catchers of the group were more successful, catching the school of grunts, blue tangs, parrotfish and even grey angelfish. The prize of the day was an adorable honeycomb cowfish. Although hard to find, these slow fish are easy to catch (relatively speaking of course!)

The honeycomb cowfish

I participated in the first two dives and was safety observer for the final dive of the day. The safety observer is responsible for recording everyone’s dive information (i.e. how much air they have in their tanks before and after their dive) and watching the dive site from the boat, in case anyone comes to the surface for help during an emergency. It was nice to get out of my wetsuit and enjoy a bit of sun, but I ended up missing the coolest sight of the trip yet—a 10–12 foot-long hammerhead shark.

Seeing these large predators is rare. Sharks are disappearing from the world’s reefs due to the finning industry, which harvests the fins of sharks and sells them for profit. Efforts are being made to regulate this industry because sharks are vital to the reef ecosystem. They prey on sick or dying fish and indicate that there is a large enough population of fish to support an apex predator. Without sharks, the population composition of reef fish may change and have higher levels of disease and parasites.

By showing visitors the beauty of a healthy Caribbean reef in the Giant Ocean Tank, we hope to inspire visitors to do what they can to protect these reefs and marine habitats around the world. Dive into the New Aquarium Experience, coming early this summer!

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