Reef and Fishery Assessment of Navassa Island National Wildlife Refuge

On April 23, 2009 scientists from the NOAA's Southeast Fisheries Science Center in Miami Florida (SEFSC) departed from San Juan, Puerto Rico aboard the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster. Their destination: the Navassa National Wildlife Refuge. Along with the NOAA scientists are researchers from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (UM/RSMAS), the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the Director of the Fondation pour la Protection de la Biodiversité Marine (FoProBiM), an NGO based in Haiti.
This work is funded by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hump Day – A Historic Lionfish Day

I started writing my blog this morning after my first trip out in the small boat. Usually we do two dives each trip. I wasn’t sure what to write about, so I decided that since today marks the middle of our expedition, hump day (it is our 8th day in Navassa and the 4th day diving), I was going to write about my impressions of the first half of the trip: the weather has improved, operations have been running smoothly, and even though we are still looking forward to interviewing some fishers, we have been diving and conducting coral reef fish and benthic assessment successfully. Also I wanted to mention that I am part of a RAD (Rapid Assessment Dive) team, where two divers do reef fish visual census (RVC) and one diver does benthic assessment. Normally we go out twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and we do two dives per trip.

While I was trying to get inspired to write my first Navassa blog, Dave Mac called me to go on my second trip out, which usually happens later in the day but today there was one boat that came in earlier. We got ready pretty fast and by 1250 Jack, Steve and myself together with our coxswain Trey were on our way to the dive site. We went in the water at 1307 and dove down to about 94ft to patchy hard bottom in sand habitat. Jack tied the reel and I positioned myself to start my RVC count. A few minutes into my count, while rotating and recording all species of fish observed I looked down, and to my surprise inside of a barrel sponge I saw two lionfish! Lionfish are invasive and spreading rapidly throughout the Caribbean. Both fish were predominantly black and white, characteristic of the “black” lionfish. The largest individual was 25cm (both photos) and the smallest 18cm long (fork length). When I approach them the larger fish came out displaying its beautiful patterns and ornate fins, but after a minute or so it went back into the sponge. The smaller fish stayed in the sponge the entire time. I took photos and video of both fish. Upon arrival to the ship, we found out that about 20 minutes before my observation, Margaret had also seen one smaller lionfish while diving one of the fish traps. So, today is not only hump day for our expedition, but is a historic day. Today officially marks the first time a lionfish has been observed and recorded in the RVC database, and also around Navassa Island!

Natalia (photos)

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