What’s down there…

Rainforest

Why I’m in grad school: conserving the above to protect the people who rely on it. From the unfortunately bleached and algae covered coral beds at South Button.

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A part of me wants to go hunting…

Lionfish, a common reef predator in the Pacific and Indian oceans, is a voracious and invasive species here along the Atlantic seaboard. Dive shops routinely organize lionfish hunts to protect stressed reef ecosystems. I still wouldn’t eat them — I will remain vegetarian for now — but this gets me closer to my food ethic of eating animal I’ve killed/harvested myself.

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Schooling

I am studying global environmental issues at the moment, but there’s certainly a small part of me that would love to be a marine biologist and a pure scientist. To know what goes on — what social mechanics are ingrained — in schools of fish would be, I believe, quite literally awe-some.

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Fish school is in session…

I return to school this week as a grad student at American University. I’m rather excited and actually am on campus today.

However, this school of fish is still infinitely more fun.

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I just like to stare at it…

Undersea oddities

A feather star hangs off a coral block. Tiny reef fish and damsel fish flit about. A cleaner wrasse streaks across your view. And all if it stands in semi-silohuette of the blue underwater sky.

I love it so.

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Coral reef under threat

Sad reef

The dying Lighthouse reef of Havelock Island typifies shallow water reefs the world over. The ecosystem is collapsing.

So-called bleached coral looses its color as the symbiotic relationship with a protozoa fails. As the coral stop growing and eventually die, the myriad species that survive around them move or diminish. Frequently, it seems the corals are left to the whims of algae.

Scientists say coral bleaching is caused by a variety of factors stressing the coral (which are actually tiny creatures that build magnificent skeletons) and disrupting the symbiosis. Global warming, acidification, human waste, harmful fishing habits and more are all very real human impacts on these rain forests of the sea.

This underwater rainforest is all but gone

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Goodbye healthy reef

Deep blue Dixon's Pinnacle

About 100 feet beneath the ocean several miles off Havelock Island is a picture of what is fast disappearing: healthy reef.

Coral ecosystems — the rain forests of the ocean, as it were — are fading and collapsing in the face of global warming, coral bleaching, overfishing, agricultural runoff, human waste pollution, the list goes on.

We can congratulate ourselves for mucking about too much.

If you’re interested in knowing more, I encourage you to check out the research and conclusions from International Programme on the State of the Ocean.

I don’t mean to be preachy, but this particular slice of the environment is something I’m dedicating my life to. So, in my world view, it’s too damn important to not talk about.

More life than you can shake a stick at

Fish and more be everywhere

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Table coral nursery school

Kindergarten

I love staring at the reef. Every few seconds, it becomes more and more alive as your eyes adjust and pick up the details.

Here, some young butterfly fish or damselfish hide in a patch of table coral at Dixon’s Pinnacle. I could have easily swam right past them.

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Nemo’s cousin

Anemone fish

What is sometimes identified as a North Indian anemonefish. From a two tank dive at Johnny’s Gorge and Minerva’s Ledge off Havelock Island.

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Say hello to healthy reef

Johnny's Gorge

There’s not a lot left of it in the world. Coral reefs everywhere are dying. Indeed, according to the latest research from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean, the threats to coral reefs are actually amplifying each other and acting faster than previous scientific projections.

But in the Andaman Islands at sites below 20 meters or so (at least as of this winter) reefs had been spared severe devastation thanks to colder water.

Hence the living rainforest of the sea.

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