Vancouver Aquarium marine scientist Laura Borden holds up a piece of kelp found in shallow waters in Howe Sound on Monday. (Rafferty Baker/CBC) Scientists with the Vancouver Aquarium were on the water last week looking closely at how a serious decline in the Sea Star population in the waters in Howe Sound near West Vancouver is impacting the rest of the marine ecosystem. Scientists first started noticing a decline in Sea Star populations in 2013 and the cause for the decline is what is know as, Sea star wasting disease. “It was really striking to see the wasting sea stars. They kind of lose their internal body pressure, they develop lesions, they start to fall apart, drop their arms, so it’s really quite gruesome,&rdquo
Collection of Banggai Cardinals for the aquarium trade is the major driver for their harvest. These fish have a extremely limited geographic range of about 5,500 km² and small wild population size estimated at 2.4 million individuals. These cardinalfish are composed of pockets of individual populations concentrated around the shallows small and large islands within the Banggai Archipelago. A small population also occurs off Central Sulawesi, within Luwuk harbor. One additional population has become established in the Lembeh Strait (North Sulawesi), 400 km north of the natural area of the species distribution. They live in very shallow water, and are plodding swimmers that are easily herded out of protective cover. This combination of characteristics, coupled with high demand as a desirable ornamental species, makes them vulnerable to overharvest. Due
We keep harping on the lionfish invasion of the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and pretty much all waters surrounding Florida because it is a serious, ongoing issue with seemingly no end in sight. Despite the best efforts of scientists to understand the issue, legislators to fix the problem, and recreational fishermen to eradicate the invaders, the problem persists to the point where different and often drastic measures have to be given a good look. The latest attempt to help tackle the invasion is the straight up ban on the import of all lionfish from the Pterois genus into Florida. But is it the right move? As spelled out in one of Ret Talbot’s latest contributions to the Reef2Rainforest blog, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commissioners unanimously approved the prohibition of the “importation of live lionfish from the genus Pterois“, approved divers to use rebreather equipment to harvest lionfish, and will allow the Executive Director to issue permits to spearfisherman to remove lionfish and other non-native species from areas where the activity was previously prohibited. Ret goes on to point out that lionfish from the genus Dendrochirus are not considered in this ban despite there being significant genetic similarities between them and members of the Pterois genus. This new set of rules goes into effect on August 1st, and as usual, there are good arguments from both sides of the aisle. One of the key incentives intended by this ban is that marine aquarium importers who still rely on lionfish as part of their product offering will start collecting fish out of Florida waters to fill their demand. This approach, coupled with aggressive erradication efforts from other industries, is hoped to be able to keep the lionfish under better control, though nobody knows what real impact will be had.
It looks like “Operation Rock Bottom” has claimed yet another would be coral poacher. The federal probe targeted at the illegal harvest of marine life in the Florida Keys has led to a long list of arrests and convictions, with the latest sentence being handed down to Jonathan Hale of Country Critters in Patchogue, New York last week. As we mentioned in our “initial coverage of this sweeping operation, Hale was out on $25,000 bail after being charged with buying and selling live rock and corals taken from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, as well as falsely labeling overseas imports. According to a followup story on the Keys News, Hale has been sentenced to two years of probation and $10,000 in fines following his guilty plea. This is a considerably lighter sentence than the potential five years in a federal prison that he was facing. Luckily for him, he was willing to accept a plea bargain and the prosecuters were willing to play ball. As for the specific details of Hale’s involvement, the Key News story claims “Hale met with an unnamed harvester in Marathon on Sept. 30, 2012, and discussed pricing for Ricordea Florida coral specimens, tarpon and sharks.
The Coral Restoration Foundation has been rockin’ and rollin’ in 2014, receiving generous donations from all sorts of organizations. Another company that’s making good on their promise to contribute is Reef Suds, the first reef safe soap product to be introduced to the aquarium hobby. When Reef Suds first launched in November 2013, they promised to donate $1 from every bar sold to the CRF. Well, a few months into their campaign, the soap makers are making their initial donation of $400, with planned contributions every quarter from here on out. The goal is to gradually increase these donations as the company continues to grow, and we’re glad to see such a commitment from yet another company in the aquarium industry.