Oceana marine scientist Jon Warrenchuk reports on yesterday’s expedition dive task in Key West: searching for lionfish.
After a bumpy nighttime transit, we’re now anchored off the lower keys of Key West.
I’ve asked the dive team to count the number of lionfish they see at the dive sites today. It’s easy to recognize lionfish, with their long fin rays and spines, and you’ve probably seen them in saltwater aquariums. Yep, that’s them, staked out in some preferential corner of the aquarium, looking all spiny and finny.
Even though they look cool, we really do not want to see lionfish at the reefs here in Key West. Lionfish are native to the waters around Australia and Indonesia, where they are regular denizens of the fish community there. In those waters, lionfish are bound with all those ecological checks and balances that come with living in their natural habitat; all their competitors and predators that have evolved in the same place have worked out their happy little evolutionary détente.
Hermit crabs are crustaceans but unlike their relatives, they do not have a hard bodies - they are the couch potatoes of the crab world. In order to protect their tender asymmetrical middles, hermit crabs live in discard shells, moving to larger abodes as they grow.
This particular hermit was captured on film in Egmont Key.
From yesterday's New York Times:
"It’s not just fishermen,” said Captain Pete [Lacombe, dive master in the Florida Keys], who is 45. “It’s dive boat operators, instructors, mates, the guys who fill up our tanks. This [oil spill] could be potentially devastating for all of us.”
It’s hard to believe it has been almost a month since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank, and yet this weekend was the first sign of any kind of progress to contain the disaster bleeding into the Gulf.
Using a mile-long “insertion tube” to siphon the oil to a tanker ship, BP captured some of the oil gushing from the Gulf of Mexico seabed -- though the company still hasn't made any progress toward actually stopping the flow.
Scientists from NOAA are worried that the still-gushing oil spill will enter the powerful Loop Current, if it hasn’t already, which would take it through the biodiverse barrier reef that makes up the Florida Keys and up the East Coast.
After receiving nearly 500 nominations and thousands of votes for its final group of nominees, out of eight finalists, this year’s Ocean Hero is John Halas, a marine biologist and manager of the Upper Region of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Halas has been working to protect coral systems in Florida since 1981. After observing coral damage caused by careless anchoring, he took it upon himself to develop an environmentally friendly anchor and mooring buoy system that prevents damage to coral reefs and has worked to implement this anchorage system in 38 countries.
“My work is something I have felt strongly about and it is really a great honor to receive this acknowledgement,” Halas said.