Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Holidays

The BREAM team
hopes everyone has a
festive holiday season and
an excellent New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Winter Solstice on Sunday

Position of the sun in the sky over the course of the day
during the summer and winter solstice days, and both equinox days.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice occurs on December 21, 2008 at 12:04 UT (Universal Time) - or 04:16 Bermuda local time.

This means that at noon on Sunday the sun will be at its lowest point relative to the southern horizon for the whole year. The angle of the sun will only be 33* South above the horizon - as opposed to June 21st, when it is almost directly overhead, at 83* South.

It will also be the shortest day of the year, with only 10 hours of daylight. The sun will rise at
7:16 am, and set at 5:18 pm - local time

The angle of the sun and the
length of the day affects the amount of light available for photosynthesis by hard corals, soft corals, and macroalgae growing on reefs.

Furthermore, since Bermuda is the most northerly reef in the world, this means that patch reefs obtain more sun on their south sides than they do on their north sides. In my PhD I measured light levels as well as reef coral cover and species diversity on the south and north sides of patch reefs in the North Lagoon of Bermuda.

Graph of the proportion of surface light available to
southern and northern reef slopes, relative to depth.

Light on the shady sides (with a Northern Aspect) have up to 5x less available light as the sunny side. Since light also decreases the deeper one goes, due to the light-blocking effects of suspended sediments, plankton and other things in the water, this relationship decreases with depth.

Cartoon of the effects of Bermuda's northerly position on sun angle,
and as a result, coral assemblage structure, on patch reefs.

The differences in light between the south and north sides of patch reefs in Bermuda results in differences in coral abundance and the kinds of corals that are found on each side. Shade-loving branching corals dominate the north sides of patch reefs, while sun-loving head corals are more abundant on the south sides of the same reefs.

Dr. Thad Murdoch - BREAM Project Leader

Friday, December 5, 2008

Revision - Not a Hybrid Butterflyfish

Being a coral specialist, (although learning about fish as fast as I can) I thought this butterflyfish seemed to be a hybrid between a Spotfin Butterflyfish and a Foureyed Butterflyfish, and my quick search for information did not help.

It was found by Jessie Hallett today as we were setting up an experiment out in the lagoon.

Judie Clee - a local REEF expert on fish identification, was able to correct our mistake:

Turns out the dark spot is part of the nocturnal marking of the fish - and it will get much darker at night, while the little black spot near the tail will fade. Perhaps this guy was getting ready for night at 3pm, since the days are so short right now.

You can read more about the species (Chaetodon ocellatus) on FishBase: link.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Testing out embedding a google map

This is a Test.

Am trying out embedding a google map. Will be useful for getting BREAM data to everyone.

The test image is of a marker at the location of one of the mooring buoys at the Eastern Blue Cut Fisheries Protected Area.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

BAMZ GIS day - hurrah for maps!

BAMZ hosted the local Bermuda GIS day on Monday, as part of World GIS day.

Pictured are John Arthur, Mapping Officer; John Halkett, Land Surveyor; Alison Copeland, Bermuda Biodiversity Action Plan Coordinator; Mandy Shailer, GIS/Research Officer; Peter Hopkin, Senior Land Surveyor and Richard Lowry, Planner.

Mandy Shailer, the GIS/Research Officer for the Department of Conservation Services, did a great job organizing the event. The public got to see the latest mapping technologies in use on land and in the water, and also got to have some yummy GIS cake - sweet!

Friday, November 21, 2008

My place of worship: Church Bay

In Bermuda, it is a myth that you have to travel by boat to see beautiful coral reefs. From the richly diverse coastal habitats and patch reefs of the north shore to the topographically appealing reefs of the south shore, there are countless near-shore snorkel spots that you can explore, no life jacket required! My favourite near-shore snorkel spot would have to be Church Bay, as it offers fantastic reef formations and a wide diversity of marine life.

On an average day, Church Bay can be quite rough, so it’s best to visit on a day with calm winds. Although there are interesting reefs along the coastline, snorkel past these to the central boiler reefs. Here you will find friendly trunkfish, trumpetfish, schools of chub and bream, several species of parrotfish, and dozens of other types of reef fish. The corals are also brilliant, and you will see many massive boulder corals, brain corals, and large waving sea plumes, rods, and fans. If you keep your eyes peeled, you may also find a few long-spined sea urchins, or gaze upon gorgonian predators such as the flamingo tongue and fire worm!

The structure of the reefs at Church Bay is also out of the ordinary. Around the boilers there are numerous caves and underwater passages, as well as pinnacles, ridges, and other projections that provide hiding places for many small marine animals.

I hope you understand now why Church Bay is well worth a visit: the reefs here offer a wealth of biodiversity and interesting sights to explore, and are found within just a short swim from the beach. It’s guaranteed to get you excited about the bountiful marine life Bermuda has to offer.
Jessie Hallett - BREAM Research Technician

Thursday, November 20, 2008

EnviroShorts DVD launched at BAMZ on Saturday

The award-winning environmental documentary series EnviroShorts gets its official launch on DVD this Saturday, November 22nd, from 2 - 4 pm.

And former TV news reporter Sangita Iyer (pictured above), who created the 13-part series which aired on Channel 7 and Channel 9 last year, will be signing copies of the DVD for members of the public.

The BREAM project and our research on Bermuda's coral reefs was one of the topics Sangita covered in the series.

Royal Gazette articles about EnviroShorts can be read here and here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Putting a dollar value on the goods and services provided by reefs and mangroves in Belize

Satellite image of Belize coast, barrier reefs and atolls, an environmental news website, reports on a study that found that:

Friday, November 14, 2008

How to make coral “popsicles”: a useful research tool!

Jessie Hallett, BREAM intern

The “popsicles” pictured here may resemble a cool summertime treat, but they are actually useful devices that we are using to design and implement various ecological experiments involving corals. They are also extremely easy to make!

They were created by first cutting ½” PVC pipe into one inch long tubes. Using marine silicone sealant, a small loop of fishing line was glued to the inside of each tube. Then, a branch of coral (in this case, we are using Madracis auretenra, or yellow-finger coral) is also glued into the pipe with the sealant. The sealant should be used above water, but once everything is set in place the corals can be returned to water. To hold the corals upright, we also made metal trays by cutting holes into ¼” mesh fencing, resulting in a semblance of a test tube rack.

With these trays and coral popsicles, it will be easy for us to set up an experiment in the lab or in the field. Since the number of corals and trays used are easy to change, we can easily fabricate and adjust manipulative experiments involving corals.

This design is also very useful for weighing corals. Using the fishing line loop, corals can be hung from a balance while they are immersed in water to weigh them using the buoyant weight method (see Jokiel, 1978). This is a simple way to measure coral growth!

Before you decide to begin designing a coral experiment though, remember to get a collection permit, and to collect only what you need!
Reference: Jokiel, P.L., J.E. Maragos, and L. Franzisket. 1978. Coral Growth: buoyant weight technique. In: Monographs on Oceanic Methodology Vol. 5: Coral reefs: research methods. Edited by D.R. Stoddart and R.E. Johannes. UNESCO, Paris, pp 529-541.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bountiful Patch Reefs off North Shore

Within a couple of km of North Shore, in what many folks consider to be unappealing waters, are found hundreds for finger corals reefs that are actually thriving with life. These patch reefs, paradoxically fairly near both land and one of the large ship channels that cuts across the lagoon, are characterised by high coral cover and a high number of coral species.

Turbidity (suspended sediments) are also high in this area though, and head corals show signs of stress from constant smothering by sand. The finger corals (comprising 5 species of the genera Madracis and Oculina) provide refuge to thousands of tomtate (white) grunts, which in turn provide food for gray snappers and other predatory fish.

BREAM surveys have shown that many other species of fish also rely on these locally under-appreciated reefs as juvenile habitat, indicating the vital role these coral reefs play in maintaining the resilience of Bermuda's fish stocks.

Rio Declaration on Environment and Development

Bermuda, in it's Environmental Charter (link pdf), committed to do many things, including:

Action 11: Abide by the principles set out in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and work towards meeting International Development Targets on the environment.

Following is the text of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development,
which can also be found at
United Nations Environment Programme website (here)

Rio Declaration on Environment and Development
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development,

Having met at Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992,

Reaffirming the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, adopted at Stockholm on 16 June 1972, and seeking to build upon it,

With the goal of establishing a new and equitable global partnership through the creation of new levels of cooperation among States, key sectors of societies and people,

Working towards international agreements which respect the interests of all and protect the integrity of the global environmental and developmental system,

Recognizing the integral and interdependent nature of the Earth, our home,

Proclaims that:

Principle 1

Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.

Principle 2

States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental and developmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

Principle 3

The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.

Principle 4

In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.

Principle 5

All States and all people shall cooperate in the essential task of eradicating poverty as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, in order to decrease the disparities in standards of living and better meet the needs of the majority of the people of the world.

Principle 6

The special situation and needs of developing countries, particularly the least developed and those most environmentally vulnerable, shall be given special priority. International actions in the field of environment and development should also address the interests and needs of all countries.

Principle 7

States shall cooperate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect and restore the health and integrity of the Earth's ecosystem. In view of the different contributions to global environmental degradation, States have common but differentiated responsibilities. The developed countries acknowledge the responsibility that they bear in the international pursuit to sustainable development in view of the pressures their societies place on the global environment and of the technologies and financial resources they command.

Principle 8

To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all people, States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies.

Principle 9

States should cooperate to strengthen endogenous capacity-building for sustainable development by improving scientific understanding through exchanges of scientific and technological knowledge, and by enhancing the development, adaptation, diffusion and transfer of technologies, including new and innovative technologies.

Principle 10

Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided.

Principle 11

States shall enact effective environmental legislation. Environmental standards, management objectives and priorities should reflect the environmental and development context to which they apply. Standards applied by some countries may be inappropriate and of unwarranted economic and social cost to other countries, in particular developing countries.

Principle 12

States should cooperate to promote a supportive and open international economic system that would lead to economic growth and sustainable development in all countries, to better address the problems of environmental degradation. Trade policy measures for environmental purposes should not constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade.

Unilateral actions to deal with environmental challenges outside the jurisdiction of the importing country should be avoided. Environmental measures addressing transboundary or global environmental problems should, as far as possible, be based on an international consensus.

Principle 13

States shall develop national law regarding liability and compensation for the victims of pollution and other environmental damage. States shall also cooperate in an expeditious and more determined manner to develop further international law regarding liability and compensation for adverse effects of environmental damage caused by activities within their jurisdiction or control to areas beyond their jurisdiction.

Principle 14

States should effectively cooperate to discourage or prevent the relocation and transfer to other States of any activities and substances that cause severe environmental degradation or are found to be harmful to human health.

Principle 15

In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

Principle 16

National authorities should endeavour to promote the internalization of environmental costs and the use of economic instruments, taking into account the approach that the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution, with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment.

Principle 17

Environmental impact assessment, as a national instrument, shall be undertaken for proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment and are subject to a decision of a competent national authority.

Principle 18

States shall immediately notify other States of any natural disasters or other emergencies that are likely to produce sudden harmful effects on the environment of those States. Every effort shall be made by the international community to help States so afflicted.

Principle 19

States shall provide prior and timely notification and relevant information to potentially affected States on activities that may have a significant adverse transboundary environmental effect and shall consult with those States at an early stage and in good faith.

Principle 20

Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential to achieve sustainable development.

Principle 21

The creativity, ideals and courage of the youth of the world should be mobilized to forge a global partnership in order to achieve sustainable development and ensure a better future for all.

Principle 22

Indigenous people and their communities and other local communities have a vital role in environmental management and development because of their knowledge and traditional practices. States should recognize and duly support their identity, culture and interests and enable their effective participation in the achievement of sustainable development.

Principle 23

The environment and natural resources of people under oppression, domination and occupation shall be protected.

Principle 24

Warfare is inherently destructive of sustainable development. States shall therefore respect international law providing protection for the environment in times of armed conflict and cooperate in its further development, as necessary.

Principle 25

Peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible.

Principle 26

States shall resolve all their environmental disputes peacefully and by appropriate means in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

Principle 27

States and people shall cooperate in good faith and in a spirit of partnership in the fulfilment of the principles embodied in this Declaration and in the further development of international law in the field of sustainable development.

Source: Report of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm, 5-16 June 1972

(United Nations publication, Sales No. E.73.II.A.14 and corrigendum), chap. I.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Green Calcareous Macroalgae

A mixture of several types of green calcareous macroalgae
dominate the seabed in this photograph.

Green Calcareous Macroalgae are a group of plants that grow in sandy and silty areas on the sea floor where water flow from currents or waves is very low. Several genera of plants are found in Bermuda, including:
Udotea, which looks kind of like a ping ping paddle,
Penicillus, otherwise known as Merman's Shaving Brush,
Halimeda, which look like little trees,
Acetabularia, otherwise known as Mermaid's wine glass.

These plants often grow in meadows in deeper harbours and sandy basins between the coral reefs in the lagoon. While they receive little attention they provide an important habitat for juvenile and adult fishes, as well as provide substrate for epiphytic (meaning "living on a plant") plants and animals. Additionally animals that live in the sand (termed "infauna") are generally abundant around calcareous macroalgae beds.

Fortunately, benthic surveys by Dr. Sarah Manuel, Dr. Kathy Coates and Anson Nash of the Department of Conservation Services are providing the first lagoon-wide maps of the distribution of these important but under-appreciated plants.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sunlight on coral

sunlight on coral
sea fans wave together
at dancing wrasse

Friday, October 24, 2008

Shocking rise in number of turtles killed by boats

From The Royal Gazette Friday October 24 2008 (link)

Shocking rise in number of turtles killed by boats

By Amanda Dale

Killed: A dead Hawksbill Hybrid turtle found by Marine police in Hamilton Harbour (rear) and a smaller green turtle (front) found off Spanish Point. Boat strikes are a common cause of such injuries.
Photo: Mark Tatem

More turtles have been killed by boaters in the past two months than in the whole of last year.

Now Marine Police and conservationists are urging boat users to slow down and take extra care in areas close to shore where turtles feed in the vicinity of seagrass beds.

Boaters are reminded that the speed limit within 100 yards of shore is five knots with no wake, although this is relaxed in some areas such as busy Hamilton Harbour and Ferry Reach.

Patrick Talbot, head aquarist at Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo (BAMZ), said it was vital boat operators obeyed marine rules and regulations. He also urged people to avoid dropping trash and rope, fishing line or netting in the water, as turtle deaths due to entanglements are also on the rise.

"We don't know whether this is due to more boat users on the water or a higher turtle population, but this is not a good trend," said Mr. Talbot.

"From August 2007 to August 2008 we had six deaths from boat collisions and four due to entanglements. Whereas since August 2008 we've had five turtles who have been hit by boats and three entanglements. The results are eye-opening."

On Sunday, Marine Police recovered a dead turtle floating near Darrell's Island. In the previous fortnight another two turtles were found. Police officers found a hybrid turtle in the shipping channel off the North Shore, while a smaller green turtle washed up on a beach at Spanish Point.

Mr. Talbot said: "The hybrid had a hole punched into its shell, so the force of the impact must have been quite great in order to put a hole in a shell of an animal almost three feet long.

"The turtle at Spanish Point was fairly small and so we think it was quite young. It was still foaming at the mouth – a sign it had just been hit by a boat, but it died soon after we got it."

He said: "The other two turtles were found over a month ago."

Marine Police have reported most boat collisions in the Paradise Lakes area and that the majority of turtles found have propeller slashes on their shells.

A Police spokesman said: "All boat users are asked to go slow, keep a sharp lookout for any semi-submerged turtles and avoid getting too close to these sea creatures wherever possible."

Mr. Talbot, who manages the wildlife rehabilitation centre at BAMZ, said those turtles hit by boats suffer a painful death.

"These animals tend not to survive. They have entrails hanging out and are in a lot of pain," he said.

"We do what we can for them but mainly when they get hit by a boat, there's not much chance of survival.

"The injuries tend to be split shells but we've also had decapitations and flippers taken off. Mainly though, it's the shell that gets hit first because that's the highest point in the water."

Mr. Talbot said: "It's frustrating when a turtle is brought to us like this. They're a good size so it's very hard to miss these animals.

"These days boats are propelled by engines at high speeds and turtles are found close to shore, so this leads us to believe that many people are moving faster than they should in these areas, and are in places where they shouldn't be.

"Within distance of shore, boats should be moving slowly enough that if a turtle pops its head up there is enough time for it to avoid the boat, or dive out of the way.

"I would just ask people to be mindful and to look out for areas turtles are known to frequent. Please obey the traffic laws, and hopefully we can reduce the number of collisions we are getting. In our opinion one collision is one too many."

Anyone finding a dead or injured turtle should take it to the staff at BAMZ. Contact BAMZ at: 293 2727.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fish Die-off Happening!

Have been seeing and hearing accounts of dead fish either washing up onto beaches, been seen floating around, sick fish swimming around and dead fish lying on the sea floor.

Grouper, parrotfish, hogfish, angelfish, porgys, tomtates and squirrelfish have been mentioned, but perhaps others are affected as well. Affected fish have been seen from Franks Bay to St. Davids and out to North Rock - so it appears to be platform-wide.

The cause is as yet unknown, but may be a dinoflagellate or other kind of toxic algae. Like CSI, scientists at the Department of Conservation Services are collecting dying (but not dead) fish to try to determine the cause. Already dead fish grow too many other kinds of bacteria to be useful for determining the cause of the illness.

Sightings of unusual looking dead fish can be recorded at: fishkill(at)

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Volvo Environment prize for 2008 is awarded to Crawford “Buzz” Holling, one of the world’s most influential ecologists

The Volvo Environment prize for 2008 is awarded to Crawford “Buzz” Holling, one of the world’s most influential ecologists

The Volvo Environment Prize, administered by an independent foundation, this year goes to Buzz Holling, Canadian ecologist and scientist, whose theories on how ecosystems deal with sudden changes have had great global influence. Today, with many worrying about global climate change and unexpected natural disasters, Buzz Holling stresses the importance of increasing our society’s ability to be flexible and cope with change. This is necessary for the continued use of natural resources, because crisis, Holling says, is an inevitable part of nature’s way of

Buzz Holling is perhaps best known as the father of the resilience theory. Resilience is the capacity to deal with change and continue to develop. It refers to the capacity of a socialecological system both to withstand perturbations — from, for instance, climatic or economic shock — and to rebuild and renew itself. Loss of resilience can cause loss of valuable ecosystem services, and may even lead to rapid transition into new ecosystem stages. Examples of this are when over-fishing flips a marine environment into a totally different stage, or when a deforested area turns into savannah or desert.

Over the years, Buzz Holling’s research and theories have influenced scientists and policymakers all over the world and have increased knowledge on governing natural resources and how human society — and nature itself — deals with crisis. His thinking has also influenced the sustainable development debate. He has convincingly demonstrated that change is not only gradual, but often sudden and turbulent, putting great strain on the way humans and nature organize and how they adapt to change.

The Jury of the Volvo Environment Prize says in its citation:
“Crawford (Buzz) Holling is one of the most creative and influential ecologists of our times. His integrative thinking has shed new light on the growth, collapse and regeneration of coupled human-ecological systems.”

Buzz Hollings comments:
“I’m surprised and very honoured. After working for many years trying to understand the relationship between man and nature, it is amazing to see the interest there is worldwide for these issues. We are currently witnessing a terrific example of an emerging crisis with climate change. Our ability to cope with it will of course depend on how we can limit the emissions of greenhouse gases, but just as important is the capacity for adaptation and understanding how the ecosystems will develop and change.”

Buzz Holling is Emeritus Eminent Professor in Ecological Sciences at the University of Florida, USA. He is retired and lives in the city of Nanaimo, close to Vancouver in Canada.

He is the founder of Resilience Alliance, an organization of researchers in numerous countries, and his theory on resilience is the foundation for the newly established Stockholm Resilience Centre at the University of Stockholm. Among his most famous books is Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems, published in 2002.

Buzz Holling will come to Sweden in early November to receive the Volvo Environment Prize at a ceremony in Stockholm. Besides the diploma he will receive a cash amount of SEK 1.5 million (approximately 160,000 Euro or 250,000 USD).

The Volvo Environment Prize Foundation awards the prize to individuals who
explore the way to an equitable and sustainable world. The Volvo Environment
Prize is awarded by an independent foundation, assisted by a Prize Jury composed
of internationally recognized experts in the environmental field. Since 1990 the
Prize has been awarded to 34 individuals. Among the winners are many prominent
names, including three Nobel Prize Winners.

For more information on the Volvo Environment Prize go to

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Protected Marine Invertebrates, Reptiles and Mammals of Bermuda

Will add links and photos when I get a chance...

Protected species
The taking of any "fish" of the following types anywhere within the exclusive economic zone is prohibited—
(1) Marine turtles of all species (Reptilia, Cheloniidae and Dermochelyidae) ;
(2) Marine mammals of all species (Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises) ;
(3) Corals of all types, (including stony corals, sea rods and seafans) ;
(4) Queen conch (Strombus gigas);
(5) Harbour conch (Strombus costatus);
(6) Bermuda cone (Conus bermudensis);
(7) Netted olive (Oliva reticularis);
(8) Bermuda scallop (Pecten ziczac);
(9) Calico scallop (Argopecten gibbus);
(10) Atlantic Pearl Oyster (Pinctada imbricata);
(11) Helmets and Bonnets of all species (Mollusca Cassididae);
(12) Calico clam (Macrocallista maculata);
(13) West indian top-shell (Cittarium pica),

Freshwater molluscs
Ancylus bermudensis
Pisidium volutabundum

Bermuda Skink (Eumeces longirostris)
Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
Loggerhead Tutle (Caretta caretta)
Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

Cave Organisms
Antriscopia prehensilis
Erebonectes nesioticus
Paracyclopia naessi
Speleophira bivexilla
Speleohira scottodicarloi
Nanocopia minuta
Speleithona bermudensis
Spelaeoecia bermudensis

Atlantasellus cavernicolus
Currassanthura bermudensis
Bermudalana aruboides

Idunella sketi
Cocoharpinia iliffei
Pseudoniphargus grandimanus
Bogidiella bermudensis
Ingolfiella longipes

Typhlatya iliffei
Procaris chacei
Mictocaris halope

Platyops sterreri

Segmented worms
Phallodrilus macmasterae

Monday, October 13, 2008

ICRS Plenary Talks available online

The 11th International Coral Reef Symposium website has posted the Plenary Talks.

See some of the best and brightest established coral reef scientists discuss the threats and ways to manage our reefs, corals and fishes.

They are available at this link: here (link fixed)

Our Sargasso Sea is a "High Seas Gem"

High seas gems in the spotlight

09 October 2008 | IUCN Press Release - LINK

Today at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, a joint initiative has been launched to highlight special places in the least protected place on Earth: the high seas. The centerpiece of which is a brochure showcasing 10 “gems” of the high seas.

Link to pdf of brochure: here

The publication, launched by an unusual partnership bringing the Chantecaille Beauté company together with IUCN, World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), and Marine Conservation Biology Institute (MCBI), features sites such as the Ross Sea in the Southern Ocean, the Emperor Seamount Chain in the Pacific Ocean, the Sargasso Sea and Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone in the Atlantic Ocean, and the Saya de Malha Banks in the Indian Ocean.

The 10 sites exemplify the range of habitats in the world’s oceans. “International efforts to identify and protect significant high seas places are in their infancy,” says Jeff Ardron of MCBI. “This booklet should encourage collaborative scientific analysis of high seas ecosystems in need of conservation.”

Currently, less than one percent of our oceans are under any kind of protection, and nearly all of that one percent is located close to shore.

“Unlike national parks on land, most people have never visited these high seas gems, so they have no idea of the richness and staggering beauty of what lies down there,” says Alex Chantecaille, who is Director of Sales Promotion at Chantecaille Beauté and helped oversee this project.

High seas are the open ocean and deep seabed areas outside individual nations’ jurisdiction and make up nearly half of the Earth’s surface and almost two-thirds of the ocean. They provide feeding grounds for great whales, are traversed by imperiled bluefin tunas, and are home to deep-water corals that are thousands of years old.

“Despite the size and importance of the high seas, they are the least protected part of our planet,” says Kristina Gjerde of IUCN. “This brochure is designed to help people see and understand the importance of these remote places to galvanize action at the international level for the first time.”

“The Chantecaille Beauté company has a long history of working towards environmental conservation,” says Sylvie Chantecaille, the owner and founder of the company. “When MCBI and IUCN came to us with their concerns about the high seas, we felt that this was an extraordinary opportunity for us to help these places come alive in the eyes of the public.”

“As the great African conservationist Baba Dioum noted 40 years ago at the IUCN's General Assembly, we will only conserve those places that we know,” says Elliott Norse, MCBI’s President. “We can thank Chantecaille Beauté for helping make these places more widely known, for these are magnificent places that are very much worth saving.”

Friday, October 10, 2008

Photo Friday

Here's a photo of a healthy coral reef off the South Shore of Bermuda.
Always good too see lots of fish and lots of coral!

Have a great long weekend and a Happy Hero's Holiday!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Royal Gazette Article on MPAs

Scientist: Bermuda could lead the way on conservation
September 30, 2008

By Amanda Dale

Photo by Glenn Tucker Marine conservationist Dr. Callum Roberts,0p who advises governments around the world on the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

Bermuda could lead the way in preserving the marine life of the world's oceans, according to a UK professor.

Dr. Callum Roberts, Professor of Marine Conservation at the University of York, says up to 40 percent of the Island's waters could be set aside as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), enabling fish stocks and ecosystems to thrive.

"Bermuda could lead the way in conservation," said Dr. Roberts. "It has already led the way with the fish pot ban and in protecting parrotfish and coral reefs, but needs to go further."

Dr. Roberts said that due to the Island's geographic location, any overfishing made species more vulnerable to dying out — the Nassau Grouper being a prime example.

"You have an isolated reef system and so if something was to go wrong, it would go wrong badly and it would take a long time to recover from these mistakes," he said.

"So moving towards 40 percent protection through marine reserves may be warranted in the long term.

"More protection is needed to recover some of the species which have been depleted, and that protection is vital to protect Bermuda's marine life and fisheries."

Dr. Roberts gave a public lecture at BUEI last week as a guest of the Bermuda Zoological Society. His book 'The Unnatural History of the Sea' charts 1,000 years of human exploitation of the world's oceans, including modern industrial fishing methods such as trawling.

The world-renowned marine conservationist advises governments around the globe on the importance of establishing MPAs to prevent overfishing and its repercussions on marine ecosystems.

He recommends MPAs should be established to cover 20-40 percent of our oceans.

"The world's oceans are at the most dangerous levels they have ever been in the history of life on Earth," Dr. Roberts told an audience at BUEI.

"We can look back with great regret but we shouldn't beat up on ourselves for not being able to stop it. Now we need to concentrate on what we should do today. We can create the conditions for recovery of marine life by creating areas free from exploitation."

Dr. Roberts said some MPAs have seen a five to tenfold increase in species within 10-20 years.

"Reserves all over the world have shown dramatic increases," he said. "It does work — you get a very significant increase in fish, particularly within two to five years of protection."

He gave MPAs in Mombasa in Kenya, Merritt Island in Florida and in St. Lucia as examples. Eventually the growing populations spill out of the protected reserves into other areas, while fish larvae dispersal also helps to replenish fishing grounds.

Dr. Roberts told The Royal Gazette: "We've got to turn the clock back by re-establishing refuges in the sea where our fish can survive in growing numbers."

In Bermuda he recommends 40 percent of the Island's waters be established as MPAs, due to the "limited" replenishment of fish stocks.

"One of Bermuda's problems is that a lot of larvae produced on the platform is predisposed to being swept away. If you're an isolated reef system, a lot of that system may just take it out to the blue beyond and so it is not going to lead to the repopulation of Bermuda's fish."

Dr. Roberts praised the creation of Protected Areas at dive sites and Coral Reef Preserves as "good progressive legislation" but said more needed to be done.


"The focus in Bermuda needs to move towards more protection and it will take political leadership to move that forward," he said.

"There's a lot of talk now to establish MPAs out on the open ocean, so Bermuda has great potential to be a leader here, to protect larAge-scale oceanic resources with a protected area in your EEZ.

"It won't be straight-forward to implement but it is worth doing — to have such a jewel in the crown of conservation on your doorstep.

"I would say to Government be bold, be ambitious, go for something which is world-class in terms of conservation and secure your place as a leader in ocean management. Such MPAs would lead the curve in the management of marine resources around the world."

Dr. Roberts added: "Your reserve network should be representative of the full spectrum of biodiversity, from the deep sea and slopes of the platform, to shallow seagrass beds, spawning aggregate sites and coastal mangroves.

"In Bermuda mangrove forests are very scarce so they probably warrant total protection, but for the coral reef environment there's a lot of reefs out there so it would be sufficient to protect a small proportion of that."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

BREAM Eagle Ray Researchers in the News

A baby eagle ray, born during the tagging of its mother

BREAM Research, funded partially by BZS, into the population structure and feeding ecology of Bermuda's own Eagle Rays (also called Whip Morays locally) continued last week.

Project coordinator and PhD student Matt Ajemian, with assistance from PhD student Matt Kenworthy, and support from BREAM and the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, were busy collecting tracking sensor data loggers, tagging rays, collecting gut contents and listening for sonic-tagged rays around Harrington Sound and out into the lagoon and around Riddles Bay last week.

A nice Bermuda Sun news article came out Friday September 27th about the project: see link here

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Complicated Interactions Amongst Corals Species

The above photo shows the complexity that can occur when coral cover is high and many species are in contact with each other.

At least four species of coral can be seen interacting through competitive, mutualistic and neutral interactions within and between species, as well as with soft corals and a red alga.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Competition for space between 2 corals

[click photo to enlarge]

Hard corals compete for space on reefs with other benthic organisms, including other corals (e.g. Lang 1973, Logan 1984).

The photograph above shows a star coral (Montastraea frankesi) overgrowing a brain coral (Diploria strigosa) on a patch reef in the North Lagoon at 3-m depth. The star coral uses stinging tentacles at night to kill and eat the tissue of the brain coral, creating the gap of bare space along the edge between the two corals we can see in the photograph. The star coral then grows new polyps to cover the bare space.

Understanding how corals compete is important, as interactions between coral species are one of many factors that influence the number of species found on a coral reef, its overall rate of growth or erosion, and the availability of small holes for fish and other animals to hide in.
  • Lang, J. (1973). Interspecific aggression by scleractinian corals. 2. Why the race is not only to the swift. Bull. Mar. Sci. 23: 260-279
  • Logan A. (1984) Interspecific aggression in hermatypic corals from Bermuda. Coral Reefs 3: 131-138.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Buoyed Protected Areas Locations

The following areas are declared to be protected areas for the purposes of section 4 of the Fisheries Act 1972:

1 "Cristobal Colon" located 32o 29.1'N, 64o 42.5'W
- the area within 300 metres radius of a mooring buoy at the wreck of the "Cristobal Colon";

2 "North East Breaker" located 32o 29.0'N, 64o 42.5'W
- the area within 300 metres radius of the North East Breaker beacon;

3 "Taunton" located 32o 29.5'N, 64o 41.5'W
- the area within 300 metres radius of a mooring buoy at the wreck of the "Taunton";

4 "Aristo" located 32o 28.5'N, 64o 39.4'W - the area within a 300 metres radius of a mooring buoy at the wreck of the "Aristo";

5 "Mills Breaker" located 32o 24.6'N, 64o 37.8'W -
the area within 300 metres radius of Mills Breaker beacon;

6 "Pelinaion" & "Rita Zovetto" located 32o 21.3'N,64o 38.4'W
- the area within 500 metres radius of a mooring buoy at the wrecks of the vessels "Pelinaion" and "Rita Zovetto";

7 "The Cathedral" located 32o 19.6'N, 64o 39.4'W
- the area within 300 metres radius of the mooring buoy at the site known as the Cathedral;

8 "Kate" located 32o 19.4'N, 64o 41.7'W
- the area within 300 metres radius of a mooring buoy at the wreck of the vessel "Kate";

9 "Tarpon Hole" located 32o 16.2'N, 64o 46.6'W
- the area within 300 metres radius of a mooring buoy at the site known as Tarpon Hole;

10 "Hermes" & "Minnie Breslauer" located 32o 14.4'N, 64o 47.4'W
- the area within 500 metres radius of the mooring buoy at the wrecks of the vessels "Hermes" and "Minnie Breslauer";

11 "Marie Celeste" located 32o 14.5'N, 64o 49.9'W
- the area within 300 metres radius of a mooring buoy at the wreck of the "Marie Celeste";

12 "South West Breaker Area" located 32o 13.8'N, 64o 51.8'W
- the area within 600 metres radius of a mooring buoy at South West Breaker;

13 "North Carolina" located 32o 15.6'N, 64o 57.5'W
- the area within 300 metres radius of a mooring buoy at the wreck of the "North Carolina";

14 "Airplane" located 32o 15.2'N, 64o 58.6'W
- the area within 300 metres radius of a mooring buoy at the wreck of the airplane;

15 "Blanche King" located 32o 16.3'N, 64o 58.5'W
- the area within 300 metres radius of a mooring buoy at the wreck of the "Blanche King";

16 "Darlington" located 32o 17.2'N, 64o 59.0'W
- the area within 300 metres radius of a mooring buoy at the wreck of the "Darlington";

17 "L'Herminie" located 32o 19.1'N, 64o 58.5'W
- the area within 300 metres radius of a mooring buoy at the wreck of the "L'Herminie";

18 "Vixen" located 300 metres west of Daniel's Head, Sandys
- the area within a 100 metres radius of the wreck "Vixen";

19 "Commissioner's Point Area" being the area within a 200 metres radius of a stake located at
32o 19.72N, 64o 49.93W and bounded on the south-west and south-east by the shore;

20 "Lartington" located 32o 21.8'N, 64o 54.8'W
- the area within 300 metres radius of a mooring buoy at the wreck of the "Lartington";

21 "Constellation Area" located 32o 21.8'N, 64o 54.8'W
- the area within 500 metres radius of a mooring buoy at the wreck of the "Constellation";

22 "Montana" located 32o 21.7'N, 64o 54.8'W - the area within 300 metres radius of a mooring buoy at the wreck of the "Montana";

23 "Eastern Blue Cut" located 32o 23.4'N, 64o 53.1'W
- the area within 600 metres radius of a mooring buoy at Eastern Blue Cut;

24 "Xing Da Area" located 32o 25.0'N, 64o 54.4'W
- the area within a 200 metres radius of a mooring at the wreck of the "Xing Da";

25 "Snake Pit" located 32o 26.5'N, 64o 50.3'W
- the area within 300 metres radius of a mooring buoy at the area called Snake Pit;

26 "Hog Breaker" located 32o 27.5'N, 64o 49.8'W
- the area within 300 metres radius of a mooring buoy at Hog Breaker;

27 "Caraquet" located 32o 27.7'N, 64o 50.1'W
- the area within a 300 metres radius of a mooring buoy at the wreck of the "Caraquet";

28 "Madiana" located at 32o 27.5'N, 64o 48.5'W - the area within 300 metres radius of a mooring buoy at the wreck of the "Madiana";

29 "North Rock" located at 32o 28.5'N 64o 46.1'W
- the area within 1,000 metre radius of the North Rock beacon.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Great News: Black grouper fishing ban extended

From the Royal Gazette: September 5. 2008 08:50AM
Black grouper fishing ban extended

By Amanda Dale

Government has extended the summer fishing ban on black grouper after research revealed the fish continues to spawn beyond August.

Environment Minister El James yesterday announced the closure of a section of the Northeastern Seasonally Protected Area to all fishing activities from September 1 to November 29.

A Government spokesman said: "The protected area is usually closed from May 1 to August 31 each year in order to protect red hind and black grouper — also known as black rockfish, that aggregate to spawn in the area.

"However, recent studies carried out by the Department of Environmental Protection indicate that the rockfish continue to aggregate in the area to spawn beyond the end of August."

The notice is issued under Section 4A of the Fisheries Act 1972 and states: "Take notice that the Minister responsible for the Environment, being satisfied that there is an immediate need for the prohibition of fishing in a fish aggregation area, for the conservation and protection of the Black grouper, also known as Black rockfish (Mycteroperca bonaci), hereby notifies all members of the public that fishing in the fish aggregation area described below is prohibited from 1st September 2008 through 29th November 2008."

The aggregation area is square in shape and extends 1,500 metres on each side.

It is enclosed by a line running in an easterly direction from a point 32 degrees 28.60 minutes North, 64 degrees 35.60 minutes West, to a point 32 degrees 28.60 minutes North, 64 degrees 34.70 minutes West, thence by a line running southerly to a point 32 degrees 27.75 minutes North, 64 degrees 34.70 minutes West, thence by a line running westerly to a point 32 degrees 27.75 minutes North, 64 degrees 35.60 minutes West, thence by a line running northerly back to 32 degrees 28.60 minutes North, 64 degrees 35.60 minutes.

Protected Fish Species of Bermuda

Capture is not permitted for the following fish species in Bermuda.

Red Grouper Epinephelus morio
Snowy Grouper Epinephelus niveatus
Nassau Grouper Epinephelus striatus
Tarpon Megalops atlanticus
Gag Mycteroperca microlepis
Tiger Grouper Mycteroperca tigris
Yellowfin Grouper Mycteroperca venenosa
Whale Shark Rhincodon typus
Midnight Parrotfish Scarus coelestinus
Blue Parrotfish Scarus coeruleus
Rainbow Parrotfish Scarus guacamaia
Striped Parrotfish Scarus iseri
Queen Parrotfish Scarus vetula
Mutton Hamlet Alphestes afer
Princess Parrotfish Scarus taeniopterus
Redtail Parrotfish Sparisoma chrysopterum
Yellowtail (Redfin) Parrotfish Sparisoma rubripinne
Stoplight Parrotfish Sparisoma viride
Greenblotch Parrotfish Sparisoma atomarium
Redband Parrotfish Sparisoma aurofrenatum
Bucktooth Parrotfish Sparisoma radians
Lined Seahorse Hippocampus erectus
Longsnout Seahorse Hippocampus reidi

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Review of Protected Species and Habitats of Bermuda

Protected Marine Species and Habitats of Bermuda

In the following posts I will review the legal definitions and list critical marine species and habitats, as defined in the Laws of Bermuda, which are online at this link.

From the Bermuda Government Protected Species Act 2003

Legal Definitions:

Protected Species:
A Protected Species is any species of plant or animal designated as one of the following:

  1. critically endangered,
  2. endangered or
  3. vulnerable

in accordance with the criteria set out in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species

Designation of protected status is based on consideration of its:

(a) the distribution of the species throughout the world;
(b) the number (with particular regard to the number of
sexually mature members) and distribution of the species in Bermuda;
(c) the location of, and threats to, the habitat of the species; and
(d) natural or man-made factors affecting or potentially affecting the
vulnerability or survival of the species, including destruction of habitat,
over-exploitation, disease, predacity and use of chemicals.

Critical Habitat:
any critical terrestrial or marine habitat essential for the protection
of a specified protected species.

Protected Area:
A bounded area of critical habitat is designated as a “Protected Area”.

In the case of a critical marine habitat the order may impose restrictions
(a) prohibiting the mooring of a vessel;
(b) prohibiting the anchoring of a vessel;
(c) imposing speed limits on marine traffic; and
(d) prohibiting or restricting the movement of marine traffic,
within the protected area.

Take, in relation to any protected species of animal, includes to injure, disturb, harass, kill, capture and collect and, in relation to any protected species of plant, includes to pick, break, cut, uproot, destroy, damage and remove.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Pretty Picture Tuesday

A mixed school of French Grunts and Grey Snapper hangs out under a ledge.
[click on photo to enlarge]

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Coral Spawning Slicks Take Over South Shore

We were out surveying coral reefs on Monday and saw many MASSIVE slicks of coral spawn along the South Shore. Each slick was composed of what must have been millions of coral larvae. With the calm winds of the past few days hopefully the larvae will stay around the island and make it back to the reefs where they can start the next generation of coral reefs!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gone diving - not much time for blogging

A juvenile Four-eyed Butterfly Fish living on an Oculina coral head.

Sorry for the slow rate of change on the weblog.

We are out doing research dives most days until after 6pm.

Will put out updates as often as possible.

Thanks for reading our blog. More soon!!!

Monday, August 18, 2008

BREAM in the news again

The BREAM programme was described in the Royal Gazette newspaper today.

Here is the link - here

Many thanks to Amanda Dale for writing a great article about the BREAM programme, and to Chris Burville for taking such sporty photographs!

BREAM: Who we are and What we do


The Bermuda Reef Ecosystem Assessment and Mapping Programme

BREAM represents the marine side of the Bermuda Biodiversity Project (BBP) at the Bermuda Zoological Society (BZS).

The Bermuda Biodiveristy Project is the umbrella name for all research at the BAMZ facility, including projects conducted in conjunction with other organisations. The BBP goals are to initiate and coordinate a comprehensive local and international effort to catalogue all of Bermuda's flora and fauna, forming the basis for the sustainable use of the Island's living resources.

The BZS was created to enhance the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo for the benefit of Bermuda, its residents and visitors. The Bermuda Government provides continuous support of the physical plant and operational needs, while the BZS, a not-for-profit organisation, supports the development, education and research programmes at BAMZ, and organises special exhibits and activities for the community.

The aims of BREAM are:

A) To support multidisciplinary studies of Bermuda’s coral reef complex in order to enhance the research and management of our unique marine environment. This is accomplished in several ways:

* through direct, targeted studies by the resident team to address management/research needs;
* by encouraging collaborative ventures with other local or visiting scientists;
* by providing logistic support to other researchers;
* by securing funds for specific projects to be undertaken either by the resident team, or in collaboration with overseas scientists;
* and by sharing all information with the scientific community through databases, publications, workshop and conferences.

B) To properly document and orchestrate data collection, management and sharing through the development of a GIS framework in order to promote improved local, regional and international understanding of coral reef systems. This is accomplished by:

* collating all available historical information; by establishing standards for data collection;
* by sharing information;
* by encouraging the adoption of policies by the Environment Ministry through which local and visiting research studies can be tracked to ensure that a copy of all findings is secured locally.

C) To integrate the resource managers, the scientific community and the users in the management processes to define common goals and to recognize the significant pressures and conflicts that are placed upon our marine environment. This is accomplished through:

* specific workshops held locally with representatives of all stakeholder groups, building upon the framework of the Bermuda Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan.

D) To promote a range of public awareness programmes, with the goal of promoting care of our unique coral reef ecosystem. This is accomplished both directly through:

* publications;
* media articles;
* local television;
* via the Education team of the Bermuda Zoological Society