Showing posts from 2008

Happy Holidays

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

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 mos…

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.

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

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!

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…

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.

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:

Coral reefs and Mangroves worth $395 to $559 Million per year in Belize

Click the title to see the report, or click this link

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…

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 …

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…

Sunlight on coral

sunlight on coral
sea fans wave together
at dancing wrasse

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 …

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)

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 re…

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)

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 book…

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!

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 …

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

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.

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: 260-279Logan A. (1984) Inters…

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 bu…

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 immed…

Protected Fish Species of Bermuda

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

Red GrouperEpinephelus morioSnowy GrouperEpinephelus niveatusNassau GrouperEpinephelus striatusTarponMegalops atlanticusGagMycteroperca microlepisTiger GrouperMycteroperca tigrisYellowfin GrouperMycteroperca venenosaWhale SharkRhincodon typusMidnight ParrotfishScarus coelestinusBlue ParrotfishScarus coeruleusRainbow ParrotfishScarus guacamaiaStriped ParrotfishScarus iseriQueen ParrotfishScarus vetulaMutton HamletAlphestes aferPrincess ParrotfishScarus taeniopterusRedtail ParrotfishSparisoma chrysopterumYellowtail (Redfin) ParrotfishSparisoma rubripinneStoplight ParrotfishSparisoma virideGreenblotch ParrotfishSparisoma atomariumRedband ParrotfishSparisoma aurofrenatumBucktooth ParrotfishSparisoma radiansLined SeahorseHippocampus erectusLongsnout SeahorseHippocampus reidi

Review of Protected Species and Habitats of Bermuda

Protected Marine Species and Habitats of BermudaIn 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 2003Legal Definitions:Protected Species:
A Protected Species is any species of plant or animal designated as one of the following:critically endangered,endangered orvulnerablein accordance with the criteria set out in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened SpeciesDesignation 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 …

Pretty Picture Tuesday

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

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!

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!!!

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 suppor…