Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Department of Environmental Protection appeals for assistance in Black Grouper study

Department of Environmental Protection appeals for assistance in Black Grouper study

From the Bermuda Government website

The Department of Environmental Protection today issued an appeal for members of the public, especially commercial and recreational fishermen, to assist in the Department’s study of Black Grouper in Bermuda waters.

During June and July, Department staff have been catching Black Grouper and implanting acoustic tags into the belly of the fish before releasing them back into the ocean. These tags transmit a signal that can be detected by a special receiver which has been placed underwater. External yellow “spaghetti” tags, three inches long, have also been inserted into the muscle just under the soft dorsal fin on both sides of the fish.

The placement of additional acoustic tags in Black Grouper and additional underwater receivers will continue in August.

Black Grouper, like most large grouper species, aggregate to spawn (reproduce). These spawning aggregations occur at predictable times and places making the species particularly vulnerable to overfishing as catch rates are very high at these sites.

The study site is in a seasonally protected area which normally will remain closed to fishing until August 31st.
The aim of the study is to assess the effectiveness of the seasonally protected area closures by learning more about how Black Grouper use these areas, including where they aggregate to spawn and how long they remain at the aggregation site(s). The evidence gathered will be used to determine whether or not the period of closure at the study site should be extended to protect this grouper species. The data collected will also be useful in assessing the effectiveness of this and other seasonally protected areas. The current study is expected to last about 3 years.

Director of Environmental Protection Dr. Fred Ming said: “This study is vitally important in learning more about this important species so that we can ensure their continued survival in Bermuda’s waters.”

Any fisherman who catches a Black Grouper should check for the external yellow tags that identify the fish as an acoustically tagged fish. Fishermen are strongly encouraged to release tagged fish and to notify the Department of the external tag numbers. However, if the fish is retained, all tags (external and internal) should be returned to the Department of Environmental Protection headquarters in the Botanical gardens or to the Marine Resources Section Office on Coney Island. Whether the fish is released or retained, the fishermen should also inform the Department of the date of capture and location (lat/long) and depth of water in which the fish was caught. Divers can also assist by reporting any sightings of black grouper with the external yellow tags.

The public is reminded that there is a bag limit of one (1) Black Grouper per boat per day.

For more information, please contact the Acting Senior Marine Resources Officer, Dr. Tammy Trott, on 293 5600 ext 2225.

Happy Cup Match - Enjoy the sea over the weekend!

Sorry for not posting lately. We have all been out on the water doing research on patch reefs and soft corals every day since the 14th July.

Above is a photo of a Elkhorn Coral and some fish that I took 3 wks ago in Key Largo after attending the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium in Ft. Lauderdale.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

YouTube Video Interview about Bermuda Eagle Rays

Matt Ajemian, BREAM research graduate student, doing his PhD at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and U South Alabama, was interviewed by Mid Ocean News about his research on Bermuda eagle rays 2 weeks ago.

Here is the video:

You can read more about his BZS funded project on a previous BREAM blog post - here: link

Great stuff!!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sea Fan Research Scientists and Summer Graduate Interns Arrive

Gorgonian soft corals are very abundant across Bermuda's coral reefs.

We are gearing up for field season, a bit late this year due to the 11th ICRS which we attended.

Gorgonian corals are to be surveyed across the platform at our many sites. Two graduate interns are also arriving this week to initiate ecological field experiments that will focus on the processes that cause patterns of variation in coral and fish abundance across the lagoonal patch reefs.

Stay tuned as the researchers tell their stories on the BREAM blog in the coming days and weeks.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Bigger fines to protect Island's fish and reefs

Bigger fines to protect Island's fish and reefs

Royal Gazette July 5th 2008

By Tim Smith and Amanda Dale

Environment Minister El James yesterday tabled legislation aimed at protecting Bermuda's coral reefs for future generations.

Maximum fines for breaking regulations under the Fisheries Act 1972 will leap from $5,000 to $25,000, with the maximum jail sentence up from one year to two years, under the Fisheries Amendment Act 2008.

Mr. James said offenders targeted in the updated law included people who steal "ornaments" from reefs.

"Coral reefs they see on this island are probably the healthiest they see anywhere," Mr. James told the House of Assembly.

"These precious natural assets will be protected by this legislation so future residents and visitors can receive the numerous benefits which they provide.

"The one thing with the marine and the environment you do not get is a second chance. When you rip up a reef, there is no second chance. That's gone forever.

"There's no measure that's too severe to deter individuals from taking advantage and just being thoughtless when they are out there in this marine life."

The legislation also includes repeals to parts of the Fisheries Amendment Act 2006, made law under Mr. James' predecessor Neletha Butterfield.

Deputy Opposition Leader Cole Simons said there had been a raft of fisheries legislation in recent years, put forward by a string of different Ministers.

"All I can say on this issue is shame, shame, shame, shame," said Mr. Simons.

"We are talking about a sustainable fishing industry — it appears this Government is not clear as to what is the best way forward." Later in the debate, Mr. James said in the past three years, two marine areas had been protected — for blue-striped grunt and also black grouper.

"Ongoing research (into fish populations) is being done at all times," said Mr. James.

"It was also said we are doing nothing regarding regulation of fishermen. Once this Act is done, yes.

"We realise there's some fishermen out there who are rogues. There's even some commercial fishermen who are selling imported fish, and some who do not have a licence who go out and get fish to sell to restaurants. These are the people who we will target. We will go after them.

"And the question came up how do we monitor individuals who take more than one rockfish and who break the law. Well we can't catch them all. That's why we are appealing to the general public.

"All of us are stewards and if there's something happening out there we want the general public to let us know because it affects all of us."

Mr. James described penalties of the old fishing act as "out of date".

Commenting on the 2006 act with its two-tier licensing regime, Mr. James said: "The recreational licensing regime was never brought into force. The licensing regime is therefore being repealed and is to just issue a (one) licence as existed before."

Mr. Simons said: "Is the Minister at some point in the future going to reintroduce the two-tier licences while we have a recreational fishing licence going forward, and can he give us some timeline? Will that be brought in in the next year or two years?"

Mr. James responded: "We are reviewing it right now. The recreational licence is the only way to get the data on recreational fishermen, to find out what is being done around here. We have to have the data, so we are reviewing that right now."

The Bill was approved without amendment.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

BREAM and Bermuda Coral Reefs are in de newz

The BREAM project and the ICRS field trip we hosted in Bermuda were in the news this week:

Royal Gazette,
July 4th 2008

Royal Gazette July 4th 2008

Royal Gazette July 4th 2008

Mid Ocean News July 4th 2008

Off to Florida - more from the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium in Ft. Lauderdale in the next few days.