Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Photo Wednesday - Deep Blue RV Endurance

A snorkeler floats suspended at the bow
of the Bermuda Zoological Society's RV Endurance
[click photo for larger image] (c) T. Murdoch

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The BREAM mission

BREAM: 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

Monday, December 7, 2009

Premier Dr. Ewart Brown, on regarding climate impacts to Bermuda

Dr. Ewart Brown was interviewed on Sky news network today - discussing the importance of the worlds larger countries in controlling climate change and the peril facing Bermuda's coral reefs otherwise.

See and hear Dr. Brown's inverview on Sky News at this LINK

We at BREAM are constantly assessing the condition of coral reefs, fishes and other marine animals, so that Bermuda may better manage both global and local environmental impacts to our splendid marine environment.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Surveys of Protected Diving Areas underway

The propeller of the ship wreck of the "Cristobal Colon", which is now a
Buoyed Marine Protected Area for divers near North Rock, Bermuda.

The BREAM team has been busy since mid-October braving high winds and stormy seas to survey all of the Buoyed Dive Site Protected Areas, as part of a project funded by the Department of Conservation Services, the Bermuda Zoological Society, the Atlantic Conservation Partnership, and the Overseas Territories Environmental Programme of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK Govt.

We are using the AGRRA protocol to assess the corals, other benthic animals, and fishes, and the REEF fish survey protocol to gain additional information about fishes at each location.
Yellow dots in the map above show the locations of the
Buoyed Protected Dive Sites we are presently surveying
(click image to enlarge)

This information will be added to the BREAM database which already holds data from over 160 coral reef and seagrass sites. The information we collect will allow us to monitor the ecological health of the reefs and fishes through time in each Dive Site, so we can advise Bermuda Government resource managers on the status of these important natural and cultural protected areas.

BREAM researcher Jessie Hallett, surveying hard and soft corals at the Constellation MPA.

BREAM volunteer Judie Clee, counting fish along a transect line at the Lartington MPA.

A small black grouper watches researchers swim by at the Cristobal Colon ship-wreck MPA.

The Bermuda Zoological Society's R.V. Endurance has been our main
dive boat on the MPA survey project, piloted by Capt. Tim Hasselbring
. Here it is coming in to dock at the public wharf in Mangrove Bay, Somerset.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bermuda Sun: Renowned naturalist's voyage into Bermuda's waters

10/9/2009 10:27:00 AM
Renowned naturalist's voyage into Bermuda's waters
A queen conch fish is not the kind of creature to get everyone's pulse racing.

Compared to a hump back whale, a tiger shark or a manta ray, the tiny shell-dweller barely registers a blip on the interest level of most amateur ocean ­explorers.

But when you've classified, described and photographed almost every known fish in the ocean, coming across something you haven't seen before is a genuine thrill.

Ned de Loach wrote the book on scuba diving - literally.

His encyclopedic 'fish identification' manuals, compiled along with Paul Humann, are bibles for divers everywhere.

A soggy well-thumbed copy of the regional edition - a consultative manual that put a name and a face to the mysterious creatures that lie beneath the ocean's surface - can be found on most dive boats around the world.

Mr. de Loach has been diving for forty years - taking pictures of sea creatures and documenting their behaviour.

The founder of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation is here with his wife Anna, also a renowned underwater naturalist, and a team of recreational divers surveying and documenting fish populations on Bermuda's reefs.

For them, the thrill is not in close encounters with the 'sea monsters' that populate those breathless Discovery Channel documentaries and dwell in the imaginations of armchair enthusiasts.

The real joy lies in the discovery of something new - like the queen conch some of the group discovered on their first trip with Triangle ­Diving on Sunday.

This obsession with the minutiae of marine life - with finding, naming and classifying the ocean's ­diverse complexities - might seem a bit like trainspotting to those who don't share the passion.

But for Mr. de Loach it is a voyage of discovery that is elemental to what it means to be human.

"To understand that you have to get a bit philosophical about it. It is a human need to understand our place in the environment, to know about the living world. We've been doing it for years, so why stop now?

"We're the first generation that has been able to swim with the fishes. We've been studying the natural world on land for eons, we're only just beginning to look at the oceans.

"People always say 'there must be some really fascinating stuff out in ­thousands of feet of water but I could take you out in waist deep water and show you stuff that would blow your socks off. I've been diving for 40 years and I love it just as much as I always did. Every dive I see something new. The more you know, the more you realize there is to know."

Mr deLoach is a 'rock turner' - someone who is always exploring, always looking under the next new rock to find something unique.

The group of divers he has brought with him to Bermuda are cut from the same cloth.

They are part of his REEF organization, set up to enlist recreational divers in the quest to bring order and understanding to the chaos and mystery of the underwater world.

They are here conducting fish surveys - counting and recording the variety of different species on Bermuda's reefs.

The surveys - also ­conducted periodically by Bermuda based volunteers - help contribute to a worldwide database which scientists and environmental planners can use to ­inform future policy.

The more we understand about our reefs, says Mr. DeLoach, the easier it is to protect them.

He believes Bermuda's reef system is among the healthiest in the world. And he praised the island's forward-thinking environmental policies for helping to preserve it.

But he said Bermuda could make the most of the reef as a valuable resource by doing even more to protect it.

"I haven't seen any healthier coral in the western hemisphere. The reefs in the Caribbean are degrading to the point where if you want to see a good, rich coral habitat you have to come to Bermuda. That's something worth ­preserving."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bermuda looks to a 'Sustainable Fisheries Strategy'

From Royal Gazette, Oct. 1st 2009 [link]

By Tricia Walters

Photo by Tricia Walters Forward thinking: Director of the Department of Environmental Protection, Dr. Fred Ming and Marine Resource Officer, Dr. Tammy Trott.

The sea is not a limitless resource, nor can it absorb any and everything we humans put in it. As the world's population grows so too does competition for limited marine resources, resulting in a cycle of adverse changes to our oceans. Some of the worst culprits are overfishing and pollution, together with emissions of excessive amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air, which in turn raises the temperature of the ocean, while also making the seas more acidic.

A diverse array of fish species is an essential part of our aquatic environment and the health and size of our fish stocks is an indicator of environmental quality. Historically fishing was a means of survival, and while some still earn their living this way, fishing has also become a way to relax. According to a report earlier this year in the journal Science, several of the world's leading marine biologists concluded that: "If bad fishing practices continued, in a worse-case scenario all fish and seafood species worldwide will crash by 2048".

Whether this, and similar conjectures come true depends on how we respond to the biological and economic decline of fisheries. The good news is that Bermuda is changing course.

Green Pages met with the Director of the Department of Environmental Protection, Dr. Fred Ming and Senior Marine Resources Officer, Dr. Tammy Trott to talk about the Government's work on a "Sustainable Fisheries Strategy", and what this means for both commercial and recreational fishermen.

"Sustainable fishing is a global objective that has emerged over the years in recognition of diminishing stocks of economically-important species of fish," Dr. Ming explains.

With this objective in mind, fisheries scientists and conservation biologists across the globe are working together to ensure information is shared as to the health of our oceans — this includes healthy fish stocks.

Thanks to the ongoing efforts of Bermuda's Department of Environmental Protection, particularly the Marine Resources Section, Dr. Ming feels the Island is well placed to respond to the global movement. But first, he points out, existing, but outdated scientific measurements and evaluations for maximum sustainable yield need to be updated.

Bermuda has two categories of fish that are monitored. One is migratory fish, the other is reef fish.

Dr. Trott elaborates: "Migratory fish require the cooperation of everyone in the region in order to manage these resources, because these fish travel across countries' borders. The fish we get here in the spring and the fall come from other areas of the Atlantic Ocean, so a mandate was set up through a regional management body to assist in the management of these species."

This does call for the cooperation of all countries where these fish are "harvested" or caught and Dr. Trott adds: "This means conducting research so that you know when the species are found in your waters and gathering data on the amount of fish caught; however, trying to get a handle on these stocks isn't always easy."

Why? Because the Island can't account for what is caught by recreational fishermen. Dr. Ming adds that there is currently no requirement for this group to participate in data collection.

"Until we can get to that point, there will always be gaps in our statistics and understanding of what the status of stocks are that pass through our 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone", he says.

Dr. Trott agrees, adding: "A lot of recreational activity takes place for migratory species such as Wahoo, Yellowfin Tuna and Marlin."

In fact, recreational fishing is on the increase in Bermuda and Dr. Ming believes that up to 30 new recreational vessels are being registered each month. With this comes an added burden on fish stocks, from both commercial fishing and recreational fishing. This in turn puts pressure on Government to manage this fragile resource.

"Research is needed, supported by legislation that will require fishers to report their catch," Dr. Ming insists. "We have legislation requiring commercial fishermen to report their catch and if they don't report their stats we can take away their license. And, we do mean business."

He adds that this year some 17 commercial fishermen received warnings of this nature and are at risk of losing their licenses.

There are currently 326 registered commercial fishermen; however, these fishermen all fish from 200 licensed commercial fishing vessels as some are boat owners and some are crew.

Dr. Ming is also concerned about the reluctance of some for the need for stricter control: "From recreational fishers and those in fishing clubs, to people who are decision makers and who want to serve the people of Bermuda and not put them 'in a box', we all want to make our lives better in Bermuda. But increasingly as the pressures grow on our limited reef system, we are coming to the point of having to change the way in which we do business."

This is where the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy comes in. Issues it will address include management of species and the ecosystem of which they are a part.

Dr. Trott elaborates that this includes doing research on potential nursery grounds and fish movement patterns.

Management of the commercial fishing sector and non-commercial fishing sector will also be addressed.

However, one area, which is of great concern to both Dr. Trott and Dr. Ming, is climate change and its effect on Bermuda's reef.

"We need to find ways to make the reef system more resilient for the species that live there," Dr. Trott points out.

As for the die-offs in reef fish over the last month and a half, Dr. Ming says: "While we are at the earliest stages of our investigations into the die-offs in reef fish over the last month and half, there is a very strong suspicion that temperature is a major driver behind the problem. Not in a direct way, but in a more indirect way in that temperature change is stressful to fish. Globally, the month of August has seen sea temperatures of more than a degree Celsius above the norm and we can't help but think that this is perhaps one of the reasons that fish died."

The investigation is ongoing, with overseas fish expert Dr. Wolfgang Vogelbein this week confirming that a variety of factors may have contributed to the fish dying off, including an unusual rise in sea temperature. (See story below)

On a final note, Dr. Ming says the feasibility of culture fisheries is also being investigated: "There has been work done on a few local species that may prove suitable for culture in commercial numbers, but Government's role will be to provide technical support for managing issues like nutrition and fish health. Our role will be supportive and the private sector will drive the growth of that new sector."

So what can you do to help? Recreational fishermen are invited to sign up for a voluntary logbook scheme, which should be launched early next year to help with research. Green Pages will notify the public before the scheme is officially launched.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

From Royal Gazette: Expert warns against eating sickly fish

Expert warns against eating sickly fish

By Ruth O'Kelly-Lynch

Fish Pathologist Dr. Wolfgang Vogelbein at a press conference about recent fish die-offs.
Photo: Mark Tatem

An overseas fish expert yesterday called the recent fish die-off concerning.

But he urged people to use common sense when it came to eating fish, saying the majority of those caught are safe.

Wolfgang Vogelbein is a highly regarded fish pathologist and professor of marine science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the College of William and Mary.

Dr. Vogelbein said: "It's always the big question, 'are the fish safe to eat?' I think common sense should be used. People who fish know what a healthy fish looks like.

"Those are safe to eat. But a fish which has ulcers on it [such as a lack of scales and blood on the skin] should not be."

He added that he enjoyed rockfish for lunch yesterday.

But he said the die-off was concerning as it shed light on a variety of environmental factors, as well an infection, that appeared to be causing the die-off.

Dr. Vogelbein has been on the Island since Friday collecting samples of the dead fish which he will study in his US laboratory.

The study, and its findings, may take years to complete as there are a variety of factors which must be investigated.

He said there seemed to be environmental factors leading to the death of the fish but added: "Some of the fish are showing skin ulcers and some of the fish are also showing signs of infections in their gills.

"There appears to be an organism playing a role. We have been able to isolate some bacterial organism."

Dr. Vogelbein also said that a weakened immune system due to high water temperatures could be causing fish to react negatively to bacteria regularly found in the ocean.

Dr. Fred Mind, the Government's Director of Environmental Protection, added that we appear to be at the tail end of the die off and only one area on the South Shore continues to see a small amount of fishing being impacted.

He added that working with Dr. Vogelbein had been a great "learning process" and they were already setting up new ways to collect data and deal with the issue if it happens again.

Unfortunately, there were no reports of Lionfish in the die off. Lionfish are a dangerous predator which are threatening the ecosystem of Bermuda's reefs and fisheries.

Look out for this months' Green Pages, publishing on Thursday, to learn how the Government's Marine Resource Section is responding to the global movement of sustainable fishing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Offshore Coral Husbandry for Research and Conservation Action

Two coral racks located in 9-m depth, holding 20 corals each.

This close-up photo shows the wire and bar used to make the racks,
and some of the corals we are studying.

BREAM researcher Jessie Hallett is deploying juvenile corals
epoxyed to small tiles on this coral rack. Once the corals are held
on the racks for a short period to recover, they will be used in
an experiment on a nearby reef.

BREAM has built and deployed mesh racks for holding reef corals, out at our research area in the North Lagoon. We are using these racks for two reasons: (1) to carry out experiments on coral growth under different environmental and experimental conditions, and (2) to use as "holding pens" for corals in need of relocation after ship groundings, shoreline development or other human activities. Corals grow better when water flow is un-impeded, and corals placed on the racks 2 months ago seem very healthy thus far.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Breaking News: Govt. looking into cause of dead fish

Royal Gazette: September 15. 2009 01:56PM

Residents are being advised not to panic over the numbers of dead fish that have washed up on Bermuda’s shores in recent weeks.

Hundreds of e-mails have been circulated by persons concerned about the die-off, with many warning against eating local fish.

Government is to hold a press conference today, however Environmental Protection director Fred Ming told The Royal Gazette: “I think it would be wise not to eat any fish that looks like it is lethargic [unresponsive] or has lesions or any signs on the body of damage. Do not eat them because we don't know what's involved.”

Dr. Ming said people should be cautious, but there is no need to panic. At this point, he doesn't discourage anyone from swimming or fishing.

“We don’t know what is causing this and what we have done is assign a team of scientists, technicians and so forth representing the department, conservation services and BIOS. We have been out on one outing and we will send people out again in the next couple of days to look for signs of algae bloom.”

Algae bloom, a rapid increase in the amount of algae in the ocean, is characterised by discolouration of the water and can often become toxic to fish and other wildlife. However, warm water temperatures and poor water quality could also be the cause, explained Dr. Ming.

For the full story see tomorrow’s Royal Gazette.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

BREAM team prepares for 60 ft reef surveys

Rob Fisher setting up a transect line on Bermuda's forereef terrace

A fundamental impediment to marine resource management in Bermuda is the lack of critical baseline data of the benthic and fish populations present across fore-reef habitats, and within current marine protected areas of the Bermuda Platform. These reef habitats are large, covering over 300 sq. km., and of global significance as preliminary surveys indicate that the Bermuda fore-reef contains some of the healthiest coral and herbivorous fish assemblages remaining in the Western Atlantic.

As part of the BREAM mandate, and with the BZS research vessel "Endurance" and with financial assistance from the Department of Conservation Services (link), the Atlantic Conservation Partnership, and the Overseas Territories Environment Programme (link), we are going to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the entire fore-reef habitat at 10-m depth intervals across 3 depth zones, and of all spatially-bounded managed marine areas, using standardized methodologies. These new surveys will complement previous baseline surveys of the lagoon and reef crest already completed by our research team. The new information we propose to collect will be critical for the development of future marine zone management plans, and will allow Bermuda to meets its commitments as detailed in the Bermuda Environmental Charter, the Bermuda Biodiversity Action Plan, the Rio Convention on Biodiversity, and other Multilateral Environmental Agreements. Local resource managers will collaborate closely with our team on the project, and we will provide educational opportunities to local, UKOT and international students.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Prior BREAM research intern Matt Strong is hosting a Lionfish Tournament next weekend:


$15 per individual & $30 per boat

Sunday, August 23, 2009
7:00am - 3:00pm
Pier 41 Marina - Dockyard


Lion Fish Tournament Aug 23rd

Safely catch as many Lion fish as you can;
spear them, hook them, net them. Basically get them how ever you can legally and safely. All Lion Fish Catches accepted - no size or number limits

Tournament time:
Sun-up to 3 p.m.

From 3 p.m. until 7 p.m.
Weigh-in and Awards/Prize Giving
Lion Fish- Handling, Preparation and Tasting
Big Tune by Harrington Sound...


We will have two information sessions and lion fish collection permit courses on Aug 15th at 11am and on Aug 18th at 7pm at BAMZ (Aquarium- Education room). These sessions are free but you will have to sign up to join in. Email matt@fantaseabermuda if you need more info or you would like to get your LION FISH Permit.

Tournament Sign up forms can be downloaded from or collected from the Fantasea Office at # 5 Albouys Point.

Please show your love for Bermuda's Marine Ecosystem by killing and eating this Fish. (sounds wrong doesn't it, but seriously this species can potentially decimate our reefs).
Show some REEFSPECT.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

BREAM researcher Jessie Hallett in the Mid Ocean on July 31st

Mid Ocean News link here

Published: July 31. 2009 12:00AM
How our wetlands have shrunk over past 200 years

By Alex Scrymgeour

BERMUDA has lost 57 per cent of its wetland areas in the last 200 years. With continued coastal development and people continuing to dump trash illegally at marshes and other wetland environments the problem is only getting worse.


Last night, Jessie Hallett, a researcher with the Bermuda Zoological Society (BZS), gave a lecture in the main hall of the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo (BAMZ), discussing how marine and wetland habitats of Bermuda have changed in the past two centuries.

By comparing a 200-year-old detailed map of our reef and wetland areas to those of today she showed the impact on Bermuda's fragile environment.

Speaking with the Mid-Ocean News earlier, Ms Hallett and Dr. Thad Murdoch, head of the Bermuda Reef Ecosystem Assessment and Mapping Programme (BREAM) at BZS, talked about the upcoming informative talk and the changes to Bermuda's marine and wetland ecosystem in the last 200 years.

BREAM maps the marine habitats of Bermuda and they have successfully mapped all the reefs and sea grass beds. Aerial photos were taken from planes and put into one big composite image. They then mapped the reefs and other marine environments using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) along with the photos.

Ms Hallett is comparing today's mapped reefs and wetlands to a map created 200 years ago by Thomas Hurd. From 1789 to 1797 Mr. Hurd detailed all of Bermuda's known reefs and wetlands.

"Jessie's project was funded by BZS," said Dr. Murdoch.

"The Hurd map was provided by Dr. Ed Harris of the Bermuda Maritime Museum in digital format. Thomas Hurd took eight years to map Bermuda's reefs and he used a water glass to do the mapping which made his map extremely detailed and accurate.

"It was Jessie's idea to compare the old map to the new aerial photos. Using those she compared what factors influenced change to the environment. Factors such as social or cultural play a big part in the change. The question then becomes: how can we use the knowledge to better conserve today?"

Ms Hallett also looked at the wetlands to see how they had changed. According to her research they have been dramatically changed with a staggering 57 per cent loss to the environment.

"Hurd's map had 46 wetlands and today there are only nine original ones left," stressed Ms Hallett.

"There are a couple of other ones that weren't on the Hurd map. They are thought to have have been ponds and marshlands.

"Paget Marsh is now a marsh that would have looked the same as it did in the 1600s. The restoration recently undertaken to the marsh did a great job restoring it. Anywhere flat in Bermuda was marsh before people arrived. The area adjacent to wetlands was very fertile and there were lots of farms there.

"Before proper waste disposal was introduced to Bermuda people would dump their trash in the marsh's around the island. Morgan's point American naval base would dump their trash in the marsh's as well."

The marine environment has gone through some dramatic changes of its own. North Rock is just a beacon for ships now, but 200 years ago it was an island.

Over the course of time people stationed at forts, and more recently the US Naval Air Station, would arial bomb and fire on reefs and North Rock for target practice.

"As far as the entire reef platform around Bermuda there haven't been a lot of changes except for human intervention," explained Ms Hallett.

"Clearing the ship channels did a lot of damage to the reef and we still have pollution and chemical problems.

"A lot of reefs were destroyed in ship channel creation because they didn't have the technology to make better choices. The western channels destroyed 40 hectares of reef versus the eastern Town Cut which destroyed less than a hectare of reef and land combined.

"If they ever fix up the ship channels the best option is to re-dredge St. George's Town Cut for new ship channels. Re-dredging will have far less impact to the already fragile marine environment than creating new channels elsewhere. The big issue in the west at Dockyard right now is the ships can barely fit through the existing channels."

In recent years coral and reef systems around the globe have been disappearing at an alarming rate.

Thankfully, as of right now, Bermuda has been spared the disastrous demise and we could soon be the worlds leading dive destination as our reefs are extremely healthy.

"Our reefs are thriving," said Dr. Murdoch.

"We still have parrot fish, which most places around the planet no longer have. They are protected in Bermuda.

"Also: No spear guns and no fish pots equals good for reefs. Our coral cover is great. However in contrast our grouper populations aren't great. We've wiped out our Nassau grouper population for good and our black grouper is slowly making a comeback.

"The data recovered is saying everything that can be eaten by a grouper and shark is thriving because there are no sharks or grouper left in Bermuda to eat them.

"The rest of Caribbean has taken a real hit in recent years with their reefs. In the last 30 years they have been decimated. Overfishing, bleaching from global warming, and disease have all led to their demise."

There are some simple steps people across Bermuda can take to help preserve our island environment.

With pollution and illegal dumping still at an all-time high Dr. Murdoch and Ms Hallett urge people to dispose of their trash properly.

They say conservation bodies such as Bermuda National Trust and Conservation Services are doing a great job at helping to conserve the environments and note the public has to do their part and act responsibly.

"Pollution is a huge factor to the destruction of any environment," cautioned Ms Hallett.

"The cultural thing of throwing garbage in the wetlands is still here in Bermuda even though the wetlands are improving.

"With all the costal development we should put more mangrove forests in. They are essential shelters for juvenile fish like snapper. They also protect our coast line from flooding. For the reefs the biggest threat is development, over fishing and pollution such as heavy metals from boatyards.

"Environmental impact assessment should be the first step in development of any project here in Bermuda. People need to be made more aware through education. Education is a huge factor in combatting environmental deterioration.

"With historical and eco knowledge, and new technology, we should be able to manage our environment. With all that knowledge we can protect our marine environment and protect our home."

Monday, July 20, 2009

RESCHEDULE!! BAMZ Lecture: 200 years of change: New Perspectives from Old Maps

Not Monday - TUESDAY!!!!

FREE: Public Welcome

Tuesday, July 28, 2009
7:00pm - 8:00pm
Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo - Classroom

Flatts Village, Bermuda


Come hear Jessie Hallett, BREAM researcher, describe how she used the 200 year old Hurd Map of Bermuda to determine how marine and wetland habitats of Bermuda have been changed in the past 2 centuries

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Eagle Ray researcher Matt Ajemian in the news!

BREAM supported research graduate student Matt Ajemian, in part funded by the Eric Clee Environmental Fund at the Bermuda Zoological Society, was in the news today!

Link to Bermuda Sun article from Wednesday July 8th

Bermuda holds secrets to the elusive Eagle Ray

Sarah Lagan

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Research:  Scientist Matt Ajemian (right) is assisted in the weighing of the captured Eagle Ray which is seen below being netted in to the boat. *Photos by Sarah Lagan

The Eagle Ray is a species of fish shrouded in mystery and it is one man's mission to unearth the many secrets of these enigmatic creatures from our own island.

PHD student Matthew Ajemian is visiting Bermuda from the University of South Alabama seeking an insight into the ray's movements and behavioural patterns.

He is returning to complete the next phase of his research focusing on the ray's interaction with Bermuda's Calico Clam, now scarce here but once seen in their droves.

Harrington Sound has been tapped as an ideal location for researching the Eagle Ray as it is one of the only places in the world where their numbers are abundant. The theory is their population could be on the rise.

"Sharks are top predators and rays are just below them," explained Ajemian. "There is a thinking out there that because we have removed the top level from the ecosystem - with over-fishing we have fished out sharks - that this group is starting to ­really explode in population.

"A lot of these species have not been studied and we have very ­little understanding of their ­ecological role. That is disconcerting because a related species to the Eagle called the Cow Nosed ray has been blamed for destroying shellfish harbours all over the States - the Eastern Oyster in the Chesapeake Bay, the Bay Scallop down in North Carolina."

"We want to get a better handle of the ecological roles of these ­animals because no one's ever looked at them in Bermuda and there are very few studies around the world." Ajemian explains.

His method on this trip has been to set up enclosures for the clams and rays and record the clams' mortality rates - his prediction is that the majority of predation in this area is down to the rays.


In his final phase of research he will look at their migratory behaviour which still remains a mystery. Eagle Rays have been spotted off shore on Bermuda's seamounts but it's believed that they remain here all year round due to our temperate climes.

Ajemian said one reason Bermuda was chosen as a location is due to the efficiency of aquarium collector Chris Flook's methods of capturing the slippery species - notoriously difficult to catch.

I went along to see Flook in -action. After scouring the Sound we spotted one ray close to Trunk Island and gently pulled it in using a 'purse net'. The net, with floats up top and lead weights down below, encircles the ray and is gathered up on deck.

After a little struggle the ray was anaesthetized, weighed measured and photographed and released and a few of us jumped in the water to take some pictures.

In the water Ajemian came into fairly close contact with the ray and it appeared to jolt towards him as a warning but a gentle stroke of the belly calmed her. She glided around us for a little while before whooshing off into the distance. There was never a moment I felt threatened or uneasy by her behaviour but just in awe of her beauty and the grace of her movements.

While the ray is a creature feared by many for its deadly sting they are apparently shy of humans and therefore relatively unthreatening.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer is here and BREAM is out on the water more than ever!

Jessie Hallett, BREAM Research Assistant,
exploring patch reefs in Bermuda's North Lagoon

This summer BREAM has several graduate students, funded by BZS, ACP and OTEP, taking part in a range of research projects.

Matt Ajemian, from the University of South Alabama and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, is returning for his third year of BZS-funded PhD research into the population assessment and feeding ecology of spotted eagle rays. His primary advisor is Dr. Sean Powers.

Brittany Huntington is returning for her second year of ACP-funding with her PhD project which examines patch reef ecology and interactions between parrotfish and corals. Brittany goes to the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami, and is in Dr. Diego Lirman's lab.

Katherine Yates joins us for the first time, on an OTEP-funded project to survey the forereef habitats of the Bermuda platform and develop a reliminary spatial management plan for the reefs, as part of her Masters project at York University with Dr. Callum Roberts.

We are also lucky to have the assistance of Claire Grenfell, a Bermudian undergraduate who received Bda. Govt. Summer Employment funding, and who attends Queens University. Claire is helping us as a field and boat assistant.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Reef related news from IUCN

BREAM scientists surveying reefs for disease (c) 2007 T.Murdoch

Latest News from the International Union for Conservation of Nature

Manage corals - Minimize climate change

Protecting the oceans makes economic sense

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Report on Seafan Nudibranch Outbreak 2005

Tritonia Report Thad Murdoch
Population outbreak of the Tritonia hamnerorum nudibranch, an obligate grazer of Gorgonia ventalina sea fans, across Bermuda’s northern reefs in 2005

On July 14th 2005 a large population of the nudibranch Tritonia hamnerorum was found to be at infestation levels on a collection of patch reefs on the Devil’s Flat reef complex. This species was never before recorded in Bermuda.

• The nudibranch numbered in the many hundreds on some sea fan colonies, and was feeding on the sea fans, which caused damage and death to many of these important sessile animals.

• Surveys carried out over the course of the summer determined that the outbreak was patchily located over a ~20 km2 area along the Northern rim and outer patch reefs of the North Lagoon, but not observed nearer to shore, nor along the Western, Southern nor Eastern rim reefs.

• Highest levels of the outbreak occurred at the buoyed Marine Protected Area at Eastern Blue Cut (EBC), and across Devil’s Flat (DF), causing mortality to roughly half of the sea fans on some areas.

• Re-assessment on November 18th, 2005 at the EBC and DF outbreak sites found that the populations were no longer present, presumably due to the colder temperatures prevalent as winter approached.

• The BBP team will watch out for another outbreak of the nudibranch in the early summer of 2006, when sea water temperatures increase again.

• Population assessments of sea fans indicate that these soft corals are most abundant in shallow outer reef areas, which may account for the high densities of the nudibranchs in the same area.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Friday, May 8, 2009

Photo Friday - Big ol' Lobster

A nice big lobster we saw recently on a coral reef survey.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bermuda Government Announcement - Closure of Blue Striped Grunt Spawning Area

The Department of Environmental Protection within the Ministry of the Environment and Sports has advised the public that an area of North Shore will be closed to all fishing activities between May 1st, 2009 and June 30th, 2009 inclusive.

The area being closed is a known “fish aggregation area” and is being closed for the conservation and protection of the Blue-striped grunt (Haemulon sciurus), and in accordance with the Fisheries Act 1972.

The closed area being roughly rectangular in shape is enclosed by a line running in a north-easterly direction from St. Catherine’s Point, St. George’s to the Southern channel marker #12 (32 degrees 23.6 minutes North, 64 degrees 40.1 minutes West) thence by a line running along the southern boundary of the Southern channel to the Southern channel marker #16 (32 degrees 23.9 minutes North, 64 degrees 40.7 minutes West) thence by a line running in a south-westerly direction to a point 32 degrees 23.4 minutes North, 64 degrees 41.4 minutes West thence by a line running in a south-easterly direction to Fort George, St. George’s.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Extreme Low Tide - updated

The tops of purple sea fans (Gorgonia ventalina) were exposed to the air for hours yesterday during flat calm sea conditions and an extremely low spring tide. The beacon at Eastern Blue Cut is in the background.

While dramatic, the surprisingly low low tide was a normal spring event. Tide predictions for Sunday show a very low tide was expected [see link]. Regardless, the tops of soft corals out on the reef, as well as seagrass meadows across Bermuda (see below), were exposed for hours to bright sunlight and little wind. This will probably result in some mortality and subtle ecological effects that will take some months to restore to normal.

The brown substrate in the forground is a subaerially exposed seagrass meadow.
This bay pictured above is normally under 3 ft of water,
but was exposed during the spring tide at the end of April

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Out doing marine science

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. We have been out working on research projects and doing reef restoration projects.

In the photo above - BREAM research assistant Jessie Hallett is transplanting corals at a ship grounding site. We then monitor the corals for survival through time.

Monday, March 30, 2009

From Bermuda News: Turtles survive horrific boat strikes

Turtles survive horrific boat strikes

By Amanda Dale
Royal Gazette
Monday March 30, 2009

Tough turtle: Mark Outerbridge and Patrick Talbot remove barnacles and algae from a boat struck Green Turtle which was found in Jews Bay on Wednesday. The turtle is missing a large portion of shell but is still alive.
Photo: Mark Tatem

Boat users are being urged to slow down after two more injured turtles were recovered from the water this week.Both Green Turtles are both lucky to be alive, according to Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo (BAMZ) head aquarist Patrick Talbot.

The first was found floating in Jews Bay and the second was recovered from St. George's Harbour."We are amazed they are still alive," said Mr. Talbot.The turtles are now being rehabilitated at BAMZ, but need daily care to clean out their wounds.

The first, estimated at between 20 and 30 years old, was spotted by a member of the public on Wednesday in Jews Bay. The turtle was severely injured and Bermuda Turtle Project coordinator Mark Outerbridge had to jump in the water to retrieve it.Mr. Talbot said: "His injuries are such that it is as if someone has taken a big ice cream scoop and taken a chunk the size of a quarter of his body away.

"The wounds however, are starting to heal, and Mr. Talbot said this points to the incident happening a couple of weeks ago."The staff here are all amazed this turtle is still alive," he said. "We are hoping we will be eventually able to release him back to the wild, but at the moment he needs daily care."It's the same with the one today. It also needs daily cleaning of its wounds."He said a St. George's resident reported seeing the turtle in the middle of the harbour last Friday.

"It had just been hit and was still bleeding," said Mr. Talbot, who described the injuries as "the size of a large dinner plate".He said the turtle's shell had gaping holes in both the top and bottom, indicating it had been struck by the prop of a boat.

The turtle is thought to be between five and ten years old."We want people to be more aware," said Mr. Talbot. "Last year we had a number of turtles killed from boat strikes in a short space of time."There are signs up close to shore, so please obey the laws. Anyone within 100 yards of shore has to be travelling at five knots or no wake."If you can imagine the amount of force it takes to punch through a turtle's shell, if that was done to a human being, the damage would be so horrific the human wouldn't survive."

Mr. Talbot added it was important to protect these animals as Bermuda is a "major staging ground" in the Atlantic for growing juvenile and sub-adult Green Turtles.

From August to November of last year, five turtles were killed in boat collisions, whereas from August 2007 to August 2008, six were killed over the course of a year. Experts say the rise in boat strikes is a worrying trend.Anyone finding a dead or injured turtle should take it to the staff at BAMZ. Contact BAMZ at: 293 2727.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mangroves: Back to Bermuda’s Roots

By: Jessie Hallett - BZS

Two views across The Lagoon at Ireland Island showing the fringing mangroves and neighbouring seagrass habitats. These natural areas are critical habitat for juvenile snappers and grunts which eventually leave and live as adults out on the coral reefs.

While we tend to think of marine habitat restoration as something modern – I have found two instances where healthy mangrove forest were created over decades and centuries ago.

During the last few months, I have been comparing extant marine and coastal habitats around Bermuda to those that were present two hundred years ago. I have been doing this by comparing recent aerial photos of the coast and reefs to the same areas charted by Thomas Hurd between 1788 and 1797. Throughout my work, I have been striving to determine what changes have occurred to these habitats, whether the changes have benefited the environment or not, and whether they are natural or anthropogenic. While in many cases, the environmental changes that have occurred over the past two centuries have been negative, two positive changes have occurred inadvertently due to human perturbations. Both these cases involve the creation of mangrove swamps where none existed before.

With a thicket of roots that hang like slender fingers into the water, mangrove trees may look ominous, but they are an important habitat to many fish species, as well as aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, and birds. These trees have adapted to live in one of the most extreme and variable habitats in tropical marine systems: brackish marshes where salinity, temperature, nutrients, and sunlight can all be highly erratic. Unlike most plants, mangroves are halophytes, which means they are specially adapted to thrive in salty conditions. Mangroves are important because their roots help to stabilize coastlines, preventing erosion by expediting sediment deposition, and they also help recycle nutrients throughout seagrass and reef communities. The complex structure created by their roots also provides an ideal nursery habitat for juvenile reef fish, including many of the commercial fish species we like to eat.

Many mangrove habitats in Bermuda have disappeared entirely in the past two centuries. Many of Bermuda’s wetlands were in-filled as garbage dumps, or drained in the 19th Century when marsh-breeding mosquitoes spread deadly diseases such as yellow-fever. Since we have already lost so many mangrove areas, any remaining habitat where mangroves are thriving should be protected.

Over the past two centuries, human modifications to the coast has inadvertently created thriving mangrove marshes – at Morgan’s Point, and The Lagoon on Ireland Island.

Morgan’s Point was originally a group of islands called “The Brothers”, each surrounded by seagrass and patches of coral reefs. When the islands and surrounding area was reclaimed to create the US Naval Base during the 1940’s, a small inlet on the north side of the point was also formed, in order to provide a safe berth for small boats. Today the coastline of this man-made inlet is dominated by mangroves, and acts as a miniature estuary that provides habitat for herons and juvenile fishes.

An aerial image of the North Inlet at Morgans Point

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Another “accidental” mangrove swamp was created in the lagoon located on the south side of Ireland Island. Two hundred years ago, this lagoon was an larger inlet and open completely to the sea. When the Dockyard was built in the early 1800’s, the lagoon was enclosed by boulders except for a small cut through the rock out to the western side of the island, and a second pass between the boulders that connected to the Great Sound on the east side. These connections to the sea were excavated to prevent the lagoon waters going stagnant. By making the lagoon so sheltered - the workers who created it inadvertently also created a shallow sheltered area which is ideal for mangroves.

An aerial image of The Lagoon

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Presently, the Dockyard Lagoon and the inlet at Morgan’s Point both have healthy populations of mangroves, and the adjacent waters are dotted with propagules - the seeds with which mangroves reproduce. Both these areas are currently facing the possibility of development: a resort hotel on Morgan’s Point, and housing near Dockyard. Hopefully, these habitats will be spared if the regions are developed, as without protection Bermuda’s remaining mangrove forests may disappear.

Since local research has show reef fishes start their life in mangrove forests, losing these critical intertidal areas will have negative consequences that will resonate across the entire reef platform. These two "manufactured" habitats provide Bermuda’s mangrove population a chance to re-establish itself, and to restore the island with a healthy abundance of this vital coastal habitat.