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.