Monday, June 30, 2008

Third bone fish species identified

From an article by Susan Cocking in The Miami Herald:

Fisheries scientists have known for years that two species of bonefish reside in the waters of South Florida and the Caribbean -- albula vulpes and albula garcia, or species B.

But before they could fill in the blanks of those respective life histories came recent confirmation from geneticists there is a third -- previously unknown and as yet unnamed -- species of one of the region's most economically important gamefish.

The new species can not be identified by physical appearance -- only by examining DNA in the cell nucleus from bits of clipped dorsal fins. Geneticists at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg made the discovery recently based on samples taken from the Keys; the western, undeveloped side of Andros Island in the Bahamas; Mexico's Yucatan region; the Virgin Islands; and Grand Bahama Island.

Experts who study the species, such as Aaron Adams of Mote Marine Laboratory on Pine Island in Sarasota, don't know where the mystery fish spends most of its time, when and where it spawns, how large it grows, nor when it reaches maturity. But they haven't answered some of those questions for the two previously identified species either.

''Figuring out what's in the fishery is a huge priority,'' said Adams, who serves as director of operations and research for the nonprofit Bonefish & Tarpon Unlimited.

``It's like being a kid in a candy store -- everything you find out is new, but you've only got a quarter.''

Having the complete biological picture for bonefish is important because sport fishing is a multibillion dollar economic engine in South Florida and the Caribbean. A five-year annual census conducted by scientists from the University of Miami shows every bonefish from Key Biscayne to the Marquesas in the lower Keys is worth $3,500 per year -- or $75,000 over its lifetime -- based on money spent on fishing tackle, boats and charters to chase the species.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Costa Rica congress recommends immediate closure of private docks to end shark finning

From a post on the Web site of Programa Restauracion de Tortugas Marinas (

The Permanent Special Environment Commission of Costa Rica’s Congress issued a report yesterday titled: Investigation on Shark Finning in Costa Rica, File N°16.890.

In the Report, the Commission points out that the use of private docks for the landing of shark products by foreign fleets is legally inadmissible, a key issue for marine conservation and fisheries management, and recommends the immediate closure of these illegal landing sites.

We are very satisfied with the Report of the Permanent Special Environment Commission”, commented Randall Arauz, President of PRETOMA, a Costa Rican NGO that has led a battle against shark finning since 2001. “As we have denounced over and over again, the use of private docks for the landing of shark products by foreign fleets is illegal, and it is the main legal loophole used by foreign fleets to circumvent shark finning regulations”, added Arauz.

“The Costa Rican Fisheries Institute, the Direction of Customs and the Ministry of Public Transportations have all claimed over and over again, that due to the lack of public docks they are in the capacity of legally authorizing the use of private docks by the foreign fleet”, informed Jorge Ballestero, of PRETOMA. “However, the Costa Rican Congress has just confirmed what we have known for years, and it’s that neither Customs nor any other public entity is in the legal capacity of authorizing their use”, clarified Ballestero.

“In spite of the good news, we still can’t celebrate”, declared a cautious Miguel Gómez, Campaign Coordinator of PRETOMA. “Since January of 2006, the Constitutional Court ordered the aforementioned institutions to halt all landings at private docks that were not provided with public installations, an order that was seconded by the Comptrollership’s Court a year later, but they still fail to abide by the rulings. Will they finally abide this time?” Gómez asked himself.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Clean a beach now; sign up for cleanup in September

It's always the right time to clean up a beach, and never too early to sign up for the Ocean Conservancy's Coastal Cleanup:

Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup is the world’s largest volunteer event of its kind. Last year, 378,000 volunteers from 76 countries and 45 states cleared six million pounds of trash from oceans and waterways and recorded every piece of trash collected.

Sign up now to join this year's cleanup effort on Sept. 20, 2008, and a local coordinator will be in touch with you soon.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Search ICRS talks, view abstract for Akumal & Caribbean research

The Web site for the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium lets anyone search symposium material online.

For example, a search for Mexico in the oral and poster presentations brought up these articles:

Impacts of coastal development on ecosystem structure and function of Yucatan coral reefs, Mexico

Decadal Scale Changes in Coral Reefs in Quintana Roo, Mexico
The material must surely be the largest online collection of research on reefs around the world.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Turtles are nesting

Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA) posted a report on turtle nesting for the end of May and beginning of June.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why is it important to know where turtles nest?

From the CTURTLE listserve:

A comprehensive "Atlas of Sea Turtle Nesting Habitat for the Wider Caribbean Region" is now available online in an interactive format at OBIS-SEAMAP.

Why is it important to know where sea turtles nest? The answer is deceptively simple, to inform policy makers and coastal developers, to craft conservation management plans to reverse the trends of depleting populations, and to help countries work together to protect these ancient creatures.

In collaboration with more than 120 experts in more than 40 countries, the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST), in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, has identified all known sea turtle nesting sites in the Wider Caribbean Region, including Bermuda and Brazil.

The landmark database identifies 1,311 nesting beaches, but because some sites host nesting by multiple species, 2,535 species-specific sites are named. The resulting digital landscape significantly expands scientists understanding of habitat use and facilitates the creation of operational frameworks to gauge populations, monitor species recovery, and safeguard habitat in ways that have never been possible.

The atlas provides not just the locations of nesting beaches, but also information on breeding colony size, legal protections and threats to population survival. We hope to update this asset every 5 years, .... stay tuned!

Dr. Karen L. Eckert
Executive Director
Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation
Network (WIDECAST)
Nicholas School Marine Lab - Duke University
135 Duke Marine Lab Road
Beaufort, North Carolina 28516-9721
Tel: (252) 727-1600 / Fax: (252) 504-7648 /


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wyland, Project Aware, and U.S. Olympics produce video on reef conservation

From Sport Diver magazine:

The Summer Olympics challenge the best swimmers, rowers and other athletes. The games also provide an international stage for sharing crucial news, which is why Project AWARE jumped at the opportunity to share an ocean-saving message. Read how PADI, marine conservation artist Wyland (right) and Olympic Gold Medalist Heather Pease-Olson teamed up to create a public-service announcement, then watch the clip at


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Update on turtles on Carriacou, Grenada

An earlier post included a link to a video of turtles on their backs on the shore of Carriacou, one of the Grenadine islands. An e-mail from the Kido Foundation puts the incident into a different perspective:

Subject: reply to your mail about sea turtles in Carriacou
Date: Sun, 1 Jun 2008 20:03:04 -0400

We recently received this link about the 5 Carriacou turtles.

Here is the story.
These very same 5 turtles have been purchased by Kido, tagged and released at sea offshore on the same day they were caught on Feb. 28, 2008.

Kido Foundation, since 2003, launched a Rescue & Release program for sea turtles caught by fishermen during the open hunting season (1st of September - 30th of April). Kido buys them and asks visitors, when possible, to contribute. We also sell T-shirts to raise funds for the purchases.

So far we rescued and released 234 sea turtles and it must be said that the majority of the local population is behind us in this.

In the late morning of Feb. 28, 2008, we had been alerted by two couples of tourists visiting Kido (situated in the North of Carriacou; the 5 turtles were in Tyrrel bay,
South). The fishermen had not called us this time, but we managed to reach there in the afternoon by boat and free all 5 turtles with the assistance of the dive operator Lumbadive. These 5 hawksbills cost us this time 1,500 EC$.

In this occasion two of the five hawksbills were payed for and "adopted" by the same visitors who had alerted us. The rest was our own money.

The Youtube video must have been taken before we arrived.

We had repetitively asked fishermen not to overturn their caught turtles; they eventually resorted to tying them by their fins and keeping them straight under a boat or a tree in the shade. This time they did not do that, apparently because the chief fisher we usually deal with was not present (he later reported to us when we
complained). Prior to Kido Sea Turtle Rescue operations, caught sea turtles were always dragged ashore in the most brutal way and left upside down under the sun until slaughtered.

Since Kido pays market value for healthy live sea turtles, we could at least stipulate some rules of the game and now in Tyrrel bay most turtles are kept in the shade and in the straight position. Regrettably, fishers in town and other areas do differently; we try to set voluntary compliance standards and it takes time to sink in.

Most of these magnificent mature hawksbills of both genders we rescue and release are caught by net within the Sandy Island Marine Protected Area (not yet officially
recognized as such). The fishers admit that they lose 30% of their catch by drowning.

Of course, we can only purchase & release but a few specimen. The excess live animals, which cannot be sold at the local market, is subsequently shipped to Grenada fish market, with indescribable torture for the poor animals.

What next?
An official moratorium on sea turtle catches, as already successfully enforced in most of the other Caribbean islands, would help to stop the slaughter and allow for
some recovery of the stock. Sea turtles are listed as Critically Endangered, which means that within the last three generations their numbers declined by 90%! Among
other consequences, few or no sea turtles in the oceans provoke serious imbalances in the marine ecosystem, affecting local fisheries as well.

Best regards

Marina Fastigi, Ph.D.
Kido Foundation
West Indies
Tel: (473) 443 7936


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Water management can help protect reefs

While the Mexican Caribbean does not experience shortages in fresh water, given the abundance in cenotes, water quality becomes more and more of a concern, especially its impact on the coral reefs. The water management practices of Maho Bay eco-resorts in the U.S. Virgin Islands may be worth using more broadly along Mexico's coast:

Spring action faucets and showers prevent waste. Low-flush toilets save up to 3 gallons per flush. Our first clean and odor-free waterless urinals, made by The Waterless Company, were installed in 1997. We save 12,000 to 15,000 gallons per year with this new technology. We carefully monitor water use every day. Running toilets (a common problem) can drain as much as 2,000 gallons of water a day. At Maho Bay Camps, we ask our guests to shower only during certain times of the day to distribute the demand.

Wastewater is pumped into a large aeration tank. Here, nature's own bacteria break down and separate the solids. The system uses a process designed by the Santec Corporation specifically for our small capacity. The entire system uses gravity reducing back ups. Sifting and chlorinating leave a clear liquid ready for reuse in our organic orchard and garden.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Texas boot dealer jailed for smuggling sea turtle skins

From a story from the Environmental News Service:

DENVER, Colorado, June 2, 2008 (ENS) - Jorge Caraveo of El Paso, Texas, was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Denver to serve 18 months in prison for his participation in the sale and smuggling of sea turtle and other exotic skins and skin products into the United States from Mexico.

Along with the prison term, Caraveo was sentenced to three years supervised release and a $300 special assessment, the Justice Department announced.

Caraveo and 10 others were indicted in Denver in August 2007 following a multi-year undercover investigation named Operation Central, conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Branch of Special Operations.

Caraveo and six other defendants were arrested in Texas and Colorado on September 6, 2007. All seven have pleaded guilty.

Caraveo pleaded guilty on January 29, 2008 to three felony counts of smuggling.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

CEA featured in Coral Connections video

From the Coral Connections' Web site:

4.7 million people visit the Mexican Riviera Maya every year to enjoy the white beaches, the sun, and the natural beauty… but few realize how simple everyday actions can impact the entire region.

“Coral Connections” underscores the effects of uncontrolled development and personal behavior on the local society, the peninsula's water system, and the Mesoamerican reef. It helps people understand the importance of the reef for the entire region. The film encourages viewers to spread the word and become a force for positive change.
Watch the video.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

DIVE with a researcher at Little Cayman Research Center this summer

From the Web site of the Central Caribbean Marine Institute:

Help make a difference by getting involved in one of our research projects. Our "Dive With A Researcher" (DWAR) program gives divers an opportunity to become more knowledgeable about coral reef conservation issues and efforts while helping collect and archive data during the dives.

Aug. 02-08, Searching for Lobster
Conduct an initial assessment of lobster populations around Little Cayman. This will provide an important baseline to understanding the health of the lobster population and, indirectly, the ways in which we can protect this population.

Aug. 2 - 8, Search for Invasive Species
Search for and record baseline data about invasive species (e.g. lionfish) on Little Cayman reefs and examine the impact of the Mat Tunicate on native coral species.

Aug. 9-15, Herbivorous Fish and Reef Resiliency
Investigate some key players in reef resiliency (mainly parrotfish) and see whether they alone are enough to prevent reefs from algae dominance. This is a critical piece of the puzzle in understanding how reefs function.


Friday, June 6, 2008

Ten things you can do to celebrate World Ocean Day, June 8, 2008

From the Ocean Conservancy

World Ocean Day was established during the Rio De Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992 to raise awareness of the important connection between people and the ocean.

World Ocean Day is a time to take a hard look at the current state of our oceans … and at our responsibility as stewards of the earth to protect the ocean from harm.

United we can summon the vision, common sense and political will to restore our ocean’s health, and the life-giving services it provides to everyone on this magnificent planet.
Ten things you can do to help the oceans.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Three Mexican phone cards to honor Year of the Reef

From the Web site of the International Year of the Reef:

Mexico will release IYOR telephone card To celebrate IYOR, three phone cards will be released by Telmex / Ladatel. Telmex is the largest telecommunication Company in Latin America. These cards will be distributed nation wide during the months of May and June. View the 3 phone cards.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Celebrate World Ocean Day on June 8th!

From the Web site of The Ocean Project:

Take time on June 8th to celebrate the beauty and importance of our ocean with family and friends or on your own. By joining with people all over the world in celebration of World Ocean Day we can make a clear statement that no matter where we live we all share one world ocean, with our fate inextricably tied to the future health of our ocean.

This year's World Ocean Day theme “helping our climate – helping our ocean” will draw attention to the many connections between our climate and our ocean and the impact climate change is having on coral reefs and other ocean life.

More information about World Ocean Day, activities in your area, and fun celebration ideas are just a click away at the World Ocean Day website.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Adopt a turtle for Dad!

Still looking for a Father's Day gift? How about adopting a baby turtle, nest or family from CEA? When ordering, put your father's name and address in the "Comments" field, and CEA will create a personalized adoption certificate and mail it and turtle cards to him. Happy adopting!

Click here to place your order. Proceeds support CEA's turtle protection program.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Costa Rican program needs volunteers for turtle season

From the listserve CTURTLE@LISTS.UFL.EDU:

My name is David Peiro, coordinator of the sea turtle program of Friends of Osa Foundation in Costa Rica. Maybe you can help us because I really need for this season volunteers for work in our project of turtles in Costa Rica. Maybe you know how to get in contact with your volunteer department or you know some organizations who can help us urgently.

Thanks a lot and I wait for our news

M. Sc. David Peiro
Sea turtle Coordiator
Friends of Osa Foundation

Want to post?
Ed Blume, a volunteer for Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA), moderates the blog. Anyone wishing to post can contact Ed at

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