It might not look like much, but the Social Wrasse (Halichoeres socialis), is one of the most threatened marine fishes in the world today.The Social Wrasse is tiny, adults are rarely larger than 5 cm (2 in) in length, and has a very specialized way of life. They only live in mangrove islands located in inshore waters of the barrier reef in Belize. Because of threats caused by coastal development, habitat destruction and pollution, this species was categorized as “Critically Endangered” by IUCN’s Red List, which is the highest threat category used in the Red List.
The Social Wrasse (Halichoeres socialis)
Next December, ichthyology curator Luiz Rocha will join a team from the Smithsonian Institution at the Smithsonian’s Carrie Bow Cay field station to evaluate the current status of this species. The team is particularly interested in possibly negative effects caused by the invasive Lionfish, an aggressive predator from the Indo-Pacific that is spreading through the Caribbean and recently established populations in Belize.
Researchers from the University of Hawaii (Brian Bowen), James Cook University (Howard Choat), King Abdullah University (Michael Berumen) and CAS (Luiz Rocha) are departing tonight from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to Djibouti. We spent the last day working out logistics with the support from Mike’s lab and students at the amazing campus of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.
Ichthyology curator Luiz Rocha will be taking off this weekend for a collecting trip in Saudi Arabia and Djibouti. This trip is partly funded by National Geographic, and the team of collaborators include researchers from King Abdullah University (Saudi Arabia), James Cook University (Australia) and the University of Hawaii. Updates will be posted often, so keep checking our blog!
The campus of King Abdullah University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Dascyllus marginatus, a damselfish endemic to the Red Sea
We are finally here, and the most important piece of equipment onboard, the compressor to fill our scuba tanks, breaks down. It is unfortunate, and we will certainly be more prepared next time. But there are still some things we can do just snorkelling.
Getting ready for our last dive. Photo: J.A. Nunes.
Large schools of fish were a common sight.
School of Chubs (Kyphosus sectatrix). Photo: J. Agreda.
A sight exclusive to marine protected areas, this school of Dog Snappers (Lutjanus jocu) had more than 100 fish. Photo: P. Horta.
Sampling a Nurse Shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum). The shark was released after the sample was taken. Photo: P. Horta.
The cause of our early departure, a failed compressor. Photo: C. Cordeiro.
And with that we head back to land!
Saying goodbye to Parcel Manuel Luiz
The Parcel Manuel Luiz is a marine State Park, and it is truly amazing how different it is to dive in a protected area. During our first dive we saw many large fish, usually not seen in areas frequented by fishermen.
The rare Marbled Grouper (Dermatolepis inermis).
The Black Grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci) is rarely seen outside marine protected areas, but it was common at Parcel Manuel Luiz.
Our first dive also brought a welcome surprise. During my last trip to the area back in 1999 we noticed that the rare and endemic fire coral Millepora laboreli was severely affected by bleaching. Back then, all of the colonies seen were bleached or dead. Today there are signs of recovery and we saw many colonies alive and well.
The endemic fire coral Millepora laboreli.
Another colony of Millepora laboreli.
In Sao Luis (Maranhao State, northeastern Brazil) I met with the team from SISBIOTA Project to start our 24 hour journey onboard the catamaran Acqua 2 to Parcel Manuel Luis, one of the most remote coral reefs in the South Atlantic.
SISBIOTA team and Acqua 2 crew
Acqua 2 sails
The waters were murky nearshore as this area is influenced by very large rivers, but we were a long ways off our destination.
Murky waters nearshore
After almost 24 hours sailing we arrive at our destination and get ready for our first dive.
Getting ready for the first dive
On Sunday, April 8th, Dr. Luiz Rocha embarks in an expedition to explore the remote reefs of Parcel Manuel Luiz, just south of the Amazon mouth in Brazil. There he will join a team of six Brazilian scientists to survey fish and coral communities, and evaluate the impact of climate change on those reefs.