Expedition to survey and remove marine debris in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

By Mark Manuel

As the CRED marine debris team transits back to Honolulu on the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette, check out some highlights from our successful mission to survey and remove marine debris from remote islands and atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Curious about the “dirty job” of cleaning up and sorting marine debris? the impact of plastics on endangered wildlife? where derelict fishing nets come from? debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan? Read about our 2014 expedition on NOAA’s Marine Debris Blog: www.marinedebrisblog.wordpress.com.

Posted in Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Recruits Finding a Home

By Kevin Lino

As a fish nerd (and biologist), I was excited to hear about unusual events occurring along Hawaii’s reefs this summer. While away on another research mission, reports came in from various sources and agencies about what was being referred to as a “biblical” fish recruitment event. Across many Hawaiian reefs, there were multiple reports from researchers, fishermen, and the public of juvenile reef fishes seen in extraordinary numbers. Not just one or two species either, but a wide variety of species. Species were also appearing in locations where they had previously been very rarely encountered. After seeing the pictures and reading comments about the amazing and unprecedented numbers, our team of scientists was eager to get in the water to conduct dive surveys.

Several juvenile Bluefin Trevally (Caranx melampygus) investigate research divers.

Several juvenile Bluefin Trevally (Caranx melampygus) investigate research divers.

This September, during the fifth year of a research partnership between the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED), of the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, and the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) of the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), we got our chance. We conducted the most recent round of biannual fish and benthic dive surveys focusing on the near-shore (<18m) reef habitats of the Kahekili Herbivore Fishery Management Area (KHFMA) on the coastline of West Maui.

A large school of juvenile parrotfish and surgeonfish cruise over the reefs in the KHFMA looking for suitable grazing spots.

A large school of juvenile parrotfish and surgeonfish cruise over the reefs in the Kahekili Herbivore Fishery Management Area (KHFMA) looking for suitable grazing spots.

Knowing that these surveys were occurring late in the summer, and that the recruitment may be more site-specific, we were surprised by the numbers. Nothing I would refer to as “epic” or “biblical” but definitely impressive. During four days of surveys, there was certainly an increase in recruited (the number of new young fish that enter a population in a given year) butterflyfishes, surgeonfishes, tangs, parrotfishes, and other near-shore fishes as compared to previous years. The variety was remarkable as numbers of protected herbivorous juvenile Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens), Kole Tang (Ctenochaetus strigosus), and Lavender Tang (Acanthurus nigrofuscus) were rather abundant. Since 2009, herbivorous fishes within the KHFMA have been protected, but other groups of fish can still be harvested. This unusual management approach has proven much more acceptable to the public as compared to full closure measures. Therefore, if proven effective as a means of restoring herbivorous fish populations, and preventing coral-to-algal phase shifts, then this management approach has great potential to be more widely adopted in Hawai‘i and beyond. Observations seem to be trending in this direction with further analysis forthcoming from this data set and potentially continued research.

One of the many Hawaiian Fantail Filefish (Pervagor spilosoma) recruits seen on the reef in the Kahekili Herbivore Fishery Management Area (KHFMA).

One of the many Hawaiian Fantail Filefish (Pervagor spilosoma) recruits seen on the reef in the  KHFMA.

Our dive teams spent many hours underwater each day identifying, sizing, and counting these fish, as well as sea urchins, and collecting benthic imagery for more detailed analysis later. Divers also paid close attention to potential impacts to corals and the benthic community with much warmer waters being brought in by the current El Niño event. At least for now, little impact was noted during the time of our visit. El Niño is typically associated with a band of warm ocean water temperatures that periodically develop off the Pacific coast of South America and affect other areas in the Pacific. Since the mechanisms and impacts of this warmer water are still under study, the data collected this year will be especially valuable.

 A little White Tip Reef Shark (Triaenodon obesus) emerges from its resting spot within the shallows of the KHFMA.

A little White Tip Reef Shark (Triaenodon obesus) emerges from its resting spot within the shallows of the KHFMA.

There were other species sighted, likely enjoying the bounty, including the smallest white tip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus) that I’ve ever seen—at barely two feet long, pretty adorable. A large number of juvenile predators like Bluefin Trevally (Caranx melampygus) and various goatfish species were also fairly common. One colorful omnivore was sighted throughout all reef habitats on nearly every survey. The Hawaiian Fantail Filefish (Pervagor spilosoma) is an endemic species (only found in Hawaiian waters) that is uncommon on most dives. But as recorded in both Hawaiian culture and historical surveys, this species will have a “bloom” or “boom” year that we were fortunate enough to witness. It will be interesting to see how all of this year’s recruits will affect things in years to come.

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Successful China/USA Sea Turtle Workshop Conducted in Hawaii

Nine Chinese scientists participated in an invitational China/USA Sea Turtle Workshop convened in Honolulu, Hawaii August 25-29, 2014. The workshop was conducted under the auspices of the Bilateral Living Marine Resources (LMR) initiative of NMFS Headquarters and the Chinese Academy of Fishery Science in Beijing. The official hosts and organizers for the workshop were George Balazs (PIFSC), Jeffrey Seminoff (SWFSC) and Thierry Work (USGS) who were assisted by John Wang, Shandell Brunson, and Denise Parker. The workshop was a direct result of an April 2012 LMR-sponsored sea turtle meeting in Shanghai attended by Balazs, Seminoff, and Wang.

Picture of participants from the China and USA Sea Turtle Workshop

Participants of the China/USA Sea Turtle Workshop in Hawaii August 25, 2014.

The Chinese scientists represented Hainan Island, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China. Four of the Chinese participants were university professors, three were government biologists, one was a graduate student, and one represented an NGO involved in research.

The workshop included a mixture of seminar presentations, dialogue, and hands-on field work with Hawaiian sea turtles. The activities were intended to foster information exchange and build bridges to develop ideas for future actions including collaborative research. Two of the several recommendations for continued cooperation consisted of a follow-up workshop in mainland China in 2015 and reciprocal China/USA visiting scientist exchanges. The workshop and sea turtle science (health assessments and foraging ecology) promoted person-to-person diplomacy and resulted in cross-cultural goodwill and cooperation between China and the USA.

Posted in From PIFSC Director's Office, Protected Species Division (PSD)

Update from Timor-Leste: children help researchers to process invertebrates from a study site off Beacou

By Charles Young

The second stop in the operation of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) to recover and process installations and data from locations around Timor-Leste was the westernmost study site, offshore of Beacou, a fishing village just a few miles from the West Timor border. At this site, partners Rui Pinto from Conservation International and Stephanie Lecoeur from Dive Timor Lorasae recently made four dives from a village fishing boat to collect water samples and recover and redeploy oceanographic instruments that monitor water temperature, calcification rates of crustose coralline algae and corals, and cryptic invertebrate biodiversity.

Girls from the village of Beacou work intently to find invertebrates and help staff of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division to process the monitoring installations recovered from a site off the coast near their village in Timor-Leste. Information from the deployment of these installations and oceanographic instruments and the collection of water samples at that site and others will help assess changes in biodiversity and ocean chemistry over time as reef ecosystems around this island nation respond to climate change. Photo by Stephanie Lecoeur, Dive Timor Lorasae

Girls from the village of Beacou work intently to find invertebrates and help staff of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division to process the monitoring installations recovered from a site off the coast near their village in Timor-Leste. Information from the deployment of these installations and oceanographic instruments and the collection of water samples at that site and others will help assess changes in biodiversity and ocean chemistry over time as reef ecosystems around this island nation respond to climate change. Photo by Stephanie Lecoeur, Dive Timor Lorasae

My fellow researchers from CRED and I worked out of a field laboratory and campground set up at the Beacou fish sorting house, and we stayed there for 3 days preparing for scuba dives, processing samples, and conducting educational presentations for the local community. We all were very surprised and excited by how receptive the residents of Beacou were about the work we were doing.

For two days, we had a constant flow of inquirers. The highlight for them was seeing the reef invertebrates that had made their home in the autonomous reef monitoring structures (ARMS) that CRED scientists had deployed 2 years ago in October 2012. In the photo gallery below, you can see local children from the Beacou community assisting CRED staff and partners to process the ARMS and sort the many diverse organisms found in them (Photos courtesy Stephanie Lecoeur, Dive Timor Lorasae).

ARMS are used as a method for measuring cryptic biodiversity within a coral reef ecosystem. They provide habitats in which different invertebrate species can find a home. Hundreds of invertebrate organisms were identified from ARMS recovered from the reefs off Beacou and sorted with the help of local school children.

 

Posted in Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Course on an ecosystem approach and extension methods for fisheries management concludes in Thailand

By Supin Wongbusarakum
Field visit at Crab Bank in Petchaburi Province, Thailand

Field visit at Crab Bank in Petchaburi Province, Thailand.

The Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) offered a regional training course called “Essential Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) and Extension Methodologies” on Sept. 15–29, in Samut Prakarn, Thailand. Two trainees from the majority of the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN, including Brunei, Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia) participated in this training. Most of the participants were fisheries officers. Dr. Rusty Brainard and Dr. Supin Wongbusarakum from the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) served as resource experts for the course, offering guidance and advice to both participants and trainers throughout the training course.

Opening day of the EAFM and Extended Methodologies course

Opening day, Sept. 15, of the course on an ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM) and on extension methods held recently in Thailand for representatives from most of the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

In the first week, the SEAFDEC trainer team—including the hard working and angelic Ms. Panitnard Taladon (Training and Extension Section Head), attention capturer Mr. Isara Chanrajchakit (Fishery Gear Technology Section Head), king of energizer Mr. Krit Phusirimongkol (Training and Extension Officer), new delightful trainer Ms. Siriporn Pangsorn (Fishing Ground Information Scientist), and several other SEAFDEC staff members—provided basic knowledge on the EAFM process and how it can assist in decision making for responsible and sustainable fisheries. The main objective of the first part of this course was for the participants to understand the concept of an EAFM and related steps and to acquire skills and knowledge to develop, implement, and monitor an EAFM plan to better manage capture fisheries. The course was composed of lectures and small group exercises on the 17 training modules that make up the Essential EAFM course.

EAFM participants facilitating a group discussion with fishers to identify core problem of fishing community in Ban Krachur, Rayong province.

Participants in the Essential EAFM course facilitate a group discussion with fishers to identify core problems of the fishing community in Ban Krachur, Rayong Province, Thailand.

In the second week, the course focused on communication and facilitation skills, the concept and methods of fisheries extension, and participatory rural appraisal (PRA) methods. Guest lecturers for these topics were Dr. Surapol Chandrapatya (Senior Expert of the National Extension and Training Center, Kasetsart University, Thailand) and Mr. Shinya Yoshida (Director General, Department of Fisheries and Forestry, Hokkaido Government, Japan), and Dr. Theo Ebber (Coordinator from the Asian Institute of Technology). Several others served as resource people for the course, including Dr. Jarin Sawanboonchun (Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem Project EAFM training coordinator), Mr. Bundit Chokesanguan (Course Director and Information and Training Division Head), Mr. Hajime Kawamura (Project Manger and Deputy Chief of the Training Department), Mr. Tsuyoshi Iwata (Technical Coordinator), and Mr. Akira Bamba (Assistant Project Manager).

Fishers of Ban Karchur in Rayong Province of Thaialnd and EAFM participants from  Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Laos, and the Philippines.

Fishers of Ban Karchur in Rayong Province, Thailand, pose for a photo with course participants from Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Laos, and the Philippines during a field visit.

At the end of the week, the participants visited two fishing communities (Ban Gon Aow and Ban Krachur) in Rayong Province to practice facilitation and PRA methods with local fishers. Focus group discussion, interviewing, problem ranking, and problem tree analysis were used to identify and prioritize core fishery-related problems, causes, and results on the stakeholders.

Dr. Rusty Brainard gave a talk on the fishery management history (1976-2013) in the United States and the shift toward an ecosystem approach to fisheries management.

Dr. Rusty Brainard on Sept. 16 gives a talk on the history of fisheries management (1976–2013) in the United States and the shift toward an ecosystem approach.

On Sept. 16, Brainard was invited by the SEAFDEC trainer team to present and lead the discussion on the history of fisheries management (1976–2013) in the United States and the shift toward an EAFM. On Sept. 25, Wongbusarakum led a group of participants from six of the ASEAN countries (Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia) and members of the SEAFDEC staff to practice their PRA and extension skills in the Ban Krachur community. On Sept. 26, she co-facilitated the discussion on the lessons learned from the field visit and on the applications and benefits of the PRA methods for the EAFM goals, objectives, and action plans. The field visit offered opportunities for participants to learn about issues and problems from the local Thai fishers. Trainees who had little or no experience in extension observed and learned from experienced extension workers as they engaged fishers in the group discussion and facilitated the process of problem identification, analysis, and raking with them. Despite the very brief afternoon visit, participants felt that they learned a lot about critical issues from the fishers through the PRA method of problem tree analysis.

Participating in an "energizer"

Course participants take part in an “energizer.”

Discussions on the last day of the course showed that participants agreed that an EAFM was a logical process and would be useful for fisheries management in their countries. Many of the participants expressed their appreciation for the course and course materials. An EAFM made them actively think beyond specific fishery problems, more about goals and objectives for human well-being, and about how good governance can help balance ecological well-being with social goals. Despite the fact that English was not the first or second language of all participants, except those from the Philippines, the participants tried hard to overcome the communication barrier, both in understanding the course and in making new friends from other countries. There was a noticeable joy in learning, positive feedback, and heartfelt thanks during the speeches given by participant representatives at the closing ceremony. This atmosphere and their wish to continue EAFM efforts when they return home were good signs for the success of this course.

Participants at the closing ceremony of the EAFM course

Participants at the closing ceremony of the EAFM course on Sept. 29.

Posted in Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Scientists return to Timor-Leste for reef monitoring mission

By Max Sudnovsky

In the early morning on Sept. 16, Molly Timmers, Charles Young, and Max Sudnovsky of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) departed Dili, Timor-Leste, on their way to Atauro Island to kick off the first day of a five-week field operation. Timmers, Young, and Sudnovsky, along with Michael Abbey from the NOAA Fisheries Office of International Affairs, Rui Pinto of Conservation International (CI), and Lloyd Lee of Dive Timor Lorasae, spent the next four days in the district of Beloi processing a suite of instruments and installations that had been deployed two years ago by CRED staff to monitor biodiversity and ocean acidification in nearshore coral reef ecosystems of Timor-Leste and removed by Pinto and Lee.

Robert Crean of Compass Charters, Molly Timmers of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED), Lloyd Lee of Dive Timor Lorasae, Rui Pinto of Conservation International, and Charles Young of CRED arrive on Sept. 16 at Atauro Island, Timor-Leste, on the Lancet, a charter vessel. NOAA photo

Robert Crean of Compass Charters, Molly Timmers of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED), Lloyd Lee of Dive Timor Lorasae, Rui Pinto of Conservation International, and Charles Young of CRED arrive on Sept. 16 at Atauro Island, Timor-Leste, on the Lancet, a charter vessel. NOAA photo

Scientific equipment gets off-loaded from the Lancet for land-based operations. NOAA photo

Scientific equipment gets off-loaded from the Lancet for land-based operations. NOAA photo

The NOAA team is working with CI Timor-Leste staff, national and district fisheries officers of the Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF), staff from a local scuba dive shop, and local fishers to facilitate retrieval of the suite of monitoring instruments previously deployed in October 2012. The instrumentation includes subsurface temperature recorders (STRs), which are used to assess trends in water temperatures; calcification accretion units (CAUs), which are used to assess rates of reef calcification and accretion; and autonomous reef monitoring structures (ARMS), which are used to assess biodiversity of reef cryptobiota of coral reef ecosystems.

Later during this mission, the team will collect surface and bottom water samples, which can be used to monitor long-term trends in carbonate chemistry (i.e., ocean acidification) and conduct photoquadrat surveys along transects on the seafloor to capture the benthic composition around the site.

This field operation is supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development Timor-Leste Mission, and the NOAA Fisheries Office of International Affairs, in collaboration with MAF and CI Timor-Leste. This collaboration will enable CI, MAF, local dive operators, and community members to build local, institutional, and organizational capacity to continue efforts in long-term coral reef monitoring so that future managers will have scientifically credible observations by which to make informed decisions. The field team is based out of Barry’s Place, a lodge with a business strategy based on the ethics and principles of ecotourism and permaculture.

Michael Abbey of the NOAA Fisheries Office of International Affairs scrapes plates from autonomous reef monitoring structures (ARMS) with a spatula; scrapings will be homogenized in a blender, and subsamples will be preserved in dimethyl sulfoxide for mass genetic sequencing. NOAA photo

Michael Abbey of the NOAA Fisheries Office of International Affairs scrapes a plate that was part of an autonomous reef monitoring structure (ARMS) with a spatula. NOAA photo

Charles Young (middle) briefs Rui Pinto from Conservation International and Lloyd Lee from Dive Timor Lorasae on the protocol for taking still photographs (photoquadrats) to record the benthos at set intervals along two 25-m transect lines. NOAA photo

Charles Young (middle) briefs Rui Pinto from Conservation International and Lloyd Lee from Dive Timor Lorasae on the protocol for taking still photographs (photoquadrats) to record the benthos at set intervals along two 25-m transect lines. NOAA photo

Molly Timmers explains the processing of autonomous reef monitoring structures (ARMS) to Barry Hinton, owner of the lodge Barry's Place, and his two sons Micky and Mardy Hinton. Barry’s Place served as the base of operations for the part of this mission at Atauro Island. NOAA photo

Molly Timmers explains the processing of ARMS to Barry Hinton, owner of Barry’s Place, and his sons. Barry’s Place served as the base of operations for the part of this mission at Atauro Island. NOAA photo

Rui Pinto of Conservation International sorts motile inverts that were found on ARMS. NOAA photo

Rui Pinto of Conservation International sorts motile inverts that were found inside ARMS recovered from a reef off Atauro Island. NOAA photo

Atauro Island is situated approximately 22 nautical miles (41 km) to the north of Dili, on the extinct Wetar segment of the volcanic Inner Banda Arc. This island is 25 km long, 9 km wide, and about 105 km2 in area with a mountainous spine and narrow coastal plains. Two deep straits, the Ombai (5000 m deep) and Wetar (3000 m deep), meet at both the northern and southern ends of the island. The mountains are mostly limestone with some volcanic rock foundations. The highest of them, Manucoco (with an elevation of 995 m) is considered sacred.

Charles Young of CRED processes water samples. NOAA photo

Charles Young of CRED processes water samples. NOAA photo

The Atauro community of approximately 8000 people, mostly subsistence fishers and farmers, live in five districts (or sucos). The main centers of Maquili, Vila, Beloi, and Bequeli sit along the eastern coast, and Macadade rests in the mountains. Small communities live in isolated hamlets along the coast and in the mountains.

The team from NOAA and Conservation International very much appreciates all the support that we have received so far from Barry Hinton and his staff at Barry’s Place, Compass Charters, Lloyd Lee, local fishers, and the community members of Beloi who have stopped by to check out what we have been up to. Obrigadu Barak!

Stay tuned for more updates as the team next heads to Beacou!

The field operations team poses for a photo in Atauro: (left to right): Michael Abbey of the NOAA Fisheries Office of International Affairs, Rui Pinto of Conservation International, Lloyd Lee of Dive Timor Lorase), and Molly Timmers, Max Sudnovsky, and Charles Young of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division.  NOAA photo

The field operations team poses for a photo at Atauro Island: (left to right): Michael Abbey of the NOAA Fisheries Office of International Affairs, Rui Pinto of Conservation International, Lloyd Lee of Dive Timor Lorase, and Molly Timmers, Max Sudnovsky, and Charles Young of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division. NOAA photo

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