Tag Archives: Fish

Marine Photo of the Week

This week I stumbled across a little toby (relative of the pufferfish) which I had never seen before. It was very camouflaged against the rocks and seaweed, and even after much examination of the photos I got of it I was unable to identify which species it is (if you know please tell me!). Besides the excitement of (potentially) a new species for Watamu Marine Park, I was struck by one photo of a close up of its face how beautifully colourful and detailed it was. Pinks, blues and greens close-up, but browns and greys of seaweed from afar. A remarkable little thing.

Marine Photo of the Week

This week I have been exploring areas outside of Watamu Marine Park, and venturing into the “Reserve”. The Reserve is a buffer zone extending from north of Malindi Marine Park to south of Watamu Marine Park in which artisanal fishing a marine resource collection is allowed, but other more damaging economic activities are prohibited. These areas are poorly studied and some of the reefs are unknown to many people, except the fishermen who work there. While exploring these reefs I have even found habitats and species not seen in the park, adding two new species to my fish list this week alone. The first new species was on a reef to the north near the village of Kanani where I saw this Dusky Gregory (Stegastes nigricans) in cloud of tiny Blue Chromis (Pomacentrus pavo).

To the south of the park near the village of Uyombo, I found a real speciality. The Meyer’s butterflyfish (Chaetodon meyeri) is a species I have never seen before in my life, it is now the 8th butterflyfish species I have recorded in the Watamu area, and the most beautiful butterflyfish I have ever seen. I am told by a local expert that this species hasn’t been seen for many years and was a rarity even in the hay-day of the reef before the 1997 bleaching. It is massively encouraging that these species and reefs are persisting and flourishing in areas which are also supporting local fishermen and local economies through traditional sustainable practises. 

Marine Photo of the Week

The Convict Surgeonfish (Acanthurus triostegus) is a convict in both form and behaviour. It was presumably given the name because of its distinctive pale yellow and black stripy colouration similar to that of uniforms that criminals wore in times gone by. However, these fish are also convicts because they are the raiders of the reef. Like most Surgeonfish they are herbivores, feeding on turf algae found on the reef, but unlike many reef fish they don’t maintain territories. Instead they move in large shoals, descending and overwhelming a resident fish, rapidly eating all the algae in its territory and then moving on. They may appear to the untrained eye to be an innocent shimmering of stripes zipping around the coral heads, but for reef inhabitants they are no good hooligans!

Marine Data Collection

For the past few months the marine team have started collecting baseline biological data about the coral reef here in Watamu. Baseline data is information about the general characters of the reef and its inhabitants, which is not designed to answer any particular scientific question, but rather provide a wide range of basic biological metrics for comparing and contrasting, over time and space. These simple methods are used by people around the world studying corals, and although they aren’t as standardised as methods used in other fields, say ornithology, these data can be used to compare with information from different scientists from the past or in other areas.

The two main areas we look at are benthic (bottom living) cover of the coral substrate and the fish that live around the coral. For both of these we lay out a transect, which is a standard straight line distance across the reef indicated by a tape. With the benthic cover we look at all corals, seaweeds, sponges and other bottom living organisms which are found along 10m. From this data we can calculate the percentage cover of different types of organisms, and for some, such as macro-algae and corals, the types which dominate an area of reef. For fish we lay out a 100m transect and swim along counting the numbers of fish from 10 main fish families, such as snappers, butterflyfish and wrasse. We also estimate their size into 10cm size classes, which will allow us to estimate biomass of each fish family for the different areas of reef.

These methods have been used in Watamu for a number of years by Kenya Wildlife Service research group and Wildlife Conservation Society, but only in a constricted area around “Coral Gardens”. The exciting thing for us in A Rocha’s marine group is that we are now able to explore more areas of the park  that haven’t ever had this data collected and so we are expanding into previously unstudied areas of the park. So far we’ve collected data in two unstudied sites and have identified a further 3 which need attention. This data is the first benchmark for what we hope will continue for years to come and be useful for future studies seeing changes in a range of coral areas in the park.

It is incredibly exciting to be collecting these data knowing how significant the information coming out is. Not only that but we get spend hours in beautiful reef habitat and seeing plenty of cool things along our transect lines. Below is a photo of beautiful pipe-fish (relatives of sea-horses) and scary and very poisonous scorpion-fish I photographed along the transects.

Benjo conducting a fish transectBenthic cover transect line laid out over coralScorpionfish on transectPipefish on transect