Tag Archives: dumaguette

Love the Ocean Creed

I believe that the ocean harbors life – life that I must protect.
I believe that the ocean is mankind’s greatest common heritage.
I believe that the diversity of the ocean is important to sustaining human life.
I believe that I am part of but one ocean, and that everything I do affects the delicate balance of life on Earth.
I believe that it is my duty to protect the ocean.
I believe that by protecting the ocean I help to protect the future.
Therefore, I pledge to always live in harmony with the ocean.

Scuba diving with sea turtles off Apo Island protected area established 1982
Scuba diving with sea turtles off Apo Island protected area established 1982

Notice the amazing coral coverage on this pristine reef! Can you find the turtle?
Notice the amazing coral coverage on this pristine reef! Can you find the turtle?

"I'm ready for my photo shoot!" This turtle loved the spotlight and permitted us to swim close for a multi-angle shot.
“I’m ready for my photo shoot!” This turtle loved the spotlight and permitted us to swim close for a multi-angle shot.

Reef Fish & Photography

Check out some photos from my recent diving adventures along reefs outside of Dumaguete City and off of Malapascua Island in Cebu.

Longfin Spadefish (Platax teira)
Longfin Spadefish (Platax teira)

The above photo was taken using a red filter on my gopro camera. When shooting underwater a red filter is useful because water absorbs and scatters light as it passes through. The long wavelengths of light (especially red, orange and yellow) are absorbed first. As you travel deeper in the ocean, there are no red wavelengths of light to reflect off various fish or corals. All of the marine life looks blue or green, because these colors are shorter in wavelength and able to penetrate to greater depths. Therefore when I looked at the algae-covered mooring line that the Longfin Spadefish above are swimming by it appeared blue, because that was the color reflected back to my eye. However, when my red gopro filter added back in the red wavelengths you can see the beautiful colors of the marine life growing on this rope.

Below is a photo taken without a red filter, demonstrating the blue underwater world seen by a SCUBA diver. For any aspiring underwater photographers, I would recommend buying the red filter! (Note: all other photos in this post used the red filter)

Latticed Sandperch (Parapercis clathrata) resting on a blue seastar
Latticed Sandperch (Parapercis clathrata) resting on a blue seastar
Spotfin Lionfish (Pterois antennata)
Spotfin Lionfish (Pterois antennata)

The lionfish above falls in the family Scorpaenidae or Scorpionfish. These fish are so named for their venomous fin spines, particularly the dorsal spine along their backs. Toxins are produced by glands on either side of the spines and embedded into long grooves along the spines. Fortunately, scorpionfish do not actively try to spear divers with their venomous fins. In fact, most fish (sharks are fish too!) tend to swim away from you.

Scorpionfish, unidentified (please comment if you know the species)
Scorpionfish, unidentified (please comment if you know the species)

Some scorpionfish, like the one shown above, are master’s of camouflage. I recommend not touching anything while underwater because it is deceivingly easy to place your hand on the rocky ground only to realize you discovered a scorpionfish’s hiding spot. The pain from a scorpionfish sting may very from uncomfortable to intense. Immersion in hot water may offer some relief. Best practice while snorkeling or diving: “Take only pictures and leave only bubbles.”

Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus)
Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus)

The fish shown above can change to almost any color including black, red, pink, orange, yellow and brown. Frogfish have extremely large mouths which can open to the width of their bodies to engulf prey. Also known as Anglerfish, frogfish possess a stalk-like first dorsal spine, equipped with a lure (esca) which they wiggle like a casting rod to attract prey. The esca may be shaped like a small fish, shrimp or just a nondescript tuft depending on the species.

Flamboyant cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi)
Flamboyant cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi)

The cuttlefish is a mollusk, classified by its soft body and closely related to the squid and the octopus. It has specialized cells called chromatophores, which allow it to change color almost in a continuous radiating pattern. Want to eat flamboyant cuttlefish for supper?? No! The muscle-tissue of the flamboyant cuttlefish is highly toxic. Fun Fact: This cuttlefish is considered poisonous because it must be eaten to cause damage, while scorpionfish are venomous because their toxin is injected through spines. Want more examples: Frogs, mushrooms and plants are poisonous, while snakes and spiders are venomous.

Robust Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus cyanopterus)
Robust Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus cyanopterus)

This male/female pair of pipefish is considered an indicator species, because they are fragile creatures easily threatened by small changes in the ecosystem. Therefore finding this pair is a good indication that the marine ecosystem at this dive site is still healthy.

Photographing the ghost pipefish pair.
Photographing the ghost pipefish pair.

Source: Allen, G., Steene, R., Humann, P. & DeLoach, N. (2012) Reef Fish Identification Tropical Pacific. New World Publications, Inc. Jacksonville, Florida, USA.

iSeahorse: Saving Mr. Mom

Which of the following is a fish?

  1. Jellyfish
  2. Starfish
  3. Seahorse
  4. All / None / Some combination?

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Surprisingly, jellyfish and starfish would be more appropriately named jellies and seastars, because both are invertebrates and therefore not fish. However, the seahorse, which evolved from a pipefish, possesses a backbone, uses a swim bladder to control its buoyancy, breathes through gills, and utilizes fins to move through the water. Therefore, unlike jellies and seastars, a seahorse is a fish! Although seahorses are clearly not your standard fish, they do not have scales and instead have an exoskeleton of hard fused plates. Their jaws are also fused making a long snout, which they use to suck up tiny fish and plankton. Seahorses possess a prehensile tail that wraps around algae or coral to anchor it to the sea floor. And finally, their eyes move independently of one another.

This past week I attended a workshop entitled, “Saving Mr. Mom: The Power of Citizen Science in Seahorse Conservation,” in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Visayas, Philippines, led by iSeahorse of Project Seahorse. iSeahorse is an iPhone app that allows snorkelers, SCUBA divers, and fishermen to record seahorse sightings so that scientists can gain a better idea of seahorse population sizes and locations. On Day 1 of the conference, we learned how to identify seahorse species native to southeast Asia, which include 10 different species total and 3 species of pygmy seahorses, smaller than a fingernail in size.

The Spiny Seahorse: Hippocampus histrix, identified by its spiny body, nose and cheek spines, and long snout.
The Spiny Seahorse: Hippocampus histrix, identified by its spiny body, nose and cheek spines, and long snout.
The Common Seahorse: Hippocampus kuda, identified by its smooth body, low coronet, and wide abomen region.
The Common Seahorse: Hippocampus kuda, identified by its smooth body, low coronet, and wide abdomen region.

Day 2 of the workshop, was a practical application of seahorse identification skills: SCUBA diving to conduct seahorse surveys.

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My group found 7 different seahorses during two dives, along with a cuttlefish and a pair of ghost pipefish. Each seahorse was measured to record torso length. Depth, habitat details, sex and pregnancy were also important observations. Most seahorses are monogamous and mate for life. Therefore, when we found a female, her male counterpart was usually not far away. Seahorse males possess a brood pouch to hold developing baby seahorses, meaning this is a case of Mr. Mom. Because the male holds growing eggs and gives birth, a female is free to collect food and devote energy to producing more eggs. However, she does visit her counterpart each day to ensure that he is properly carrying the young and to offload the next batch of eggs after he gives birth.

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Day 3, was a discussion of policy regarding seahorse trade and conservation. In the province of Romblon, we hope to use sightings of rare pygmy seahorses, H. bargibanti, H. denise and H. pontohi, to expand protected ocean waters and draw tourists to the province.

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Check out http://www.iSeahorse.org for more info!!