Fish hunt yields monster lionfish in Key Largo

by TNP editor 2017-02-19

According to Miami Herald, a lionfish measured over 450 mm was caught during a weekend fishing derby off Key Largo, part of the Florida Keys. While the one-day weekend event for 48 Scuba divers, held annually since 2012, seemed to be a success, the single-day catches of 420 lionfish highlight the seriousness of such a problem – an invasive species that feeds on 50 important species of native fish has firmly established itself in the western Atlantic waters.

So how did lionfish, tropical natives of the Pacific, find their way to Florida and the Atlantic coast?  It was suggested that lionfish were inadvertently released from an aquarium during the hurricane Andrew in 1992. As lionfish are highly reproductive (an adult female can spawn 30,000 eggs every few days), they are now widespread in the Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Bermuda, and along the coastlines of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. And they don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

Unfortunately, the window of eradicating this invasive species may have passed. Catching lionfish through divers may be the only viable method to control their population. We humans are doing what we do best – trying to eat our way out of a problem caused by the unwelcome invaders.

Lionfish fillets are now offered at Florida Whole Foods Market stores at $8.99 per pound. bon appétit.

Hawaii’s ban on “reef-unfriendly” sunscreen

by Austin Yeung 2017-02-06

Symbiosis Sea TurtleJanuary 20th, US Senator Will Espero proposed a bill banning sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate: chemicals that have been found to be harmful to Hawaii’s reefs. The ban, if successful, helps to protect Hawaiian reefs and maintain the heavy tourism economy the coral reefs attract. The ban has also been noticed by other regions that rely on reefs, including Palau and the British Virgin Islands.

Research in 2016 by the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Clifford, Virginia has found octinoxate to stunt the growth of baby corals and oxybenzone to be toxic. These chemicals have been found to cause coral bleaching in the lab as well as in the wild. Field data show that levels of oxybenzone contamination were at 4,000 parts per trillion (ppt) along the most popular beaches off the coast of Maui. With 9 million visitors a year, oxybenzone and octinoxate sunscreen pollution pose a serious environmental hazard.

However, this bill is only a small step in protecting Hawaii’s reefs. Larger concerns of overfishing, coastal runoff, and pollution still pose serious concerns. We should take this step to help promote visitor awareness for Hawaii’s reefs.

To read more, click here.

Reef Encounter

by Austin Yeung 2017-01-03

Reef Encounter 30-2Post-truth

The latest issue, Volume 31, Number 2, of Reef Encounter, the news journal of the International Society of Reef Studies (ISRS), has been published.

To read more of this issue of the news journal, click here.

I’m also pleased to report that the ‘Reef Perspectives’ article I wrote on coral reef conservation was accepted for publication in this same Dec 2016 issue.

You can view my op-ed article:

Yeung AH (2016) Post-truth in reef conservation: changing the narrative to focus on people through education and social media. Reef Encounter 31-2: 27-31

as published here.

ICRS13 proceedings

by Austin Yeung 2016-12-30

The proceedings of ICRS13, the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium, held in June 2016 at the Honolulu Convention Center, has now been published.

To learn more, click here to go to the ICRS13 proceedings page or download its table of contents here.

My paper with Prof. David M. Baker:

Session 80: A.H. Yeung, D.M. Baker (2016) A turnaround at Sanya National Coral Reef Nature Reserve?

Proc 13th Intl Coral Reef Symposium Honolulu: 561-580

can also be downloaded here.

Expedition to Palau

by Austin Yeung 2016-07-26

Six months and a few hundred diving photos later, I returned to Palau. This time, the purpose of travel was entirely different. Instead of vacationing in Palau, I was doing field work – coral experiments.  Marine biologist Prof. Palumbi and Megan Morikawa from Stanford University were doing baseline data collection in Palau. Amazingly, I was fortunate enough to be able to join them on this research expedition. Along with my friend Sebastian, another avid diver and photographer, I was introduced to sample and data collection in the ocean. By using data loggers, we recorded temperatures of the patch reefs in the area. A critical aspect of the experiment was to navigate the seas and find the locations at which the data loggers were first placed. I found this to be a very valuable learning experience as I was taught how to use a satellite GPS and use it to navigate the waters. It was fun, it was relaxing, and it was educational.

As you can imagine, doing research work in an environment like that of Palau, it’s hard not to become distracted by the beauty of the environment. With our underwater cameras, Sebastian and I were able to capture breathtaking photos of underwater life. On one particular occasion, Prof. Palumbi discovered a lionrock: a rock that sheltered lionfish. By using still shots with the GoPro, I was able to record the movements of a spectacular baby lionfish and its two parents. It’s the little things that we saw during our research expedition that really attracts me to this particular type of research. It’s the combination of seeing wildlife beauty and the research work around it that interests me. This is why I enjoy marine biology.

Austin Yeung receives ICRS award

by TNP Editor  2016-06-26

Congratulations to Austin Yeung for receiving a student poster award at the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS), Honolulu, Hawaii.

Sanctioned by International Society for Reef Studies (ISRS) and held once every 4 years, the symposium took place on June 19-25, 2016 at the Honolulu Convention Center, and brought together the world’s students, researchers, and scholars in coral reef science, as well as sovereign and conservation management leaders.

A member of NaturePac and currently attending Shanghai American School, Austin is advised by Dr. David M. Baker, a biology professor at the Swire Institute of Marine Science, School of Biological Sciences, University of Hong Kong.

Malaysia creates large MPA in Sabah

by Alan Yeung  2016-06-04

Sabah announces a ‘huge’ marine protected area and shark sanctuary with over 1 million hectares covering the peninsula and 50 islands.  It is named Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) after the first official, and will officially be the biggest marine park and second largest coral reef reserve in Malaysia.

The outcome culminates over ten years of government, scientific, community, and nonprofit organization efforts.  The area is worth protecting because of its richness in biodiversity and its impact on local fisheries.

In a 2012 baseline study, Waheed et al. reported 49% of the hard coral cover in TMP, mostly fringing and patch reefs, are in good to excellent condition. Yet, only 7% of the surveyed reefs had 75% or more coverage. There is evidence of blast and poison fishing, but the damages, such as rubble fragments, appear to be old.  Overfishing also seems to be an issue as turtles, sharks and other high-value reef species are missing.

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Palau approves new massive marine reserve

Palau Rock Islands

by Alan Yeung 2015-10-27

On Thursday Palau’s Congress approved the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act, making good on a pledge made by President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. in 2014, for Palau to protect 193,000 square miles (500,000 square kilometers), or 80 percent of the Pacific island nation’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), or the territorial waters that it controls.

The new sanctuary will exclude all extractive activities, such as mining, and industrial-scale fishing and exports of catches.

President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. indicated he would sign the measure into law as soon as posssible, thus establishing Palau as one of the world’s leading nations in marine conservation.  Palau now leads the world in terms of setting aside the highest percentage of its EEZ for full marine protection.

According to NGS  Palau is host to more than 1,300 species of fish and 700 species of coral.

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Steve Palumbi visits HKU

Stanford marine scientist visits the University of Hong Kong

by TNP Editor 2015-10-7

In a lagoon around Ofu, an island in the South Pacific, marine biologist Steve Palumbi is snorkeling. Here, the sea temperature is much warmer, and Steve could stay in all day. While warm water is good for humans it is not so good for corals. With the heat, these corals shouldn’t have lived. Instead, they are thriving, and Steve wants to know why.

Through DNA analysis, Steve discovers that these corals survive by changing their gene expression. That, according to Steve, may offer hope for corals here and elsewhere to withstand the impact of climate change.

As Professor of Biology and Director of Hopkins Marine Station at Stanford University, Steve has been advancing marine sciences, protecting natural resources, and educating and raising awareness for conservation.

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‘Plastic bag ban’ in Hawaii

by Alan Yeung 2015-07-07

In Hawaii, residents are responding and adjusting to a state-wide ban on plastic bags that went into effect on July 1.  During this inaugural week, while the jury is still out on its impact, environmentalists are keeping up the pressure on retailers, criticizing and wondering why so many are still being given out at local grocery checkout stands.

Plastic bag in Kaneohe BayBeach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii (B.E.A.C.H.) voiced its concern that the ban was having little effects on reducing litter on beaches. It surveyed the trash left behind at Ala Moana Beach Park on Sunday, July 5, and found plastic bags littered everywhere.

The new law exempts plastic checkout bags from takeout food, drinks and bakery goods. The so-called re-usable bags already thrown away shows that most consumers are not keeping them for reuse. People are treating the thick plastic bags the same as the disposable plastic bags like before.

Why ban plastic bags?

Because they seem to find their way to the coastal waters and the oceans in garbage patches.  Besides their impact on sustainability, plastic bags adversely affect wild lives such as sea turtles and birds, making them susceptible to being caught and trapped, or they inject these plastic substances and became ill.

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