Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Creature Feature - The Frogfish

Photo by Basil Bohn
The always frowning frogfish is one of the many visitors to the aptly named “biodiversity reef” at TRACC, an artificial reef created through the amalgamation of old plastic crates. With its rich landscape of corners, shadows, and holes for the refuge seekers of the ocean depths, the biodiversity reef produces a tiny city bustling with life. To the untrained eye the frogfish appears as a rather large squareish blob of algae crusting a crevice of the crates. Yet, suddenly in a moment of magic-eye realization, the frogfish’s perpetual frown and beady eyes appear.

This pouting frogfish perches on the inside corner of the reef, so convinced of his camouflage that not even the accidental tap of a fin on his tail makes him move away.  His gaping mouth continuously takes in water and filters it out the gill openings located slightly in front of his tail; modified pectoral fins grasp the corners of the biodiversity reef to keep him stable and anchored.

Frogfish on the Biodiversity Reef
Photo by Basil Bohn
A member of the anglerfish family, he waits and hides, his lure hanging deliciously just outside his mouth. His jaw and stomach bones are so flexible that he can consume something twice his size. Surely sometime an unsuspecting fish will be tricked by his false promise of food to become the frogfish’s next meal?

Next day, next dive and our frowning friend of a frogfish is finished with his fishing. No longer does he inhabit his inverted corner. Sometime in the light or the dark he has used his modified pectoral fins to walk, one fin in front of the other, or gallop, pectoral fins striding in unison, across the ocean floor.

Grateful for his visit and grateful to the reef, we look forward to when he might return.







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If you want to help with any marine conservation activity, please 
check our website http://tracc.org or e-mail info@tracc-borneo.org 


For more updates on TRACC check out our Facebook, Twitter or Google +


Reef conservation would not be possible without generous financial support from
GEF /SGP for Malaysia who are helping our community activities and coralreefcare.com who generously provided materials to build the new reefs.

If visits to Tracc are not possible then please help with financial support and follow their projects on Facebook.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Artificial Reef Part 3 -- Bottle Reef Survey's and Sea Creatures


James Surveying the Reef
James gently sways in the hammock on a sunny afternoon as I lounge beside him in one of the white pliable plastic deck chairs so typical in the communal area of Number 4. He is clad in his usual apparel of swim trunks, me in mine of bikini and well-worn oversized tank top.  Casually, we talk of the work he has done surveying the biodiversity of the bottle reefs planted by TRACC and the pleasure of seeing increased biodiversity return the tiny white-rimmed paradise of Pom Pom Island.

James McElroy works primarily to assess the impact of bottle reefs as a healthy reef structure in depleted reef ecosystems, and “satisfied” is the word on his lips. The actual work of the surveys take place while diving and the posture of James as he surveys the bottle reefs and the test sites, which are patches of coral rubble that once were healthy reefs, is one of calm concentration. He hovers in the water a little aside and above the
A Grouper Between the Bottles
sites, marking species in pencil on a white plastic slate – later pouring over species identification books to figure out exactly what grouper he saw, or what that particular wrasse with blue and green sides and orange fins was that’s been bothering him all week.

His surveys take place over 9 weeks and utilize 72 identical bottle reefs planted at 6 different sites scattered at intervals around the island for the purpose of his experiment. Preliminary results indicate
a higher number of species and greater biodiversity as compared to the test sites. Over 50 different species have been recorded as populating the new bottle reefs, among them a resident moray eel hiding in the shadows of the concrete base, a blue ringed mimic octopus chameleonesque in its color changing abilities, and a rose patterned batch of nudibranch eggs.

The Survey Team at Work
James is satisfied not only to directly see the results of the bottle reefs, but also expresses a satisfaction in his contribution to TRACC: “To quantify the conservation impact we have made on the biodiversity of these originally barren areas is important for the credibility of TRACC and the techniques we are using.  In a small way, I feel like I’m working as an auditor outside of TRACC by analyzing the work the organization has done.”


Yet, at the heart of it James, like all of us at TRACC is the most pleased with the results apparent through what we directly see at the bottle reefs, “When I’ve spotted two species on a control site and 14 on a new reef, its satisfying as a conservationist to see the effect of the new reefs i built”.







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If you want to help with any marine conservation activity, please 
check our website http://tracc.org or e-mail info@tracc-borneo.org 


For more updates on TRACC check out our Facebook, Twitter or Google +



Reef conservation would not be possible without generous financial support from
GEF /SGP for Malaysia who are helping our community activities and coralreefcare.com who generously provided materials to build the new reefs.

If visits to Tracc are not possible then please help with financial support and follow their projects on Facebook.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Bycatch smells!

The real problem of bycatch is the smell of rotten fish.

The tracc marine science alevel class watched the landing of 137 fish boxes or over 4000 kg of decomposed  bycatch.  These small fish crabs rays should have grown into adults in a sustainable #fisheries instead of being trash destined only for fishmeal at less than 10 cents US$ per kilo.
At kota kinabalu sabah malaysia

Artificial Reef Part 2 - Reef Stability and Recycling

I Heart Artificial Reef
296 bottle reefs line TRACC’s reef crest, plus 300 or so at the ribbon reef and another 60 are spattered around the island, at an average of 5 glass bottles per artificial reef, this means about 3280 glass bottles have been recycled as artificial reef material, not including the other bottle reefs used as building blocks in other structures. Add another 50 or 60 recycled tires, the plastic crate reefs, and about 10 HDPE structures such as the Igloos, Tipis, and the Swim through, and you’ve got a proverbial boatload of largely recycled material creating homes and habitats for sea creatures to thrive.

A Turtle Cruising Along some Bottle Reefs










However, the artificial reefs not only provide different niches of habitat and attract fantastic biodiversity, they also provide structural integrity to the island ecosystem.  A healthy reef crest stabilizes the slope of the reef, which in turn prevents erosion.  Structural stabilization of the reef slope is important because it prevents the coral rubble from sliding down thus minimizing the available habitat of the shallow intertidal zone and lagoon, which is important for larval fish, as well as many other shallow water loving creatures – such as the blue ringed octopus. Additionally, it prevents erosion of the beach through causing the waves to break on the reef crest before they reach the beach, minimizing the overall erosion of the island.

Coral Colonizing the Bottle
Long term consequences of a reef crest that is not stabilized include an altered ecosystem resulting from the loss of the beach surrounding Pom Pom Island. Without beach, there is no place for the rather particular turtles who prefer to come to the same beach throughout their whole very long life to nest. Without a place to nest, there is a big possibility turtle populations’ could plummet. As a keystone species, turtles have a high impact on keeping the whole island ecosystem balanced. For instance, Hawksbill Turtles eat sponges, because sponges filter nutrients, they are integral to keeping the waters nutrient concentration in balance. Without a balanced population of turtles to keep the sponges at the right level, there could either be too many nutrients resulting in algae blooms, or too little resulting in a lack of food for other sea creatures, and a total shift in the food chain, which would likely result in the loss of not only Turtles, but an overall reduction in biodiversity. 


3000 bottles, some cement, and a bit of hard work – what a difference it can make in helping ensure a holistically healthy ecosystem full of bustling biodiversity and fantastic diving.

Click here for Artificial Reefs Part 1 - Building New Habitats and Homes

Click here for Artificial Reefs Part 3
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If you want to help with any marine conservation activity, please 
check our website http://tracc.org or e-mail info@tracc-borneo.org 


For more updates on TRACC check out our Facebook, Twitter or Google +



Reef conservation would not be possible without generous financial support from
GEF /SGP for Malaysia who are helping our community activities
and coralreefcare.com who generously provided materials to build the new reefs.

If visits to Tracc are not possible then please help with financial support and follow their projects on Facebook.