Sunday, June 29, 2008

Positive about the park

Beautiful day to dive again yesterday. And without fully analysing my fish photos yet, I think I will be able to add 6 fish to my checklist which is already 304 long. Indeed, one of them was an Angelfish (Centropyge bicolor) which is strikingly beautiful (purple and gold) and good news because after two years I'd given up on seeing any more species of the flamboyant Angelfishes here (3 species so far)! In discussion with some of my dive instructor friends, they also reported seeing some unusual Butterflyfishes in the past few weeks. Coupled with the first news I have ever heard about a Blue-ringed octopus on the reef by Downbelow, and I'm feeling pretty hopeful that things are improving gradually - although it may be seasonal or a 'statistical blip', and the Octopus was seen at 30 metres on sand - hardly the most frequented of local dive sites.

This gorgonian soft-coral (family PLEXAURIDAE) taken on 28th December 2006 at Hanging garden off Gaya island should benefit from improving reef conditions; the visibility there yesterday was excellent.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gross dog surgery photos!

Well I enjoyed myself - but not the yucky dog surgery photos which followed my short presentation to the Seri Insan school students yesterday! This Grey-faced moray eel (Gymnothorax thyrsoideus snapped on 4th November 2006 off the main beach on Sapi island) looks suitably shocked as well. Anyway, thanks to all those who expressed their appreciation and I hope it'll go some way to helping achieve the objectives of KK Reef Watch who asked me to talk on their behalf.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fish Checklist updated

Just a quick post to point out that I have now updated my TARP fish Checklist to include links back to the ID panels which describe them in my public album. I am however a bit disatisfied with the outcome of my web-site key; it seems to me that with some work on the tags it should be possible to search my Picasa album directly for panels matching certain criteria (e.g. Zebra stripes & tail base spot). In due course I think I'll go that route but it is not available yet and will take quite a lot of work.

The picture here comes from off the southeast slope of Gaya island, taken on 27th October 2007; I believe it is a specimen of hard coral from the genus Galaxea (possible G. astreata) in the family OCULINIDAE.

Monday, June 16, 2008

304 fish species in TARP

31st May 2008 was gorgeous - blue skies and calm waves; this sea hare Aplysia dactylomela (a kind of giant sea slug from the family APLYSIIDAE) also seemed to think so as it charged across the sand off Sapi island to this clump of algae before grinding it to bits.

I gorged on my snorkelling session too: a better photo to upload with an improved description for one of my fish ID panels (Thalassoma lunare), a youthful colour variant to add for another (Lutjanus fulviflamma), an un-logged juvenile for a previously adult-only species (Halichoeres argus) and an adult photo for a species previously represented only by a juvenile (Pomacentrus chrysurus). Incidentally this caused me to concede that I had mistakenly recorded another such adult previously as Pomacentrus armillatus (which I have now removed from my checklist). Amazingly, this single snorkel session added 6 new species too, which (counting the discarded species) brings my total of observed species in the park to 304. Species added were Cephalopholis microprion (which stimulated a slight modification to my description of Cephalopholis cyanostigma), Cheilio inermis, Chromis viridis, Ctenochaetus striatus, Neoglyphidodon oxyodon and Pteragogus guttatus.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Less tourist pressures or less money for conservation?

I dare not share my opinion about whether or not the increased price of fuel is a blessing for conservation in TARP. But it could have a significant impact in the short term - maybe even long term if long distance travel patterns begin to change singnificantly too. Either way, a government minister this week predicted a reduction in tourism travel to Sabah.

Meanwhile, something lurks in a hole - possibly a coral hermit crab - in its host coral (family FAVIIDAE I think), photographed on 27th October 2007 on Clement's reef.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Fish ID website ready

The first draft of my new fish identification website (TARP Fish) is now up. It's not overly exciting - it uses the same panels as are already accessible via my public gallery - but it provides a more flexible base for so much data than does a blog (I plan to stop publishing new items to my TARPFish blog) and more importantly, it provides an attempt at a user-friendly key for those unwilling to wade through all 325+ of my ID panels; used correctly it should allow you to home in on just a handful of possibilities at the first attempt. If you want to give it a test run and feed back any glitches, I'd be grateful. In due course it will be enhanced: I need to build links back to it from the checklist, which is the same one you can find at my TARPFish blog. I also want to link to my original photos as I log them into FishBase and also to comparison photos elsewhere on the web where my ID is not obviously based on official FishBase entries. I'm also planning to build links to other fish watcher sites around the world (though that is a saga in itself), and perhaps build some more sites like this for other places I've visited several times (e.g. Bootless Bay in PNG or Nusa Penida in Bali).

Needless to say, Lutjanus lutjanus (family Lutjanidae) can be found at my new website; it was photographed at Hanging Gardens off Gaya island on 1st September 2007.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Fish ID website on the way

This is not a fish. If I'm not mistaken, its name is Cerianthus filiformis from the anemone family CERIANTHIDAE, taken on 13th June 2007 on the Pyramid near Mamutik island.

Given my predilection for fish, I thought I'd get this in first or be accused of having a fish-only general marine website; having said that, today's blog is to let those interested know that I am beavering away at creating a simple key-based TARP fish identification website which I hope will be ready for testing in the next few days. The committed may already have tried via my TARPFish blog to view my 325+ illustrated panels of fish descriptions: not easy going, although quite a visual feast if using PicLens. Without a means to publish them (preferably as a way to test an unorthodox key for them first) I know some people would like some kind of guidance and I am trying to make it possible for someone to have a choice of only 4-6 fish when they first encounter any of my descriptive panels, rather than all 325 on their first shot!

Anyway, bear with me. After that, I need to analyse another snorkelling session recently which I know has turned up a few more species, so watch this space.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Save Our Sharks

I shouldn't have been shocked I suppose. Last night at a wedding banquet in a major resort hotel here in KK, I was offered Shark's fin soup. 4/10 of us refused to eat it (was it insignificant that the 4 of us were the only foreigners and avid - or married to avid - SCUBA divers at our table?) The Underwater Times notes that Singapore's Sentosa Resorts World has recently decided not to have Shark fin on its main menu (although for the richest gamblers they might be able to order it in private gaming rooms).

Sharks are beautiful creatures; necessary elements of the marine food chain; under severe threat as more and more people queue up to eat their fins, who knows why? The only shark I've ever seen in TARP was this Catshark - less than 2 feet long (Atelomycterus marmoratus, seen on 17th May 2006 off Gaya Island). In fact that was my first dive in TARP and my last sighting of such an amazing beast. His/her fins are not under threat; but I am not surprised to have seen no real reef sharks in TARP, just sad.