Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hairy monsters

Nearly the end of 2008 and loads to reflect on this year in TARP Watch (which I won't here). But the place still continues to surprise me: on Christmas eve, I was snorkelling for only an hour off Sapi island and photographed examples of another 5 species new to me here! This takes my total to 389. (The combined total of all known recorded identified fishes since 1992 now stands at 529; contrast this with the most speciose part of the Caribbean: Bonaire with 487 species logged in the REEF database). December 24th's additions were: Needlefish Strongylura incisa, Damselfishes Chrysiptera unimaculata (Juvenile) and Pomacentrus dickii, Sea Chub/ Drummer Kyphosus vaigiensis (also a new family here for me - KYPHOSIDAE), and lastly the Boxfish Ostracion meleagris (this one male).

Perhaps the craziest-haired fish of 2008 is shown here off Gaya island on 11th July - Antennarius striatus (family ANTENNARIIDAE).

Friday, December 26, 2008

527 catalogued fish species in TARP

This Squirrelfish Myripristis hexagona (Family HOLOCENTRIDAE) at Agill reef off Gaya island on 11th September 2008 probably thought it was nicely hidden; nicely framed more like! Anyway, I am pleased to announce the launch today of a collaborative wiki-based checklist of all 527 known fish species in TARP (not merely my own which already reach 384).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Speedboats and sunsets

Will he be pleased? Photographed off Sapi island on 21st July 2006, Ardeadoris egretta (a Nudibranch from the Family CHROMODORIDIDAE) of course will not be asked. The idea though appears to be that the sea village on Gaya will be 'rearranged' and supplemented by 1,000 houses, government offices, and a fire station... all on Gaya itself. (It reminds me of defunct plans to build a bridge to Gaya ++. Maybe that plan is in danger of being re-floated too?) Here's hoping that my friend and his vast but fragile underwater society won't be so overcome by the benefits of 'development' (like construction silt and waste water), that there's little left to TARP but speedboats and sunsets.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

New Website Launched

At last, I've made a start in creating an unofficial website for TARP - also called TARP Watch. Using Google Sites, it is possible to have collaborators with permission to modify and add to it, so if anyone is keen to do so, do contact me and we can discuss it. One benefit is that I can start to unload clutter from the periphery of this blog and I have already made a start.

I am making good progress with the guidebook to fishes in TARP - but it remains slow going and I hope to complete it soon (maybe even before the New Year). As I've mentioned before, publishing options are not obvious but with a good dummy printed off, I hope to be able to take it further, one way or another.

I've noticed that the exquisite Genus Dendronephthya (soft coral Family NEPHTHEIDAE) is missing from my blog illustrations thus far; the example shown (species uncertain) was taken off Sulug island on the morning of 19th May 2007.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Here's an amazing little creature: a suckermouth rockskipper (Andamia heteroptera - Family BLENNIIDAE; thanks to Jeff Williams for identification help). As the name suggests, its lower lip forms a sucker which it uses to hold itself onto surf-bashed rocks here in TARP (this one on Sapi island on 11th November 2008). He takes my total fish list for TARP to 384.

Seen the same day was also my first sighting of the adult Spadefish: Platax teira (I've seen the juveniles around already).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Squeezing Sponges

I can't resist commenting now that we have official opinions about the upcoming impact of the global financial crisis on Sabah's tourism. Yesterday a drop was predicted which seems much more realistic to me. I feel sorry for those who depend on tourism income. Yet I also feel a little bit happier for the denizens of TARP who might just get a little less squeezed by all the attention they have been trying to get used to in recent years.

I've been investing huge amounts of effort reformatting my fish guide mock-up. Undoubtedly no one will now be wanting to invest commercial money in the project in the near future; after all, who would buy it? But as a not-for-profit conservation project a donor might be interested to cover the costs. And if I'm willing to make no profit and still can't get it published then maybe I will post the book in PDF format on-line so people can print their own copies: perhaps on waterproof paper or for laminating if they want to take it under water.

I'm also looking into obtaining photos of previously unseen fish (by me) via other outlets so as to improve the comprehensiveness of the guide. We'll see: they too are likely to be feeling the pinch and may not have much time now to help.

Here's a gorgeous Poripheran (sponge - possibly Family LEUCETTIDAE) which I hope will have a less pressured 2009 (photo taken on 21st July 2006 off Sulug island).