Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cardinal Park

A ferocious squall hit Tunku Abdul Rahman Park on the morning of 17th June this year. Totally unexpected, the blue sky darkened in minutes and the rain flew in sideways. A calm shallow muck dive off Gaya island was transformed in minutes into a maelstrom of cloudy mud, with visibility below 1 metre, and tall waves on the surface. We abandoned it after 20 minutes, but not before surprising myself with two new Cardinal fishes - Apogon endekataenia and A. hartzfeldii. Moving to calmer sites in the shelter of Sapi island for the rest of the day, I was gratified to see another new Cardinalfish - Apogon fraenatus - and a new Goby - Valenciennea sexguttata. Two of these four are new on the aggregated TARP fish checklist too, bringing it up to 553 confirmed (and 4 unconfirmed) species.

The poor vis, even at Sapi island (where my buddy and I lost the rest of the group in one bank of particularly mirky soup) meant my focus switched to macro, and I am particularly pleased with the photo here of the centre of a partially unfolded Feather star.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bumpheads & Blenny Hunting

It was a major privilege yesterday, to be asked to accompany Sabah Parks staff on the hunt for a purportedly new species of Blenny. Sure enough, we found several colonies so the process of detailed description can eventually begin. Led by Irwan Isnain (Research Coordinator for Western Sabah), Jim and Roslee were the intrepid photographers in our troupe, with Boy our amenable boatman. Thanks guys!

Also fantastic, was the first viewing in TARP both for me and Irwan (who dives more than I do here), of a juvenile Bumphead Parrotfish (listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List)! Ensuring no net fishing is done in the Park has gone up a notch in my priority list now (if it could get any higher).

Added to this was my first sighting here of the sumptuously blue-margined Semicircle Angelfish. (I will process these later for the TARP checklist; this is just a taster.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

63 species - 45 minutes snorkelling - Mamutik

A strange kind of Anemone to say the least, this was photographed off Sapi island back on 11th July 2008.

After a long weekend SCUBA diving near Cebu in the Philippines last month and processing all the emerging photos, I'm now able to get back to more recent events nearer home - this time a chance to test out my newly repaired video camera snorkelling off Mamutik island. Not very good I'm afraid, but it has still been possible to pick out 63 fish species during just 3/4 hour before the battery gave up. And three of these are new to my TARP fish list (now standing at 430 species), one also being new to the comprehensive TARP fish checklist (now at 551 with evidence).

The overall new fish is the Halfbeak Hyporhamphus dussumieri. The other two are the Damsel Pomacentrus simsiang and wonderfully - the Butterflyfish Chaetodon adiergastos (last listed here in 1992).

Going back to the 63 fish species in 45 minutes, I'm wondering whether there could ever be enough interest to have some sort of contest in TARP - to photograph and identify as many fish species as possible whilst snorkelling? Maybe something for the future...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

No Need Plastic (Get over it Sabah)

I took this photo of soft coral Sarcophyton sp. (I think) in the family ALCYONIIDAE back in September 2006 on my third ever day of diving in TARP. It is a reminder to me that my recent focus on fishes is all very well but I need to get back into some of the macro stuff which I first enjoyed so much here.

Having said that, I was gratified with the attendance of so many for my talk on the fishes of TARP at the Sabah Society recently. Unbenownst to me, a reporter from a local newspaper was making notes and a friend later gave me a copy of the article. Mostly correct (but with some odd misunderstandings) it was at least good to have the park's fish assets pointed out to the general public.

I've noticed a spray of discussion about rubbish in the park in the news in recent weeks, as well as some discussion about plastic bags in Sabah. I am always astonished that even for the tiniest items bought singly in a shop (a small battery for instance) I am offered the tiniest of plastic bags to go with it. And each kind of fruit must apparently have its own little bag at the fruit stalls. And the municipal rubbish collectors were adamant, when I asked why they wouldn't tip my big rubbish bin into their rubbish lorry, that they would only take rubbish in plastic bags. The plastic bag culture in Sabah seems ubiquitous. At last it is being addressed - it now seems that all plastic bag makers will have to convert their machines to take biodegradable plastic. Just how quickly this will happen I don't know. Hopefully not a whole generation, since the powers that be seem to think that there is no point in trying to change the behaviour of us recalcitrant adults and are focusing on children. ('Speak for themselves' is all I can say, if they think that!)