Sharpnosed Puffers Dying in Droves

Pufferpunk

New member
During my trip to the Philippines, I had the honor of spending the week with one of the #1 underwater cinematographers in the world, Stan Waterman. While he was there, he was reviewing some videos sent in for a very elite photo contest. He was reviewing this very sad video about puffers dying in great numbers, for a conservation section of the contest. It took some time to track down the author but I finally have. Here is his commentary & the video:

"A SMALL WARNING

I started diving by taking a resort course in Isla Mujeres in Mexico. Over time I took many more resort courses and then finally I received my C-Card. Shortly thereafter my wife (Sandrah, who narrates the video) received her card and we try to dive as often as possible "“ it is our passion. We are both Advanced Open Water Divers and Nitrox certified. In addition, I am a Dive Medical Technician. Our video "œAkumal"¦In Decline" took first place in the Conservation category in Underwater Images 2008 and was featured by coral.org to promote environmental concerns.

We go to Mexico often and discovered the so-called "œRiviera Maya", earlier this decade. As tourism exploded, so have environmental issues. There are ten times as many hotel rooms as there were 10 years ago. The number of tourists is expected to grow from 3,000,000 to 7,000,000 people a year in the next decade. Developers are spending money in the area building major resorts and condominiums. An airport is being built to handle the greater influx of visitors to the area. When we first went to the area there was more marine life and the reefs were in fairly good shape. But things began to change. The conditions of the reefs worsened and there is less and less marine life. The exception is in Marine Protected Zones where environmental laws and regulations are enforced.

In late March, 2008, after "œAkumal"¦In Decline" was released, turtles started washing up on the shores of the Rivera Maya. There were reports that the turtles were mistaking plastic for food. Some autopsies on the turtles indicated the plastic was an issue, yet other autopsies revealed no evidence of ingesting plastic and that in fact the turtles were diseased. But this was not the end of the problems and "œA Small Warning" describes what we saw during December, 2008.

In December, 2008 there was a substantial increase in the number of Sharpnose Puffers, with the common theme that the areas having population explosions in areas that are not protected areas and had poor water quality. Akumal, and the immediately surrounding areas, were some of the areas hit the hardest with the explosion. They also seem to be the only areas where the Sharpnose Puffers were showing severe signs of disease and infection - growths, warts and even behavior changes. They were swimming up to us and dying as we watched. It was heartbreaking as they appeared to be looking for help and would even swim into our hands to rest.

Prior scientific research indicates of what we witnessed is a form of disease bought on by environmental stressors, including pollution, though as of now there is no definitive answer as to what we saw. Preliminary autopsies on the Puffers showed strange abnormalities, including a film like substance on their livers. The water conditions in the area are extremely poor "“ the reefs are covered with algae due to excessive nutrients from sewage and improperly treated water. We were also told that the beaches, if they were in the U.S., would be shut down due to pollution.

2008 was the International Year of the Reef. We started the year watching massive algae blooms in the Riviera Maya due to pollution. It continued as turtles began washing up dead and dying on beaches. In December, 2008 the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network reported that 19% of the world's Coral Reefs are now destroyed and that the remaining reefs could be gone within the next 20-40 years. Then we closed the year watching diseased Puffers die before our eyes. Every year that passes gives us warning of the dangers facing the oceans and actions need to be taken before it is too late and the situation can no longer be reversed."

http://divefile.com/asw.php
 

pheromo

New member
yes well that is in the ocean ... the amount of a species killed in transshippers and distributers warehouses in the indopacific region is remarkably high ... for every living fish u see in a tank, the number of that species dead in distributers hands is not worth thinking about ... transshippers and distributers in the indopacific, unregulated by an FDA, also mismedicate their systems, causing resistant strains of parasites and fungi and bacteria ... laboratories across the country are reporting such intensely resistant forms of brook, only quinine kills it; such intense form of flukes only dilox kills it, and such resistant forms of crypto, entire quaratines die off in a matter of days, particularly if not caught in time, and the system requires heavy bleaching and decontaminating before it ccan be operational again ... kinda makes u think NO MORE fish should be collected by any thing else but scientific institutions, and that all tanks should be aquacultured reefs with bangai cardinals and clownfish ... not to mention the destructive LPS collection methods being employed in australia nowadays ...
 

JHemdal

New member
Pufferpunk,

I'm not sure what all the hub-bub is about this. Boom-bust cycles are not unknown, and can actually be "normal" for some populations of insects. I'm not familiar with similar (natural) cycles in the ocean, but damaged ecosystems often see population swings in certain species. Certainly the inshore habitat is more perturbed than the barrier reef system. The puffers dying is to be expected - it is the "bust" part of the cycle. What is unknown, and needs to be focused on, is why they had a population boom in the first place. For some cycles that I've seen, an introduced species caused the original ecosystem damage (zebra mussels & round gobies in the Great Lakes for example). I wonder if lionfish play a role in this?

Jay
 

anbosu

New member
In the gulf the effects of the red tides can be discounted either. Even if they don't kill a particular fish directly, the amount of stress on the ecosystem from these events can cause pretty big die offs as well.
 

Pufferpunk

New member
Pufferpunk,

I'm not sure what all the hub-bub is about this. Boom-bust cycles are not unknown, and can actually be "normal" for some populations of insects. I'm not familiar with similar (natural) cycles in the ocean, but damaged ecosystems often see population swings in certain species. Certainly the inshore habitat is more perturbed than the barrier reef system. The puffers dying is to be expected - it is the "bust" part of the cycle. What is unknown, and needs to be focused on, is why they had a population boom in the first place. For some cycles that I've seen, an introduced species caused the original ecosystem damage (zebra mussels & round gobies in the Great Lakes for example). I wonder if lionfish play a role in this?

Jay
You realize this was more than 1 species of Toby dying there?
 

JHemdal

New member
Pufferpunk,

All of the Atlantic Canthigaster (6 or so species) are doppelgangers for the common reef toby, C. rostrata. It would be expected that if their ranges over-lap, so would their natural history - diet, predators, etc. Still, of the other species I've heard of, I didn't think any were found in that region - there is one from W. Africa, a couple from the oceanic islands, a deepwater species, one found further south.

Fish in poor condition often succumb to disease. When population growth outstrips the carrying capacity of the environment, the fish will be in poor condition. The huge population increase the Canthigaster saw was just a prelude to the "bust" - no way to avoid it. The puffers themselves dying isn't the issue - it is what caused the "boom" of the cycle that is important.

Jay
 
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