Entries from the Journey: Updates from Dr. Vagelli’s Banggai cardinalfish research trip

This is part of an ongoing series of blog posts covering the Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium’s Dr. Alejandro Vagelli’s current research and conservation trip to Indonesia. Follow Adventure Aquarium on Facebook and Twitter for ongoing updates.

Entries provided by Dr. Vagelli.

Banggai cardialfish, photographed by Dr. Vagelli in the Banggai Archipelago

Banggai cardialfish, photographed by Dr. Vagelli in the Banggai Archipelago

Preparing for the journey

Preparing for the journey

March 5: The journey is starting! Met up with a Swiss photographer and flew in from the Jakarta Airport. Rest of the team will be coming over in the next week. Plans on the horizon include visiting the regional governments, and in Banggai, inviting local officials to spend a few days on the boat to observe the census and data collection efforts.

The boat - home for the next couple weeks

The boat – home for the next couple weeks

March 6: The boat is a bit small, but very comfortable and the crew seems nice, so all indication is that we will be getting along with no problems and hopefully have a good time! Journey begins today at noon, heading toward Bangkulu Island, south of Peleng as the first stop. On a different note, things have changed a bit since my last travel. Weird to fly on a jet to Luwuk with air conditioning, seeing Luwuk Harbor with freight containers (and with that, an unbelievable amount of pollution and garbage), and was told that cell coverage is available in the Banggai Islands, and maybe in Peleng and another nearby island. Afraid that the Banggai Islands I knew are slowly starting to fade away…

Banggai Archipelago

Banggai Archipelago

Performing a census

Performing a census

March 7: Spent the night in North Banggai and tomorrow will meet with authorities. Before that, we will check in on a small Banggai cardinalfish population that have not been surveyed since 2002. Plan to meet officers from the fisheries office to check the veracity of reports related to conservation actions directed to the cardinalfish and collection/trade gathering, then will move to the collection center here in Banggai (Bonebaru) to investigate what has been happening there during the last years. Boat and crew are all good!

Diving for census and data collection

Surveys are done setting up random straight line transects in a particular habitat and snorkeling or diving along those counting the number of fish within a certain distance of the line. This is repeated several times to build a density estimate for a particular area.

Dr. Vagelli shows a homemade soda bottle bomb used for blast fishing

March 16: We are now safely in Masoni after yesterday going through the first and hopefully the only storm. The boat seems not equipped/designed to handle severe weather like we encountered last night (strong winds, lot of rain and waves 2-2.5 meters) so after 4 or so hours of pretty rough navigation and water starting to get into the engine room, the captain decided to seek refuge in the closer island and wait (we had departed from Peleng and were headed towards the “far east” (Taliabu area). Work is going well – a lot of surveys and data gathering. Saw more blast fishing and met with more locals and officials.

About Blast Fishing: Blast Fishing is a highly destructive fishing practice still used in many areas of the world, like Indonesia. It is primarily used to collect food fish. Fishermen use a soda bottle to create a small bomb that is then released in the water near schools of fish. As the bomb detonates, it sends a shockwave through the water that harms fishes’ swim bladders. Many of the fish die and sink to the bottom of the water, however, a small amount will survive and float to the surface. The fishermen then collect these fish and either eat them or sell them at market. Unfortunately, these bombs damage the local coral reefs, destroying critical habitats for many species, such as the Banggai cardinalfish.

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