Saturday, July 9, 2011

Searching the Seafloor for Seagrass and Seahorses

Poor visibility on the reefs has been preventing us from making much progress on reef surveys.  I feel very bad for the coral that are being covered in silt. They are bleaching and then dying from the sediment.  In an attempt to be productive in other ways, I began searching for seagrass in the bay near the village with Ceri and Daniel.  We hoped to find patches of intact seagrass and in the seagrass we hoped to find seahorses, which are listed on the endangered fisheries list in Cambodia.  Our first search was unproductive (but I did see a cool cuttlefish, a large grouper and a saddle-backed anemone fish!).  On Friday, Ceri and I decided to go out again and search another part of the bay.  I spotted a tiny piece of intact mangrove and I though that we might have some luck there.  We got out of the boat in full SCUBA gear to find we were standing in 2 feet of water.  Nonetheless, we took a bearing and began our survey.  No luck.  The water was getting too shallow to swim in.  We turned 90 degrees and started again. Holding a rope between us so that we were traveling in the same direction even if we couldn't see one another, we didn't go far before Ceri began tugging wildly on the rope.  This is what she found.
The first seagrass bed that we found in the bay. (Ceri found it first)
The seagrass was very short and Ceri started pointing and talking into her regulator.  Somehow I managed to understand that she had seen a seahorse.  It survived her enthusiasm, I think, but was floating about the bottom as though it was a tiny piece of drift wood.  Soon after I spotted another one and it was exhibiting the same passive floating along the bottom.

One of the first seahorses that we spotted.
 As we searched the seagrass, we found many other interesting species.  

A blenny poking out from an old clam shell
  We spotted filefish floating around and looking remarkably like green leaves.  One looked like a very large green leaf, which was a bit more obvious in seagrass that was only a few inches high.
A large filefish acting like a big green leaf.
Then we spotted a tiny little filefish that was very well camouflaged in the short seagrass.

In the end, we spotted 3 or 4 seahorses and were very happy to have found both the seahorses and the seagrass.  We were finally feeling productive!

Although we were having a great time in the seagrass, we had plenty of time left on the dive, so we continued our search for another patch.  Since the water was only a foot deep at this point, I simply stood up and looked across the surface.  I saw a dark patch ahead and we began to swim.  It was another, smaller, patch of seagrass with much longer blades.  We couldn't swim over the top of it because it was so shallow, so we didn't spot any more seahorses, but finding the grass was great news.  Buoyed by our good fortune, we are excited to continue searching the bay with the hope of finding many more intact patches. 

No comments: