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Big Blue Conservation - Koh Tao - Thailand

Dastardly Drupella snails....

Drupella Snails can be responsible for extensive coral reef damage, once an outbreak occurs removal must take place for the balance to be restored. On Koh Tao in 2010 following a bleaching event we lost a significant amount of the Drupellas favourite dish - Acropora (staghorn) coral. As a result, the Drupella population well exceeds the Acropora cover, meaning goodbye to even more acropora colonies as they eat the remainders. Drupella snails use a special mouth 'radula' and feed off of living coral tissue, particular favourites being stag horn and plate coral colonies here on Koh Tao. The snails leave white tissue scars on affected coral and can usually be found congregated at the base or deep down in-between the coral branches. Adults have a robust looking shell, 2 to 3cm long, are covered in small cones/ spikes and are deep purple in colour due to their shells being cover in calcereous algae.  Juveniles are usually 0.5 to 1cm long and are white in colour.

In an attempt to reestablish the balance between durpella and Ancropora populations, we must remove excess Drupella snails from the reef. It is important to make sure removal is of the snail's only and not the common hermit crab which also takes up residence in an empty Drupella snail's shell, some easy clues for checking are waving the shell (if they drop off immediately, they are hermit crabs), and also the hermit crab will re-emerge from its shell relatively quickly once removed and in your hand.

On our last trip we collected 313 snails! We saw 31 aggregations, and then the odd snail or two on its own. All in all a good trip (well...maybe not for the Drupella victims...).

                           

If you are planning your own collection, be careful not to damage the coral colony you are collecting them from; there's no point 'helping the coral' by removing snails if you break the coral in order to do so.... we only remove the most easily accessible Drupella snails. Once we've removed what we can from a dive we place the snails in fresh water for 24hrs before then replacing the shells back onto the coral reef so the shell can then bio-degrade, this then enriches the water with calcium carbonate which other organisms will intern use to build their own exoskeleton (anything from coral, octopus, all marine shell's, cuttlefish, clams..etc).

 

 

Still a huge amount of life to discover!

A recent study reveals that at least one-third of the species that inhabit the world's oceans may remain completely unknown to science. That's despite the fact that more species have been described in the last decade than in any previous one, according to a report published online on November 15 in the Cell Press publication Current Biology that details the first comprehensive register of marine species of the world -- a massive collaborative undertaking by hundreds of experts around the globe.

The researchers estimate that the ocean may be home to as many as one million species in all -- likely not more. About 226,000 of those species have so far been described. There are another 65,000 species awaiting description in specimen collections.

"For the first time, we can provide a very detailed overview of species richness, partitioned among all major marine groups. It is the state of the art of what we know -- and perhaps do not know -- about life in the ocean," says Ward Appeltans of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO.

The findings provide a reference point for conservation efforts and estimates of extinction rates, the researchers say. They expect that the vast majority of unknown species -- composed disproportionately of smaller crustaceans, molluscs, worms, and sponges -- will be found this century.

Earlier estimates of ocean diversity had relied on expert polls based on extrapolations from past rates of species descriptions and other measures. Those estimates varied widely, suffering because there was no global catalog of marine species.

Appeltans and colleagues including Mark Costello from the University of Auckland have now built such an inventory. The World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) is an open-access, online database (see http://www.marinespecies.org/) created by 270 experts representing 146 institutions and 32 countries. It is now 95% complete and is continually being updated as new species are discovered.

"Building this was not as simple as it should be, because there has not been any formal way to register species," Costello says.

A particular problem is the occurrence of multiple descriptions and names for the same species -- so called "synonyms," Costello says. For instance, each whale or dolphin has on average 14 different scientific names.

As those synonyms are discovered through careful examination of records and specimens, the researchers expect perhaps 40,000 "species" to be struck from the list. But such losses will probably be made up as DNA evidence reveals overlooked "cryptic" species.

While fewer species live in the ocean than on land, marine life represents much older evolutionary lineages that are fundamental to our understanding of life on Earth, Appeltans says. And, in some sense, WoRMS is only the start.

"This database provides an example of how other biologists could similarly collaborate to collectively produce an inventory of all life on Earth," Appeltans says.

source: sciencedaily.com

Happy Loi Krathong!!

HAPPY LOI KRATHONG!!

Loi literally means 'to float,' while krathong refers to the lotus-shaped receptacle which can float on the water. Originally, the krathong was made of banana leaves or the layers of the trunk of a banana tree or a spider lily plant.

Sadly now some Krahtongs are made from Styrofoam that end up in the waterways and into the ocean in their hundreds of thousands. Please try to buy only natural materials that can biologically break down with out causing harm to our environment and Thailands beautiful coastline. Remember all rivers lead to the ocean!

Loi Krathong coincides with the Lanna (northern Thai) festival known as "Yi Peng" (Thai: ยี่เป็ง).

A multitude of Lanna-style sky lanterns (khom loi (Thai: โคมลอย), literally: "floating lanterns") are launched into the air and provide a wonderful sight. Lanterns can be made from Bamboo and paper although many are made from wire and paper.

The wire again is harmful to the environment - If you are going to release a lantern please try to buy some constructed from bamboo and paper if at all possible.

So please be as eco minded as possible when celebrating today - use biodegradable materials so everyone, including the fish and turtles, can celebrate this peaceful day.

An acidifying Antartic

Marine snails in seas around Antarctica are being affected by ocean acidification, scientists have found.

Ocean acidification is a result of burning fossil fuels: some of the additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed into oceans. This process alters the chemistry of the water, making it more acidic.

An international team of researchers found that the snails' shells are being corroded by increased ocean acidification. Experts says the findings are significant for predicting the future impact of ocean acidification on marine life. The results of the study are published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

              

The marine snails, called "pteropods", are an important link in the oceanic food chain as well as a good indicator of ecosystem health. "They are a major grazer of phytoplankton and... a key prey item of a number of higher predators - larger plankton, fish, seabirds, whales," said Dr Geraint Tarling, Head of Ocean Ecosystems at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and co-author of the report.

The study was a combined project involving researchers from the BAS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the US Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of East Anglia's school of Environmental Sciences.

Dr Tarling explained the significance of these findings: "The snails do not necessarily die as a result of their shells dissolving, however it may increase their vulnerability to predation and infection, consequently having an impact to other parts of the food web." He said that although upwelling sites are a natural phenomenon in the Southern Ocean, "instances where they bring the saturation horizon above 200m will become more frequent as ocean acidification intensifies in the coming years".

To date there have been a number of laboratory studies predicting the effects of ocean acidification on marine organisms, but none assessing the impacts on live specimens in their natural environment.

Source: BBC Nature

Dr Hoeksema discovers a cave dwelling coral!

Coral specialist Dr. Bert W. Hoeksema of Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, The Netherlands, recently published the description of a new coral species that lives on the ceilings of caves in Indo-Pacific coral reefs. It differs from its closest relatives by its small polyp size and by the absence of symbiotic algae, so-called zooxanthellae. Its distribution range overlaps with the Coral Triangle, an area that is famous for its high marine species richness. Marine zoologists of Naturalis visit this area frequently to explore its marine biodiversity. Reef corals in shallow tropical seas normally need the symbiotic algae for their survival and growth. Without these algae, many coral reefs would not exist. During periods of elevated seawater temperature, most reef corals lose their algae, which is visible as a dramatic whitening of the reefs, a coral disease known as bleaching.

Most reef corals generally do not occur over 40 m depth, a twilight zone where sunlight is not bright anymore, but some species of the genus Leptoseris are exceptional and may even occur much deeper. At greater depths, seawater is generally colder and corals here may be less susceptible to bleaching than those at shallower depths. Despite the lack of zooxanthellae and its small size, the skeleton structures of the new species indicate that it is closely related to these Leptoseris corals, although it has not been found deeper than 35 m so far.

The species is named Leptoseris troglodyta. The word troglodyta is derived from ancient Greek and means "one who dwells in holes," a cave dweller. The discovery sheds new light on the relation of reef corals with symbiotic algae. The new species has adapted to a life without them. Consequently, it may not grow fast, which would be convenient because space is limited on cave ceilings. The species description is published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

Manatees reflect quality of health in marine ecosystems, longterm study finds

A longterm study conducted by researchers at George Mason University may be a benchmark in determining health threats to marine mammals. Over ten years of research in Belize was conducted studying the behavioral ecology, life history and health of manatees in an area relatively undisturbed by humankind.

"Manatees are the proverbial 'canaries in the mineshaft,' as they serve as indicators of their environment and may reflect the overall health of marine ecosystems," says Alonso Aguirre, executive director of the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation. Aguirre calls them a "sentinel species," which means they are early warning indicators of environmental change. Because they may be highly susceptible or highly resistant to different environmental stressors, manatees can indicate a severe environmental change before other species or humans are affected.

Researchers like Aguirre are focusing on discovering the systemic health threats to marine vertebrate species, including marine mammals, as they relate to marine ecological health. There has been an unprecedented number of emerging and re-emerging diseases in dolphins, coral reefs and marine turtles in recent years. "The single species approach may provide a series of "snapshots" of environmental changes to determine if animal, human or ecosystem health may be affected," says Aguirre.

Aguirre concluded that "this study is a benchmark aiding in early disease detection and the current environmental impacts affecting the epidemiologic patterns in the manatees of this region."

Is half of a Great Barrier reef still Great?

 

Australia's Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half its coral cover in the past 27 years, a new study shows. Researchers analysed data on the condition of 217 individual reefs that make up the World Heritage Site. The results show that coral cover declined from 28.0% to 13.8% between 1985 and 2012.

They attribute the decline to storms, a coral-feeding starfish and bleaching linked to climate change.

Glen De'ath from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and colleagues determined that tropical cyclones - 34 in total since 1985 - were responsible for 48% of the damage, while outbreaks of the coral-feeding crown-of-thorns starfish accounted for 42%.

Two severe coral bleaching events in 1998 and 2002 due to ocean warming also had "major detrimental impacts" on the central and northern parts of the reef, the study found, putting the impact at 10%.

"This loss of over half of initial cover is of great concern, signifying habitat loss for the tens of thousands of species associated with tropical coral reefs," the authors wrote in their study.

Co-author Hugh Sweatman said the findings, which were drawn from the world's largest ever reef monitoring project involving 2,258 separate surveys over 27 years, showed that coral could recover from such trauma. "But recovery takes 10-20 years. At present, the intervals between the disturbances are generally too short for full recovery and that's causing the long-term losses," Sweatman said.

John Gunn, head of AIMS, said it was difficult to stop the storms and bleaching but researchers could focus their short-term efforts on the crown-of-thorns starfish, which feasts on coral polyps and can devastate reef cover. The study said improving water quality was key to controlling starfish outbreaks, with increased agricultural run-off such as fertiliser along the reef coast causing algal blooms that starfish larvae feed on.

Source: BBC News

Ocean Conservation? Yes, there's an app for that.

Technology helps us to solve problems every day. Just think of how many types of tech you use before you even finish your breakfast: alarm clock, light switch, electric toothbrush, iPhone, toaster, coffee pot – all before you even really wake up! Technology is meant to answer questions, meet needs, and solve problems. Whether it is making toast or exploring outer space; when we find ourselves facing challenges we apply technology to deliver smarter, faster, easier solutions. So queuing up the next obvious question -- Can we apply our vast reservoirs of technology to create solutions for ocean conservation? Why yes we can!

Just a  few years ago the idea of using a phone to teach you about ocean conservation would have seemed like science fiction, however there certainly are some promising signs we have evolved past our imaginations -- you know the saying  “there’s an app for that!” One such handy app "Rippl" (recently released for iPhone) helps you build “green habits” by sending you helpful tips and reminders on how your actions impact the oceans. The app, which was created by The Ocean Conservancy, uses technology to bring ocean awareness into our daily routines.

Using technology to better understand the ocean is nothing new, scientists have used technology to aid the study of the oceans for years, but for the first time we are seeing a movement to put this tech in the hands of the public. Seafloor Explorer, a new website created by scientists, fishermen, and programmers, enlists the public to help collect data on the creatures of the benthos (seafloor).

Technology like this helps introduce people to the marine communities and species that need their attention and protection. For example, how much do most of us really know or care about sharks? The barbaric practice of shark finning pushes shark populations closer and closer towards extinction each minute, and yet most people have no idea of the scope of this problem. Now, thanks to a new app called "Shark Net" you can now get to know sharks on a personal level, by getting status updates on where they are and what they are doing, just like you would from your friends on Facebook. How does it work? The sharks are tagged, their activities monitored by surfing robots that respond to their movements, trailing them like miniature marine surveillance mobiles. This technology helps introduce people to these incredible creatures and fosters growing awareness of the threats facing sharks.

Restoring our oceans’ vital health presents complex challenges, challenges which require sophisticated solutions. While we cannot fix all of our ocean problems with the push of a button, technology can take us one step closer to engaging in marine life conservation on a deeper, more meaningful level.

By changing the way that we interact with ocean-related data, we’ll enhance the way we interact with our oceans, encouraging a closer connection to the seas. A personal connection like this is often the foundation on which conservation action is built. After all, as the saying goes, "… in the end, we will conserve only what we love and love only what we understand."

Source: Francesca Koe, NRDC Blog

The biggest mistake in human history?

The Caribbean’s coral reefs have collapsed, mostly due to overfishing and climate change, according to a new report released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In the most comprehensive study yet of Caribbean coral reefs, scientists have discovered that the 50 to 60 percent coral cover present in the 1970s has plummeted to less than 10 percent.

“I’m sad to tell you it’s a dire picture,” Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme, said at a news briefing Friday at the World Conservation Congress in Jeju Island, South Korea.

Called “Nature’s Olympics,” the conference will explore five environmental themes over five days. Today’s theme is Nature+ Climate, which focuses on how to combat global warming.

Much of the decline is caused by a massive die-off of sea urchins in the 1970s—possibly due to disease. Without these reef grazers—the “cows in the field” that keep vegetation in check—the number of algae and grasses have skyrocketed, dominating reefs and pushing corals aside, Lundin said.

What’s more, overfishing of grazer species such as parrotfish or surgeonfish is allowing more algae to take over and outcompete the coral, said Ameer Abdulla, IUCN senior advisor on Marine Biodiversity and Conservation Science.

“Coral reef communities are just like human communities—there are different roles that are fundamental to keeping the system going,” Abdulla said.

For example, if all the engineers were taken out of a human society, that would affect how the society functions.

The same phenomenon is happening with the loss of the Caribbean’s grazers, he said.

                      

Global Warming also at play

The scientists also said that warmer water—often caused by hurricanes blowing through—have harmed reefs. When the water gets too hot, algae that live inside coral, called zooxanthellae—abandon their hosts, causing the coral themselves to bleach and eventually die.

Though some reefs can bounce back from such periods of warmer water, notably in the Indian Ocean, ”We have heating happening with much higher frequency and for longer duration,” Lundin told National Geographic News.

Caribbean Collapse a First—Others May Follow

Corals are vital for many reasons, from boosting tourism dollars to local communities and even buffeting islands themselves from powerful storm surges, Lundin said.

The good news is that there are ways to protect the remaining 10 percent of Caribbean corals.

“The urgency of improving management is certainly there—our message is we need to encourage the people who are the custodians of the resources to take charge. We do know a lot about what one can do,” said Lundin.

For instance, putting in place marine protected areas can reduce the pressure of overfishing. Governments can also work with local fishers to maintain their livelihoods, for instance by raising the value of individual fish so that the fishers catch fewer animals.

The bottom line, Abdulla said, is that “the Caribbean system is one of first systems to experience collapse—it’s something that will happen across the globe if human use of coral reefs continues as it is.”

Source: National Geographic

Turlte tagging and the Great Gulf Turtle Race

As part of its vision as a sustainable world-class utility, and its environmental initiatives and efforts to preserve the marine environment in support to the Emirates Wild Society-World Wildlife Fund (EWS-WWF) Marine Turtle Conservation Project, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has recently sponsored tagging eight hawksbill turtles with wireless transmitters to compete in the Great Gulf Turtle Race.

Through this sponsorship, DEWA aims to support scientific research focusing on conserving environmental balance and implement effective conservation plans for these endangered species. This project is one of many environmental initiatives that DEWA is involved such as the recent Earth Hour Campaign.

The EWS-WWF Marine Turtle Conservation project is using satellite tracking technology to research the migration patterns of hawksbill turtles and identify their foraging grounds for post-nesting. During the past three years, the team has fitted 75 hawksbill turtles with wireless transmitters to track their movements.

               

"The sponsorship and support to the EWS-WWF Marine Turtle Conservation project of marine turtle conservation is an integral part of DEWA's environmental strategy, to consolidate a culture of sustainable development, raise awareness for environmental safety, and follow environment-friendly practices to conserve our natural resources for generations to come. We all need assume our roles in protecting the environment and preserving the balance of its interconnected eco-systems" said HE Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD & CEO of DEWA in regards to the importance of conserving the environment.

This is great news for the turtle populations on Koh Tao, as Hawksbill turtles frequent our island and if they are tagged, we can help in the monitoring of global populations and the effect of climate change on the species. Cheers DEWA!

How did the corals do after the bleaching?

A recent study by Big Blue Conservation has revealed that there is hope for some populations of corals that suffer bleaching events, as Koh Tao experienced in 2010. Dr. Bert Hoeksema of NCB Naturalis, Netherlands, Dr. Thamasak Yeemin of Ramkhamhaeng University, Bangkok, and Big Blue Conservation's Jennifer Matthews followed the recovery of mushroom corals after the 2010 mass bleaching event, and found that when temperatures had returned to normal, Koh Tao’s mushroom coral fauna appeared to have recovered and no trace of bleaching was visible anymore! Great news for our mushroom corals, and for coral reefs in the face of climate change! If you fancy reading the article, published in the Phuket Marine Biology journal, click on our publications page in the Eco Projects section.

 

Corals inflate to escape being buried alive in sand

Coral might appear solid and inanimate, but surprising new footage of a mushroom coral inflating itself to escape a sandy burial has brought the organism to life. A scientist from the University of Queensland used timelapse photography to capture the footage. It was already known that the species could release itself from the sandy seabed, but it was not clear how. Since corals move so slowly, time-lapse imagery was used to find out. Dr Pim Bongaerts captured the footage and published his findings in the journal Coral Reef. Corals and sea anemones videos, news and facts As sandy sediments shift on the seabed, corals need to breathe and prevent themselves from being smothered. "Sedimentation presents a major threat for corals, as they can become covered in a layer of sand from which they are unable to escape," explained Dr Bongaerts. To find out how mushroom corals - a particularly mobile family of corals - did this, the researcher brought specimens into the lab and put them in aquaria in order to film the process. "I covered the corals in sediment and, from that moment on, started photographing them every 10 seconds for 20 hours," Dr Bongaerts said. Unlike many of the more familiar branching and "staghorn-type" corals, mushroom corals have a relatively thick layer of fleshy tissue on top of their tough calcium carbonate skeleton. Dr Bongaerts explained: "Many of them live on the sand bed and have quite a unique lifestyle. "Most corals are attached to the limestone substrate that makes up the reef, but mushroom corals can actively move around and find themselves better habitats." 

To watch the full inflation video check out www.coraltimelapse.com Inflate and deflate To move around, the corals "inflate and deflate" parts of their body. And, as the footage that Dr Bongaerts captured showed, they use a similar technique to free themselves from a covering of sand. "The corals inflate and deflate their entire body in a series of rhythmic pulses," said Dr Bongaerts, "which allows them to effectively shed the sediment in a matter of hours. "It's so crazy to see; it looks like another type of creature entirely." He says that the idea of using time-lapse came from watching natural history documentaries. "People often don't have the concept that corals are animals," he said. "But this really brings them to life." "It's surprising that they're capable of such controlled movements." Read the full article: Bongaerts, P.,Hoeksema B.W., Hay, K.B., Hoegh-Guldberg, O. (2012) Mushroom corals overcome live burial through pulsed inflation. Coral Reefs. DOI: 10.1007/s00338-011-0862-z

Growing up nicely!

Thank you Jason, Rich, Anke & Kevin for doing a great job yesterday monitoring our coral nursery and Sairee Reef! The nursery is looking great and our resident batfish family is growing. We will go back for another check very soon, and you are all more than welcome to come along and help out!

Another clean up... Another Whaleshark!

Another day, another successful Clean Up AND another Whale Shark!!! This morning Big Blue headed out with 44 divers for one dive at Chumpon Pinnacle before heading back and clean up our beautiful Sairee Reef. And our helpful volunteers got their reward, and the best one a diver could ask for - as the only dive school there we were blessed with the presence of one very playful whale shark for the whole dive! So it sure pays off doing something good for our seas - your next chance to get involved will be on our next Clean Up Day in January. A massive thanks to all of our volunteers and Merry Christmas!!

                          

Ban FAD's

Whale sharks are harmless filter-feeders that can grow to be the size of a school bus and live for more than 70 years. Although exceedingly rare, encounters with these spectacular animals have dazzled divers and underwater photographers around the world, including Koh Tao (we've had almost 20 in a month!!). Unfortunately, some tuna companies are slaughtering these majestic giants... but not until after they turn them into live fishing gear. Tuna fisherman use whale sharks as fish-aggregating devices (FADs), attaching radio locators to their bodies, allowing them to gather schools of tuna and other fish around them, and then scooping everything up in a net. The whale shark is often caught and released numerous times before it finally dies from the brutal treatment. The truth is disturbing, but Chicken of the Sea can do something about it. Take action and ask them to make a commitment to not use whale sharks as bait for tuna fishing. Visit http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-whale-sharks-from-being-used-as-bait-for-tuna-fishing to sign the petition.

Eco-Divemasters are us!!

What a great day out! Divemaster trainees TJ, Parker, Casper, Katy, Phil, Oli, Chris, James and Tom, and Big Blue Divemaster Regi and Eco Emma all took a great dive at our nursery yesterday. With the sun shining (monsoon season huh?!) the day started off with a talk about fish and coral biology and identification, and about the coral nursery conservation project. Then the whole team headed to the nursery where in buddy teams, they monitored their own section of nursery, counting dead/live/missing fragments. After they had a play at the nuresery (with the resident 30 juveile batfish keeping an eye on things), they checked up on the transplants we put back on the reef (which are doing fantastic!!). Then, they made their way back to shore and did a clean-up on the way back. All DMT's said they had a great time and learnt alot about the reefs they dive so much. As part of the Divemaster programme at Big Blue, our Divemaster trainees have access to marine biology and conservation education and practical opportunities. So it's great if you're looking to become a Divemaster and want a little something extra to add to your CV! Contact us at the Marine Conservation center of Big Blue at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

             

           

           

Corals in a cage

How many of you divers out there love the whole experience so much that you have an aquarium at home? Quite a few of you I would imagine. In that case, this new project will be of great interest to you. The Coral Aquarist Research Network (CARN) (www.carnuk.org) has been set-up with exactly you in mind. It has been set-up at the Coral Reef Research Unit at the University of Essex in the UK and is managed by marine biologist Philippa Mansell. The design of this network has been funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (www.nerc.ac.uk) and has been designed to bring together reef researchers, members of the aquarium trade and the millions of individuals all over the world that own their own aquaria. CARN's aim is to work together, combining thoughts, ideas, knowledge and expertise to try and promote a more sustainable coral trade, the importing of marine life from the worlds reefs to the nations that demand them most, those being the USA, EU and Japan. Unfortunately this trade is currently nowhere near as sustainable as we would like and our reefs are being destroyed at far too great a rate. Top coral reef researchers are working with various aquaria and fishign industries, whilst promoting a sustainable ornamental fisheries. You can help by always requesting information on where your corals and fish are sourced from and the manner in which they are caught. Also, don't collect shells on the beach or buy coral or shell jewellery or merchandise - they look better in the ocean! 

         

If you would like to be part of one of the world’s biggest research programs linking reef research and aquaria industries, help out in real coral reef research. Big Blue has various coral conservation courses that you can take, and if you would like to join us for some monitoring, the dive is free! Data from our monitoring dives could be used within long-term research studies, added to global data sets and may even be published in scientific journals. If you would like to know more about how to get involved and the actions of CARN, check out http://www.carnuk.org/getinvolved.aspx, or send Big Blue Cosenrvation an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The End of the (shopping) Line?

London is pulling together to become the first city selling SOLEly sustainable fish products. People are eating more fish than ever, and alot of it is being caught by destructive methods. The world is now at risk of losing some species from our seas forever. The graph below (taken from the sustainable fish city website) shows the dramatic decline in popular fish species in the past 100 years. The good news is there's still time to do something about it. Fish stocks will replenish if they are managed sustainably.

Sustainable Fish City is an initiative conceived and supported by an alliance of not-for-profit organisations already working on sustainable seafood issues. Some also run advisory or supportservices that can help businesses to develop sustainable seafood policies and practices. We want London to become the first ever Sustainable Fish City, to show what can be done if people and organisations make a concerted effort to change their buying habits. No matter where you work or shop, you can help. If we can make London the first ever Sustainable Fish City, perhaps other towns and cities will follow suit! Find out more about the initiative and about which fish to buy and where from at the Sustainable Fish City Website : http://www.sustainweb.org/sustainablefishcity

Warning! May Contain Plastic

In just 25 years, our consumption rate of plastic bags has grown from almost zero to our use of over 500,000,000,000 (that’s 500 billion) plastic bags annually … almost 1 million per minute.According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags. * Plastic bags cause hundreds of thousands of birds, sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year because these creatures mistake plastic trash for food. * Countries like China, Ireland, Australia, Bangladesh have banned or have placed restrictions on single use plastic bags. Taiwan banned plastic bag and plastic utensils as a way to reduce 60,000 metric tons of waste per year they deal with each year * According to the BBC, only 1 in 200 plastic bags in the UK are recycled. At Big Blue, you can bring in your plastic bags and we will reuse them - just look for the plastic bag recycle bin out side the Eco Lab. Each high quality reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime, which is why we also sell 'bag for life' canvas bags for only 100 baht - 50% of which goes to conservation research at Big Blue! So you can look eco-cool and feel good bout it too! Remember every piece of plastic ever produced and not recycled still exists!

Whaleshark Diving Etiquette from SSI

How profeSSIonal!! SSI Thailand have just produced a whaleshark diving guidelines for diver etiquette when diving with this maSSIve species! All our boats now have this poster in place and all diver briefings include a reminder of appropriate whaleshark diving practice. Just remember, the 3 and 4 meters is not a recommended distance, but the absolute minimum you should be from the shark and never swim directly infront of them. Also don't forget to share your photos of your whaleshark experience with us! Cheers SSI

Mass extinction is inevitable...

The oceans are in a worse state than previously suspected, according to an expert panel of scientists. They warn that ocean life is "at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history". They conclude that issues such as over-fishing, pollution and climate change are acting together in ways ...that have not previously been recognised. The impacts, they say, are already affecting humanity. "The findings are shocking." What we're seeing, is a picture showing changes that are happening faster than we'd thought, or in ways that we didn't expect to see for hundreds of years including melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, sea level rise, and release of methane trapped in the sea bed.

 
If you look at almost everything, whether it's fisheries in temperate zones or coral reefs or Arctic sea ice, all of this is undergoing changes, but at a much faster rate than we had thought. In a wider sense, ocean acidification, warming, local pollution and overfishing are acting together to increase the threat to coral reefs - so much so that three-quarters of the world's reefs are at risk of severe decline. Levels of CO2 being absorbed by the oceans are already far greater than during the great extinction of marine species 55 million years ago. In the long run, greenhouse gas emissions must be cut to conserve ocean life. "The time to protect the blue heart of our planet is now."

So come and get involved. We have many different training courses, from and introduction to ecology, to marine conservation training, to underwater research skill development courses. Help give the ocean back what has been taken from it.

Eco Full Day Trip!

At Big Blue, we are famous for our fantastic full day trips to Sail Rock, with breakfast, lunch and as many drinks as you could have, whilst enjoying some of the best diving (and company!) the Gulf of Thailand has to offer. So as we do them so well, we decided to put an ecological spin on the latest full day trip! Soooo much better! During our first dive, we collected Drupella snails that, due to last year's bleaching event, are now at such high population levels that they are consuming our reefs at an uncontrollable rate. Next, we visited Biorock, where we monitored existing coral fragments on the structure and added more. Then finally, we visited our wonderful nursery at Sairee reef to tag our newest giant clam residents to watch them grow.

A massive thanks to everyone who helped out, it was a huge eco success! You can sleep easy tonight, knowing you've made a difference to the reefs around Koh Tao.

              

If you want to know more about eco-diving on Koh Tao or are wondering how you can get involved, just give us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Look how she grows!

Big Blue Conservation crew took a trip out to our coral nursery yesterday to see how she's progressing. As you can see, pretty well I think! We have some fantastic samples of Acropora growing, which is good news for the global decline of this genera. In the up coming weeks, especially during the Save Koh Tao festival in 10 days, we will be taking these young colonies and transplanting them onto our existing reef on Sairee to help replenish the reduced coral cover due to the bleaching event last year.

But more interestingly, our nursery seems to be not only for the coral! A school of 21 juvenile tiera batfish are guarding our nursery, as well as the nursery providing them with a new home. This is great news for our reefs as batfish are not normally a frequent visitor to Sairee reef. Great news all round really!

           

                           

Stop fishing on our dive sites!

I took this photo at White Rock two days ago. Koh Tao is a no-fish zone for 3km around the island, and even single lines count. I'd much rather see this grouper happily hiding next to a rock, wouldn't you?!

Shark Alliance welcome us as members!

Big Blue Conservation is now and official member of the Shark Alliance! As a result of the fantastic work Koh Tao did to raise money and awareness throough the Swim for Sharks 2010 event, the Shark Alliance has awarded us with member status. The Shark Alliance is a global, not-for-profit coalition of non-governmental organizations dedicated to restoring and conserving shark populations by improving shark conservation policies. We, as members, are now part of a high caliber group of NGOs, professionals and volunteers who are working together to achieve a common objective. We have access to specialists of a number of functions (science, policy, communications, public relations, campaign strategy and coordination) dedicated to shark conservation and management, and access to additional capacity to strengthen our own organisation’s profile and influence. Go team Eco!!!

You can find out more about the Shark Alliance by following the website link on the left hand side of this page.

Caught up in it all!

Duncan has gotten so caught up in all the eco stuff going on at Big Blue at the moment, that even he spent a dive removing a 20m plus long fish net from Southwest Pinnacle yesterday. And no, they weren't girls fish net stockings - but a genuine discarded fishing net! Thanks Duncan, the fish and coral will forever be your friend! Tomorrow I'll put the photos of Canada helping to plant trees in the Poonama Canal...

              

Our coral nursery is growing!

Look how much it has grown! In only 3 months of being in place, some coral fragments on our coral nursery have started to really take hold! This is fantastic news, especially after the severe bleaching events around the world this year, it's great to see some corals continuing to do well.

Coral nurseries are of increasing importance because Reefs around the globe are threatened by human activities. Like many parts of the world, the economy on Koh Tao is reliant upon our natural reef areas and the visitors they bring.

Koh Tao currently has a number of coral nurseries using different techniques for research and restoration purposes. It is hoped that coral colonies from these nurseries can help add to the reefs around Koh Tao and provide a means of restoring damaged areas faster than would naturally occur,as well as providing additional dive sites. A number of organisations including Save Koh Tao and dive operators on Koh Tao have begun constructing small coral nurseries to test the feasibility and success of different methods. So far 3 different types of structures have been test-built 3 and all three have been successful.
Big Blue conservation aims to contribute to this research, so that after a few months trial period the relative price and performance of each method can be optimised before making coral nurseries more widespread around the island. In the future, we would like to see a coral nursery near each dive site, and a few in places that currently are not being dived to provide alternative dive sites.
With nurseries in place in close proximity to dive sites, should a boat anchor or SCUBA divers break the corals, those fragments can be quickly brought to a secure growing area until they become large enough to transplant back onto the dive site. The nurseries themselves also serve as habitats for fish and a variety of other marine organisms, helping to maintain the reef abundance and biodiversity around Koh Tao.

             

Is this the start of recovery for the corals?

In 1998, sea surface temperatures reached the highest in 850,000 years. Currently, 2010 is set to be hotter. This has caused worldwide bleaching of corals.
The bleaching began to occur on Koh Tao mid April, and we are just starting to see their recovery now. Mushroom corals, have begun to regain their zooxanthellae. This is great news for the reefs of Koh Tao, hopefully most of the snowy white corals will recover, giving us back our colourful reefs we love to dive every day.
Corals have a single cell symbiotic algae that lives inside their tissue called zooxanthellae, which provide 85% of the coral nutrients through photosynthesis. However, in increased temperatures, the zooxanthellae produce more energy than the coral needs, and that energy is transferred to oxygen to make oxygen free radicals, which harm the coral tissue. In response, the coral animal expels the algae so that the white calcium carbonate skeleton can be seen through the colourless tissue, giving a bleached appearance. The corals are not dead at this point, however, there are severely stressed, having only 15% of their usual nutrient intake, and therefore much more susceptible to disease and damage.
In 1998, only 5-10% of bleached corals perished, and through constant underwater monitoring, Big Blue Conservation and other dive shops around the island have been keeping a close eye on this years bleaching, like Big Blue Conservation did yesterday off Sairee beach.
So is this the start of the recovery? Watch this space!

             

2010 Alert on Oceanic Temperatures

In 1998, oceanic temperatures reached the highest they have been for 650,000 years. 2002 was the second hottest, and 2010 could be hotter. Climate change is causing oceanic temperatures to rise, threatening the destruction of coral reefs world wide, making them now the world's oldest but most threatened ecosystem. In 1998, 60% of the worlds corals bleached resulting in many reefs seeing mass coral death.
Save Koh Tao, Marine Conservation Koh Tao and Big Blue Conservation have observed 95% bleaching in many areas around Koh Tao in 2010, and the same is being reported throughout the Gulf and Andaman Coastlines.

                         

So what is coral bleaching and why is it happening now?
Corals are animals in the same family as jellyfish, they are very primitive and have a clear, jellylike anatomy called a polyp. When we look at a healthy coral, the colours we see are actually from millions of little algae cells that live inside the coral's tissue called zooxanthellae. Using the sunlight for photosynthesis, they provide 85% of the coral polyps nutrients which is used for skeleton growth, reproduction and to produce its protective coating. In return, the algae are given a stable place to live and steady supply of nutrients.
When the water temperature rises above 30C, the chemistry and resulting living environment within the coral polyp changes attacking the algae. In response, the algae produces chemicals to defend themselves which attacks the coral and the coral is forced to expel the algae. This results is the coral skeleton being visible through the coral polyp giving a bleached appearanced. The coral polyps are severely stressed, although not dead, as they are only able to obtain 15% of the nutrients without the algae. Should the conditions improve within 28 days, and the algae return, the corals are likely to survive the bleaching event. However, whilst bleached they are much more susceptible to disease, damage and pollutants, and many bleached corals will not survive bleaching.
Certain ivertebrate and fish species will have an impact on the health of the reefs as well as indicating water quality, as the presence and absense of many essential algal grazers, predators and pests will influence reef health and shape the ecosystem. It is therefore also essential that we monitor the abundance of indicator species around Koh Tao.
As such, it is vital that we monitor the life and coral health around the island, and this is what Big Blue Conservation strives to do. Through training, education and raising general awareness, we hope that the beautiful diverse corals around Koh Tao will remain so for years to come.

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