Smooth Handfish Extinction Marks a Sad Milestone
For centuries humans believed the ocean was so vast that it was impossible to do it measurable harm. But we now know human activities can destroy critical marine habitats, dangerously pollute seawater and make sea environments more acidic. Overharvesting has disrupted food chains and directly pushed many ocean species into the critically endangered category—and has driven some animals, including Steller's sea cow, into total extinction. This past March the smooth handfish officially became the first modern-day marine fish to be declared extinct.
Handfish are a family of 14 unusual bottom-dwelling species related to deep-sea anglerfish. Unlike most other fishes, they do not have a larval phase and do not move around very much as adults; these traits make them sensitive to environmental changes, according to Graham Edgar, a marine ecologist at the University of Tasmania. “They spend most of their time sitting on the seabed, with an occasional flap for a few meters if they're disturbed,” Edgar says. “As they lack a larval stage, they are unable to disperse to new locations—and consequently, handfish populations are very localized and vulnerable to threats.” In 1996, he adds, another species called the spotted handfish was the first marine fish listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
The smooth handfish was once common enough to be one of the first fish species described by European explorers in Australia. Now none has been reported in well over a century, despite frequent scientific sampling in its known range (including by Edgar and his colleagues). Red List guidelines officially define “extinct” as meaning “there is no reasonable doubt that the last individual has died.” Edgar and the members of Australia's National Handfish Recovery Team were forced to that conclusion earlier this year, and the Red List placed it in the extinct category. Scientists are unsure exactly what finished off the species, but others in the region are threatened by trawl fishing, pollution and climate change.
Article courtesy of Scientific American ( scientificamerican.com )
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Ethical Travel & Dive Destinations
Here are some of the Top 10 Ethical Travel Destinations for 2015 as rated by Calfornia-based Ethical Traveler. If you are interested in a true adventure to a destination that cares for its natural resources and protects the marine environment, give us a call and we will get you to one of these destinations…!
Samoa - recently co-signed a $1 million project for improving biodiversity and managing threats of climate change.
Tonga - Ha'aapai will become Tonga's first island to institute organic farming. Tonga is also an amazing place to experience dives with whales.
Dominica - clean energy initiative, concern for wildlife, and resistance to commercial whaling earn this island paradise high marks. Known as the Nature Isle, Dominica lives up to its reputation.
Palau - designated an Environmental Stat because of its extensive care of marine and terrestrial areas. And of course, Palau is one of Micronesia's premier dive destinations.
Mauritius - has embarked on a program to plant 200,000 trees by the end of 2014. The African country is also praised for its social services. As yes, you can find some amazing scuba diving in the Mauritian waters.
Plan a trip now to Dominica to participate in the annual sea turtle hatch, a popular island activity between March and August, and support sea turtle conservation. Experience adventure on land, fantastic diving, and help save sea turtles all in one great trip..!
Hawksbill, Leatherback and Green turtles have been seen on Rosalie Bay Beach, Londonderry Beach and Bout Sabe Beach in LaPlaine. The island anxiously awaits the arrival of the first female sea turtle to swim ashore to dig her nest and lay her eggs. After a gestation period of 8-10 weeks, the hatchlings emerge from the nest before finding their way back to the sea.
Under the watchful eye of the Dominica Sea Turtle Conservation Organization, visitors to the island can be added to the “turtle alert” list to stay updated on the nighttime arrival of turtles. The sea turtle hatch offers visitors a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those who brave this nocturnal challenge! A representative of the Nature Enhancement Team (NET) ensures that spectators follow the rules for interacting with and watching the turtles. The team also records turtle activity, nests and hatchings.