Bah, Humbug: Part 2

…So, Lad and I do get back in the water that evening and make a second attempt at capturing the humbug damselfish, but to no avail. We make plans to try again later in the week. In the meantime, after returning to the office on Wednesday and Thursday, I am treated to a couple of days of diving. REEF is hosting a small group of students for a week-long course in fish ID and survey methodology, and the interns are able to sit in on a few of the classroom sessions and tag along on some dives. I am scheduled to dive with the group Friday and Saturday, and I was looking forward to practicing some survey methods. On Saturday, we all perform a survey of our choice (unanimously REEF’s Roving Diver Survey – after a week of transects, the students seem content to use a less structured method), but on Friday we learn a new survey – the new Stationary Point Count Survey (nSPC) Method. In this type of survey, a diver remains in one spot on the reef and visualizes a cylinder around her with a diameter of 15 meters. For the first five minutes, the diver makes a list of every species she observes in the cylinder. For the rest of the survey, the diver records the number and average size of each of these species. It is a surge-y day, so doing this survey in shallow water – while stationary – is a bit of a challenge. I also missed the memo that our tanks are steel, so I am about four pounds overweighted…oops. But I’m excited to know a survey method other than belt, photoquadrat, and roving, especially since the nSPC method is often used in government organizations.

The REEF students, Lad, and I celebrate post-survey

The REEF students, Lad, and I celebrate post-survey

On Sunday, Lad, Lawrie, and I head back up to Miami to take another stab at capturing the humbug damselfish. Sunny and humid, it’s a perfect day to spend a long afternoon in the water – no more shivering in my wetsuit. While we prepare to get in, Lad squints into the water a little to the right of the humbug damselfish’s hiding spot. “That fish doesn’t look native, either,” he says, pointing. We later find out that the second fish is a spiny chromis damselfish, also from the Indo-Pacific. A few hours later, we again leave empty handed, forced by time to end our mission – Lawrie and I drop Lad off at the airport so he can catch his flight to Cuba for the next REEF survey trip.

Lawrie and I aren’t about to waste a free evening in Miami. We eat dinner a place Margaret, the reporter who first spotted the humbug damselfish, recommends (I’m not quite brave enough to try the grasshopper tacos) and take a stroll on the beach. The waves are electric blue and inviting, and the surf pounds into the shore – something I miss when I’m living near a reef. But if you look away from the azure swells, back towards families and friends sprawled on beach chairs and blankets, you see another sight that is much less picturesque:

Plastic waste found at South Beach

Plastic waste found at South Beach

Plastic. Always plastic.


Although the first two attempts I described were unsuccessful, REEF has continued efforts to capture the humbug damselfish and spiny chromis damselfish at the Miami Beach Marina.

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