Marine life could be like this in South West Florida, 1/3

About two weeks ago, I had a chance to explore some of the marine life on the other side of the Gulf. Off the coast of Mexico and down further south to include Honduras, there is the second largest barrier reef. It is just a two hour flight away from us here in SWFL. I went specifically to the atolls of Turneffe off the coast of Belize. it was looking OK. The marine life density and diversity was good but not as dense as seen in the far western Pacific Ocean and the water clarity was 80 feet at best. There was some chop to the surface but no significant current at depth. The minimum and maximum dive depths were 35 to 90 feet msl.

There were certainly fewer Lion fish and I saw no bleached coral compared to what I saw here 5 years ago. Most of the area is part of their marine national park. Here are a few interesting photos of some of the many coral and small animals that I saw during the 25 dives. This first of three postings shows daylight fish, shrimp and other marine life. More shell fish and coral at night will follow in future postings.

This was a very healthy Lion fish. it was good that I saw only five of these spiny, toxic pests during the entire week. Three years ago I would see dozens.
I have not seen flamingo tongues like this attached to a fan coral in the last 5 years. Now I saw at least 15.
These sea tunicates were about 4mm in length and are very delicate. They are considered to be some of the most primitive life forms. I saw fewer of them than 20 years ago however they were still present in three widely dispersed areas.
Shrimp almost like a spider. 5mm in length.
These 4mm shrimp were nearly transparent. Can you see all four?
There were plenty of these big boys. The sharks were about 300 to 350 pounders and at least 12 foot long. They tended to swim in packs of three to six. Often when diving, they would follow our group to see if we were hunting the lion fish. During the last 12 years, divers have been busy spearing the lion fish and feeding them to the sharks with the hope of training the sharks to act as natural predators of this invasive species. There gave us no trouble despite swimming only a few feet away.
Did I tell you that my favorite color is blue? Check out these blue tangs.
Blue parrot fish.
Tube worm extended from brain coral. These are so colorful but very shy.
Fearsome but benign to people, green moray eel.

I believe that these observations are supported by this article. Local management matters for coral reefs
Knowlton, N., Science,  28 May 2021: Vol. 372, Issue 6545, pp. 908-909DOI: 10.1126/science.abi7286

“Despite the doom and gloom of media reports on the state of the ocean, and the enormous challenges that remain, there is growing recognition that marine conservation actions have had measurable success (1213). Indeed, local actions can not only minimize damage from warming, but provide biodiversity and food-security benefits as well (1214).”

Planting new coral specific for future warming of the water of the coast of Florida has started with the hope of developing new reefs and habitat for the fish and other life forms as well as to abate red tide. Check out these links:

FGCU Artificial Reef – Florida Gulf Coast University

FGCU plans new artificial reef

If you wish to support research and development of this worthy project link on the references and see how you can donate.

#marine life #underwater #reef #shark #shrimp #eel #lion fish #tunicates #worms

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