Day 13: Sharks are actually really boring

Today after breakfast we talked about Andressa’s presentation on marine debris, and we decided that we wanted to find out how much and what types of trash washed up on the island. We decided to look at two areas on opposite sides of the island: the windward side, which is the direction facing the wind, and the leeward face, which doesn’t face the wind. So we went over to both spots and pick up as much trash as we could within a time frame, noting how much of each types we picked up (i.e. hard plastics, glass, wood, etc.…). Unsurprisingly, we found that found plastics made up a large percentage of what we found on both sides. It’s pretty upsetting to know that despite the fact that this island is cleaned up regularly, we were still able to fill up three large bags full of washed up trash, and there was still so much that we weren’t able to get.

We later went snorkeling at three different sites, the first and last being pretty shallow (around 4-7 ft deep at most), and the second being the deepest (around 20-25 ft). I noticed several patterns concerning the distribution of the fish I was able to recognize. For example, all the stoplight parrotfish like to hang out, usually alone, closer to the benthos, at the bottom of the coral structures that they feed off of. Side note: I also saw the initial phase of parrotfish (pretty much a young adult parrot fish) that was silver and red, which is surprising since the adult from is blue and purple. I also noticed that most of the smaller fish, such as the blue chromis and four-eyed butterfly fish like to hang out, usually with each other, towards the top of the coral and rock formations.

The red and grey fish is a juvenile stoplight parrotfish
Adult Parrotfish

I learned in my research that a type of fish called the Sargent Major was a curious lil fella who would swim up to divers instead of swimming away for cover like most other fish. These little guys like to hang out at the top of coral structures, are a little smaller than the palm of your hand, have a white body with yellow and black stripes, and have a face that can only be described as cute. However, this was WRONG. I saw many, many Sargent majors in all three sites and they all swam away from me. Utterly disappointing.

Shy Sergeant major fish

In the deeper site, we saw a HUGE nurse shark (around 7-8 ft) that was just laying on the benthos, partially covered by a rock/coral structure. Once everybody came to see it and were diving down to see it, it moved a little more under the rocks. I would have probably been annoyed too if a bunch of undergrads came to disturb my nap. We left after we realized that it wasn’t on planning to move anytime soon.

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