Anthropogenic Effects on Honduran Coral Reefs

Submitted by Jeff Buster on Sun, 03/27/2011 - 15:08.

I received this note (lightly edited for privacy) and image from a young friend of mine - the positive life attitude is worth sharing here on Realneo.

Hello Jeff,

I haven't talked to you since I returned from Honduras. The trip was absolutely amazing. We were located on the North side of the Roatan Island at the Roatan Institute for Marine Science and went scuba diving every day. The weather was beautiful almost the entire time and I have never seen water that clear in my life. Scuba itself was incredible. It was just so relaxing to be floating in the water just weightless. You also can only hear your breath, so it was kind of a type of meditation.
For the time we were down there my friend and I studied territorial Damselfish, which were cool. They are these species of Damselfish that always guard an area of coral in communities and will attack anything that comes near it (including my hand). It was funny to have them attack you because they are so small and harmless, but they do scare big fish as well. What is cool about their territory is that they will clear an area of coral in the territory and maintain it in a way to promote algal growth, which is what they eat.
Other days we got a chance to do free dives without studying fish. This one location we went to was off the coast and removed from anthropogenic effects from the island (which are the reason we are losing coral cover). But this location was virtually 100% coral cover. At first when we jumped out I was sinking and looking out the wrong way, so I felt like "Whatever it looks the same as everything else." Then I turned around and I was BLOWN AWAY. It was covered everywhere in healthy abundant coral. It must have been what the area entirely looked like hundreds of years ago. The whole ecosystem is still amazing. There are fish, crustaceans, colorful corals, and so many little critters everywhere you go. My friend actually cut her hand slightly in the water once and you could see the blood coming out in a green that was virtually the color of grass, so interesting. Some of our free dives we had some fun by messing around with scuba. We would "tank ride" each other, which is where you sneak up and sit on someones tank (their reaction is always priceless). We also did a human totem pole, the picture is attached. Probably the best picture I have ever taken.
One of the days we got to see the dolphins, which was a crazy experience. They are so amazingly intelligent. They train them to do a specific trick called "innovate", where the dolphin picks a trick it knows, performs it, and then it has to do another trick after. The cool thing is that the dolphin picks an entirely new trick every time and doesn't repeat. BUT it gets even better. They will do this trick with two dolphins with the same stipulation but the dolphins have to do the same trick. So the dolphins will literally communicate to each other, pick a trick, and perform it together. It is just incredible to see some type of creativity in another organism.
I hope all is well with you both and Tucker. I also added a few other pictures from the trip including one of the porch, with my two friends Barret and Tom, I was so lucky to do work on every day.
OH! I almost completely forgot. I don't know if you know about Lionfish, but they are an invasive species that is spreading everywhere in the Caribbean and up all around Florida. They have these poisonous spines and they have no predators here (originally from Indonesia and are eaten by large Sea Bass). But they have offered free cookbooks for them in Florida and people actively hunt them to control populations. I had the chance to go hunting for a little bit around the docks and ended up killing two. I am not a person for killing, nor have I ever even tried, but I convinced myself it was needed for the good of the environment.
See you soon,


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