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Plastics

Local marina and tournament anglers contribute to research at CEI

Captain and mate of team Shady Lady weigh in a wahoo. When dissected at CEI's lab, this fish was found to have a ingested a piece of plastic. This February, the Cape Eleuthera Institute partnered with Davis Harbor Marina and the Cotton Bay Club for the inaugural Davis Harbour Wahoo Rally. The two day fishing tournament allowed Davis Harbour Marina and anglers to contribute to ongoing research at CEI, making the Wahoo Rally as scientifically valuable as it was fun for the participating teams.

This partnership, and the enthusiasm of Davis Harbour Marina and the fishing teams, highlights CEI’s commitment to including anglers in ongoing research initiatives.

CEI researchers including (from L to R) a MSc student, a CEI intern, and a PhD student assisted with the collection of tissue samples

 

Continue reading to learn more about the angler-driven projects that were contributed to during the Wahoo Rally.

Satellite tagging wahoo

Wahoo are a pelagic sportfish sought-after for their reel-smoking runs and table-quality meat. Very little is known about how wahoo use vertical habitat (i.e., depth) or the migratory routes they take through The Bahamas. Despite high winds and heavy seas, several boats hosted CEI and Microwave Telemetry research scientists during and after the tournament to deploy archival popup satellite tags (PSATs) on wahoo, allowing CEI to track their depth, temperature, and migratory pathways – information that all wahoo anglers are interested in!

Stable isotopes and pelagic feeding ecology

Tissue samples from more than 40 dolphinfish, wahoo, tuna, kingfish, and barracuda were collected during tournament weigh-ins. Tissues will be analyzed for stable isotopes, the results of which can indicate differences in prey preference among pelagic fish.  Any angler knows that finding the right bait will maximize their chances of catching fish, and results from this study will provide information on who-eats-who in the pelagic environment.

Captain and mate of team Layla (left) assist a Davis Harbour Marina tournament official (right) weigh their winning catch

 

Plastic ingestion

Plastic in the oceans can have dire consequences for both animal and human health. Plastic acts like a sponge for environmental toxins, and past research at CEI has demonstrated that plastics are ending up in the stomachs of dolphinfish, tunas, and wahoo. Anglers, consumers, and sushi lovers everywhere are keen to understand how plastic pollution might end up on their dinner plate.

Stable isotopes and barracuda connectivity

Great barracuda were recently afforded sportfish status in Florida, indicating that the species is increasing in popularity among the angling community. In the Bahamas, though, barracuda are common bycatch by both nearshore and offshore anglers, and are almost always harvested. By employing stable isotope analysis to identify how barracuda link shallow water habitat with the pelagic environment, anglers can gain a better understanding of the role barracuda play in maintaining healthy fisheries.

Mercury concentration in pelagic fish

Consumers (especially pregnant women and children) are advised to limit their consumption of top predators such as tuna and swordfish due to the bioaccumulation of mercury. Mercury concentrations in Bahamian dolphinfish and wahoo are not known, and mercury concentrations can even be used in conjunction with stable isotope analysis to identify feeding ecology of pelagic fish. Tissue samples collected during the tournament will provide baseline data for researchers and anglers to monitor contaminants in the offshore fishery.

Photo credit: Erik Kruthoff and Davis Harbour Marina

New citizen scientist page set up by CEI plastics researcher

Have you ever come across an animal - whether fish, bird, mammal, or even coral - that was impacted by plastic? Share your observation and details with the "Plastic Pollution: Impacts on Wildlife" project at http://www.anecdata.org/projects/view/123, a new citizen scientist page started by CEI researchers.
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Photo info: From entanglement to asphyxiation, marine debris can have severe effects on animal health. Even small pieces of plastic, such as these collected from a great shearwater (Puffinus gravis) found washed ashore, adsorb pollutants from the environment, thus acting as a vector for the bioaccumulation of pollutants in birds, fish, and marine mammals.

CEI Research Team presents at conference in Abaco

Last week, researchers from The Cape Eleuthera Institute traveled to Abaco for the 7th Biennial Abaco Science Alliance Conference (ASAC) hosted by Friends of the Environment. Over the course of two days, posters and presentations alike highlighted research findings in natural history and environmental science in The Bahamas. Drawing a diverse audience with scientists from The Bahamas to as far as Canada, local community members and high school students from Abaco, the conference provided a forum for sharing scientific knowledge on the diverse ecosystems of The Bahamas. Dr. Owen O'Shea presenting at the conference.

 

Dr. Owen O’Shea, Research Associate for the Shark Research and Conservation Program, gave an engaging presentation on the ongoing stingray research project at CEI and ecosystem-driven approaches to conservation. Candice Brittain, Applied Scientific Research Department Head, spoke about the recent assessment of the queen conch nursery ground in South Eleuthera. Her presentation was followed by a workshop on conservation of queen conch in The Bahamas, led by the Bahamas National Trust. Georgie Burruss, Research Assistant for the Flats Ecology and Conservation Program, presented new findings on marine debris in the Exuma Sound and plastic ingestion by pelagic sportfish. She also gave a talk on studies conducted by the Flats Program that have aided in developing the Best Handling Practices for bonefish and protection of critical bonefish habitat. Finally, Eric Schneider, graduate student at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, presented research he conducted at CEI on temperature change effects on juvenile and adult schoolmaster snapper.

ASAC provided a unique opportunity for networking between the local community, students, and researchers for sharing knowledge on ecosystems across The Bahamas. Researchers from CEI look forward to attending ASAC in 2018!

The Island School Hosts an International Youth Summit with Musician Jack Johnson and 5 Gyres

Two weekends ago, The Island School hosted the SEA Change Youth Summit with musician, Jack Johnson and 5 Gyres to raise awareness about the impacts of plastic pollution in the ocean and to inspire young students to be advocates for change. 34 Students gathered from Abaco, Grand Bahama, New Providence and Eleuthera as well as a school group out of New York and another student from Jamaica.  Musician Jack Johnson plays a few songs at the UNEP Designation where he was recognized as a Goodwill Ambassador.

As part of the kick-off for the weekend on Friday June 5th, Jack Johnson took part in a designation ceremony to become a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The designation was timely as last Friday marked World Environment Day, a UN flagship event encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment, celebrated in over 100 countries.

Included in the kickoff to the festivities hosted on The Island School's campus were remarks from Chris Maxey, founder of The Cape Eleuthera Island School, Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen, founders of the 5 Gyres Institute and Celine Cousteau, film maker, environmentalist and daughter of ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau and the granddaughter of Jacques Cousteau. Also in the line up was Kristal Ambrose, founder of Bahamas Plastic Movement and Minister of Education, Science and Technology, The Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald.

Students at the summit make all-natural tooth paste.

The first day of the Summit centered around raising awareness on the issue of plastic pollution so that the students could create their own solutions based on the stories and information they'd received. In the afternoon students, facilitators, Jack Johnson and visiting UNEP representative, Naysan Sahba visited a local beach to do a clean-up lead by Kristal Ambrose. The day finished with a Junkanoo, cultural activity lead by Art teacher and Space to Create founder, Will Simmons in which Summit attendees, Island School students and Jack Johnson created original songs about plastic pollution to the Junkanoo beat provided by the visiting South Eleutheran students from Preston H. Albury High School.

The second day began with a workshop on how to reduce single-use disposable plastics in the household. Students were given tips and tools on how to make their own toothpaste and steer away from buying highly packaged products and personal care products containing plastic micro-beads. After lunch, David Stover, co-founder of Bureo Skateboards told his story of making skateboards from fish netting found in the ocean and beaches of Chile. The students then sifted through their findings from Friday's clean-up to create a symbolic SEA Change eye sculpture out of plastics with Dianna Cohen, founder of Plastic Pollution Coalition. The sculpture was then showcased at the Deep Creek Homecoming where Summit attendees enjoyed a plastic free event thanks to a donation by World Centric for all food packaging. Recover also pitched in with a donation of t-shirts for the homecoming made from recycled plastic bottles.

Students at the summit make all-natural tooth paste.

The last day of the Summit was spent teaching the students how to tell and share their own stories and to create their own solutions. Facilitators and visiting activists, scientists and artists participated in group discussions on how each student could make a change in their home, on their island and in their country. The day ended in a closing ceremony with music by local band, The Rum Runners, as well as Jack Johnson, who performed alongside local and visiting musicians and even played a tune with two Island School students.

Summit organizer, The Island School’s Brittney Maxey, was blown away by the energy coming from the young students. “This is a historical event not only for us at The Island School and the island of Eleuthera, but also for The Bahamas and other island nations as a whole. We are sending these motivated young people back out into the world equipped with the tools to make a difference in their communities. The Island School’s mission is leadership affecting change and this weekend embodied this belief not only for the students but for the island of Eleuthera. We are a small place making big change.”

Summit attendees, 5 Gyres, and Jack Johnson celebrate World Environment Day on June 5 and show off all of the beach plastic they gathered.

Thank you to event supporters: Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, AML Foods, Cape Eleuthera Resort & Marina, Recover, World Centric, From the Bow Seat, Bahamas Waste Limited, Cable Bahamas, One Eleuthera, The Muggia Family and Kim & Floyd Wilson

CEI/ Island School Research Expo a big success

Spring 2015 Island School Student plays a sea turtle Jeopardy! game with Youth Action Island Summit attendees. (Photo Credit-Cam Powel) On Saturday, June 6, Spring 2015 Island School students participated in the Research Expo, their final Research Class assignment, which coincided with the Youth Action Island Summit hosted at the Island School. For the Research Expo, each group was required to focus on the “bigger picture” of conservation in their research area and present their conservation message through the use of games, trivia, slide shows, and their Research Poster.

Spring 15 Island School student shows a tour group how to measure a queen conch. Photo credit: Cam Powell

 

This assignment was a great way for the students to show off all they have learned this semester, as well as to allow the students to demonstrate their abilities to speak to various audiences, such as young Bahamians, scientists, and UN delegates

The Spring 2015 Plastics Research Group presents to the Youth Action Island Summit attendees

At the end of the Research Expo, the Spring 2015 Plastics Research Group presented their findings to everyone in attendance. The audience was very impressed, with one Summit attendee praising the students for doing graduate level research in high school.

Spring 2015 Island School students discuss their findings on post-release survivorship with Jack Johnson and Youth Island Action Summit attendees (Photo Credit-Cam Powel)

Overall, the Research Expo was a success. The students enjoyed meeting people of various backgrounds, answering questions about their research, and demonstrating all that they have learned this semester. Their final research posters, which were displayed at the Research Expo, can be found here.