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Plastics

Sustainable Fisheries team represents at 2015 Conch Fest!

The CEI Sustainable Fisheries team serving up lionfish fritters Last weekend, Deep Creek hosted its annual Conch Fest.  Unlike past years, Conch Fest was new and improved, focused on keeping Deep Creek green, clean, and pristine. Instead of using plastic containers to hand out food, all of the booths used recyclable materials. Single use plastics have become an issue for the oceans, as they are being consumed by and entangling marine organisms. This initiative in Deep Creek will hopefully spread to other settlements as well as other islands to reduce the plastics ending up in the oceans.

All ages were trying and loving lionfish fritters.

The Sustainable Fisheries Team of The Cape Eleuthera Institute set up their own booth at Conch Fest among the many others. While the live lionfish in the tank and the model of the aquaponics system attracted attention, the main attraction of the night was the lionfish fritters that the team handed out as samples for everyone to try. Although conch fritters are part of the traditional Bahamian cuisine, many Bahamians were both surprised and impressed by how tasty the lionfish fritters were! Most people came back for seconds and many requested a bag to take home with them.

The team also had lionfish jewelry on display and every pair or lionfish earrings were sold by the end of the night. Some people even made special orders for lionfish jewelry to be picked up at a later date.

The Minister of Education and Technology tried his first lionfish fritter and loved it!

Conch Fest became Lionfish Fest!

Although conch fritters are a tasty treat, conch is an unsustainable fishery. Hopefully people will begin to cook lionfish fritters instead of conch fritters after tasting them at The Sustainable Fisheries booth this year.   Next year the Sustainable Fisheries Team will be back at Conch Fest handing out lionfish fritters, and spreading the word on how pretty (as jewelry) and tasty lionfish can be!

Second Deep Creek Cleanup a big success!

Last week, over 30 members of the Deep Creek community gathered to conduct a second trash clean up. Led by Brittney Maxey, Educational Programs and Youth Action Island Summit Volunteer, and Georgie Burruss, Flats Ecology and Conservation Team intern, the team tackled the back road of Deep Creek.  The clean up team posing in front of one of the truckloads of trash collected.

Students from the Deep Creek Primary School excited about keeping the trash off the roads.

Many of the participants were children from the Deep Creek Primary School. They worked tirelessly through the heat and mosquitos to fill two pick up truckloads of trash. The team saved all of the plastics, which will be used to make plastic art during the Plastic Youth Summit next weekend. Some pieces of trash were immediately repurposed, such as buckets and tires to be used as planters.

Deep Creek community members loading the truck with piles of trash.

Many of the children were eager to prevent trash from ending up on the ground in the future, coming up with ideas to mitigate littering in their community.  They were thrilled to see how clean the road became, demonstrating all their hard work. Special thanks to the Cape Eleuthera Foundation in supporting the event and providing bags, gloves, and the pick up truck.

IS Students shine in SP 15 Parents' Week presentations

Last week The Island School hosted Parents’ Week. The week included an opportunity for parents to tour our campus, view a student art exhibit, parent-teacher meetings, and a day for students to show their families the island of Eleuthera. The head of Island School addresses all of the visitors before presentations begin.

52 excited Island School students had the opportunity to present their semester long research projects to their parents, real world scientists from The Cape Eleuthera Institute, and The Island School faculty. Each research group had 10 minutes to present the culmination of their semester's work including an introduction to their project, their hypotheses, a description of methods employed, results section, and conclusions of findings from their data. In addition, each group answered questions from curious parents and researchers about their topics.

A group shot of The Island School students, staff, CEI researchers, and visiting parents.

The parents learned about how plastic pollution can end up in a fish’s stomach, exciting new research focused on the deep-sea, the current status of important fisheries species in South Eleuthera and new research focused on the inland pond systems in Eleuthera. Guest commented on how impressed they were with The Island School students' level of professionalism when presenting and their ability to share in-depth knowledge on their chosen research topic.

You are what you eat… and what your dinner eats, too!

As any angler will tell you, fresh fish is the best fish (Fig. 1)! Even non-anglers would insist that grilled wahoo, dockside yellowfin sashimi, or fried dolphinfish fingers are best when fresh from the sea. Knowing your fish is wild-caught means there are no questions about the quality of the fillet, or the fish’s diet – right? Wahoo (top) and dolphinfish (bottom) are highly sought after sportfish, and are targeted for their fighting ability and table quality meat. These species, together with tunas and billfish, drive the economically valuable Bahamian sportfish economy.

Fig. 2: A sugar bag originating from the Dominican Republic. Within a few years this bag will break up into tiny microplastics, easily available for accidental consumption by marine fishes.

Each year, between 8-12 million tons of plastic end up in the world's oceans, ranging in size from large pieces of floating trash or small (< 5mm) microplastics barely visible to the naked eye (Fig. 2). Some of this debris may result in the entanglement and death of marine mammals, or can be ingested by birds, sea turtles, and fish with severe health consequences. Even more concerning is that plastic debris acts as a magnet for persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as PCBs or DDT – chemicals known to disrupt hormones or have carcinogenic effects in humans and animals. Thus, identifying whether plastic debris is consumed by recreationally and commercially important fish species should be of concern to any angler or sushi-lover.

Fig. 3: Island School students remove the stomach from a dolphinfish in preparation for a stomach dissection.

CEI researcher Zach Zuckerman, along with 6 Island School students, are investigating how marine debris - particularly plastic - is affecting the marine food web of The Bahamas.  Zuckerman and his team have collected over 100 dolphinfish, wahoo, and yellowfin tuna carcasses from anglers at Cape Eleuthera Resort and Marina and Davis Harbour Marina, both located near CEI’s campus on South Eleuthera. The location at which each fish is captured is recorded, and the stomachs removed at CEI’s wetlab to be dissected in search of plastic debris. To identify microplastics, the team runs the contents of each fish’s stomach through a sieve, or a series of increasingly smaller screens, to separate prey and debris by size (Fig. 3).

Fig. 4: This large hair bead and piece of trash bag were discovered in a dolphinfish and wahoo (top), while these 14 small pieces of clear plastic film were discovered after sieving the stomach contents of a single yellowfin tuna.

Preliminary results indicate that 19% of wahoo, 23% of dolphinfish, and 20% of yellowfin tuna captured in Eleuthera’s waters contain plastic in their stomachs. Some of this is easily identifiable by eye such as pieces of plastic bag! Most of the debris, though, is less than 5mm in size and identifiable only through the sieving process such as the 14 small pieces of clear plastic found in a single yellowfin tuna (Fig. 4)!.

These preliminary results are quite startling; past gut content analysis of fish harvested near the Pacific Garbage Patch suggests much lower occurrences of plastic ingestion by recreational species, with only 2% of dolphinfish and no yellowfin tuna having been found with plastic in their stomachs. These researchers, though, only searched the gut by eye and did not sieve the stomach contents. Many anglers claim to have never seen plastic inside a fish, yet it would seem that most have never looked quite close enough!

Please follow this research as we increase our sample size, add new recreational species to the study, and quantify concentrations of free-floating plastic around Eleuthera by sampling the Exuma Sound with a plastic trawl (blog coming soon). Contact zachzuckerman@ceibahamas.org with questions or to support our research efforts.

 

An excerpt from Link School's visit to CEI

Here is an excerpt of her Island School experience, by Link School student Medina Purefoy-Craig: Sorting the plastics we collected at Cotton Bay Beach

I can now safely say that I can jump into water and actually not drown. Early this morning before the sun itself was up we embarked on a "Run Swim". We did multiple drills that would help us feel more relaxed in the water and know what to do to conserve energy. When I first arrived I had no idea how to swim. I relied heavily on every flotation device around even when I have my PFD (Personal Flotation Device) on. After the drills I was able to swim from one shore to the other by myself, even though I did swallow more salt water than needed and flipped over on my back when I meant to swim forward.

After breakfast, we had a small lesson on plastic and how much ends up in the ocean. We then proceeded to Cotton Bay Beach where we picked up plastic of the beach and did a not-so-competitive competition to find the weirdest things. We found a lot of nets,  refrigerator door, toothpaste tube (made in the US, package designed in the UK) a plate, some clothes, and a lot of unidentified objects as well. Overall it was a great way to give back to the earth and to save the fish even though I never eat any. In the end we had three full boxes and had to leave some there to grab later.

After we had a picnic on the beach we headed to the gift shop which had slightly overpriced stuff which made sense since everything was handmade. The stuff was very beautiful and I was happy just window shopping. We then traveled to a small corner store which we got ice cream from thanks to our Island School guides Stan and Anna. I had a "Junkanoo" which was a rainbow colored vanilla ice cream. Despite its look, it tasted just like the plain white vanilla ice cream you would get every day. Next we headed to the Banyan Tree.

The whole group at the banyan tree

The Banyan Tree is a tree that was actually born off of another tree. The branches start to sprout off the host tree and usually move down and connect with other branches making lots of other trunks. We were then serenaded by bird calls provided by Josh who was able to get calls back from other birds as well. We were informed that if we were quiet we would get to see wild horses that live around the tree but all we got was a load ton of "evidence" which we made sure not to step in as it was practically everywhere. We did some tree hugging and made our way home to get ready for our dinner at Sharil's Inn

Even though it seemed as if we had enough time to wash hair and take a quick shower we were quickly pushed out of the dorm by Ms. Pierce. I settled for a ponytail which looked good considering my too curly and tangled by the waves hair which I was able to slightly tame with a small hairbrush. We got to the Inn and were graced with beautiful food and soda which will maybe never top any feast I'll eat again (maybe).

Dinner at Sharil's

The rest of the night is chill and we get out a long time before lights out, waiting  to sleep in tomorrow.