9th November 2018

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

With the weather getting chilly we're turning our attentions to the Antarctic Toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) today. This species of cod icefish positively thrives in the subzero temperatures of the Southern Ocean, despite the fact that the chilly -1.8 degree c water is cold enough to freeze fish blood.

 

Along with a voracious appetite, which gives this fish the same ecological role as sharks in other regions, the Antarctic toothfish boasts antifreeze proteins within its blood. Scientists couldn't figure out how this protein worked until they viewed the reaction of water molecules to the protein, what resulted was a complete change in the way that the molecules moved which prevented them from bonding and thereby stopped ice crystals from forming, how clever is that?!

Read more...

2nd November 2018

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

In honour of Guy Fawkes night we are focusing on the Halitrephes maasi Jelly today. This deep sea hydrozoan can be found at depths of 4000 - 5000 ft off Baja California, Mexico.

 

At first glance one would think that this jelly is one of the many marine creatures that are bioluminescent - where through a chemical reaction between luciferin and luciferase light is emitted. However, the firework display that can be seen below is simply a result of the jelly reflecting the lights of Hercules, the Remotely Operated Vehicle manned by Exploration vessel Nautilus Live. The starburst pattern in the centre is the result of the radial channels that are moving nutrients through the jelly's digestive system. Check out the beautiful light show in the video below.

31st October 2018

Proposals to Improve the Enforcement of England's MPAs!

Some positive news coming today for the future management of England's Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The government has proposed the introduction of Inshore Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) for all licensed British fishing boats under 12 metres in length.

 

Currently, England relies on only 20 boats to enforce the rules in its 2000 Km coastline, and more than 100 MPAs, an impossible job! If successful VMS will use General Packet Radio Services to determine whether a vessel is moving in a zig-zag pattern (fishing) or a straight line. If found to be fishing illegally in a MPA the vessel will be sent a warning and the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority will be notified. We are very hopeful that this recommendation is taken on board, thereby helping to protect England's waters. You can take action and give your opinion with the Defra here.

30th October 2018

CCC Head of Science joins the Roundtable on TRT World!

Yesterday our Head of Science, Tom Dallison, joined the Roundtable on TRT World to discuss the benefits and pitfalls of voluntourism, alongside Teddy Ruge, Shannon O’Donnell, and Georgette Mulheir, Chief Executive of Lumos.You can find this programme in full via the link below.

 

It is important that the local community are at the heart of each and every volunteer experience. Through our volunteer funded programmes we are able to offer free scholarship placements for local Filipinos, thereby building capacity in the region in which we work, and helping to give the power back to the local people in sustainably managing their own reef systems.

 

By adhering to British Standard 8848, and abiding by the standards set out by the Year Out Group and the Expedition Providers Association, we can ensure that those who join us are offered a safe and ethical experience, whilst taking an active role in marine conservation.

29th October 2018

The EU Parliament Votes to Ban Single Use Plastics!

Some very exciting news coming your way! The EU Parliament has voted for a complete ban on a number of single use plastics in a joint effort to reduce the amount of plastics in our oceans.

 

"MEPs backed a ban on plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks. The proposal also calls for a reduction in single-use plastic for food and drink containers like plastic cups."

 

It is hoped that this ban will come into force in 2021, fantastic news for the health of our oceans!

Read more...

26th October 2018

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

Today we are looking at the weird and wonderful Sawfish (Pristidae).

 

A number of fish, such as sharks and catfish, are able to detect prey by sensing their electromagnetic field through receptive pores on their body, known as ampullae of Lorenzini. The sawfishes rostrum (from the latin meaning beak) is packed with thousands of these pores and when a meal is detected they are able to laterally swipe the prey with their rostrum. The rostrum itself is extremely streamlined so has little impact on the surrounding water, but hits with such force that it can dissect the prey!

 

Sadly, all seven species of sawfish are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, due to fishing and habitat loss. The feature that makes them so fascinating to look at unfortunately makes them easily caught in nets. Studies such as the one that discovered the sensory abilities of sawfish, explained further in the article below, are incredibly important to help conserve this species. By learning more attempts can be made to add electromagnetic deterrents around fishing nets to prevent accidental capture. Why not read more about this study here.

19th October 2018

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

If there was a prize for the most wandering eyes (perhaps not the most coveted of awards) then it would go to the flatfish, hands down!

 

Flatfish, like the flounder (suborder Pleuronectoidei) shown in this video, are well known for their camouflage abilities, they can change colour to match their surroundings in as little as 8 seconds, but did you know that they are also not actually born looking as they do below? Flatfish are actually born with one eye on each side of their body, they then undergo larval metamorphosis, during which one eye migrates. When first born the fish swims like any other fish but by the time they are juvenile both eyes are on the top of the body, and they swim with their underside flat to the ground.

 

The discovery of how this adaptation happened, evolutionarily, is a fascinating read so make sure to check out - http://scienceblogs.com/…/09/the-mysterious-origin-of-the-…/ and this article is a great, light hearted look at the whys and hows of this strange adaptation - https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/flatfish-evolution/.

8th October 2018

The Facts Behind Baby Shark!

Happy Monday everyone! Sharing this simply because it made us laugh and is informative too, a winning combination! This is for all of you pedantic people out there, who have been using the phrase 'I think you'll find...' whenever someone threatens you with their best Baby Shark moves!

8th October 2018

Trip to “The Church of the Blood of Christ”

L to R - Manon, Anik and Sir Armando.

This Monday was a busy and successful day for our project scientists Anik Levac (outgoing) and Manon Broadribb (incoming), visiting various government departments in Maasin City to deliver CCC’s monthly project updates and relay to our project partners the progress that has been made recently. After a good day’s work, Sir Armando Gaviola of PENRMO (Provincial Environmental and Natural Resource Management Office) invited them to visit a church hidden in a cave on the outskirts of the city. 

Although tired from a long day of travel and meetings, the offer was eagerly accepted and they hopped on the back of Sir. Armando’s motorbike. After a short journey they arrived at the bottom of a seemingly endless flight of steps (according to Sir. Armando, over 600 of them!). The uphill struggle began, with each landing depicting a statue of Christ at a different stage of carrying the cross. It was well worth the effort when 20 sweaty minutes later, they arrived at The Church of the Blood of Christ: a beautiful chapel built inside a cave atop a hill overlooking Maasin city. They entered the church, which had huge drops of “blood” hanging from the ceiling which are situated directly beneath the final statue of Christ on the cross.

 

 

 

After snapping a few selfies of the view, they made their way back down on wobbly jelly legs and were dropped off back at their hotel. Thanks so much to Sir Armand for taking the time out of his evening to show our project scientists a hidden gem in the city of Maasin!  

11th October 2018

Barangays Joining Together to Protect their Oceans!

We’ve learnt some excellent news from the field today! Barangay President Quezon have agreed CCC's recommendations to establish a No Take Area, which will also see a Marine Reserve established that will extend the area's protected waters by roughly 42%! Fantastic news for the barangays reefs!

Image showing the proposed combined marine reserves between Bahay & President Quezon.
Anik is joined by PENRMO Officers on the lookout over President Quezon MPA - photo courtesy of Armando O. Gaviola

Our current two Project Scientists Anik Levac (outgoing) and Manon Broadribb (incoming) travelled to the Barangay (village) of President Quezon, in the Municipality of Liloan, Southern Leyte, to undertake a Marine Protected Area (MPA) recommendation presentation. After surveying the site last summer, CCC analysed the results in order to propose the most ideal area in which to establish an MPA. By considering fish and invertebrate diversity and abundance, in addition to scrutinizing commercially important species and interactions between reef organisms and substrates, it was deemed that although the surveyed site showed signs of fishing impacts, it was in a good position for improvement both biologically and socio-economically; should an MPA be established. 

President Quezon's beautiful reef - photo courtesy of Jasmine Corbett, CCC Science Officer

Of course, the success of a protected area only comes with the support of its community. The aim of today’s presentation was not only to disseminate the information found during the survey, but also to explain how MPA’s work, the importance of a well-managed area, and how community and fishermen involvement is key in maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem. 

 

With the assistance of Ma’am Benita Dipay, designate for the Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Management Office (PENRMO) in the municipality of Liloan, and at the invitation of Barangay President Quezon’s Captain, our Project Scientist delivered this information, in addition to the recommendation. 

President Quezons Beautiful reef - photo courtesy of Jasmine Corbett

After the presentation, community members were asked to discuss the topic, and to speak their opinions. They were very eager to do so. The main concern amongst fishermen is that they would lose their primary fishing grounds, with nowhere left to catch fish. However, through discussing topics such as the spill-over effect of fish within the MPA, conserving resources for future generations, and allowing local fishermen to continue hook and line fishing in productive areas (the MR) while more commercial boats may still navigate further offshore for their quests, a general consensus was made. 

 

With positive and negative points of view the discussion between Barangay Officials, community members and fisherfolk, with questions for our CCC representatives, ended in great success. Not only did the Barangay vote towards establishing a “No-Take Zone” in the area we recommended, they will also be establishing a Marine Reserve, where only line fishing is allowed in a buffer zone, which will be connecting all the way down to the next Barangay’s MPA, Bahay, nearly 1km South!

29th September 2018

A Community Day in Bahay!

Our old (Jasmine Corbett - left) and new Science Officers (Jordan Williams - right) both excited to get off base and explore a new Barangay.

On Saturday 29th of September, CCC returned to Bahay to conduct a community day, a follow-up to the recent survey efforts on the barangay’s reef as an impact site from this year’s BACI protocol. This Community Day has unfortunately been scheduled and rescheduled several times mainly due to weather related concerns. The barangay is a fair distance from our base in Napantao, requiring traversing a long, unpaved road in the back of Dandan’s (our driver) van to get there. We aren’t able to make the journey if the roads are wet, and Habagat decided to bring in rains every time we were organized to make the journey.

 

Bahay’s MPA was established 2 years ago and has now been revisited in order to assess how/if the reef has improved due to the establishment of an MPA. Nearly 50 members of all ages from the community attended the morning event and were very keen on learning about what CCC was all about. Since CCC has visited Bahay before the discussion lead by Project Scientist, Anik Levac, focused not only on what an MPA is and how the it draws on the community for success, but also on the effects of plastic waste in the environment and how this can be managed. 

Project Scientist Anik Levac describing CCC’s project to locals and showing them pictures of their reef!

Anik began the discussion with an introduction to the process of photodegradation of plastics. This is the natural process that degrades plastics into smaller and smaller pieces resulting in the formation of microplastics. Microplastics can be ingested by a large variety of animals, eventually making its way back into humans. This digestion of plastic can result in a variety of health problems for people.

 

CCC works to deliver awareness around the globalized issue of plastic waste. One local solution comes in the form of an EcoBrick. By collecting and shredding select plastic waste items one can tightly pack and fill plastic bottles. By collecting enough plastic-filled bottles it is possible to use them as blocks to construct various designs, including: chairs and tables, staircases, and other structures that can be found online. The Bahay community was already involved in the EcoBrick program and brought out several of their own example bricks! Instead of shredding their plastic they rolled it extremely tightly and stuffed them into the bottle to fill it! It was extremely interesting to see how a community embraced a project and adapted it to make it more efficient for their own needs. 

10th September 2018

Snowball Fight in September!

After everyone enjoyed a thoroughly lazy Sunday as we both physically and mentally decompress from the previous week, we immediately jumped into our regular routine by starting off our Monday with our weekly deep clean of the Field Base’s kitchen. 

 

One of the tasks during this weekly cleansing of our facilities is to clean out our fridges and freezers to make sure all of our perishables stay clean! Our freezer accumulates a fair amount of frost, so one person is given the task of scraping it all out as the freezer is thawed.

 

This week one of our volunteers, Daniella, had the bright idea of collecting all that freezer frost into a bowl. It was outside for all of us to enjoy after the cleaning was done, to help us beat the morning heat. Instead of responsibly using the bowl of ice to cool ourselves down with, we decided to do the logical thing: making snowballs in September to remind ourselves of snow-days!

Don't get your tongue stuck Jasmine (CCC Science Officer)!

Unfortunately, the blissful coolness was short-lived as the sun’s rays made quick work of our snowballs. Unsure of who/what to target with our frosty projectiles, we made the unanimous decision to throw them towards Shrimp, one of our trusty base dogs, who had characteristically woken several volunteers and staff up at ungodly hours of both the evening and morning. Unphased and unable to catch them, Shrimp simply sniffed at the frosty remains at his feet, awaiting the next toy to be thrown his way.

 

Although the life of our frosty friends was brief, the spirits of all the volunteers and staff involved were definitely lifted leading to a great start to our week. 

Welcoming a Recipient of the Minerva Fellows Programme

Photo courtesy of Jasmine Corbett

A guest blog from our newest addition on site, Angus McReynolds - 

 

This June I graduated with a BSc in Chemistry from Union College, New York. Not quite ready to pursue a degree in higher education, a necessary step in starting a career in the field, I proceeded to search for other ways to spend my first years of post-graduate life. It was in this search that I discovered a Union College fellowship called the Minerva Fellows Programme. Every year my college selects eight graduating seniors who are chosen to travel to different parts of the globe, to work for nine months in developing countries while paired up with a social entrepreneurial organization. After the placement, Minerva Fellows return to campus for a month and offer formal presentations, interact with students, speak to classes and give presentations to the community. 

Photo courtesy of Jasmine Corbett (CCC Science Officer)

Seven of the selected students are paired with an organization that Union College has an established relationship with, while one student is chosen for what is called the “Wildcard” slot. Every year, the Wildcard works for a new project with a new organization which the student has researched themselves. A lengthy proposal is submitted to the Minerva Fellows Program to have that project considered for the fellowship. I’ve always had an interest in Outdoor Leadership and Education as well as an understanding of the global threats to reef communities and the consequences our planet faces if reefs are not protected. This lead me to searching for coral reef conservation projects throughout Southeast Asia, which is how I found Coral Cay Conservation. CCC definitely appeared to be the most legitimate and established projects in the area. After a few emails and a Skype call to explain who I was, and that I actually wanted to volunteer for their program for nine months, CCC agreed that they’d accept me. They created a special training program schedule for if I was awarded the fellowship, which included additional training including PADI Rescue Divemaster courses, in addition to being able to shadow members of staff in varying positions to gain a real grasp of the overall goings-on at the project.

 

I submitted my fellowship application, was accepted, and now here I am for the next 8 months (as I’ve already completed my first)!

11th September 2018

Another Day in the Office!

Photo courtesy of volunteer, Chris Gamlin

How's this for a classroom?! Here we see CCC Science Officer, Jasmine Corbett, taking our Filipino scholar on a scuba 'pointy' session, to demonstrate the substrate species that a coral reef consists of.

 

Each volunteer, or local Filipino scholar, that joins us is taken through a two week Skills Development Programme where they learn how to identify hard coral lifeforms, substrates and oceanic organisms, plus a multitude of fish and invertebrate species. Having a house reef like a garden under the sea on our doorstep certainly makes things a little easier! 

7th September 2018

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

Happy Freaky Fact Friday all! Today we are looking at the Bonnethead shark, the first shark species discovered to be omnivorous (feeding on a diet of both meat and plant origin)!

 

After stories of sharks being spotted feeding on sea grass came to light it wasn't long before further research was done to determine whether these tales were true. It was found that sea grass actually made up a substantial part of their diet, but whether this sea grass could actually be digested and assimilated was unknown.This year scientists from the University of California and Florida International University found that the bonnethead was able to digest nutrients at a moderate level making them true omnivores.

 

Seagrass meadows act as a nursery ground for many important fish species, protect coastal regions from erosion, and are responsible for more than 10% of the ocean's carbon storage. So, this is really big news for those that are working to protect these important ecosystems, as the impact of this new consumer can be factored in to management plans.

 

Check out the news story here and you can find the journal article at Royal Society Publishing.

4th September 2018

We Bid James Farewell!

After a week’s hard work, the staff team (Anik Levac (PS), Jasmine Corbett (SO) and James Patterson) having birthday drinks on a Saturday evening - Photo courtesy of Gareth Turner (FBM).

 

 

Since his arrival in May, James, CCC's resident scuba instructor has become an integral part of CCC’s field team. James undertook much more than PADI dive training to ensure the smooth running of the project. He assisted our Science Officer (SO) with enumerable training dives during the Skills Development Program, collected data in multiple survey sites including Gudan, Bahay, Catig and Pandan, in addition to training several volunteers to the Rescue Diver level, and starting our Project Scientist’s (PS) Divemaster training. 

James giving the OK after entering the water at Barangay Gudan survey site - Photo courtesy of Anik Levac (PS)

 

 

 

James was always a favourite at community events due to his incredible dancing skills. To top everything off, he has been our go-to for spotting and identifying new underwater life, and a supportive team member during all our endeavours.      

 

Take care James, you will be missed! 

24th August 2018

Padre Burgos MPA Recommendation Presentation 

CCC’s PS meeting with Padre Burgos' Mayor and Vice-mayor - Photo courtesy of Armando Gaviola

Since their biophysical assessment in 2016 and 2017, CCC have analyzed and interpreted the data collected in Barangays Bunga and Santo Rosario. The aim was to recommend whether the establishment of MPAs would benefit these coastal zones, and if so, where the ideal placements would be. Accompanied by Armando Gaviola of PENRMO, Anik Levac, CCC’s Project Scientist undertook a presentation of our results and recommendations at the SB Session Hall of Padre Burgos on Friday August 24th. 15 interested parties attended the session, including representatives from both Barangays Bunga and Santo Rosario, in addition to Padre Burgos’ Vice-Mayor.

 

Few commercially important fish species (Parrotfish (Molmol) Snapper (Katambak) and Grouper(Lapulapu)) were recorded on both surveys, while the individuals recorded were mostly within a small (<10cm) size class. This indicated that the species have been affected by high fishing pressures in the area. However, the sites both showed high (Bunga) and moderate (Santo Rosario) diversity in coral species and benthic structural complexity. The overall results obtained by CCC suggest that the surveyed reefs in Bunga and Santo Rosario have the capacity to support a greater diversity of reef fish, if assigned MPA status and top-down stressors are removed.

 

Several recommendations were made to ensure the successful management of the MPAs should they be established. These included:

  • An initial site clean-up with an associated marine debris survey, alongside the establishment of the MPA.
  • The marked Marine Protected Area boundary to include a NTA (no take area), surrounded by a 50m Marine Reserve buffer with restricted fishing activity.
  • High MPA enforcement to prevent illegal fishing or poaching within the site, and to ensure ecological benefits are obtained.
  • Fishermen to be involved in the establishing and monitoring process in order to ensure continual success of the MPA.
  • Coastal management regimes should be created to control threats originating outside of the MPA.

Electronic and hard copies of the full technical reports are available from our Project Scientist at lrcp@coralcay.org.

22nd August 2018

We have a Nesting Hawksbill on Napantao Beach! 

Up working late on the night of August 22nd, our Project Scientist, Anik Levac, and Science Officer, Jasmine Corbett, were pleasantly surprised by news from CCC’s local boat driver, Bokbok. A sea turtle had come up to nest on Napantao beach!

 

Due to turtles being vulnerable to sound and light disturbance, the three staff members investigated the beach while being extremely quiet, keeping their lights off, and staying at a safe distance from the turtle. The nesting process is split into seven stages; emergence from the sea, choosing a nesting place, digging of a body pit, digging of the egg chamber, laying the eggs, covering the eggs, and camouflaging the nest. Leaving the sea to lay eggs is energetically demanding, and each stage is pertinent in the nesting process. This highlights the importance to avoid any disturbances which can lead to turtles being spooked, and returning to sea without laying. 

Female Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) spotted on our house reef in Napantao - Photo courtesy of Anik Levac

With the light of the moon, the team were able to see the turtle’s sharp beak, indicative of none other than the Hawksbill’s (Eretmochelys imbricata). Of the seven species of sea turtles worldwide, the Hawksbill is one of the most endangered; listed as critically endangered by the IUCN redlist. Pressures for hunting the turtle for their beautiful shells used in jewellery making, the collection of their eggs for consumption or trade, in addition to turtles being trapped in by-catch in the fishing industry has led to the species’ collapse. These turtles are also sometimes hunted for their meat, which is in fact inedible. Since the Hawksbill’s favourite food item consists of toxic sponges, the animal’s meat is also itself toxic, leading to illness or death in humans when consumed.

 

Female sea turtles have high site fidelity; returning to the same beaches where they were born in order to lay their own eggs. It may be some time before they return, as it takes at least 20 years for sea turtles to become sexually mature. Once male sea turtles go to sea at birth, they are very unlikely to ever return to land. Since Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) nest on a bi-annual basis, we believe this may be a local turtle that Bokbok is certain has nested on our beach before. Furthermore, Hawksbills may lay 3-5 nests per season, on a bi-weekly basis. The eggs’ incubation time is approximately 60 days, so we will be on the lookout for the female to return to lay in the coming weeks, in addition to her hatchlings emerging in October!

17th August 2018

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

Happy Freaky Fact Friday everybody! Today we are focusing on the South American freshwater serrasalmid fish, or Pacu, as it's more commonly known.

 

This omnivorous (plant and meat eating) fish is related to the piranha, and is particularly memorable due to its human-like teeth. Their jaws are exceedingly powerful and are designed to ensure a greater surface area for crushing plants, seeds and nuts.

 

This latter preference quickly gave rise to the idea that fruit nuts weren't the only type of nut on the menu, if you get our drift ;)! Prompting articles like this. But if you're heading over to S. America soon, don't worry, there's no need to invest in budgie smugglers and duck-tape yet! The warnings from scientists were said in jest to the media who jumped on the idea, and printed it as fact. We chose the article mentioned above due to the great view of their gnashers but if you are still concerned you can read a slightly less scare-mongering focused article and learn a little more about this cool species here.

11th August 2018

An Impromptu Game of 'Murder in the Dark'!

Located near a pristine marine environment, CCC’s base location is also quite a remote one. This means that everyday commodities such as a hot shower, flushing toilets, and access to 24h electricity aren’t so common. The months of June until August are known here as “Habagat”, a time of year when the winds shift and the weather includes faster gusting winds, rain, and a very wavy sea. With it come more regular brown-outs that typically only last a few minutes, or on occasion, several hours or more.

 

We were caught off-guard when everyone had finished dinner and were getting ready to clean up, when all lights went out. As no mobile phones are allowed at mealtimes, no one had a light! After a few strange noises, creaking doors, howling dogs and a few jumping staff members, what else were we to do but start an impromptu game of murder in the dark?

 

The most fearless staff member stepped-up to be the first seeker, counting to 30 while the rest of us hid under tables and within door frames. Crawling silently only to bump into another warm body at some point, each one of us hoped not to bump into the seeker. Accidentally crackling the plastic covering on the fire extinguisher set off someone’s internal alarm, causing them to hastily walk across the room while holding the very mattress they hid behind. Evidently they wound up crashing into none other than the seeker, now themselves bound to seek the others

 

An interesting evening it was, leaving some of us to face our fears of the dark, although everyone had a good laugh in the obscurity. Once the lights turned on after a few rounds there was only one question that remained; was it scarier being the hider, or the seeker? 

1st August 2018

Whale Shark Spotted in Catig!

Photo courtesy of CCC Project Scientist, Anik Levac

On our first day of surveying in the MPA of Catig, Liloan, participants were more than surprised to find a young Whale Shark inquisitively approaching CCC’s boat. Those who were diving feared not seeing the creature, although he came back during their surface interval to scope out the situation once more! Those who remained on base that day were down, not having been on site for this amazing opportunity.

 

However, on the 1st of August in the following week we were back at Catig to continue surveying the site. Two staff members remained on the boat while the rest were surveying transects. Who would have thought they'd hear the boat captain yell “whale shark”! This time the team had GoPro cameras on board, and were able to capture the larger, nearly 6m individual as it swam gently past the boat. The shark was once again extremely inquisitive, eating the divers’ bubbles from the surface. This wasn’t close enough for it however, and it decided to pay a visit to those surveying at 12m below. Luckily everyone was able to log a sighting this time!  

Photo courtesy of CCC Project Scientist, Anik Levac

Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute (LAMAVE) is a non-profit organization that works in Pintuyan, nearby CCC’s base. They undertake research on marine megafauna, including whale sharks, to identify hotspots, quantify populations and determine key habitat sites. They work to minimise impacts on these animals and develop tools for conservation management. Fortunately, we were able to provide LAMAVE with photos in order to identify the individual seen. By utilising photos from the right or left flanks, individual whale sharks can be distinguished from their unique spotted pattern. This way, future photographed sightings can be logged and an individual’s movements assessed. How interesting!

 

As it is atypical for whale sharks to be in Sogod Bay during this time of year, we are all hoping for more sightings this season!

August 2018

Choosing a Reef Safe Sunscreen!

The ingredients used in some sunscreens to negate the effect of UV and UVA radiation unfortunately have the complete opposite effect on corals, making them more susceptible to the damaging effects of these rays. In addition the application method can exacerbate the issue, with spray sunscreens more likely to 'miss' the skin and enter the ocean. We promote the use of reef friendly sunscreens on our expedition sites but are very aware that there is a lot of confusing information out there. In today's post we are going to try and help you navigate it!
 
First things first, the word 'Natural' is in no way synonymous with safe (either for you or the reef), and "chemical-free" is impossible, as whether naturally derived or synthetically made all ingredients are made up of chemicals. Similarly 'mineral' only means the ingredients are naturally occurring, not that it is necessarily reef safe or effective. Now that we've got that bugbear out the way let's move on :).
 
The Haereticus Environmental Laboratory website is a great first step, offering a list of chemicals to avoid, plus some further details on the alternative names that are sometimes used. The list is updated every 2 years to ensure that changes have not made the chemicals unsafe. Non-nano Zinc Oxide seems to be the most accepted and superior active ingredient for alternative sunscreens, please make sure that this is non-nano to ensure that it cannot be ingested by our ocean dwelling friends
 
You've googled reef safe sunscreens, checked your ingredients list and found one that is safe, suited to your skin, and proven to be effective. Now it's time to accept that reef safe sunscreen will not be as invisible as your usual product, as Zinc Oxide has a whitening effect! We think that this is a small price to pay to save the reefs but if it bothers you there are tinted versions available. Please be aware that Zinc Oxide products marketed as 'clear' are more likely to use nano particles so double check this! 
 
We hope that this has been helpful. Remember the best choice that you can make for your skin and health is covering up!
 
Tip: You may be able to find your product listed on Environmental Working Group's website. A helpful extra check to ensure your product is effective.

21st July 2018

Gudan Community Day

After surveying the reef of Barangay Gudan, which is a control site for this year’s BACI protocol, CCC staff and volunteers returned to host a community day on Saturday July 21st.

 

There was a huge turnout of all ages, including more than 30 enthusiastic children and their family members, some of which had attended a previous CCC community day in Gudan.

 

The focus of the event was to bring awareness to the negative impact of plastic waste on the environment, and what innovative solutions we can adopt to manage this ever growing issue.

 

After a short introduction by Anik (Project Scientist) about the work CCC conducts and why we recently surveyed the reef of Gudan, the attendants jumped straight into an educational quiz, kindly translated into Tagalog by the new scholar on site, Danielle Matriano.

 

Questions were asked such as: how long does it take for a plastic bag to degrade, how many times does all of the accumulated plastic waste in the world encircle the earth, where does the Philippines rank in the list of the biggest contributing countries to plastic waste and which city in the Philippines has banned plastic bags?

It was great to see so many of the children guessing the answers correctly, proving that the younger generation have an increasing awareness of the impacts plastic is imposing upon the environment.

 

Anik and Danielle also brought attention to effects on the marine environment specifically, such as the ingestion of plastic bags by turtles, which is hugely important for a community that lives so inextricably with their reef to understand.

 

Following the quiz, participants were introduced to the Ecobrick – one of many positive solutions to dealing with plastic waste. An Ecobrick is shredded plastic waste items (food wrappers, styrofoam, plastic bags, etc.) tightly packed into plastic bottles, which are then used to make building blocks to use in benches, walls and other structures.

 

As we had previously collected enough trash during Ecowalk events, and staff and volunteers on site had been saving their personal plastic trash, we had a large contribution of trash for this event. After watching an instructional video, the participants were split into 3 teams, led by CCC staff, to make their very own Ecobricks. Both adults and children sat meticulously snipping and packing piles of plastic, which were transformed into beautiful Ecobricks to be proud of.

 

We finished the day with a dance off…as you do. Our questionable renditions of the Macarena and the Cha cha slide provided much amusement to the children, who taught us an amazing, but very complicated, dance to a Tagalog song. All in all the day was a great success. It was a real pleasure to spend the day with one of the communities that CCC’s work aims to improve the livelihoods of through working towards sustainable management of their reef.

Happy Shark Week!

22nd July 2018

 

Happy Shark Week everyone! This annual event is, for some, just an excuse to watch factually accurate films, starring the crème de la crème of the acting world (is that too much sarcasm?), but for us it's an opportunity to spread the word about the vital role that these fish play in every ocean in the world.

 

Take this coming week as your inspiration to learn more about sharks, and why not hold an event to raise some money for some of the fantastic organisations working to protect these fascinating creatures?

 

In today's post we are looking at the beautiful Whale Shark ((Rhincodon typus). We are lucky enough to occasionally be gifted with sightings of these, the largest known extant fish species, in the Philippines, during the season. Check out one of our sightings here!

 

There is still much of the whale shark's life cycle that remains a mystery, no one has ever seen their mating rituals or birthing. In fact it wasn't until 1996 that it was discovered that they are ovoviviparous (live bearing).

 

Whale sharks are sadly considered endangered by the IUCN, due to the impact of bycatch, fisheries and vessel strikes. If you plan to swim with these beautiful sharks make sure that you go with a responsible agency, which runs ethically minded, limited number, whale shark tours, that uphold strict interaction guidelines.

 

25th July 2018

 

We are halfway through Shark Week. Did you know that sadly, each year, it is estimated that 100 million sharks are killed by humans, and this is a conservative figure, some put that figure as high as a mind blowing 273 million
:(!

Sharks are at the top of the food chain in most oceans around the world, and are known as 'keystone' species, because their removal could cause the entire collapse of the ecosystem.

Sharks generally prey on the sick and old, and by removing these individuals from the population, prevent the spread of disease, and increase the health of the gene pool. This natural culling ensures that fish populations stay within sustainable levels. Sharks also act as bodyguards for sea grass meadows! By patrolling these meadows they intimidate other species that would over-graze these very important nursery grounds.

 

Check out this link for a very effective (if hugely horrifying) infographic of the number of sharks killed by people each hour, and share this post to let more people know about the vital role that these fish play in our ocean's ecosystems.

 

27th July 2018

 

In honour of Shark Week we thought we would give you a shark-focused Freak Fact Friday to really sink your teeth into (sorry).

 

Let’s be honest, sharks are amazing – who wouldn’t love ’em?! But there are simply too many facts to choose from, causing internal office squabbling, on which ones to focus on so we have decided to give you a brief roundup of our 5 favourite shark facts;

 

1) Great Whites are spectacular breachers, but what about the Short Fin Mako?! Whilst Great Whites are capable of reaching speeds of up to 40mph and breaching 10 feet in the air (an impressive set of stats), the Short Fin Mako has been recorded at speeds of 46mph and breaching 30 feet (9 metres)! You can see this for yourself here.

 

2) Turtles aren’t the only famous Ocean inhabitants to exhibit natal philopatry, Chondrichthyans do too! Studies from 2013 found that at least 6 female Lemon Sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) returned to the exact same birth place to give birth themselves 14-17 years later!

 

3) The Sand Tiger Shark is a formidable predator. It seems that this predation is a trait learnt young. So young, in fact, that baby sand tiger sharks have been found to literally eat their siblings in the womb. A term called intrauterine cannibalisation. Just be glad you were not born as a sand tiger shark.

 

4) Ever wish you had eyes in the back of your head? Well, whilst they don’t have this weird morphological feature, Hammerhead sharks have a 360’ degree field of vision. So not only can they see behind them, they can see up, down, left and right. But if you do ever want to sneak up on a Hammerhead, they do have a blind spot directly above and below their heads.

 

5) This one is for the golden oldies. The Greenland Shark with a max size of 24ft and living as long as 400 years, is also the slowest shark on record. Travelling, on average, and speeds of 0.8 mph, maxing out at around 1.7 mph (fasten your seatbelt!) – that’s slower than your average turtle. But with all that time to think, scientists think that these incredible sharks use their acute sense of smell and ambush tactics to ‘hunt’ sleeping seals.

 

Well, there you have it. There are hundreds of incredible facts about Sharks, so we hope we’ve whet your appetite. We’d definitely recommend checking out the fascinating Megamouth Shark too! 

21st July 2018

Happy PADI Women's Dive Day!

Happy PADI​ Women's Dive Day all! This is the 4th year that PADI have taken the opportunity to celebrate the role that women play in diving and marine research, and it acts as a fantastic platform to encourage more women to join this wonderful sport.

 

We have been blessed to be able to welcome so many wonderful women to our site over the years, as staff, volunteers, and scholars. In fact one of our ex volunteers, Roisin Maddison Photography​, was recently featured in Scuba Diver magazine's July issue 'Celebrating Women in Diving', why not head on over to www.scubadivermag.com to get your copy and see her beautiful photos?

 

Diving can still be a very male dominated environment, but with more and more dive shops and equipment brands focusing on women there's never been a better time to take the plunge and learn! Why not check out this link and find an event near you?

 

Our team in the Philippines have celebrated PADI Women's Dive Day 2018, with a fun dive on our beautiful Napantao House Reef!

 

Globally, about 2/3 of scuba divers are currently male, but with women outnumbering men on site at the moment we are pleased to be able to buck the trend! Whether male or female, we are proud to send skilled, safe and respectful divers out into the world!

19th July 2018

New Hopes for PET Recycling!

Amazing news coming from Loop Industries, they have discovered 'a unique catalyst that breaks down PET plastic with zero heat and zero pressure', whilst filtering out additives. This is ground breaking as no other technology can remove dye from PET, which means through this method they can 'recycle any size, shape and color of PET plastic waste into virgin-quality PET plastic resin on an industrial scale'!

 

After verifying the findings, evian have made a commitment that by 2025 all of their bottles will be made from 100% recycled plastic, and are actively encouraging other plastic reliant companies to follow suit. We'll be following this story eagerly, awaiting other companies to step up and play their part in switching the mind set to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

13th July 2018

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

Photo courtesy of Pash Baker. Caribbean Reef Squid.

Today we are looking at the Humboldt Squid (Dosidicus gigas). This marine behemoth can reach a huge 6 ft in length, has excellent vision, and an extremely complex nervous system. This species has a reputation for aggression to the point of cannibalism whilst feeding, so it's no surprise that divers don fibreglass and kevlar suits before interacting with them.

 

This article gives more information on this species' incredible beak, although to be honest its the 36 'teeth' in each of its 2,000 suckers, which we find both awesome and give us the heebie jeebies in equal measure:)! These teeth are used as hooks to keep prey from getting away, and you likely would have seen the results of this in the scars that are often seen on whale's bodies. Their beaks are composed of proteins, chitin fibres and water, the last of which increases in composition the closer to the body, this allows the base of the beak to remain flexible whilst ensuring the tip is incredibly hard and sharp, perfect for lacerating prey! 

3rd July 2018

Celebrating with a Bonfire on the Beach!

After a hard day’s work, it’s nice to be able to hang out with the CCC group and enjoy the beautiful scenery Napantao has to offer. With a public beach next door, the team took the opportunity to celebrate a few recent happenings at base by having a beach bonfire. 

 

Students undertaking the Science Development Programme completed their computer and in-water substrate identification tests, a staff member had their birthday, and the team were also sending off a lovely couple who had been spending their honeymoon giving back to the conservation world with us here on base! 

 

During the day the team collected bits of dry wood for the fire, and in the evening prepared frozen mocktails while bringing marshmallows to roast. Since there is very little light pollution on the beach, they were able to fully appreciate the bright aggregations of stars and comets, and some even had the chance to roast their vey first mallows (ever!). A lovely night spent with lovely people. 

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