[Coral-List] Tunicate-killing coral spreading (Emily McGrath)

Szmant, Alina szmanta at uncw.edu
Fri Jan 18 09:59:52 EST 2008

With all due respect to the beautiful Bonaire Marine Park, fishing is not strictly regulated (first thing I ran into when I visited was a young man on the beach in front of the house we were renting (next to the Habitat dive resort) with a whole bunch of 6 to 8 inch small groupers, cleaning them on the shore.  We never saw many big fishes day or night during our dives.  I am used to the Florida Keys where herbivores are not fished, and these animals are numerous (large schools) and large in size.  The parrotfish population on Bonaire reefs was low in my experience.  While I was there, Bob Steneck was talking earnestly to Bonaire officials making strong recommendations that fishing not be allowed in the park.  If all fishing has been stopped since my visit (last 3-4 years) then that would be great but it will take time for the fishes to come back.  Same can be said for Curacao where I have spent more time and visited more reefs.
Alina Szmant
Dr. Alina M. Szmant
Coral Reef Research Group
UNCW-Center for Marine Science 
5600 Marvin K. Moss Ln
Wilmington NC 28409
Tel: (910)962-2362 & Fax:  (910)962-2410
Cell:  (910)200-3913
email:  szmanta at uncw.edu
Web Page:  http://people.uncw.edu/szmanta


From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov on behalf of Emily McGrath
Sent: Thu 1/17/2008 7:55 PM
To: Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Tunicate-killing coral spreading (Emily McGrath)

Dear Coral Listers,
    Like Mark, I have been following the tunicate vein with great interest,
particularly in regards to the subject of fish population/predation and the
connection to increased populations of *T. solidum *throughout the
Caribbean. As an intern for the CIEE Research Station in Bonaire, I had the
opportunity to volunteer for the Bonaire National Marine Park studying the
abundance and distribution of the colonial tunicate throughout the park. As
Dr. Goreau mentioned, the entirety of the island is a marine park, has
strict fishing regulations, and is heavily protected. As a result it boasts
some of the highest fish diversity in the Caribbean (and with a healthy
population of the aforementioned fish; i.e. parrotfish, surgeonfish, and
   Throughout all of my diving on the island, I never witnessed the
predation of the tunicate by any organism; I attributed this to literature
found regarding the ability of *T. solidum* to store several toxic compounds
throughout the test, gonads, larvae, etc. Even while observing spawning, I
never witnessed consumption of their large, swimming larvae (my buddy said
she even saw a mysid shrimp take one and immediately release it). If others
have witnessed predation activity on the tunicates in the southern
Caribbean, or aware of any such literature, I would greatly welcome
      As a side note: one might exercise caution while removing the tunicate
from mid-morning until mid-afternoon (the daily spawning period of Tri-D;
times vary by location but have been defined by Bak et al. in Curacao and
Bonaire). As it may be difficult to remove the entirety of the mat in one
fell swoop, tears often result and the large larvae will often escape and
begin to swim immediately -- a good way to help spread this
already worrysome organism.

    Emily McGrath
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Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov

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