[Coral-List] FW: [ReefCheck-list] Reef Fishes dying in hugenumbers

Alan E Strong Alan.E.Strong at noaa.gov
Mon Dec 22 16:37:48 EST 2003

Hi William,

Although this just now got my attention before I was to leave for holiday...I cannot help but wonder if what you have experienced with
your fish loss might possibly be tied to the exceptionally warm waters associated with the recent El Nino (2003-2003) that began and ended
in this region.  While it appears to have actually peaked over Howland Baker to the east, I cannot help but wonder if these effects may
have been promoted by this event [usually El Nino events occur further east -- 2002-2003 was exceptional in its origins closer to your

We wonder if excessive thermal stresses may have played a role...??

It would appear that some of the highest thermal stresses occurred near Buariki or Onotoa.

Al Strong
NOAA's Coral Reef Watch

William W Steiner wrote:

> I am assuming that this has not been observed before at least in the
> lifetimes of those seeing it so it is not a cyclical type of event.
> Perhaps it is a toxin that is present during certain seasons but slight
> temperature changes suggested below make the fish more vulnerable?  May I
> suggest a line of inquiry?
> A dozen or so fish (for statistical relevancy) of each species needs to be
> preserved on ice as soon as collected.  They should be examined for
> bacteria loads, toxins, other diseases, etc.  A dozen live fish of the same
> species should likewise be collected, sacrificed and examined.  This
> side-by-side comparison might give evidence to the cause.  It would also be
> nice to take some physiological/biochemical meaurements if possible of dead
> versus dying versus healthy fish, same species.  Field studies indicating
> the rate of spread, the direction of spread (following a current?) and fish
> behavior in the sea should also be monitored.  Dr. Thierry Work of the USGS
> Biological Resources Discipline located in Hawaii has experience in this
> area but someone would need to pay his costs.  Dr. Jim Parrish of USGS is a
> fisheries biologist and might also provide some insight especially on the
> ecological end.  His costs would also have to be covered.  I have included
> their email addresses in the event Kiribati officials would like to follow
> up.
> Good luck and Aloha
> Bill
> William W. M. Steiner, Ph.D.
> Director, USGS BRD
> Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center
> 3190 Maile Way, St. John Hall 408
> Honolulu, HI 96822
> PH   808-956-5691    Fax  808-956-5687
> Cell 808-294-0750
>                       "Gregor Hodgson"
>                       <gregorh at ucla.edu>                 To:       <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
>                       Sent by:                           cc:
>                       coral-list-bounces at coral.ao        Subject:  [Coral-List] FW: [ReefCheck-list] Reef Fishes dying in huge numbers
>                       ml.noaa.gov
>                       12/21/2003 06:29 PM
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Taratau Kirata [mailto:TaratauK at mnrd.gov.ki]
> Sent: Sunday, December 21, 2003 5:48 PM
> To: 'ReefCheck-list at yahoogroups.com'
> Subject: [ReefCheck-list] Reef Fishes dying in huge numbers
> I would just like to report and if possible would like
> thoughts/comments on the incidence.
> Fish species of Naso annulatus, Alectis ciliaris, Alectis inducus,
> Carangoides orthogrammus, Lutjanus gibbus, Melichthys niger, Melichthys
> vidua are reported of in its third week of dying on four islands in our
> Kiribati group.  On some islands it is still going on while others stop,
> but
> two more new islands are also experiencing this.
> The islands are all coral atolls where they have small or
> no lagoon.  The fishes are reported dying on the outer reef near to the
> open
> ocean.  The fishes can be seen being washed ashore onto the beach at
> specific locations on these islands in large numbers (250-400).  The
> numbers
> may be greater for some species and slightly fewer for other species.
> The local people and fisheries are suspecting it is something related to
> increase in
> water temperature around the area.  However, this arises another doubt
> since
> we believe this fishes are able to tolerate increase in water temperature
> (slight).  Since the area which this thing is happening is in the open
> sea, it may be that the area which increases in water temperature is large
> and that the temperature rise is more than slight, or what do you think.
> Our local people are very concerned owning to the fact that we depend
> heavily on these resources for our livelihood.
> Thank you.  Should you like further information on this I am always
> available in supplying it.
> Best regards,
> Taratau Kirata
> Fisheries Officer
> Ministry of Fisheries
> Kiribati Government
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**** <>< ******* <>< ******* <>< ******* <>< *******
Alan E. Strong
Team Leader, Marine Applications Science Team (MAST)
Coral Reef Watch Project Coordinator
Phys Scientist/Oceanographer
  NOAA Science Center -- RM 601
  5200 Auth Road
  Camp Springs, MD 20746-4304
        Alan.E.Strong at noaa.gov
             301-763-8102 x170   [Tues-Thurs]
             301-713-2857 x108   [Mon & Fri]
                (SSMC1 - RM 5304; Silver Spring, MD)
              FAX: 301-763-8572

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