[Coral-List] impact of snorkelers feeding fish

Brian Reckenbeil breckenbeil at verizon.net
Mon Dec 7 16:28:42 EST 2009


I know this is not direct research on your asked topic, but it is my 
experience of how it has interrupted my behavioral and observational 

While a student at CIEE Research Station Bonaire in the spring of 2008, 
http://www.cieebonaire.org/index.html , I conducted independent research on 
the Cleaning Activity of Juvenile French Angelfish.  Juveniles of this 
species are known to clean other fish when they are young.  I observed and 
collected data for 20 minute integrals, which totaled almost 10 hours of 
observations of useable data.

I say USEABLE because on at least 3 separate occasions, the same local 
resident liked to snorkel with some sort of food in her hands.  She would 
always see
me laying nearly motionless in the shallow sandy bottom (6-12ft), with a 
clipboard, datasheet and obvious meter stick for measurements.  I believe 
she kept wondering what I was doing, since scuba divers are typically seen 
swimming along the reef, and not laying still in one spot for a prolonged 
period of time.

Every time she swam near, chaos ensued.  Fish immediately stopped their 
typical behaviors, and formed like a ball around her.  It reminded me of 
watching videos of a group of piranhas attacking prey.  I distinctly 
remember a parrotfish, which was stopped at the cleaning station I was 
currently observing, quickly leave to go take part in the food frenzy around 
this lady.  I saw other fish dart towards her from at least 40-50 feet away.

It appeared that this lady who loved to feed the fish interrupted my studies 
almost 10% of the time.  I had a little over 30 sessions of data recordings, 
3 of which were not used for this reason, 27 surveys I did use for my 
analysis.  It was quite frustrating to have her swim by with food...  I can 
not imagine how reef interactions could change if every single snorkeler and 
diver brought food out into the water and feed the fish.  I certainly would 
not have been able to perform this research has this been the case, as 
Bonaire is a major tourism hotspot for reef exploration, and divers were 
frequently entering the waters nearby.

For anyone interested further in this, there is a short segment (2 seconds 
at time 41sec) where fish are swimming around a girls hand, possibly 
thinking they will be fed? in my 60 second video application for the 
Australian "Best Job in the World" Island Reef Job Video Application. 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjL-CWkBUt4 (I ranked as high as 8th out of 
34,000 on most popular page on final day!!)


Brian Reckenbeil

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Robert Goldstein" <conservationmaven at gmail.com>
To: <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Sent: Sunday, December 06, 2009 3:59 PM
Subject: [Coral-List] impact of snorkelers feeding fish

> Hello,
> I'm curious if anyone on this list has done (or is doing) any research on
> the impact of snorkelers/divers feeding fish on coral reef ecosystems - 
> or
> if you know who are leading researchers on the topic. I'm exploring 
> writing
> an article on the topic.
> Thanks,
> Rob Goldstein
> Conservation Maven
> www.conservationmaven.com
> 130 Irving Street
> San Francisco, CA 94122
> (415) 308-4669
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list 

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