Monthly Archives: July 2011

Swan Island Expedition Final Thoughts

Dr Earle speaking to a local delegation at the Swan Islands expedition farewell dinner, (c) Marisol Rueda Our last day on Roatan found us preparing for the farewell dinner and fundraiser for Roatan Marine Park. A delegation of local business people and VIPs joined the expedition team for dinner at the Tranquil Seas eco-resort. Guests enjoyed an excellent dinner while expedition team leaders, Dr. Melanie McField, Dr. Rachel Graham, and Kip Evans narrated a presentation on the preliminary results of the Swan Island research. Diners were treated to amazing photographs and learned about the health and status of the Swan Islands. After the presentation, Dr Earle addressed the group, giving her perspective on the expedition, her vision for the future, and a call to action for the attendees to save this special place, to leave a legacy for future generations.…
Posted in healthy reefs, Kip Evans, shark research, Swan Island, swan island expedition, sylvia earle, Sylvia Earle Alliance | Leave a comment

The Swan Island Expedition Day 07 & 08

With the expedition in it’s final stages, the reefs off Roatan gathered our focus. The Aggressor II’s crew, intimately familiar with these waters, led our divers to their next destination, Pirate’s Point. A wall dive, Pirate’s Point was dominated by gorgonians, black coral and large barrel sponges, giving divers a good taste of the deeper reefs.  Gorgonians and sponges on the deep reef, (c) Kip Evans Photography An important piece of the reef conservation efforts in Honduras has been the recent declaration in 2011, marking Honduran waters as a shark sanctuary. By making a strong stand against shark fishing, the Honduran government has paved the way for the recovery of sharks and the reefs they inhabit. Expedition team member Giacomo Palavicini, explains the importance of sites like Cara a Cara.…
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The Swan Island Expedition Day 06

Farewell to the Swan Islands. The story of the Swan Islands boils down to one subject. Protection. The expedition came to the islands with high expectations. The Swan Islands are referred to as the “Galapagos of the Caribbean”, and it was that description the team carried with them in the long crossing. But the reality of the Swan Islands is that even here on this isolated island, overfishing has severely impacted the reef ecosystems. The expedition repeatedly noted a significant lack of fish. The western side of Swan Island as seen from the air, (c) Kip Evans Photography Dr. Sylvia Earle: “That’s part of why we’re here in the Swan Islands, to look at the nature of this place that has periodically been fished very hard.…
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Shark Research at Swan Island 05

“I remember when there were so many sharks in the bay, we couldn’t put a hook in the water without catching a shark” recounted a patriarch fisher from the island of Utila in the Bay Islands in Honduras. This recollection of shark abundance is heard time and again with most Western Caribbean fishers over 50 years old. Today, it’s a different story. Sharks have been so heavily over-fished to feed the demand for white meat during the Lenten season and supplying fins for the seemingly insatiable demand for shark fin soup, that they are rarely encountered by today’s fishers. Sharks are seen even less frequently by divers, many of who pay thousands of dollars for the opportunity to see sharks in the wild.…
Posted in expedition, Honduras, mission blue, shark tagging, Swan Island, swan island expedition, sylvia earle, Sylvia Earle Alliance, Wildlife Conservation Society | Leave a comment

The Swan Island Expedition Day 04

The expedition team where up with the sun on day 4, ready for a day full of discoveries. A sense of hope grew from the knowledge that the previous afternoon’s dives showed improved reef health. The goal for today’s dives was to find more sections of the surrounding reef that would showcase the healthy examples of corals that the expedition had expected to see in this remote location. Dr. Earle and her camera rig, (c) Kip Evans Photography Dr. Earle, who previously spoke of reasons of hope for the reefs here at Swan Island, describes what she saw on today’s inspections of the reefs: “Today I was able to find some patches of coral that looked really healthy, and that’s cause for hope, because if there are some that are in reasonably good condition, it means that restoration could follow… When we had a chance to dive in and look around a little more today, there were a number of people exploring – the more eyes the better.…
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The Swan Island Expedition Day 03

After discussions with the soldiers stationed on the island, the expedition leaders decided to divide and conquer.  A small contingent would hike the island to explore what terrestrial species might be encountered while the reef and shark teams would continue to follow their dive itinerary.  For the hikers there were reports of a small mammal called the “Aguti” or “Watusa” and an opportunity to see native iguanas as well as both the brown and yellow footed boobies.  Aerial View of the Swan Islands, (c) Kip Evans Photography We joined with the soldiers that had generously offered to guide us to the “Channel” for an early start and embarked on our journey.  Hiking along the island’s air strip gave us perspective on the islands history, as we could see the foundations of cement buildings and the extended runway gave us visions of an island bustling with activity during World War II and for a brief time with the CIA’s Radio Free America broadcasts. …
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Swan Island Expedition Day 02

The next morning found the expedition facing more rough conditions. With one wave following another in an unending sequence, and no island on the horizon, our team retreated to ride out the remaining hours. Nearly 20 hours later after our journey started, we finally reached the Swan Islands and a respite from the pounding. Settling in to our initial position at James Point East on the southwest corner of the island, our team prepared for the first dive of the trip. The captain gave instructions on safety and what to expect on the dive, and then we took to the water.  Dr. Melanie McField, Director of the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI), and her team are conducting reef surveys and she offered her comments on the first dive.…
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The Swan Island Expedition Day 01

The Expedition members gathered on the dock around our ship the Utila Aggressor II ready to board for our voyage from the Bay Islands to Swan Island.   With an eye toward the journey and in the spirit of cooperation that embodies this Expedition, we formed a chain working in conjunction to load the equipment, dive gear and luggage needed for the success of this venture.  We boarded our new home for the upcoming week, met our crew and prepared to embark.  Sitting in the berth, with expectations whirling, we had little idea of what was to come. Honduras Coastline: Saying goodbye to Roatan,(c) Kip Evans Photography It soon became apparent that our hopes and expectations for a smooth ride to the Swan Islands was not in the forecast. …
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SYLVIA EARLE ALLIANCE EMBARKS ON EXPEDITION TO EXPLORE AND HELP PROTECT THE SWAN ISLANDS, “ THE GALAPAGOS OF THE CARIBBEAN”

Sylvia Earle diving the Meso American Reef(c) Kip Evans HONDURAS, July 18, 2011 – Today, Dr. Sylvia Earle, world-renowned oceanographer, National Geographic Explorer-In-Residence, founder of Mission Blue and 2009 TED Prize Winner, joins a team of scientists, government officials and award-winning photojournalists on a week-long expedition to the Swan Islands and Mesoamerican Reef, “the Galapagos Islands of the Caribbean.” Located 90 miles off the coast of Honduras, the Swan Islands are situated at the southern boundary of the Mesoamerican Reef – the Atlantic Ocean’s largest coral reef and a “hope spot” as identified by Dr. Earle and her team. Led by the Sylvia Earle Alliance (SEA) and the Healthy Reefs Initiative (HRI) at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, the Mission Blue expedition aims to raise global awareness of the critical importance of the Mesoamerican Reef and surrounding areas to the overall health of the world’s ocean as well as catalyze support for the official declaration of this “hope spot” as a marine protected area (MPA).…
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Mapping the World’s Sea Turtles

Thanks to the hard work of over 550 dedicated people around the world, the SWOT (State of the World’s Sea Turtles) database is now one of the most comprehensive global databases of sea turtle nesting sites available; and it’s just gone live on Google Earth.  Now you are able to view this extensive database on a Google Map, or you can download a KML file to see all of the data inside of the Google Earth platform. The interactive map is highly detailed and customizable, allowing you to filter by location, species, colony size and more.  The depth of data on the map is impressive, containing data from over 120 countries around the world. There’s even a place on the SWOT Website where you can participate by uploading information about your own turtle sightings.  …
Posted in endangered species, Google Earth, Google Oceans, IUCN, SEAlliance, sylvia earle, turtles | Leave a comment