£21
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Funding Canceled
Funding for this project was canceled by the project creator on Mar 24 2013
£21
pledged of £2,000pledged of £2,000 goal
2
backers
Funding Canceled
Funding for this project was canceled by the project creator on Mar 24 2013

About

This project will be based on two different Islands; Cayos Cochinos and Utila. The first, Cayos Cochinos, is a MPA (Marine Protected Area) called the Reserva Biologica Cayos Cochinos. It is managed by the Honduran Coral Reef foundation. MPAs are regions in which human activity has been restricted in order to try to conserve the natural environment, the surrounding waters and the occupant ecosystems. Any cultural or historical resources that require preservation or management can be MPA’s. (Stone, 2011) In Cayos Cochinos, the MPA extends 8 kilometres in every direction. The island covers 65 ha and reaches an elevation of 140m. It contains part of the second largest ecosystem in the world- the Mesoamerican barrier reef. As it is protected, it provides an extensive example of relatively undisturbed and linked Caribbean habitats, which provides a lot of areas to study. It is home to several hundred mollusc species and nearly 70 stony corals on top of many bigger mammals and fish such as manatees, loggerhead sea turtles and even whale sharks.

 On the other hand, Utila Island is not protected. It has a lesser variety of corals and the populations of fish are reduced due to greater fishing pressures, damage from underwater tourism and development along the coast. Local dive centres and organisations such as BICA (Bay Islands Conservation Association) are working towards developing the land as an MPA as they are aware of the cost of tourism to the underwater environment but they are not completely established and do not have extensive power over the inhabitants of the island. BICA’s goal is to protect and encourage rational use of the fragile ecosystems of Utila while increasing awareness and finding methods of sustainable development.

 Coral reefs are biodiverse ecosystems which provide widespread resources and habitats for many fish. On the Mesoamerican barrier the most common species are butterfly fish (Chaetodon sedentarius), angelfish (Pomacanthus paru), surgeonfish (Acanthurus coeruleus), and jacks (Caranx bartholomaei), which have all fallen prey to the invasive Lionfish. The effects of this predator are devastating, with studies showing them feeding on around 20 smaller fish in a 30 minute time period which has lead to a 79% reduction in juvenile fish populations in Florida (Klappenbach, 2008). The reduced herbivorous fish populations have also led to increased seaweed growth, affecting the balance of the reef biodiversity.

 Lionfish are the first non-native fish to establish themselves along the Mesoamerican barrier reef since their first sighting in Florida in 1992- alledgedly after an accidental release of 6 from an Aquarium in Biscayne Bay (Schofield et al. 2009). Efforts have been made to reduce the impact of the pests, for example there is a Roatan Marine Park Invasive Lionfish Control Programme (RMPILC). This is a scheme which works in various ways to combat the growth of the pest, not only using annual Lionfish Derby’s to encourage hunting, but also providing workshops educating people on environmental and economical impacts of the Lionfish. Most recently there have been efforts made to acquire sharks to the taste of Lionfish in order to reduce populations.

My goal is to research the impact the Lionfish have had on Honduran reefs to a more specific extent- this will involve spearfishing the pests in order to dissect and analyse their stomach contents to decipher their diets. This will help us find out whether they are obligate and facultatif eaters of various species, and how to combat their ability to eat seemingly anything. We need to stop them, before they stop diversity.  

Risks and challenges

As this is my dissertation, I have an obligation not just to you but to myself and my university degree to complete this- on site I have a field supervisor, and during term time when I return to England I have a University supervisor, both of whom will keep me on track with deadlines and short term goals to help me finish my dissertation on time.

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    Pledge £10 or more About $12

    A link to a Youtube video detailing what I got up to whilst abroad and what I learn!

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    Pledge £20 or more About $24

    'Thank you' card featuring a photo, taken by yours truly, of the invasive fish!

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    Pledge £100 or more About $122

    An essay on the feeding habits of Lionfish and a 'how to' on dissection and analysis of their stomach contents.

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    Pledge £150 or more About $183

    You will receive a synopsis of my dissertation 'Influences of lionfish (Pteroris volitans) on Honduran reefs'.

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    Pledge £250 or more About $306

    On top of rewards 1-4, you will be sent a digital copy of my dissertation once published to read at your own leisure! (Delivery approx. June 2014).

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Funding period

- (56 days)