[editor’s note, by sandy]: This journal entry was written by Maribel Lopez on Monday, March 14. It has been translated from the original Spanish.
At La Ceiba.
(c)Ann Compton / Oceana 2005
During the night of the 13th of March we had very good wind and were able to sail for several hours. With a wind speed of 25-30 knots and only the jib up we went at 9-10 knots. It was a wonderful feeling after so many hours traveling by motor – since until now we have had only headwinds or no wind at all.
First thing in the morning, we saw a flying fish (Hirundichthys speculiger) of almost 25 centimeters that had landed on the deck.
It was apparent that on one of its flights it had chosen an unfortunate direction and ended up on the catamaran. Sometimes it’s interesting to stop and look at the meaning of scientific names to see how it is that we have come to name a species. “Hirundichthys” roughly translates to something like “swallow fish.”
[To read the rest of this entry follow the link below.]During the rest of the day we found ourselves in much the same position we’ve been in since we left the Panama Canal. We didn’t see a single boat along our route, not a single dolphin, and only one pair of frigate birds (Fregata magnificiens) approached our stern.
In the afternoon, when we found ourselves between Guanaja Island and the Honduran coast, we noticed that, less than half a mile away, the sea was boiling. In a little while we saw a shoal of tuna mounting an attack on another school of small pelagic fish. A few gulls arrived at the site to take advantage of the flurry and to profit from the hunt.
The distraction didn’t last long and we continued on our way toward La Ceiba, which we reached by nightfall.
In the morning we had the chance to enjoy the scenery of the port, encircled by mangroves and by gorgeous mountains completely covered in tropical vegetation.
While we toiled to clean the boat and get rid of all the saltpeter, there were, all around us, hummingbirds, butterflies, toads, beetles the size of a fish, black mangroves (Avicenia germinans) nearly 20 meters high and everything else one could hope to find in this ecosystem. And among the roots of the mangroves a multitude of young fish, one or two cichlids and angelfish that swam back and forth from our hull to the mangrove forest.
Early in the morning we had the chance to meet with Adrian Oviedo, the Director of the Foundation for the Protection of the Reefs of Honduras (Fundación para la Protección de los Arrecifes de Honduras), who is leading the conservation Project at Cayos Cochinos.
We coordinated our work plans for the upcoming days. We hope that we will not only succeed in documenting the ecosystem of these keys, but also that our work will be useful to those who are working so hard and so effectively here.
We all felt energized by the warmth and graciousness of our Honduran colleagues. The truth is that it is an incredible privilege to work with people as dedicated and as professional as the staff of MarViva or the Fundación de Cayos Cochinos.
Now we have almost a week of work here, during which we will try to document different parts of the keys and assess their conservation status. There are a few areas of complete protection, while others are more open to tourism and fishing. We want to evaluate their respective ecological condition. It will also be critical to keep in mind that these ecosystems have suffered a few serious episodes of coral bleaching and sicknesses like white-band disease, as well as the damaging impact of Hurricane Mitch.
We are also very interested in documenting species that are characteristic of this zone, like the Caribbean lobster (Panulirus argus), horse-eye jack (Caranx latus) or queen conch (Strombus gigas), because of their economic importance to specific fisheries. But we don’t want to ignore other species, like the Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus), which is disappearing in many areas of the Caribbean.
Most of our work, however, will be to assess the status of the corals, like staghorn coral (Acropora sp.), boulder star coral (Montastraea sp.) or hydrocorals like fire coral (Millepora sp.).
In just a few hours we will begin the dives and everyone will be anxious to get underwater. All of our divers – our colleagues from ZOEA (Inés and Sole) along with our videographer, Mar, and our photographer, Houssine – are impatient to get back to work. We will try to do a few night dives since that is the time when many of the reef species are most active.
Full and hectic days are ahead, but we are all ready and excited to begin.