Thursday, 6 November 2014

Small fish in a big pond: the plight of the lemon damsel fish

Research by marine scientists into Great Barrier Reef fish populations remind us of the need to protect the tiny creatures in a vast ocean

Back when Bill Clinton was the president of the United States, UTS professor David Booth and his wife Gigi Beretta started an extraordinary experiment that demonstrates the ocean is as small as it is vast.

In 1999, Booth, who is the president of the Australian Coral Reef Society, and Beretta, who trained as a marine scientist in the Caribbean, caught and tagged 532 juvenile lemon damsel fish in the lagoon of One Tree Island off Gladstone in Queensland, and a further 322 in the waters of Lizard Island off Cape York.

They are small but beautiful animals – vivid yellow and found throughout the Great Barrier Reef. Yellow damsels are so spectacular that they are a favourite with the aquarium industry.

Each of the tiny young fish caught by Booth and Beretta was tagged with an elastic polymer that showed up as a dark smudge under their skin. After tagging they were released back onto the patch of reef where they would spend their entire lives.

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