SMSG Blog

Expedition blogs and news from the Shallow Marine Surveys Group

Hawksbill success!

We have been continuing our efforts to capture and tag hawksbill turtles from the Georgetown pier during the evenings. Finally, we were rewarded for our efforts when the team managed to recapture the large hawksbill that had been too heavy to lift onto the pier on the previous attempt.


This time, we were better prepared for such a large animal, the biggest hawksbill recorded in Ascension to date, and with the assistance of ropes and a higher tide managed to lift the turtle onto the pier. Sam and Nicola Weber, from Ascension Island Conservation, were able to take measurements and a  biopsy for DNA analysis.




[caption id="attachment_502" align="aligncenter" width="584"] The team of divers manage to bring the turtle alongside the pier where it could be lifted out of the water to be measured.

Sadly, this particular turtle has had a previous encounter with humans and we found a large fish hook embedded in its face. Because the hook exited very close to the orbit of the eye the decision was made to leave the hook in place to rust out, rather than risk further injury to the animal's eye by forcefully extracting the hook.




[caption id="attachment_503" align="aligncenter" width="584"] Sam Weber measuring the carapace length of this very large (for Ascension Island) hawksbill turtle.

Unfortunately the same turtle has been seen on a subsequent night and we noticed that now a plastic bag has become entangled with the hook and may be causing some distress and discomfort to the turtle. If we manage to capture the animal again we'll attempt a removal of the hook. If not, hopefully both the plastic bag and hook will come away in time.




[caption id="attachment_504" align="aligncenter" width="584"] The fish hook can be clearly seen embedded. The turtle's sight appeared unaffected for now and with time, the hook should rust out.
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FIDT share their experience

The Falkland Island Dive Team (FIDT) is a group of Service, Ministry of Defense (MOD) and civilian personnel who have given their time to support this exciting Project.  The team is making a vital contribution to the project by providing logistical support and planning for the delivery of equipment plus booking of flights, accommodation, vehicles and boat.




[caption id="attachment_454" align="aligncenter" width="584"] Sarah Lee in Lava Tunnel, English Bay.

In the first 2 week period of the project the FIDT have assisted SMSG with data collection, critter and fish collection, photographs, transects and inter-tidal surveys. Not only are the team helping collect data but they have also been getting their hands dirty, literally, by helping to process fish specimens, with Simon Plummer, the diving supervisor, measuring, weighing and dissecting fish and to remove the otoliths which are used to tell how old the fish is.




[caption id="attachment_455" align="aligncenter" width="584"] Simon Plummer (centre) with Drs Vlad Laptikhovsky and Judith Brown

The FIDT have enjoyed discussing their findings with the expedition Drs and Professors. This has made the diving and the experience of working, helping and supporting the project a far more broadening experience. It has also made the team even more mindful of the diverse and balanced marine ecology of the Ascension Islands.




[caption id="attachment_456" align="aligncenter" width="584"] FIDT member Simon Browning demonstrate black triggerfish capture techniques, using a bread basket, while Vlad Laptikhovsky and Simon Plummer look on.
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Dave John Hunting seaweeds around Ascension
31 August 2013
Great to see underwater photos of this very unusual submarine environment where the ubiquitous black...
Helen Marsh Team Member Stedson Stroud
03 July 2013
Great to hear more about Stedsons work, and how he got started, having met him on Ascension Island l...
Simon Plummer Volunteer Ecological Surveyors
10 June 2013
I can’t stop smiling thinking of what a brilliant time you are having. The fact that I can visualise...
Simon Plummer Black triggerfish anecdotes
10 June 2013
An enjoyable and funny read, thank you steve for making me chuckle.
Simon Plummer Ascension Island fish record
10 June 2013
The photos are brilliant, envious.

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