SMSG Blog

Expedition blogs and news from the Shallow Marine Surveys Group

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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Hawksbill tagging underway (well, nearly)…

[caption id="attachment_392" align="alignleft" width="300"] Sam Weber instructing volunteer turtle catchers on the finer points of the art.
Image: W Dimmlich

Attempts to capture and tag some of Ascension Island’s elusive hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) got underway during two night dives at the Pierhead in Georgetown this week. Best known for its globally important nesting population of green turtles (Chelonia mydas), Ascension Island also has a small resident population of critically endangered hawksbill turtles about which very little is known. Hawksbills do not nest on Ascension and from their sizes it appears that most individuals are sexually immature juveniles or sub-adults, but the nesting population(s) from which they originate and the migratory pathways which bring them to the Island remain a mystery. By fitting metal flipper tags carrying a return address and taking tissue samples for mitochondrial DNA analysis we hope to answer some of these questions, as well as adding to scarce data on growth rates and residence times at Ascension. But first we have to catch them!




[caption id="attachment_393" align="alignleft" width="584"] A young hawksbill is spotted in the shallows near the pier.
Image: P v West


[caption id="attachment_394" align="alignleft" width="584"] As it swims close to the shore Dion Poncet prepares to leap.
Image: P v West


[caption id="attachment_396" align="alignleft" width="584"] Unfortunately a near miss and the turtle can be seen just escaping Dion's outstretched hand.
Image: P v West


Every evening, as many as 5-6 hawksbill turtles gather around Georgetown Pier where artificial lighting and fish discards allow them to continue foraging late into the night, making this the perfect place to start our tagging campaign. After an unsuccessful attempt earlier in the week, a crack team of elite military divers including Simon Browning, Simon Plummer and Phil Thomas managed to capture one of the largest hawksbills yet seen on Ascension - too large unfortunately, as it proved too heavy to land in the conditions at the Pierhead! Nevertheless, spurred on by their progress so far the team are planning a return visit this week and we will post an update soon.

[caption id="attachment_397" align="aligncenter" width="584"] Success! It takes Phil and two Simons to finally capture a hawksbill and shepherd it back to the pier.
Image: P v West


Contributed by Sam & Nicola Weber
Recent comment in this post
Guest — Alexander Gaos
This is fantastic stuff! Saludos from those of use working here on the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative...please let us know i... Read More
Friday, 31 August 2012 12:12 AM
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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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