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February 2001 Vol. 27, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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What's Next, Tridacna clams?

from the February, 2001 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

It’s beginning to look as if you want to photograph fish from the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, you may have to stray no farther than the coasts of California or Florida.

For weeks, scientists in Huntington Beach, Calif., have been trying to eradicate the highly destructive Caulerpa taxifolia, a nonnative seaweed that was probably dumped from an aquarium. Should it proliferate, it would wreak havoc on the underwater ecosystem.

While they worked, they discovered another exotic, a tropical moray eel native to the warm, southeast Asian waters off Sri Lanka. The listless, leopard-patterned eel was swimming toward shore when captured, probably trying to make its way to the warmer waters. A local aquarist agreed to pick up the eel and care for it.

People are dumping exotics on the East Coast as well. In 1994 a volunteer for REEF in the Florida Keys discovered a dramatic Pacific Batfish. A single fish seemed no threat, but when three were spotted last year, scientists organized a posse to track them down. Using dive propulsion vehicles, they found two of the three, finding homes for them in New England Aquarium’s Giant Ocean Tank. Since they’re not known to reproduce asexually, the lone fish remaining is no threat.

Forrest Young of Dynasty Marine, told Florida Diver magazine that “several dive shops were unhappy, I think, since they were feeding not only these but other fish. It always creates a bit of conflict when you try to manage animals that people have an emotional attachment to. But I think the sanctuary staff has done a pretty good job of educating them about exotics and why they need to be removed.”

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