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January 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 34, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Big Trouble at Blue Heron Bridge

an aquarium is accused of plundering its signature marine life

from the January, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Florida's diving community is fighting for better protection of Blue Heron Bridge, a popular macrolife dive site in the town of Riviera Beach. It's an iconic place because underwater enthusiasts have spotted more than 400 species of fish in its waters since 1993, according to the Reef Environmental Education Foundation. Many of them, such as the polka-dotted batfish, hairy blennies and longsnout seahorses, are incredibly rare to see. So, tempers flared high after reports that Moody Gardens, an aquarium and tourist attraction in Galveston, Texas, sent a group of four professional divers to the Bridge with collecting devices, a truck full of holding tanks, and legal permits to collect 4,300 animals during a week in early October.

There have been conflicting reports as to the scale of the fish collecting done there, but outrage by divers went so viral on social media that Greg Whittaker, Moody Gardens' animal husbandry manager, went on Facebook with a video to defend the aquarium's position, saying they were only targeting a dozen species of blennies and gobies. Jim Abernethy of Jim Abernethy Scuba Adventures in Lake Park, a town just north of Riviera Beach, posted his own Facebook video to trash Whittaker's response, saying Moody Garden's permit was for 86 species. He says Whittaker failed to mention the wrasses, surgeonfish, stingrays, angelfish, porkfish, parrotfish, octopus, jawfish, hogfish, hamlets, doctorfish, goatfish, chromis and the butterflyfish. Moody Gardens' divers collected 50 each of 86 species, equal to the 4,300 animals they got permits to collect....

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