Nov 8 and 10, 2011
The Hunt for Chaetodon vagabundus
Poor Little Fishy
I love this title! You'd think we're a trigger-happy possé after a prehistoric blood-thirsty creature who ravaged playing kids in a remote mountain village. No, we're actually spearing small, cute, adorable and helpless reef fish, colorful enough to grace any salt-water aquarium (not that I subscribe to fish in captivity strictly for its visual appeal). They're the size of a dollar or piso coin, thus the local name, Pisos pisos.
Collecting these fishes is part of a scientific data gathering project designed to establish the genetic connection between coral reef systems through larvae distribution. Someone has already mapped the vagabundus genome before, and the sampling will determine if they came from parents from a different coral reef.
I thought the 'connection' was already a given to begin with. Afterall, we're all connected, right? Through the food chain, through the air we breathe, through the ripple-effect we create with our thoughts and actions, etc. Even with seemingly unconnected things, the ripple-effect is evident. Example - wolves and trees. Seems unconnected, right? When the wolves were all hunted down in a national park, the deer population increased. With their growing numbers, they ate up all the budding type of tree, local to that area. Now, the only tree of that type you see are those that were already mature when the last wolf was killed. All other trees after that were eaten up. Seems simple, but there was a lot of detective work done to trace that effect. But I digress.
One-for-All or One-on-One
Apparently, according to another marine biologist, the 'connection' part is not established - there isn't enough quantifiable data available. I asked him then what the ramification is, if the reef systems are not connected. He said, "That's bad news. If the reef systems are connected, we only need to nurture one reef and the crossover will ensure the health of the other systems. If they are not connected, it means we have to nurture every single reef system." Hmmm....from a resource-scarcity perspective alone, that made sense to me.
A Dirty Job Somebody's Gotta Do
I normally won't do this spear-fishing thing. I'd rather see these marine creatures on the reef than on my dinner plate or in the lab. But it needs to be done in the name of science. I'm reminded of a line I read on a book that mentioned deflowering a virgin - it's a dirty job but somebody's gotta do it!
I did 2 days dive with the marine-bio crew - first one was at Mainit Marine Reserve and the other one was at Lipayo Marine Reserve, both nearly adjacent to the other.
Mainit Marine Reserve
Again, I'm mesmerized by the visual animation that lay before me. But Mainit is as murky as it is beautiful. Because of the upsurge of the hot water from the reef bed (thus the name Mainit, meaning 'hot'), the visibility is rendered low. So low if you're diving fast, you might hit a coral before you see it.
Lipayo Marine Reserve
The clarity brought by Lipayo is offset by the apparent lack of coral reef...just a few patches. It was mostly sandy. Not enough vagabundus to begin with.
Smart Little Fishys
These little fishes are not as helpless as they might look. After a miss, they hide and that's that. If they see you again, they swim away like crazy...and you can't catch up. Even if you do, it's wishful thinking hitting a moving target under water with a rudimentary hand-fashioned spear.
At the end of the dives, I came out zilch! As in, nothing. Somehow, there was an inner relief there. What I came short on fish, I made up with all the garbage I collected on those dives. Yeah, I still earned my free meal.
- take a pedicab and ask to be dropped-off to the Dauin jeep bay (or Zamboanguita, or Siaton, as they all pass by Mainit Marine Reserve) 5 mins, P9
- board the jeep and ask to be dropped-off at the Mainit Marine Rserve. If the driver is not familiar, tell him it's just after the Bacong - Dauin boundary. Same entry point as Liquid Dumaguete. 30 mins, ~P15
- from the highway, walk towards the beach. 5 mins.
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