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From Gulf Stream to Aquarium

When the Gulf Stream current sweeps fish eggs and larvae up the coast, New Yorkers can collect the young Caribbean fish.

By Steve Abrams

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Aquarium Fish InternationalWhen you think of butterflyfishes, groupers and tangs, the beautiful reefs of Australia, Hawaii and the Caribbean come to mind. One of the last places a person would think of is Long Island, New York. Located just east of New York City and jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, it is the largest island of the continental United States. From mid-June until early October, when the water temperature rises above 67 degrees Fahrenheit, the tropical fish from Florida and the Caribbean Sea begin to arrive and grow. How these fish and other tropical marine organisms arrive at Long Island is a fascinating story.

Long Island has two major coastlines: one on the north shore and one on the south shore. It is the south shore facing into the Atlantic Ocean that collects the tropical fish we are looking to capture. The south shore is protected by a string of barrier islands that run eastward from New York City to the Hamptons. These barrier islands are located 1 to 3 miles offshore. They enclose large, warm, shallow bays that are connected to the ocean by four inlets. It is through these inlets that the fish arrive to populate the bays. The fish are carried up as eggs or planktonic larvae in the warm waters of the Gulf Stream current. Periodically, large circular pools of warm water called gyres separate from the Gulf Stream and brush the south shore. During these events, thousands of warmwater fish, shrimp and crabs flood the bays. Even ocean-going (pelagic) fish, such as juvenile mahi-mahi, can be collected in only a few feet of water.

Want to read the full story? Pick up the July 2012 issue of Aquarium Fish International today.

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