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New Fish Discoveries Around Bali

Reef recovery is underway in this key region.

By David Alderton

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Manonichthys - a juvenile dottyback.
Manonichthys - a juvenile dottyback. One of the potentially new species identified during the recent 2011 Marine Rapid Assessment Program survey in Bali. © Conservation International/Gerald Allen.
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Siphamia cardinalfish
Siphamia cardinalfish. Another potentially new species identified during the 2011 Marine Rapid Assessment Program survey in Bali.  © Conservation International/Mark Erdmann.
A two-week marine survey conducted by scientists with Conservation International (CI) in Indonesia, along with local partners, has resulted in the discovery of eight potentially new species of fish and a previously unrecognized coral in the waters surrounding the island of Bali.

The survey, part of Conservation International’s 20-year-long Rapid Assessment Program (RAP), was undertaken by CI at the request of the Bali provincial government and the Department of Fisheries and Marine Affairs, so as to assess reef health and provide management recommendations for 25 areas. These will form a network of Marine Protected Areas, which are designed to be ecologically connected and resilient.

The potential new discoveries consisted of two different cardinalfishes, two varieties of dottybacks, a garden eel, a sand perch, a fang blenny, a goby and what appears to be an unknown Euphyllia bubble coral, although further studies will be needed to confirm the exact taxonomic status of each one of these potential new discoveries.

Recovery Underway
This latest RAP survey, along with a previous survey conducted by Conservation International and partners for the Bali government in November 2008, documented 953 species of reef fish and 397 species of coral in the waters off the coast of Bali.

"We carried out this present survey in 33 sites around Bali, nearly completing a circle around the island," said Mark Erdmann, Ph.D., senior advisor for Conservation International’s Indonesia marine program. "There was a tremendous variety of habitats, surprisingly high levels of diversity and the coral reefs appeared to be in an active stage of recovery from bleaching, destructive fishing and crown-of-thorns starfish attacks during the 1990s."

Acting Executive Director for CI-Indonesia, Ketut Sarjana Putra added, "Compared to 12 years ago, we observed an increase in healthy coral reef cover in the area surveyed, indicating a recovery phase. That is why it needs serious protection and management to complete the revitalization."

Though the survey found the reefs to be recovering well, with a 7-to-1 ratio of live to dead coral, the RAP survey team observed that commercially important reef fishes were still severely depleted. In more than 350 hours of diving, the team only observed a total of three reef sharks and three Napoleon wrasses.

This is in stark contrast to a healthy reef system where a diver would typically encounter a similar number of large reef predators during a single dive. The team also observed that plastic pollution was present throughout and illegal fishing was occurring in “no-take” areas in the West Bali National Park.

Global Importance
"This RAP survey highlights how important these Marine Protected Areas are to improving economic returns from marine tourism while also providing food security and ensuring the sustainability of small-scale local fisheries," Erdmann said.

Funding for the scientific survey was provided by USAID Indonesia as part of Coral Triangle Support Partnership (CTSP). The Coral Triangle Support Partnership-Indonesia is a collaborative five-year project to ensure the protection of marine environments for the benefit and sustainable livelihoods of communities across the Coral Triangle region of Indonesia. This region is the global center of marine biodiversity, being home to more than 500 species of coral, at least 3,000 species of fish and the greatest remaining mangrove forests on Earth.
 

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