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Cape Eleuthera Update, March 2008
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Posted by:Mar 6th 2008, 12:27:37 pm
Fig Tree News TeamMarch Update from the Cape Eleuthera Institute

Unlocking the Mystery of Bonefish Spawning

Anecdotal evidence has suggested that bonefish spawn between December and May in the western Atlantic, however this part of their life history has yet to be formally quantified. Thanks to a generous grant from Bonefish and Tarpon Unlimited, the CEI Flats Ecology and Conservation Program has expanded its remote telemetry array and added more transmitter-implanted bonefish to the waters off Cape Eleuthera to unlock this reproductive mystery.

Since December 2007, we have been homing in on the location of potential spawning aggregations and identifying critical periods during the lunar cycle when spawning may occur. In January and February, the CEI research team documented a repeated behavior around the new moon where bonefish are aggregating near the tip of Cape Eleuthera. It appears that the bonefish are using the Cape Eleuthera Marina as a corridor for movement between the shallow waters of the Bahamas Bank and the deeper waters adjacent to the Exuma Sound. During the new moon in February our team had the opportunity to conduct surveys on snorkel in the marina where they observed large schools of bonefish (>500 fish). A small number of these fish were captured and examined for their level of reproductive development. Both males and females were either very ripe or spent following a reproductive bout. These behaviors were further confirmed after downloading remote receivers in the area, suggesting that the marina may be acting as a staging area prior to spawning.

Coincidentally, bonefish being held in the CEI wetlab for another study also showed signs of reproductive activity around the new moon in February. Several of these fish were stripped of their eggs and sperm in an attempt to artificially spawn them in captivity. This is the first recorded observation of bonefish in captivity becoming reproductively active, opening up a new area of research of the Cape Eleuthera Institute.

Freedom 2030 Call for Action to Power and Empower Eleuthera

Inspiration for change and motivation to act were the immediate responses to the Freedom 2030 symposium hosted at the Cape Eleuthera Institute February 7-8th. Cape Systems Ltd. and the Cape Eleuthera Institute welcomed government officials, energy leaders, NGOs, and industry researchers to discuss options for Eleuthera to become a model island of sustainable energy and self-sufficiency.

Conference attendees discussed the economic feasibility and environmental necessity of advancing the Freedom 2030 initiative. Recognizing the burden of foreign oil dependency in The Bahamas, Minister Neymour pointed out, "If we don't address these issues now we will pay for it later." Bahamas Electricity Corporation's (BEC) Chairman Frederick Gottlieb commented, "BEC knows that oil will continue to rise in price and become more difficult to get. We are doing everything we can both internally and in conjunction with others to make The Bahamas as energy independent as possible." BEC generates power throughout the archipelago using diesel-fired generators. With an abundance of sun and wind on the islands, Freedom 2030 proposes that Eleuthera implement more renewable energy systems that take advantage of these natural resources.

Cape Systems is presently designing a comprehensive study with the support of government, BEC, and the Inter-American Development Bank that will outline a detailed strategy to realize energy self-sufficiency through early action and sustained developments over the next two decades.

Visiting Programs Update

The past few months have been an intellectually stimulating time for the Cape Eleuthera Institute. Katrina Cook from Trent University came to the Institute to complete her undergraduate research on the Caribbean long-spined sea urchin (Diadema antillarum). Amanda O’Toole, Steve Cooke (Carleton University), Dave Philipp and Julie Claussen (University of Illinois) implanted transmitters into barracudas around Cape Eleuthera in the hopes of gaining insight into their movement patterns. In addition, they took blood samples from barracudas that will be used to determine how many of the fish caught have ciguatera, a potent neurotoxin that harms humans consuming the effected fish. CEI and Cape Systems also hosted the Freedom 2030 conference which brought together government officials and interested parties for a discussion about getting Eleuthera running without oil by the year 2030.

Andy Danylchuk and John Tiedemann taught twelve Monmouth University, New Jersey, students for two weeks about tropical island ecosystems. Their coursework focused on gathering baseline data on the population size of invasive lionfish by surveying local patch reefs. Colleen O’Brien and Chris Shanks exposed eleven William’s College students to sustainable resource management. Their final project focused on ways to mitigate potential ecological problems that might arise at the proposed development on Lighthouse Beach, South Eleuthera. We also had participants from all over the United States come to the Institute for a Total Immersion swim course. Their final two mile swim in the turquoise waters off Eleuthera took them from High Rock to Deal’s Point and back.

Sixteen New York Harbor School high school students took part in a six day SCUBA program led by Glen North, dive and waterfront coordinator. During their program, students completed their open water or advanced SCUBA diving certifications and learned how to identify tropical reef creatures and fish. St. Andrew’s Middle School from Nassau, Bahamas, visited the Institute for a 4-day exploratory course.

CEI Forms Partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory

Mote Marine Laboratory of Sarasota, Florida, USA, and the Cape Eleuthera Foundation have agreed to cooperate in matters of research, education, and outreach related to marine science. With a specific focus on the ecology and management of apex predators such as sharks, but also including other topics of mutual interest such as coral reef biology, aquaculture, fish biology, and environmental assessment. Mote Marine Lab and CEF will exchange information via reports, publications, and conference proceedings and also develop an exchange program for researchers and educators to facilitate professional development and teacher training. We are very excited about these opportunities and look forward to our future collaborations.

Exciting News for the Sharks Program

The Cape Eleuthera Institute shark program has just received exciting news that a grant application to the Save Our Seas Foundation ( has been successful. These funds will support a year long study aimed at validating the use of baited underwater video surveys as a measure of the relative abundance of sharks. Baited underwater video surveys can potentially provide a non-invasive, cheaper and more easily replicable alternative to traditional survey methods. The basis of the study will be a comparison of seasonal and spatial abundance trends generated from traditional scientific survey techniques and the more novel technique of baited video. The study will provide the first comprehensive assessment and validation of the abundance trends generated by baited video surveys for sharks.

Rocksound Ocean Hole Clean Up

On January 29th the Cape Eleuthera Institute joined forces with the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Stuart Cove Diving centre, Nassau, to rid Rock Sound ocean hole of trash. Experienced divers teamed together with lift bags, a large crane, dump truck and a huge amount of enthusiasm. They spent the day submerged in cold waters going to depths of up to120 feet, where they hit the silt covered bottom. Despite very limited visibility and dark diving conditions the team pulled 18 tires, a large oil barrel, bikes, a walker, many meters of plastic piping, what seemed like endless quantities of bottles and cans, and the best find of the day - a shot gun!

The day was a great success and plenty of local community support. Local schools brought students along to watch the clean-up and informed them of the need to protect their island and prevent further damage to its natural resources. These students joined in the efforts by patrolling the surrounding area armed with gloves and bags to remove more trash.

This clean-up was the first dent in the bigger picture, and additional cleaning missions are being proposed for the future. We have suggested that trash cans and signs be provided in an attempt to prevent further dumping and any ideas for helping prevent pollution are greatly appreciated. (

New Member of the CEI Community

Lorna Dallas - Researcher, Cape Eleuthera Institute
Lorna is currently completing her Masters in Applied Fish Biology at the University of Plymouth in England. Lorna is with us until the summer investigating the chemicals excreted by bonefish and the effect these have on their predation by lemon sharks. She is combining behavioral ecology with some more advanced biochemical laboratory techniques, and hopes this will provide a valuable contribution to the bonefish research already underway at CEI.

Spring Research Symposium 2008 Invite

We would like to invite you to join us at the upcoming Island School Research Symposium, which will be held on Saturday June 7th 2008. Topics this semester will include offshore aquaculture, coral reef ecology, shark habitat use, flats ecosystem ecology, aquaponics, and archaeology.

For more information please contact

CEI will have a booth at the International Coral Reef Symposium.
July 7-11th 2008, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA

This is an event that is part of The International Year of the Reef. Annabelle Oronti will be presenting a paper on the Abundance of Economically Important Fish Species Inhabiting Patch Reefs in Shallow Water near South Eleuthera, The Bahamas: Implications for MPA Development. CEI representatives will also be attending the following conferences this year: American Fisheries Society, World Recreational Fishing Conference, and International Symposium on Tarpon and Bonefish.

Additional News
We are very happy to announce the birth of Cael Allerton Danylchuk, the beautiful and healthy son of Sascha and Andy Danylchuk, born February 18th 2008.

Are you interested in bringing a student group to CEI? We can design a program for university, high school, and middle school classes, as well as continuing education programs for adults.

Within our facilities we have living space for up to 72 visitors and the opportunity for you to bring your own teachers or collaborate with our experienced resident scientists.

For more information, please contact us at -
Tel: 609 945 0710

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