Fish Sex: What's the deal for Conservation?

fish-researchFish and Chips is a common meal where Tove Jorgensen, our new staff member, has come from. But Tove, recently arrived from the United Kingdom, will be handling a different sort of fish and chips. For starters her fish will be uncooked and her chips will be more closely related to technology rather than food.

Tove is a fish researcher and she has joined Nature Seychelles to carry out activities under a GEF/UNDP/Government of Seychelles financed project that is looking at the design and functioning of the Cousin Island Marine Protected Area (MPA) with regards to its role in the protection of  fish that sustain local communities.

Fish spawning areas around Cousin, fish movement between the protected area and fished areas, and the connections between the MPA and nearby fish spawning aggregations (fish gathered for the purpose of reproduction) are under study.

The study will help determine whether the MPA and its design fulfil the role of fish protection and whether other measures need to be taken to protect the vulnerable areas where fish meet and spawn.  It will also help in the placement and design of other protected areas.

Central to the project is the collection and analysis of data on fish movement and habits, which will involve tagging of key species of fish as well an underwater visual census of fish behaviour.

Tagging is a commonly used technique to collect a wide variety of data on marine species. For this project acoustic telemetry as well as conventional tagging will be used.

Acoustic telemetry is the use of sound-emitting devices that allow remote tracking of fish as they move. The tags are surgically inserted into the fish. Once employed, they transmit a signal that sends information about the tagged fish to listening stations that researchers can download and use.

"Using this method  one can follow a fish back and forth to see when and where it goes," says Tove.

Conventional tags are secured to the outside of fish, usually in the dorsal fin region.  They contain a unique number identifying the individual fish as well as contact information from the organization doing the tagging. This kind of tagging is dependent on the fish being recaptured to recover the tag, and fishers have to be involved to return the tags. The tags provide information on where the fish was tagged and where it was picked up.

Tove will be working with local experts on the project particularly with the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) with whom Nature Seychelles has a Memorandum of Understanding. SFA has been carrying out pioneering research on spawning aggregations of key species in recent years around Praslin.

She will also work with other stakeholders and fishers and will help in creating awareness to the public about the importance of the project.

She is no stranger to Seychelles having worked on conventional tagging of groupers with the SFA in Farquhar. She has also done similar work with MPAs in Australia, Philippines, Vietnam and Tanzania.

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