St. Thomas, Virgin Islands is a 26-square mile gem of a Caribbean island that has attracted tens of millions of tourists and adventurers. They come to sample our crystal clear waters and massive diversity of benthic wildlife. Our shores are abuzz with exotic life that drives the local economy.
Ironically, most Virgin Islanders go their entire lives without experiencing even a fraction of the marine beauty we share with the world. As such they are not in a position to readily notice how behaviors and actions, both locally and worldwide, are contributing to the degradation of island water habitats.
Antonio and Sumaiyah have spent the 2016-2017 school year reporting on, and participating in, shoreline clean-ups and environmental education activities. Now it is time for Antonio and Sumaiyah to experience first-hand the hidden underwater world whose choices for use and preservation we are handing-off to their generation.
Full moon, Coral Bloom and Spring downpour … look around with keen eyes while snorkeling or diving and you may just spot a few Caribbean Reef Squid.
Fairly common in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands waters, they can be difficult to see as their colors naturally blend with the water and suspended particles. Adding to the near-invisibility is the fact that the Caribbean Reef Squid is not that big, averaging six to 12 inches as adults.
If you are lucky enough to spot one, you may even be able to see it change colors and flash dot patterns as it communicates with nearby squid. Wary by nature, they may stick around for observation by a swimmer making a slow and unthreatening approach.
Caribbean Reef Squid will let divers know if they have come to close by wagging a crooked tentacle in the air and jetting away as seen at the end of the video.
This is a small tropical fish in the Grouper/Sea Bass/Hamlet family. Adults are 2 to 4 inches in length and most commonly seen around St. Thomas in deeper coral waters. It is rarely seen at shallow depths (15 to 40ft), becoming more common approaching 60 feet and below down to about 220 to 250 feet.
They will hang out as solitary individuals among coral rubble, sandy areas, patch reefs and lower levels of coral banks. Juveniles may hang out together in small groups of up to four fish.
Queen Triggerfish a/k/a Old Wife
A sloping snout combined with ultra-tough skin makes the Queen Triggerfish the perfect predator of Sea urchins.
Better known as “Old Wife” in the islands, the fish blows pressurized streams of water at an urchin until it tumbles over. Once the urchin’s unprotected underbelly is exposed, the Old Wife digs in with hard, sharp teeth.
Fish are both opportunistic as well as sloppy eaters. Scraps from the urchin meal attract nearby fish. Very quickly the Old Wife has to defend its meal from pirates. A wide, flat body helps with this task by blocking fish intent on raiding lunch.
In the end, everyone gets something, even if it is just a leftover spine to munch on.
The ocean naturally recycles itself. In the Virgin Islands we recognize that fact and have made it illegal to remove natural objects from beaches and shorelines. This includes seashells, coral, natural drift wood, seaweed, pebbles, sand, etc. If it belongs there, leave it there.
~ Longspine squirrelfish – Holocentus rufus
*Any alteration to shoreline, no matter how small, requires a permit. Inquire at the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources.*