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2009 Great Fiji Butterflyfish Count

Friday October 9, 2009

Between the 10th and 17th of October people from all over the world came to Fiji and took part in the “Great Fiji Butterflyfish Count’.

At Tokoriki we conducted 30 minute long counts on both scuba dives and snorkel trips throughout the week. We took in a variety of dive sites and merrily counted butterflyfish …but what you may ask is the significance of all of this?

Well the count is of scientific interest on many levels.

Firstly there does appear to be a correlation between numbers of butterflyfish and the state of coral cover on a reef. This is because butterflyfish are coral eaters. Their pointy faces are designed perfectly for nibbling on coral polyps; from which they extract nutrients without damage to the polyp itself. One could possibly assume therefore that lots of butterflyfish would indicate a healthy reef; reduced numbers an unhealthy reef.

Secondly different species of butterflyfish frequent different areas. It does appear that around Tokoriki we have many species of butterflyfish – up to 18 varieties were counted in the 2008 count and as many again this year. However other species are totally absent. The count therefore highlights regional variations.

It is interesting to note that although not counted on the official Butterflyfish count; two species of butterflyfish previously not seen in this area have been observed by both Will and Alex on their dives in 2009. By getting to know their butterflyfish they were able to note the new arrivals into the area.

First up is the stunning Ornate Butterflyfish with its brillliant golden stripes previously only seen by us far too the east of Tokoriki around 200kms away off the small island of Toberua. This eye catching fish has been spotted at The Supermarket, Edenville and Monuriki Gardens. Also at Monuriki Gardens, Alex has now seen on three occasions the very elusive Black Butterflyfish which we have never seen anywhere else in Fiji and Will is still yet to see!

The results of the 2009 Butterflyfish Count have been submitted for analysis by Marine Biologists and their findings will be published later on in the year. We’ll keep you posted…

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Illustration of Red tooth triggerfish