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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Here’s to the Winners!

Announcing this Year’s Reef Alliance Award Recipients

Each year, Reef Alliance (a conservation program sponsored by Sub Sea Systems) and its partners participate in the International Coastal Cleanup, an international volunteer effort founded by the Ocean Conservancy.

This worldwide cleanup event has made a tremendous impact on our waterways and sea life. Since its inception in 1985, over 249 million pounds of trash have been removed by over 12 million volunteers!

coastal cleanup ocean trash picked up
DePalm Cleanup Results
The International Coastal Cleanup is just one of many volunteer events that Reef Alliance members participated in throughout 2018. Members and volunteers also focused on conservation, education and proactive efforts within their communities. In recognition of these efforts, Reef Alliance selects one member as the recipient of the annual Reef Alliance Award. We are proud to announce that the 2018 Reef Alliance award winner is De Palm Tours, Aruba.

De Palm Tours, founded in 1960, operates a wide variety of tours and adventures for Aruba vacationers. De Palm Tours is committed to environmental and social sustainability, and is “silver certified” in the EarthCheck Certification Program.

depalm tours cleanup
DePalm Volunteers, Cleaning Up
De Palm completes weekly cleanups of the reef and beaches surrounding De Palm Island. For International Coastal Cleanup Day and Reef Alliance Day, De Palm hosted two cleanup projects and volunteered in a third. For the hosted projects, the team selected an area on De Palm Island that was not part of their weekly cleanups, but was inundated with trash and debris. 44 volunteers participated in the cleanup and helped move large boulders that were blocking access to the area, which will discourage illegal dumping in the future. A second cleanup of the site focused on the waters near the area. Participants included Sea TREK, SNUBA, Aruba Lionfish Initiative Foundation (ALFI) and Scubble Bubbles Foundation (coral restoration) divers. De Palm’s office staff also participated in the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association (AHATA) cleanup.

coral nursery marine life sustainable wall
Building "Trees" for Coral Propagation

In addition to cleanup efforts, De Palm staff is working with a group of local students to develop a coral nursery. The project received approval from the Ministerie of Milieu, allowing the students to grow and handle Staghorn Coral (acorpora cervicornis). Once established, the coral will be transplanted onto a special wall along the De Palm Sea TREK trail– creating a new home for marine life and implementing an extra dimension of sustainable tourism to the attraction. The group hopes to receive approval to grow a second type of coral in the near future.

Working With the Community
Included in its initiatives, De Palm Island hosts ALFI divers for a weekend of Lionfish hunting once per month, which raises awareness and creates a fun and educational adventure for families. Year-to-date, the ALFI divers have removed nearly 2,000 Lionfish. On average, a single, invasive Lionfish can eat 5,000 reef fish, crabs and lobsters per year. These efforts will have saved nearly 10 million native fish from the voracious Lionfish!

To learn more about De Palm’s conservation efforts, follow them on Facebook:

Check Out DePalm's Cleanup Here!

Incredible Efforts

In addition to the amazing efforts of De Palm Tours, Sub Sea Systems would also like to recognize OdySea Aquarium as the second place Reef Alliance award-winner for 2018.

OdySea staff cleaning up
OdySea Staff, Collecting Data
The team at OdySea adopted a site along the Salt River, an area known for wild horses, for routine monthly cleanups. On International Coastal Cleanup Day, OdySea organized two cleanup projects– one at Saguaro Lake and a second at Lake Pleasant. Additionally, OdySea was selected to pilot a new data collection form for Ocean Conservancy.

In collaboration with Arizona State University, OdySea worked with students to develop a program addressing single-use plastics. OdySea team members also volunteered at local school events, Boys & Girls Club lessons, and recently added a new conservation internship program.

In March 2018, OdySea earned the prestigious AZA accreditation (Association of Zoos & Aquariums), recognizing the facility as a leader in animal care and welfare, conservation, conservation education and professional excellence. This is an extremely challenging endorsement to receive, and speaks volumes of OdySea’s committed efforts.

odysea aquarium staff cleanup
OdySea Team, Cleaning Up
OdySea Aquarium’s Conservation Committee is responsible for organizing a full schedule of events throughout the year, including cleanup projects, school programs, community outreach and hosted events.

To learn more about OdySea’s conservation program, visit: 

We appreciate our operators and teams for being committed to conservation and cleanup efforts, not only during Coastal Cleanup, but throughout the year. Thank you to all of this year’s participants. Together, we can make a difference in keeping our waterways pristine and sea life safe.

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Moving Right Along

In the U.S., autumn can be an enjoyable season, with its comfortable weather and festive, bright orange pumpkins aplenty. But for animals that prefer warmer climates, cooler temperatures mean it’s time to move on to their seasonal homes!

Most of us have seen birds flying to their winter abodes, but there’s a lot of action happening under the sea, too. Many underwater residents also migrate, some due to seasonal temperature changes, others to take advantage of breeding opportunities. In fact, some ocean dwellers travel thousands of miles to meet their ideal mate or to locate the warmest sand for nesting. Here are some hard-working animals that really put forth 110% to succeed in their migration endeavors.

North Pacific Grey Whale
Among mammals, the North Pacific Grey Whale holds the record for the longest migration. At a confirmed 12,400 miles round trip, its route is the longest of any marine creature migration. Their journey starts in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico and ends in the Bering and Chukchi Seas. Their migration provides viewing opportunities both on and off shore in the US, Canada, and Mexico.

Once in colder seas, the opportunistic Grey Whales plow through the bottom mud and strain it through flexible baleen plates, eating tiny, shrimp-like creatures and tube worms. The whales fatten up each summer in preparation for the return journey south.

Another mammal with a considerable migration is the Orca. Unlike the usual motivations of food or mating, some Orca groups off the coasts of Antarctica travel 6,200 miles to the tropics to shed their outer layer of skin in the safety of warmer waters. One satellite tracking study has shown that Orca in the Canadian Arctic also undertake long-distance movement, likely to avoid heavy ice formations in the winter.

Leatherback Turtle 
Leatherback sea turtles are among the most highly migratory animals on earth. Traveling between foraging grounds in search of jellyfish, the turtles can go as far as 10,000 miles or more each year.
Instead of the usual north-south migrations, the Leatherback sea turtle in the Pacific travels east to west. Using a tracking device, a confirmed trip of 12,744 miles has been recorded for a female migrating from Indonesia to Oregon… to lay her eggs in the sand!

Most sea turtles migrate between foraging and nesting grounds, and seasonally to warmer waters. With satellite telemetry, scientists can track the movements of sea turtles between areas and even across entire oceans.

The Leatherback has a light pink spot on the top of its head directly above its brain. It is thought that this allows light to reach the pineal gland, which may be used for migration. The pineal gland is an endocrine gland found in vertebrates, which affects wake/sleep patterns and functions to signal day length.

Northern Elephant Seal
Following roughly the same route as the Grey Whale, the Northern Elephant Seal racks up an estimated 13,000 miles. Keep in mind, though, that this marine creature takes on a double migration- traveling twice a year- once to give birth and mate, and another time to shed their outer skin and fur in a process called molting. They have a complex scheduling system with different age groups and sexes utilizing beach space sequentially. Space can be a limiting resource for this animal as their population is approximately 150,000.

Blue Marlin
The Blue Marlin is a highly migratory species, with individuals migrating across entire ocean basins and even between oceans. That’s quite a distance to swim, just to stay warm!

Less is known about fish migrations than other sea life, but a tagged Blue Marlin has been recorded as migrating 9,254 miles from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. Further research may discover longer journeys by this or other ocean fish.

Hammerhead Shark
Hammerheads exhibit philopatric behavior, meaning that they make return migrations after departing a particular area in search of mates or food. Additionally, they reside in specific locations and they show site fidelity in returning to the same areas repeatedly even over a number of years.

A recent study on Hammerhead migration was led by scientists from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS). Using satellite tag technology, researchers were able to track a Hammerhead for 62 days and discovered its lengthy 745-mile journey from the coast of South Florida to the middle of the Atlantic off the coast of New Jersey.

Studies on Hammerhead migration provide vital information on how these endangered animals are affected by overfishing and environmental issues. Dr. Tristan Guttridge, who led a study at the Bimini Biological Research Station, in the Bahamas, explains why this is so vital: "Knowing when the animals are likely to be in certain places will be critical in developing effective management strategies" he said. "For example, our data could be used to create so-called 'time-area closures', where certain areas are closed to particular activities, like fishing, at different times. The aim would be to reduce harmful interactions with the sharks."

Have you observed a sea life migration? Share your experience below!

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Fall for Autumn Boating

Although the evenings are getting cooler and the days shorter, it’s not too late to enjoy time out on the water. While one might hesitate to jump into a chilling lake or hang out by the pool with a frozen beverage, fall can be the ideal time for boating. In fact, boating in the fall has some serious advantages!

autumn  ride on a funcat electric boat

Take in the Colors and Critters
There is nothing more beautiful than watching autumn leaves turn vibrant hues along a coastline. Leaf peeping from your boat along a colorful shore gives you a unique perspective on the season. Fall also brings different wildlife to coastal areas – from waterfowl and migrating birds to bears preparing for a winter nap. Depending on your location, there can be a completely different scene than what you’d observe in the summer months.

“Leaf” the Crowds Behind
Once the school year begins, traffic changes can be dramatic, both on roadways and waterways. You’ll have less wait times at launch sites, shorter lines at fuel docks, and more open space to enjoy. Gone are the hour-long queue lines and parking nightmares.  In many areas, fees are also reduced or may even be non-existent. You might find fewer services available when high season ends, but a little planning ahead of time will ensure you have a comfortable, crowd-free experience.

fall boating on a funcat catamaran

Staying Out of the Hot Seat
The summer’s scorching rays and high temperatures can make boating miserable. Of course, a bimini top is an easy way to ensure you've got some sun protection, but that doesn’t save you from becoming overheated. The cooler conditions of autumn can provide a pleasant boating experience. Fill up your thermos with your favorite hot beverage, don a comfy sweatshirt, and off you go on a cool escape.

Fishing Fun
Lakes turn over when the surface is cooler, making fall fine for fishing. The churn puts trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, and other fish on high alert. They eat to store extra calories before they spend the winter in the water’s depths, and if you pull your boat early you’ll miss some of the hottest fishing action of the year. If you have a shallow-draft boat, you have access to the edges of lakes and rivers where fish feed before the winter.

Keeping it Safe
While autumn boating has many benefits, safety should still remain at the forefront. A reduction in temperatures does not mean that you are safe from damaging sunrays that can reflect off the water, so sunblock is still an important accessory. It’s also important to keep an eye to the sky. Autumn storms can approach fast and unexpectedly, and they often pack more of a punch than summer showers. Not only should you check the weather before heading out, but be sure to check the weather during your trip and keep an eye out for approaching fronts. Conditions can change quickly.

And, while less water traffic can be appealing, it does not ensure an accident-free boating experience, so life jackets should still be part of your plan. In fact, plummeting water temperatures can increase the chances of hypothermia if an accident occurs. Compared to the busier times of the season, there may not be other boaters in your vicinity to turn to for help at this time of year. So, before you leave, make sure cell phones are charged and radio signals are working properly.

If you haven’t taken advantage of the many opportunities that fall boating affords, get out on the water and experience the serenity and beauty unique to this time of year. If you’re a “seasoned” autumn boater, share your favorite fall boating story below!

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Thursday, October 4, 2018

Seriously Creepy Creatures of the Deep

Fall is here, and with it comes striking autumn colors, cooler weather and all things pumpkin flavored! In the U.S., kids and kids at heart start planning their costumes for Halloween, and homes are adorned with scary skeletons and bright orange décor.

But 24/7 and 365 days per year, there are creatures living in the depths of our oceans that put our attempts at a spooky celebration to shame. The appearance of some of these very unique ocean dwellers could send a shutter down the spines of even diehard haunted house lovers. Here are some unique critters living in the deep sea!

Sarcastic Fringehead
Looking like something out of a horror movie from the 1980s, the Sarcastic Fringehead is a foot-long fish that lives off the Pacific Coast of North America. When unthreatened, the Fringehead is not that menacing. But if a marine predator (or stray human hand) attempts to dislodge a Fringehead from its home, the fish will race into action, brandishing its frightening predator-like teeth.

At the first sign of danger, Fringeheads employ their enormous mouths and needlelike teeth for defense. Initially, they emit only a warning, which is accomplished by the flexing and snapping of their jaws. Fringeheads do not typically attack humans, but we suggest keeping your fingers out of their personal space. Check out the Sarcastic Fringehead on video!

black dragon fish

Black Dragonfish
Another 80’s horror flick throwback, the Black Dragonfish resembles the monsters from the Alien movies.  Fortunately, you really don’t have much to fear from the Black Dragonfish due to their diminutive size. The females are some 15 inches long (40 cm). That may sound like a fairly good size, but a lot of that length comes from their long, tail-like structure. Their mouths, by comparison, are rather little. They do possess long fangs, utilized for catching other fish.

Black Dragonfish can produce their own light, which is handy since they reside in the black recesses of the ocean. You can find these tiny terrors more than a mile beneath the waters (2,000 meters). Unlike most bioluminescent predators, the Black Dragonfish glows and can see its own light.

Common Fangtooth

Common Fangtooth
Aptly named, Fangtooths have mouths that are full of long, pointy teeth, which are perfect for catching and trapping prey of just about any size. Common Fangtooth are deep-sea predators that have been recorded at depths of over 16,000 feet (4877 m)!

Though they spend most of their time in the deep, Common Fangtooth are known to migrate toward the surface at night, following their preferred prey of crustaceans and other fishes. Common Fangtooth are more active than many other deep-sea fishes and seek out food, rather than lying in wait.

Common Fangtooth do not have light producing organs or cells for communication, or to attract prey. Instead, they rely heavily on their sense of smell and benefit from even the slightest bit of sunlight that may make it down to the depths.

Although the Fangtooth appears menacing, they are actually quite small. The maximum length of a Fangtooth is a mere six inches (15 cm).

Frilled Shark

Frilled Shark
Sometimes called a “living fossil” because it hasn’t changed much since prehistoric times, the eel-like Frilled Shark is rarely seen by humans… and we should be very relieved!

The Frilled Shark’s mouth is as terrifying as that of a Great White. It’s lined with 25 rows of backward-facing, trident-shaped teeth—300 in all. The Frilled Shark’s mouth looks larger than that of other sharks because its jaws terminate at the back of the fish's head instead of underneath the skull.

The Frilled Shark has red frilled gills, with the initial gill slit across the throat, as if it were cut with a knife. Watch the creepy Frilled Shark here!

Goblin Shark

Goblin Shark
Not so pretty in pink, the Goblin Shark does not get its color from pink pigments in its skin. In fact, this shark has a translucent dermis (skin) that enables us to see the oxygenated blood within its capillaries. Its snout and tooth structure are just as unique. An overhanging, tremendously elongated yet flattened snout forms a blade-like appearance. The Goblin Shark’s long, slender, exceptionally sharp fang-like teeth are connected to its protruding jaw. To make matters even more intricate, the snouts of these sharks are sprinkled with tiny receptors that pick up electric fields.

One of the most interesting features of this shark is the way it bites its food source. Its mouth actually extends outward from its body and can move independently. Watch the Goblin Shark in action!


One of the most unusual-looking creatures of the sea, the Viperfish is a fierce predator. It’s easily recognized by its large mouth and sharp, fang-like teeth. In fact, the fangs are so large that they often exceed its mouth size. Instead, they curve back very close to the fish’s eyes. The Viperfish uses these sharp teeth to impale its prey while swimming at it at high speeds.

Accompanying this outlandish dental structure, the Viperfish also possesses an elongated dorsal spine that is tipped with a light-producing organ. Viperfish can flash the light on and off, utilizing it like a lure.

Viperfish hunt in the darkness. They have been observed hanging motionless in the water, waving their “lures” overhead. The have a hinged skull, which can be rotated upward, allowing them to swallow unusually large victims. Check out this video featuring the Viperfish.

Vampire Squid

Vampire Squid
With a scientific name that means "the vampire squid from hell," you'd expect the Vampire Squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis) to be a fearsome predator terrorizing the deep. Despite its demonic look, that isn't the case; instead, the Vampire Squid collects and consumes drifting particles. It uses eight “arms” and two long, sticky filaments to grab its food.

The body composition of the Vampire Squid is similar to that of a jellyfish. They have the largest eye-to-body ratio of any animal in the world.

Black Swallower

Black Swallower
Capable of swallowing prey twice its size in a single bite, the Black Swallower creeps up behind its prey, trapping its meal by the tail in its sharp, interlocking teeth. The Swallower then coils the prey into its expanding stomach, and sets off in search of its next victim. The Swallower’s bloated and stretched stomach extends so far down in fact, that the stomach tissue becomes transparent.

Atlantic Wolffish

Atlantic Wolffish
Last but certainly not least on our list, is the Atlantic Wolffish. Atlantic Wolffish are vicious predators. Their eel-like bodies, large teeth, big heads and powerful jaws are used to eat hard-bodied prey such as sea urchins, crabs and snails. Like eels, they favor rocky ocean bottoms and seaweed beds where they can hide. These solitary fish grow up to five feet long (1.5 m) and can weigh an astounding 40 pounds (18 kg). Wolffish have a unique, natural antifreeze in their bodies, which keeps their blood moving fluidly in their very cold habitat.

The Atlantic Wolffish is listed as “special concern” under the Species at Risk Act, and are not often seen by humans. However, if you happen to encounter one, or manage to reel one in while fishing, watch out: "When hauled out of the water [the Wolffish] snaps like a bulldog and with good aim at anything in its way… hands, an oar, or at other fish among which it is thrown, and it can inflict a serious bite," reports the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, which adds that they've received reports of Wolffish swimming in shallower rocky waters and making a "furious attack" on people wading there. YIKES!

What is your favorite creepy creature? Tell us about it below!
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