Fish Watch is a research project to define marine fish behavior, movements and species groupings in continental shelf waters off the state of Georgia. South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), Marine Resources Division, the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, and the US Naval TACTS program collaborate in the study funded in part by the Office of Naval Research, National Ocean Partnership Program.
The Fish Watch project has both research and educational components, which are under development and evolving with time. Research objectives cover several fish community and ecosystem function aspects including: 1) descriptions of temporal interactions among members of the reef fish community, 2) identification of environmental conditions associated with the formation of aggregations of several common predators and prey species, and 3) determination of temporal changes in visual indices of abundance of coastal reef fish species.
Educational objectives include: 1) making research information from the underwater TV available to the public and teachers in an easy-to-understand, inquiry-based format accompanied by explanatory graphics, and 2) developing teacher resource summaries in areas of coastal ecosystem issues, with organized and annotated links to more detailed information sites. Coastal issues and conservation topics are available on the DNR web site.
The present research effort will provide a community level baseline information on coastal reef fish that can be compared with future data as an indicator of coastal ecosystem health and change. Often coastal ecosystem health issues are focused on near shore communities, which encounter earlier contact with human stress factors, but may be more tolerant to change having evolved in estuarine and near shore environments, which are in a constant state of change. Mid-shelf reef fish communities have developed under conditions of a relatively stable environment, and therefore may be more responsive to regional environmental changes including global climate change and anthropogenic changes in water chemistry. The general public should be aware of the long-term health of reef fish communities and habitats, as well as many other important coastal issues.
Natural reef communities are scattered across the continental shelf between Cape Hatteras, NC and Cape Canaveral, FL. To see the estimated distribution of hard bottom habitats in this region see the NOAA Coastal Services Center. The Fish Watch underwater TV images are the next best thing to being there - without experiencing the sometimes "Hostile Environment!"
The observational system contains six cameras which are able to sequence around an artificial reef habitat of "Fish Haven" structures contributed by Artificial Reefs, Inc. The research site was designed to simulate a natural area and attract fish for observation. Fish images will often be obstructed by nighttime darkness, low light levels, or sediments resuspended by currents resulting from strong winds at the surface.
The Fish Watch research will only be successful with the assistance of boaters and fishermen who refrain from killing fish at the site by catching or spearing them.
The Grays Reef National Marine Sanctuary program, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the SC DNR Artificial Reef Section greatly assisted with the establishment and maintenance of the research site. David Schmidt designed, fabricated and installed the software and hardware for Fish Watch. COREL Corporation clipart images were used or modified for this presentation and are only to be used for viewing purposes.
As electronic image transmission and receiving technology improves, Fish Watch plans to increase picture resolution and frequency/motion.
Suggestions for improvement of this web site, especially if they cost little or no money, would be appreciated. E-mail George Sedberry. General questions about reef fish can be directed to www.fishbase.org