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Underwater in Ono-i-Lau with rays and a nosey turtle

Underwater in Ono-i-Lau with rays and a nosey turtle

Friday, 18 August 2017

We’ve decided it’s time to give you another glimpse 'under the sea’ and to share some of what we’ve captured on our baited remote underwater video (BRUV) cameras in Fiji's Lau Islands.

Massey University’s Emma Betty and Odette Howarth have taken over the BRUV equipment for the second half of our expedition, and as we’ve talked about in previous posts the footage they capture will ultimately contribute information to the Global Fin Print project which is looking at reef ecosystems around the world and tracking what lives where.

While the current and swell at Namuka-i-Lau made things tricky, the BRUV cameras were successfully deployed and captured good footage of grey reef, black tip and white tip reef sharks, along with an optimistic barracuda that tried to make off with the bait container.

In Ono-i-Lau the conditions were much calmer and favourable topography made for ideal sampling and filming. The team recorded more grey reef and white-tip reef sharks but the highlight of their footage has to be the extreme close-up encounter with an overly inquisitive green turtle who decided to examine one of the BRUV cameras.

This same stunning reef system in Ono-i-Lau also yielded an up close (and somewhat personal) view of mating stingrays, which was captured on the diver operated video (DOV) camera. 

But despite this interesting coupling, it was a different, solitary ray captured on the DOV camera that has caused the biggest stir on the Braveheart. The team spotted this rare leopard eagle ray.  

A first for Fiji - this is the first time a rare leopard eagle ray has been recorded in this region.

Still from DOV footage, Ono-i-Lau, Fiji.

This is the first time a leopard eagle ray has been reported in Fiji. Up until now these rays have not been observed east of the Coral Triangle (Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, northern Australia and New Guinea region).

Every day on this expedition brings us something new and it is such a privilege to be doing this work and to be documenting the incredible marine biodiversity in the Southwest Pacific. In our next blog we are going to tell you about some of the incredible fish we have recorded in and around the Lau Islands - we’ll make sure to share some of our underwater photos showing the stunning patterns and colours on these fish. Here's a sneak preview.

Pseudanthias pictilis - one of the stunning fish recorded in the Lau Group, Fiji.

Mark Erdmann

  • Post by: Tom Trnski

    Ever since Tom Trnski learnt to snorkel he has had an abiding interest in the life-forms found in our blue backyard and has lead a number of research expeditions to remote islands off the coast of New Zealand and throughout the Pacific. He currently heads the Auckland Museum's Natural Sciences team whose main activities are collection management, collection development, research, and exhibitions and public programmes relating to our collecting areas of botany, entomology, geology, land vertebrates, marine biology and palaeontology.