October, 2010

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stingray weaves past corals

Southern Stingray Cruises Through A Soft-Coral Garden, Paul Mila photo, Grand Cayman

Paul & daughter Christine, enjoying sunset on the beach at Residencias Reef, Cozumel 

Welcome to the October issue of Sea-gram, the monthly newsletter for ocean lovers, divers, and "deep-thinkers", from 
In this issue's Story Behind The Photo, read about a close encounter with a friendly green moray eel.
If you have a good photo with an interesting story, or would like to share a good dive yarn, let me know at and I'll be happy to include your story in a future issue. 

October's Conservation Corner provides a glimpse into how marine biologists study the effect of imbalances in underwater ecosystems. 
 If you know someone who would enjoy reading Sea-gram, please forward a copy using the link at the end of the newsletter.  

To view past Sea-grams click our ARCHIVE link below:
I hope you enjoy Sea-gram !
 Paul J. Mila

The Story Behind The Photo . . .
               Don't Try This At Home
                      By Paul Mila, Carle Place, New York 
Petting green moray
Green Moray, Paul Mila photo
We were diving a formation called Cedral Wall, in Cozumel Mexico. My dive instructor, Alison ( was searching for a particular green moray eel that she knows is friendly and gentle. Alison usually finds what she is looking for, and sure enough down at about 70 feet she located her eel  resting beneath a coral outcropping.
Several of us gathered for a long look to see if the eel might favor us with a full length view, but it preferred to remain where it was. Alison moved closer and stroked her buddy, gently in order to avoid disturbing the mucous-like substance which coats its body for protection from bacteria. We stayed long enough to observe the beautiful animal, take some photos, and then moved on.

Equipment Used:
SeaLife DC1000 with wide-angle lens and digital strobe.
 Photo Tips: 
1. When very close to your subject, and near a white sandy bottom, turn down flash power to avoid over-exposure. Use a flash diffuser to soften the shot and obtain richer colors.
2. On the bottom, good buoyancy control and minimal movement are essential to avoid stirring up the sand, which causes backscatter and ruins the photo.
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Not all moray eel encounters are uneventful, especially when ill-advised divers start feeding the critters. Feeding wildlife is never a good idea!
Take a look at what happened to a diver in Thailand who decided to feed sausages to an impatient moray who couldn't tell the difference between the meal and the diver's thumb, at about the 3:20 mark in this 6-minute YouTube video. Morays have good sense of smell, but very bad eyesight.
Conservation Corner . . .
Jellyfishing For Answers
              by Marianne McNamara, Middle Island, NY
Marianne Catching Jellyfish
Marianne At Work, Catching Jellyfish
Stony Brook University Marine Biologist Marianne McNamara explains how rising jellyfish populations adversely impact sea life, such as Long Island's decreasing the hard-clam population, and how scientists are working to reverse the imbalance:


Jellyfish have received increasing attention on Long Island recently. A natural predator in our waters, "the blobs of summer", as one reporter coined them, turn everyone against them, from swimmers for their painful stings, to fishermen for clogging nets.

 The term jellyfish is a misnomer, since these delicate animals are not fish at all. In fact, our local jellies encompass three distinctive phyla, or groups, of watery animals: 

1.      Stinging Cnidarians - a group including the more common medusa-like jellyfish as well as sea anemones and corals.

2.       Barrel-shaped (non-carnivorous) salps and doliolids.

         3. Ctenophores, beautiful but ravenous non-stinging bioluminescent "comb jellies".



Ctenophore Jellyfish.

Of all jellies in our local waters, ctenophores are the most voracious.They consume tremendous amounts of young fish, shrimp, clams, and crabs during their seasonal "blooms". In turn, ctenophores are prey for other jellies, sea turtles, and fish such as butterfish and mackerel. Historically, ctenophores on Long Island bloomed in late summer and early fall, well after many commercially-important fish and shellfish species had already spawned (released their young into the water).

However, recent research conducted at Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric Science has identified changes in the seasonal appearance and maximum abundance of these predators in Long Island waters. Peak ctenophore abundance in Great South Bay in recent years was two to five times greater than previous studies conducted twenty years ago, and also occurred two to three months earlier than previously documented. These changes may have significant consequences for marine food webs.

For example, in 2006 peak abundances of ctenophores overlapped with the spawning of commercially-important hard clams in Great South Bay. Changes in the abundance and distribution of ctenophores may explain why, despite reduced fishing pressure and ongoing restoration efforts, hard clam populations in Long Island estuaries are not recovering in many locations.

To reverse the trend of increasing jellies, scientists are exploring ecosystem-based management, looking beyond an individual species towards an overall view of the interactions between multiple species. Since jellyfish are increasing globally in many marine ecosystems, it is likely that the culprit is complex and numerous. By understanding shifts in jellyfish abundance, scientists can better understand the response of marine ecosystems to numerous threats they face

About is your home for exciting dive adventure novels, YouTube videos about ocean creatures, and more.

 Thanks for visiting, and we'll see you next month!
Paul J. Mila 
 Paul in Cozumel
75 Titus Avenue
Carle Place, New York 11514
To forward Sea-gram to a friend, please click the "Forward email" link below.
In This Issue
The Story Behind The Photo: Moray Eel Encounter; Don't Try This At Home.
Conservation Corner: Jellfishing For Answers

Featured Article in this month's 
Conservation Corner: Jellyfishing For Answers.


Stony Brook University Marine Biologist Marianne McNamara provides a brief glimpse into the world of marine scientists, and how they study the possible causes and effects of imbalances in marine ecosystems.



Marianne McNamara
Marianne on Antarctic Expedition

In this article (below, left column), Marianne explains the possible relationship between the explosive, and historically early, growth of the ctenophore jellyfish population and the decline of Long Island's commercially important hard-clam population.


Quick Links

Features & Updates

Lionfish Update
Cozumel 4 You, Cozumel's most informative newsletter:
 "The Third Lionfish tournament of the year is scheduled for October 24th at the Punta Langosta pier.  The marine park, "Parque Nacional Arrecifes de Cozumel," who is sponsoring the event, has discovered these tournaments to be an effective way to help keep the lionfish population in check.   Over 25 thousand pesos will be awarded in prizes.  For more information on how to participate, contact the marine park at  987 872 2409 [U.S. callers dial 011-52 first].

"Lionfish are not indigenous to the Caribbean, and as a result do not have many natural predators here.  In the Indo-pacific region where they are from, they are hunted by frog fish, large eels and other larger lionfish."

To view Cozumel 4 You newsletters, and for information on subscribing, visit: Cozumel 4 You
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U.S. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn is intent on blocking legislation to prevent shark finning in U.S. waters. Incredible as it may seem, Senator Coburn is also blocking four other bills protecting cranes, great cats, sea otters, and other marine mammals.
His rationale is that these efforts would be too expensive and only concern "special interests."
To read more about Senator Coburn's efforts visit:
Better yet, contact this land-locked senator at these two email addresses and give him your thoughts:

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  Sea Shepherd Update
The latest E-news from Sea Shepherd features the latest news on protecting dolphins and whales, and information on upcoming campaigns.
To see the latest news and guest commentaries visit:
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Sea-gram reporter Martha Weisberg sent in information on a European conservation organization called BLACKFISH.
To see what they're up to, such as cutting dolphin nets in Japan and other interesting activities, visit:
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A fun divesite, where you can rent a beachfront condo, view great dive photos, and more!


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Several years ago I read

EYE OF THE WHALE, by Dick Russell, author and environmental journalist. The book inspired me to make the journey to the Baja and visit the California gray whales that Dick wrote about.

To learn more about Dick's extensive environmental work, and for information on this great book, visit:  


To view a short YouTube clip of our close encounters with the friendly gray whales of the Baja, click: Gray Whale Encounter

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Available Link! Post a link to your web site here!

for details.














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