Volunteer Blog

New Species Found In SS No Take Zone

Dr Mark Erdmann logs his findings after a dive

We have just undertaken a scientific survey of the marine biodiversity of our two conservation zones in Raja Ampat. The survey was undertaken By Dr Gerry Allen, who is an internationally renowned authority on the classification and ecology of coral reef fishes of the Indian and Pacific Oceans & Dr Mark Erdmann who is head of Conservation International’s Bird’s Head programme.

Gerry & Mark hit the second highest fish species count ever reached on a single dive, with 357 fish species recorded giving further evidence that our conservation area is the biodiversity Bull’s Eye of the Coral Triangle. Their four day rapid assessment survey was conducted to provide important base-line data. During the expedition Gerry & Mark also discovered 2 fish species previously unknown to science one of which is a Dottyback (genus Pseudochromis; family Pseudochromidae) and the other is a Goby (genus Trimma; family Gobiidae), with a third new species to be confirmed.

Highlights from 4 day survey in the Sea Sanctuaries’ No Take Zone:

  • 357 fish species recorded on a single dive – second highest count ever
  • 2 new fish species discovered – third new species is pending confirmation
  • Average number of species per site: 281 (“exceptionally diverse” – Dr Mark Erdmann)
  • 3 sites recorded over 300 species
  • 707 fish species recorded within the 5,600 hectare No Take Zone surrounding the island of Penemu

Dr Gerry Allen said “The Penemu area is home to an incredible wealth of fish diversity, undoubtedly one of the richest areas for tropical marine diversity on the planet. Our total of 707 species, recorded in just a few days in such a relatively small area is absolutely exceptional.”

New species of dottyback, photo courtesy of M Erdmann

New species of goby, photo courtesy of M Erdmann

Simon Day, Co-Founder of Sea Sanctuaries Trust added “The NTZ area was targeted by Sea Sanctuaries Trust because some of the first scientific surveys in 2001 already showed exceptional biodiversity in Penemu. That we are still discovering new species and reaching record species counts highlight the importance of the Penemu area, and Raja Ampat in general, in the effort to preserve marine habitats that sadly remain under very real threat. Dr Allen & Dr Erdmann’s findings give Sea Sanctuaries, and the local communities in the Fam Islands, renewed optimism for the future of the area we have pledged to protect.”

You can see a short video of Gerry & Mark’s survey on YouTube