Tuesday, January 31, 2006

They've Found Oil!

Madagascar’s oil potential has lead to hopes for development following the opening of an ExxonMobil operation on Friday. It is believed that the NW coast could have as much as 7-10 billion barrels of oil. Drilling for this source has been proposed to be as early as 2007, which would see the development of the 1st deep water well off Madagascar.

All of this does mean the poverty stricken island of Madagascar, with ¾ of it’s population of 17 million living on under $1/day, will face tough challenges to avoid succumbing to the pressure that other African oil nations are currently experiencing.

For more information check out this website

Monday, January 30, 2006

Teeny Tiny Fish

An article on BBC News has reported that scientists have found one of the smallest fish on record in the peat swamps on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Measuring a mere 7.9mm, this fascinating of fish has abandoned some of the general adult fish attributes such as the bony protection surrounding the brain and the females have room to carry just a few eggs.

Whilst scientists may have found this particular species, owing to habitat destruction it is most likely that the same cannot be said about their miniature relatives.

Hello Goodbye and All The Stuff In Between

Another idyllic day today here in Andavadoaka: bright sunshine, blue sea, a gentle breeze rustling through the coconut palms – even the goats have given their dawn chorus a rest. Volunteers and staff are mostly out on dives, but some are busy writing up data, working on personal projects, doing snorkel surveys and learning to sail pirogues. Some may even be lying in hammocks reading…

Sadly however this expedition is drawing to a close, and with it Jenny Hyde’s term as expedition manager. She will be greatly missed by everyone here in Andavadoaka and we take this opportunity of thanking her on behalf of Blue Ventures, and of volunteers past and present, for the dedication, professionalism and energy she has put into the project since arriving here last May. We would also like to wish her luck with her preparations for departure, and in particular her attempts to pack all her leaving presents into her rucksack. We have some doubts as to whether the small goat she received from Coco Beach will fit, but if not then would be happy for “Jonny” to live amongst us here on site until transport to the UK by sea can be arranged.

This expedition will leave site tomorrow having done a huge amount of research with very limited manpower. Despite being a relatively small team, virtually all of the ambitious programme of surveys has been completed. The only exception is the ‘fish belt’ survey on Fish Bowl – a site that continues to maintain an Atlantis-like elusiveness. Even a military-style, two-boat search operation last week failed to find it, although photos from one buddy pair’s camera are tantalisingly suggestive of a near miss. Next expedition will have some exploratory diving to do…

Friday, January 20, 2006

It's Whaley Exciting

This is not necessarily conservation related, however it is aquatic and we think it’s interesting. Today in the Thames there has been an unexpected visitor – a northern bottle-nosed whale, which is 16-18ft long and is usually found in deep sea waters. Some might say it’s out of its depth (sorry!)
Check out he full story by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Who's in Power Now?

It is good to see that some politicians are taking the issue of renewable energy seriously. David Cameron and some other members of his shadow cabinet took a "lunchtime challenge" to switch their household electricity supplies to renewable providers online. In just over 4 minutes the switch was made to a company sourcing its power from a wind-farm. This “challenge” was used as a way to demonstrate how easy it can be to support the prevention of climate change.

This switch over will soon see the modern Conservative HQ office block on Victoria Street, Westminster become entirely carbon neutral, demonstrating that it may not just be a gimmick. However, gimmick or not it still gives much needed publicity to the potential that is out there for alternative power sources.

Why don’t you give it a go?

For more information click here

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Much Anticipated Site News

It's rainy season here in Andavadoaka, which means impassable roads, no fresh bread, creaking huts and leaking roofs. It also means impressive sunsets, bok bok for breakfast, spectacular lightning and good drinking water. So on balance a good time to be here! The state of the roads has also led to an exciting change of plan as regards the trip back to Toliara. Instead of cramming everyone into a camion for 20 bumpy hours overland, we will be leaving Andavadoaka in a boutre - one of the stately wooden sailing ship that plies the coast between Toliara and Morondava. A staff team led by Expedition Managers Jenny Hyde and Alex Mason swam out to the ship yesterday, and having surveyed its two-masted splendour and interviewed the captain decided that it was eminently acceptable for a Blue Ventures adventure (subject to the current cargo of dried fish being removed). So on 31 January we set sail for Toliara.

Lots more diving to do before then however, and the pace of reserach is hotting up. Everyone has now completed their PADI Advanced course, under the calm and expert instruction of Diving Manager Mark, and all volunteers are now benthic-enabled. Most are also very close to being fish-enabled - i.e capable of correctly identifying the 150-odd species we survey during 'fish belts'. The conditions have also been excellent - apart from the occasional brief storm, and we have been waking to find the sea like a mill pond, with visibility improving daily. The only exception was a bizarre visual effect one day at 15m, when a layer of cold muddy water from the Mangoki river removed the legs of one volunteer (temporarily).

Other news in brief: Saturday saw the whole team working in shifts round the clock on Andavadoaka beach in a marathon fin fish monitoring exercise with local fishermen. The aim was to get data on the fish landed during a whole day's fishing in Andavadoaka, instead of just those landed during a two hour interval. Also Club Vintsy met twice in the last week, once to paint the outside of the clubhouse and once for the official meeting. Both events were well attended by children from the village.

The whole team leaves this afternoon for a camping/diving trip on Nosy Ve, a nearby island, which will see some exploratory dives and the first deployment of a new rapid survey method. Field scientists Tom and Amelia have given us all a crash course in the new method and so tomorrow we'll be trolling up and down in snorkel teams surveying benthic coverage. Report in next update.

Finally, could whoever has borrowed fish bowl please put it back.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Fish Glorious Fish

As we mentioned previously we had eminent marine biologists visiting Andavadoaka to conduct some species surveys before Chirstmas. Here are some of the results they found:
A total of 386 fish species belonging to 182 genera and 57 families were recorded during the survey, giving Andavadoaka a total fauna of at least 529 species. Within this, the dominant groups were wrasses (Labridae), damselfishes (Pomacentridae), and groupers (Serranidae) with 55, 48, and 23 species respectively.
A total of 66 species recorded during the present survey were not seen during the previous (2002) Conservation International RAP survey of north-western Madagascar, including 28 species that represent new records for Madagascar.
Both the results of this survey combined with previous survey reveal a total reef fish fauna for Madagascar of 815 species.
If you want to check out what some of these fish look like, why not visit our the species library on our website by clicking here

An Overdue Update

Firstly we’d like to say a belated (sorry!) welcome to Expedition 19, who joined the island in time to celebrate Christmas by the ‘eating ceremony’ of Sage and Onion, our ex-resident turkeys. Following this staff and volunteers headed down to the village to join the celebrations and at midnight the British touch was introduced with the singing of Auld Lang Syne after which there was much kissing and wishing of Happy New Year to everyone. Young and old were out to see in the New Year and it was a wonderful atmosphere, enjoyed by all. On the 4th January BV staff marked the New Year in a more formal way with the Nahoda and members of the Fokoltany of Andavadoaka. BV expressed their happiness at having been working with Andavadoaka for over 2 years and were looking forward to a continued collaboration for the benefit of the village. The Nahoda expressed similar sentiments and were happy to be celebrating the New Year with BV. So it was a happy time all round.

We also have other important pieces of news to update you with. Firstly we’d like to welcome the new Expedition Manager Alex Mason who has also now arrived on site to take over from Jenny in early February.

On 5th January BV organised the first public screening of the film "A message from Andavadoaka" which was produced by independent filmmakers Richard Scrase and Christina Parau in collaboration with Blue Ventures. Two television sets were set up in the centre of Andavadoaka just outside the Mr Coco’s house and in front of the BV Noticeboard. Approximately 400 people attended the screening, from very young to very old. The film was very well received and there was much excitement - probably the first time many people had seen pictures of their village on television not to mention themselves!"