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"Where do animals go during a Hurricane"?
"Do Fish Feel Pain"?
"Do we have seals in the Caribbean"?
|By: LeRoy French
31 October 2008
Today I am going to answer the above three questions that many people wonder about.
Animals and Hurricanes:
The past week I was diving the local reefs and assessing any damage that might have
occurred from 'Omar'. The majority of seagrass in the area has been uprooted and has
caught on the coral reefs and lodged in the crevasses. This grass on one of the reefs has
become fair game for a number of green sea turtles. I ccunted 4 on one dive feeding on the
grass. There are multitudes of fish in openwater feeding on floating plankton and other
nutrients, so Omar did not seem to upset the marine ecosystem to much.
Now, have you ever wondered what the fish do when a hurricane is approaching, well here
is the information.
Sharks have been known to swim out to sea in deeper water, and during the 2004 tsunami,
elephants left the coastal region for higher ground.
A fascinating hurricane phenomenon is how sharks sense pressure change associated with
storms. Prior to hurricane Charley in 2004. eight tagged sharks with marine hydrophones
moved to openwater. Two disappeared from range completely. It seems as though their
departure coincided with decreasing air and water presssure.
There is an acccunt of a dolphin and its calf being trapped in a lagoon in Thailand after the
tsunami, but many other dolphins seemed to have sensed the pressure change and swam
So I think we can safely assume that most marine life head out to deeper water and the
smaller reef fish, turtles etc., find suitable shelter on the reefs and more than likely on any
sunken wrecks in the area.
Seals in the Caribbean:
I bring up this question mainly because in the past week, sea lions were spotted in our
local waters. Eventually it was documented that they had escaped from a marine facility in
St. Kitts during 'Omar'. But the question has arised as to whether seals inhabit our waters.
There was a time when we did have a population of seals in the Caribbean, sadly I must
say that they have become extinct.
This seal was known as the Caribbean Monk Seal or "West Indian" monk seal. They were
fairly large and grew to about 8 feet in length, weighing in between 375-600 Ibs. The males
were slightly larger than the females.
They used to be found in sub-tropical and tropical waters of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico
and Western Atlantic. They inhabited the Greater Antilles, Lesser Antilles, Jamaica, Cuba
and other local waters.
Sightings of the Caribbean Monk Seal is occasionally reported, but after extensive
surveys this species has not been seen since 1952. The sightings are usually attributed to
harbor seals, hood seals and harp seals that can travel great distances. It does however
have a relative. The Hawaiian Monk seal and the Mediterranean Monk seal both species of
which are on the endangered list.
Unfortunately the Caribbean Monk Seal became and easy target for hunters while resting
or nursing their pups on the beach. The last sighting as I mentioned was in 1952 and that
was on Seranilla Bank in the Caribbean.
Eventually humans left the Caribbean Monk Seal population uninstainable after
overhunting, and this of course led to their demise.
So the answer to this question is no. We no longer have seals in the Caribbean.
Fish and Pain:
I don't know about the rest of you but this question has always intrigued me.
There is actually a lot of science to support the fact that fish feel pain.
A dutch researcher, John Verheijen experimented with carp. The fish would be caught and
then released. It was noted that when the fish was released it stopped eating for a
considerable amount of time, it also showed stress like behaviour by darting around and
shaking its head. Though the study concluded that the fish felt pain by being hooked, most
of its behaviour was a fear response.
Okay, we need to use a little common sense here. Obviously if you take your pet fish and
put a hook in its mouth and dangle it out of the water for awhile it's got to feel something.
The answer to this question is left to our imagination.