Wow, has the marine life been strong for diving in Key Largo this year! Just an update, this summer has been amazing for marine Life here…again…we’re happy to report! So in addition to the abundance of tropicals, schooling fishes, etc, that we always see on our reefs here…we’ve been seeing multiple Reef Sharks daily while scuba diving, a good amount of Spotted Eagle Rays, and Tarpon! While corals have been struggling here, as well as everywhere in the world due to rising seas temperatures, it’s hopeful that our marine life seems to be doing so well!
This isn’t a totally new phenomenom in Key Largo, as our scuba divers have been seeing increasing numbers of Caribbean Reef Sharks for several years now. But they are definitely peaking this year. At this point we can say that we’re seeing them on the majority of dives, (more than 50%). Last week on Molasses Reef, divers reported seeing between 8 – 10 Reef Sharks on one dive alone! According to Wikipedia… “Measuring up to 3 m (9.8 ft) long, the Caribbean reef shark is one of the largest apex predators in the reef ecosystem, and they are believed to play a major role in shaping Caribbean reef communities.”
Last week a school of about 20 large Tarpons went cruising by several of our divers on a dive on Molasses Reef! And several times over the last weeks divers have come across Tarpons, either large single ones, or in pairs. Strength, stamina, and fighting ability, make the tarpon a premier game fish in Key largo as well as the entire sate of Florida. This is generally the time of year scuba divers see them come in on the reef, and this year their numbers have been up. They are bright silver with large scales…and can grow to about 4–8 ft long and weigh 60–280 lbs according to Wikipedia. They do school at times, which can be exciting to watch while scuba diving.
So come on down and go scuba diving in Key Largo, the marine life, always one of the Keys’ biggest attraction, is really doing well! An while you’re at it if you want to dive with Sea Dwellers Dive Center that’s cool with us too!
The dreaded Lionfish….feared, hated, hunted and killed by scuba divers and others. And now according to keysnews.com, “Branded as Enemy of the Seas” by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). We just learned that now FWC is proposing a series of Bills that would “make it easier to eradicate lionfish from Florida waters.” Probably by now most of you have heard that the Lionfish is a problem, as it’s not indigenous to the Atlantic, and therefore has no natural predators.
So far, there are places in the Atlantic where they seem to be proliferating at an unnatural rate. Dive Centers in North Carolina report that it is not uncommon for their scuba divers diving wrecks off shore to report seeing “dozens” on a single dive. And according to NOAA Scientist James Morris, lionfish are “obese” from eating the local marine life in these waters.
In the Bahamas, where the first Lionfish were seen around 2005, they are plentiful on the reefs and wrecks. Some Bahamian dive operators are actually spearing the fish while guiding divers.
So why are Lionfish bad? According to the World Lionfish Hunters Association, “Invasive lionfish are out-breeding, out-competing and out-living native fish stocks and other marine species. The consequences impact the food security and economies affecting over a hundred million people.”
According to the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, (REEF), “Indo-pacific Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans) have been documented along the entire US East Coast from Florida through Massachusetts, east to Bermuda and south throughout the Caribbean. The expansion has been extremely rapid and exponential in scope.”
The Florida Keys have seen the arrival of the Lionfish, but perhaps not to the extent of these other places to date. The Florida Keys has been quite active in efforts to control the invasive species. REEF puts on a series of fishing derbies throughout Florida and the Caribbean with cash prizes for those who capture the most, largest and smallest lionfish. Last year in Key Largo, the derby brought in 461 fish and bestowed awards of up to $1,000. Dive operators report sightings on the reefs and wrecks so that REEF and other entities who are licensed to capture Lionfish can get to the spot and do just that. So far, at least on the main reef areas, numbers of Lionfish are modest at best. Weather or not this situation will change is anybody’s guess. But these efforts do appear to be helping to limit the proliferation of Lionfish in Keys waters, and has been doing so for some years now, which is hopeful.
We can say that scuba divers diving with Sea Dwellers Dive Center report very modest numbers of Lionfish on dives off Key Largo to date. We can even go a day or two without seeing one on a dive. We can only hope this situation is stable, and hope that the on-going efforts here at controlling these fish continue to work. Anyone interested in assisting REEF can contact them, they would love to hear from you!
Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo
This bodes well for scuba diving the Florida Keys, as water temperatures reflect this warm trend. In Key Largo, reef water temps have been between 75 and 78 degrees all through the winter so far. This is something that hasn’t escaped our notice…especially our Scuba Instructors, who certainly prefer the warm temperatures! More importantly, our dive customers have certainly noticed this as reflected in the many positive comments we’ve gotten about dive conditions!
And according to USA Today, “The southernmost point of the United States sits in the Florida Keys, which boast warm February beach weather. Temperatures in the Keys stay constant for most of the year, with highs ranging from 75 to 90 degrees and lows from 65 to 80 degrees. February highs generally reach the mid-70s, with lows in the mid-60s. The Keys stretch for roughly 110 miles and offer beaches on both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.”
So get out of the cold and come on down and dive Key Largo with Sea Dwellers Dive Center, you won’t regret it…especially this Winter!