Researchers unite to learn more about the endangered fish

Wed, 09/06/2023 – 09:20 am

A multinational research team from Indonesia, Australia and the United States is searching for the habitat of one of the world’s most endangered fish, the wedge clownfish, a fish so elusive that it has only been recorded in fish markets.

Researchers from Charles Darwin University (CDU), University of Southern Mississippi (USM), and Maritime University Raja Ali Haji (UMRAH) are fishing in Indonesia’s Riau Islands in an effort to learn more about clownfish and their habitats to save them. types.

Almost nothing is known about the wedge clownfish (Rhynchopatus cookie) natural habitat or distribution because it has been only sporadically spotted in the fish markets of Singapore and Jakarta.

This comes after researchers recently found social media posts from fishermen suggesting the wedge clownfish’s habitat could be found in the southwest of Indonesia’s Riau Islands.

This research is vital in developing a conservation plan for the endangered Clown Wedgefish, said CDU Senior Investigator Dr. Peter Kane.

“Clown wedgie is incredibly rare and in decline, having been greatly affected by fishing,” he said. “Our research is trying to understand the habitat of the clownfish, for example if it lives around coral reefs, mangroves or on sand. This information will then help us develop conservation and management plans for this species.

The team recently traveled to Singkep Island in Indonesia, one of only four locations where the wedge clownfish is believed to be home.

In the field, USM Associate Professor Dr. Nicole Phillips and graduate student Emma Humphreys trained the team to take targeted environmental DNA water samples and apply that to search for the presence of clown wedgefish in the area.

The team circumnavigated the island, which lies east of Sumatra, to provide a comprehensive sample of the coastal region and nearby islets.

“During our field work, we were able to collect 100 samples from 33 sites across the island,” said Dr Phillips. “The fish secrete DNA through their scales, mucus and faeces, and this is released into the environment. Water samples will be checked to see if they contain DNA from the clown wedge fish. This will help us identify the habitat of the wedge clown fish.”

For CDU student Binaya Simeon, this work helps inform her doctoral project looking more broadly at understanding the geographic range and habitats of species and the threats they face.

“The susceptibility of this species and the intensity of its fisheries require robust research to guide conservation plans and regulations for its management,” Simon said.

“Indonesia is dominated by small-scale fishermen who rely heavily on marine resources. It is important to save the Clown Wedgefish as it is a species unique to these islands.

As part of her PhD, Simon plans to take more field trips to meet with local fishermen and traders and gain a greater understanding of how they interact with these species.

The project team also includes members of the local community who monitor the appearance of Clown Wedgefish at local fish markets.

The international collaboration, supported by Save Our Seas, hopes to secure the future of the Clown Wedgefish.

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