Easter Island: Where Are the Fish?

Marine ecologist and National Geographic Fellow Enric Sala reports that during his initial dives at Easter Island, he saw some of the healthiest coral communities anywhere, but practically no fish.
Corals fluorish beneath the clear blue water off Easter Island, but the team saw no lobsters and no large fish on Enric Sala’s first day of dives.
By Enric Sala

On our first two dives at Easter Island today, the water was extremely clear and quite warm. The corals looked healthy, really gorgeous. There were only a handful of species, but most of the bottom was covered by healthy, living coral. Yet I didn’t see a single big fish.
The old-time divers here tell us that there used to be more fish, bigger fish, and lobsters. We didn’t see a single lobster today. And most of the fishes were very small, the size of a cell phone. Tiny.
We need to dive more, see more, and get to the remote and protected Salas y G√≥mez Island and see what’s there–more and larger fish and lobsters?
Coral has begun to colonize a replica moai statue in waters near Easter Island’s Honga Roa dock.
The most curious thing we saw on our dives was a moai–a big stone head and torso–that Michel and Henri Garcia at the Orca dive center and others put underwater to recreate an actual moai that fell from a boat about 50 years ago. It was covered by some encrusting algae and small corals.
At dusk we went to see the altar and 15 moai at Ahu Tongariki. The sun set behind the nearby mountain that all the heads were carved from, and the last rays of sunlight dressed the mythical figures with a short-lived red flash. I wondered how many generations of Rapa Nui contemplated these statues and thought about the catch that was waiting for them on that dark blue ocean behind them.
Enric Sala admiring the moai at Ahu Tongariki as the sun sets behind him.
Photos by Enric Sala (underwater) and Ford Cochran

The science team will share frequent updates and media from the expedition, including photographs, videos and links to Google maps, here on the National Geographic News Watch blog. You can also follow the expedition on Google Earth by clicking on the blue ship icon located where the expedition begins near Easter Island, roughly 2,000 miles (3,300 km) northwest of Santiago, Chile. (Make sure the “Places” layer is turned on).

National Geographic and Oceana are members of Mission Blue

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