Mozambique Expedition: Bad Weather, Weird Parrot Fish

For the month of April 2014, National Geographic Pristine Seas expedition leader Paul Rose will lead a group of key scientists and filmmakers, together with National Geographic Emerging Explorer Andrea Marshall and the Marine Megafauna Foundation, to explore, survey, and record what they expect to be some of the healthiest reefs in East Africa, home to ocean giants like manta rays, dugongs, and more.

Pristine Seas' Chief Scientist Alan Friedlander surveys the marine ecosystem during a dive in Southern Mozambique. Photo by Dave McAloney.
Pristine Seas’ Chief Scientist Alan Friedlander surveys the marine ecosystem during a dive in Southern Mozambique. (Photo by Dave McAloney)

It’s a race and we’re winning! The reefs here off the coast of Tofo are perfect for us to survey the marine biodiversity—fish, algae, and corals—in order to understand the human pressures that affect this beautiful African coastline. We must have the data, but this energetic region has other ideas and we now have a storm coming fast. So we have no choice but to make the dives and then run for the shelter of Inhambane.

Today’s Results

On the first dive, chief scientist and fish expert Dr. Alan Friedlander from Hawaii, algae specialist Dr. Kike Ballesteros from Spain, and coral specialist Dr. Phanor Montoya-Maya from Colombia worked together like a well-rehearsed ballet company. They reported that this is a healthy reef, but one that is quite clearly under pressure.

Getting this kind of nuanced analysis is one of the many benefits of diving with scientists. When seen from a layperson’s perspective, this colorful sub-tropical reef is bursting with life and appears to be thriving. Our science team can see, measure, accurately record, and even “feel” that this region is suffering from the effects of fishing pressure, exemplified by the fact that we saw very few large fish or top predators.

Mozambique has one of the fastest rates of development in the world; coastal development is occurring at a rapid pace and increasing interest in offshore oil and gas development threatens these reefs. Climate change has brought the biggest floods ever recorded, which carried enormous quantities of fresh water, silt, and debris into the sea. This human impact can’t be ignored as it is a contributing factor in forcing this reef to become another example of “life at the edge.”

A parrotfish observed in Mozambique by divers on the Pristine Seas expedition. Photo by Dave McAloney.
A parrotfish cruises by with its beak-like mouth open and ready to nibble some of the plentiful coral and algae nearby. (Photo by Dave McAloney)

I love diving with our science team and seeing one-time mysteries and challenges beginning to be understood, and a hypothesis taking shape.

Weird but True

The reef this morning was beautiful, and as normal I particularly enjoyed watching and listening to the crunching sound of parrotfish eating the reef and squirting fine sand out of their backsides. And yes, that is exactly where sandy beaches come from! As incredible as it seems, a medium-sized parrot fish produces a thousand pounds of sand a year. (Get parrot fish facts, photos, and more.)

We have just finished our second dive, and now it’s a race to the river mouth to beat the tide and shelter from the coming storm. We love having you as part of the team. Please keep checking in, comment on the site, and wish us luck in the race today!

Read All Pristine Seas: Mozambique Blog Posts

The Pristine Seas Mozambique expedition is sponsored by Blancpain and Davidoff Cool Water.

Click here to view this blog post in Portuguese

Changing Planet


Meet the Author
Paul Rose is an ardent explorer, television presenter, journalist, author, and Vice President of the Royal Geographical Society, and an Expedition Leader on the Pristine Seas team.