Friday, October 17, 2014

Anavissos Underwater: A 40 minute snorkeling break

Mavro Lithari Beach next to HCMR headquarters Anavissos Attika. Tall tamarisks, humid late afternoon. Paradise.

October 16th 2014

With a camera in the water you feel like a hunter. A collector of rare images, perfect stills - priceless portraits. Documents from paradise. 

I cherish these portraits; although I actually rarely carry the camera - I feel it actually distracts from my roving snorkel survey pastime (another fish-watching story). 

At HCMR headquarters, about 50 km south of Athens, we have a piece of Mediterranean paradise in our backyard. I went in and shot several photos with the liberal use of its flash yesterday (I already mentioned the Percnon crabs here in a recent post). The camera I am using has a zoom feature so many of these are well framed but very "grainy". Some of these are edited for exposure. I use a Stylus Tough series with underwater case. The camera costs about 350 Euros, the case maybe 400 Euros. Instruments of total perfection - bringing nature into the digital world.

So this is what marine biodiversity is like in the Western Aegean...
All shots in this blog post were taken during a very enjoyable 40 mins in the water just yesterday!

Typical warm evening with about 10 m. visibility. Sand smelt Atherina sp. approached by a young bold sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax).
Another, larger sea bass with box-lipped grey mullets (Oedalechilus labeo). Perhaps its moving with the mullet school as cover.
Dusky rabbitfish (Siganus luridus) - a Lessepsian migrant waiting for wrasse cleaning. 
A very small dusky grouper Epinephelus marginatus, perhaps about 6 cm TL.

Baby dusky grouper; one of the cutest and most endangered of the fishes encountered.
Triplefin species (Tripterygion sp.); macro shot - really tiny but well lit with the flash.
Also a Tripterygion species, these Triplefins are common in the rock fissures - perhaps because I was out in the overcast evening more were evident this time.
Cropped close-up of the dazzling Triplefin.
The commonest wrasse on the beach rock reefs is this Peacock Wrasse Thalassoma pavo.

Groupers are my favorite fishes out here - they are more evident in late summer - I see two or three in 100 m. of shallow reef.
The striped red mullet Mullus surmuletus. 

The striped red mullet Mullus surmuletus. It was hiding under the crevasse in total darkness.
Pompano (Trachionotus ovatus) with grey mullets near the little pier  (build with sandbag cement).
Mugilids in a turbid patch among the beach rocks and staircase for summer tourists. 
Grey mullets feeding in algae rich shallows of the beach rocks.
Scorpionfish (Scorpaena sp.). in a fissure under the pier. 
Some kind of Goby (or 'sand goby'), Gobius species. Actually looks a lot like Gobius bucchichi
Zvonimir's blenny (Parablennius zvonimiri); a common denizen of rocky areas with lots of sponges.
My first observatoin of Lipophrys trigloides, the Combtooth Blenny, normally active at night (thanks to D. Koutsogiannopoulos for the identification).
A herbivorous fish, the commonest of blennies on the beach rocks: Parablennius sanguinolentus.

HCMR Fisheries Meeting in Athens

October 17th 2014.
Fisheries in Greece: Patterns, Trends, Perspectives

A public information meeting organized by our Fisheries Department of IMBRIW (Institute of Marine Biological Resources and Inland Waters) – HCMR*

Impressive day, although I arrived late, at noon.... I have never before been to a public meeting where 30 distinguished scientists and experts gave a summary of their work within a open-to-the-public day-event. And I am sure this is a first of its kind for fisheries in Greece: where the issue focused on describing a truly problematic national fisheries situation. Greece's fisheries and the sea's biological riches have severe problems and face severe threats. So this meeting was a real 'marine environmental gift'.

It was a resounding success. The amphitheater hall at the Hellenic Ministry of Environment on Mesogeion street in Athens was chalk full with fish-interested people. The meeting begun at about 9:00 and ended nearly on time, at about 18:30. It was impressive, how many people were so engaged in what these odd scientists and environmentalists had to say. And we also heard from major NGOs and a fisher's prospective as well. All in a very long day.

I'm sorry I have a limited selection of photos; but here's what I did in snap-shot form. Apologies for the quirky commentary; I am trying to be humorous! 

HCMR legends Kavadas (at L) and Machias (way to the R).

NGO environmentalist Ms Roumelioti  (far Left) mentions the highly charged word "overfishing"!!

Smith of HCMR - Crete (on Left) discovered "deep and sensitive ecosystems".... excellent presentations - no kidding!.
Seriously dressed Vassilopoulou (of HCMR) and Tsikliras (A.Univ.Thessaloniki) facilitated a fast-paced organization. (Sorry I don't know the pretty lady's name at Left).
Maravelias of HCMR commented on species biomass declining ("look at black line" [below]...).
Excellent PPT slide by Maravelias. Really one of the best presentations - bravo!
Standing room only even after midday at the Ministry of Environment Amphitheater on a Friday.

Some well-known faces and youth too in the audience: Yes most are scientists and immediate research stakeholders.
Tsikliras (AUT) and Moutopoulos (Messolonghi Tech Univ) on Righ with the MIKE. Young Greeks who know fisheries well. 
Stergiou (our Director) with big fish fisheries expert Tserpes (HCMR Crete, at Right). 

Koutsikopoulos (Univ. Patras), Fafouti (newspaper lady from Vima Science), Machias, Stergiou, Tserpes.
Zannes from the island of Andros. A fisherman who really knows how to express overfishing impacts.
Zannes: "I'm not doing it for the environment, its for myself, my kids". Eloquent speech by the 'Fisherman'. 

*Our Institute of Marine Biological Resources and Inland Waters has two sections (or departments I would like to say): "Fisheries" and "Inland Waters": check us out at:

HCMR stands for Hellenic Centre for Marine Research; it is a public research organization, so anything I say in this blog represents only my personal views and interpretations, nothing to do with my day job. Thanks.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

'Tropical' crab Percnon gibbesi at HCMR Attika Greece

OK summer is over but the place looks to me like a tropical paradise: Our institutes' backyard.

October 16th 2014 HCMR Anavissos Attika 

Went out for a quick snorkel at our backyard Aegean rocky bay this evening. This place is only about 50 meters from my work office at HCMR, so while others may smoke or flirt in the Cafeteria I can slip into a comfortable autumn sea. No one is out there. Its a great way to wake-up a bit after so much office work...

This summer I have been noticing the nimble spray crabs Percnon gibbesi  (Grapsidae) and wanted to just take some snapshots. These are fantastic super thin, fairly large and fast crabs. They seem so tropical to me. And they are aliens: first recorded in Greece in 2004 and now established in many areas in the southern half of the Aegean and in the Ionian. They are considered one of the fastest spreading invasives (first Mediterranean record was in 1999). Originally they are from the warm temperate and tropical Atlantic and Eastern Pacific. In many southern Greek coasts the desities of these fascinating creatures are already high. Today, I easily counted about 15 crabs in a beach-rock shoreline of about 100 m. distance. Small ones and larger ones also. They are vegetarians picking up algae in super-quick mechanical action. I also found one or two native crabs. Fascinating Mediterranean invasion ecology!

Super close-up of Percnon gibbesi
Feeding on algae rapidly amongst the boulders.
Upside down, fast and nimble like a cockroach!
Exotic colours, elegant - outlandish and alien.
Native crab, perhaps in the genus Pachygrapsus. Are they competing? 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Portugal and HCMR collaborate on freshwater mussel research

Expedition team members Ronaldo Sousa, Amilcar Teixeira, Ioannis Karaouzas (HCMR), Manuel Lopez-Lima, and Simone Varandas

 October 2014 HCMR fieldwork with the Portuguese team 

We had a wonderful collaboration with a Portuguese team of specialists working on the biogeography, taxonomy and conservation science of freshwater bivalves, usually called freshwater mussels. These animals are really scarce since they have specialized ecological requirements and are vulnerable to river and lake degradation (habitat disturbance, dessication, pollution). They are really important biogeographical indicators. Scientific work on these bivalves in Greece has really lagged behind and important gaps exist - we don't even know the species' taxonomically valid names. So a phylogeography and systematic distributional survey is imperative. I share some snapshots from our recent fieldwork with Europe's top freshwater mussel specialists and thank them for all they have taught us. Thanks to Manuel Lopez-Lima, Ronaldo Sousa, Amilcar Teixeira, and Simone Varandas. Ioannis Karaouzas from HCMR also shares in this fascinating research project.

Organizations collaborating with HCMR scientists in this research include include the following:
  • CIIMAR/CIMAR - Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research, University of Porto, Rua dos Bragas 289, 4050-123 Porto, Portugal.
  • CITAB-UTAD - Centre for Research and Technology of Agro-Environment and Biological Sciences, University of Trasos-Montes and Alto Douro, Apartado 1013, 5001-811 Vila Real, Portugal.
  • CIMO-ESA-IPB - Mountain Research Centre, School of Agriculture, Polytechnic Institute of Bragança, Campus de Santa Apolónia, Apartado 1172, 5301-854 Bragança, Portugal.
  • CBMA - Centre of Molecular and Environmental Biology, University of Minho, Campus de Gualtar, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal. 

Serious mud work in the canal waters of former Lake Kopais in Beotia Central Greece. Fantastic mussel find here!
Expedition team processing mussels near Aliartos town on the Kifissos basin (former Lake Kopais). 
Incredibly large Anadonta mussels in the Beotian Kifissos basin.
Open-air lab at Lake Yliki (Photograph by Ioannis Karaouzas).
The inside of a local Anadonta mussel. This specimen is sacrificed in order to collect the shell. 

Lake Beletsi - last year there were mussels here - this year, only a single living specimen was found!
Mussels from Beletsi Lake on Mount Parnitha. Probably introduced with fishes from the Kifissos Basin. 
The team explores "Secret Lake". Permission was granted to enter the reservoir after a discussion with the local Guards: thanks!
Secrete Lake is definitely one of the most beautiful landscapes in Attika. This is only 25 km from Athens!
We found no mussels at Secret Lake; so we decided to walk along the shore.
These are huge Oriental Planes besides a stream near Secret Lake. Thanks nature.
Unusually high autumn water levels at Secret Lake. Yes I forgot my snorkeling gear again!
Taking a genetic sample - a small part of the "foot" and gonad.
The team processed about 25 mussels in less than an hour; nearly all returned back alive -only a tiny piece of "foot" missing.

The Beotian Kifissos entering Lake Yliki, a rich environment for rare bivalves and fish (Photo: I. Karaouzas)

Lake Yliki in Beotia, Eastern Central Greece. Its fauna includes several endemics and rarities distinctive of the Western Aegean Ecoregion.

Manuel looks out across Lake Yliki. A unique lake-scape with a tranquility reminiscent of the Aegean islands.