On Aug. 2, the CNMI Bio-sampling Program measured its 100,000th reef fish—a goal thought impossible when the program started in late 2010.
In celebration of this important milestone, a barbecue was held at the Carolinian Utt in Garapan on Aug. 17. Those attending included Saipan-based fish vendors, Department of Lands and Natural Resource Secretary Arnold Palacios, fishery biologists from the Pacific Islands Fishery Science Center and Division of Fish and Wildlife, as well as the Micronesian Environmental Services team and their families.
The Bio-Sampling Program is an experimental public-private partnership between the Fishery Science Center, Fish and Wildlife, and Micronesian Environmental Services, a local environmental contractor.
Micronesian Environmental Services was tasked to develop a biological data collection plan for commercial reef and bottom fish landed on Saipan. The purpose of collecting this data is to assess the condition of the local fish populations and to monitor catch composition in Saipan markets. With the support of the local fish vendors, over 1,464 commercial night spear catches, comprising over 59,000 lbs, have been surveyed since the project commenced. Over 157 different species of reef fish have been identified from Saipan markets.
In addition to gathering catch statistics and size frequency data, several commercially important species were chosen for further in-depth life history studies. These targeted species include: Laggua or Redlip parrotfish (Scarus rubroviolaceus); Mafute or Emperor fish (Lethrinus obsoletus and Lethrinus atkinsoni); Tataga or Bluespine unicornfish (Naso unicornis), and Satmoneti pintu or Dash-Dot goatfish (Parupeneus barberinus). Otoliths (ear bones) and gonads (reproductive organs) are removed by MES and DFW and the biological material is shipped to the Pacific Islands Fishery Science Center for preparation and analysis. Otoliths are used to estimating the age of fish while gonad tissue will be microscopically examined for determination of sex and reproductive maturity.
Micronesian Environmental Services acknowledges an important partner in this program—the Saipan fresh fish vendors—whose participation in this program made the goal of measuring 100,000 fish a reality. Currently, this program is funded by the Pacific Islands Fishery Science Center with supplemental funding from the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. (PR)