Dec. 8 snorkeling

Marcia and I took friends out snorkeling today and the first stop was Reef Bay, on the south side of St John. I have never explored this bay very thoroughly and I found an impressive reef on the west side. The reef rises steeply up from the sand and surf was breaking in the shallow spots.
There is a variety of large healthy corals, including a nice pillar, and many fish. Best of all was the spotted eagle ray that swam along with us for quite a while.
Another sighting was the scrawled filefish, so named for the large dorsal spine and the scribbled coloration which allows it to blend in with it’s surroundings. The dorsal spine, including two on it’s tail help lock the fish into crevices, a defense against predators.
Since it is usually a slow swimmer, these attributes no doubt assist in it’s success.

We also spotted what I’m sure was a dog snapper,
a solitary swimmer of coral reefs. While both of these species are edible, both are known to be linked to ciguatera poisoning and consumption should be avoided.

Continuing on we visited Flanagan Island, a locally popular stop for snorkelers and sailors.
Most impressive here for me was the resurgence of the stag horn coral.
This is a fast growing coral, however it’s speed of growth is balanced by it’s relative fragility. It is often damaged in hurricanes and by careless anchoring.
Since stag horn coral rely almost exclusively on photosynthesis by zooxanthellae symbiotically surviving in the coral, they do best in clear, sediment free water with good sunlight transmission. Obviously the environment at Flanagan Island agrees with them.