Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tonga - Day 10!

Hello everyone. The shipment went off without problems (weather and plane mechanical problems are common in this business). It was time to clean up and prepare for the next shipment. But first, I had to get some breakfast!

I stopped by Friend's cafe and had this great breakfast. Three egg omelette, toast, and bacon with "flat white" coffee. Most of dairy products come from New Zealand, so you can imagine how good it tastes! Back five years ago I ate at this same cafe and ordered the same breakfast. The only exception was that they didn't give any jelly for the toast. I asked the people for some jelly, and soon enough they brought me this brown stuff in a little tiny cup. I put it on my toast and wow! It was the nastiest thing ever. "What is this stuff?" It turned out to be a product called "vegemite". "Called what?" "What's it made from, cow poop?", I asked. Everyone laughed and explained that it is a popular product in Australia, used as a spread on toast and other things. "Crazy Aussies eating crazy things", I thought to myself. But heck, I guess it is an acquired taste, just like durian - the stinky fruit. This fruit is very popular in Southeast Asia and has a terrible smell, like my poop! But people love it and I can't even stand the smell!

Some entertainment from local old timers. Nice island music!

So after the hearty breakfast, I headed to the Fisheries facility to clean up the tanks and organize for the next shipment. I stayed there the whole day and waited for my guys to come back from collecting. "Eddie, check out this fish I caught, what is it?". What the heck! "Dude, you shot a blue lined trigger!" And it was a huge full grown specimen with spectacular colors. Teau also shot himself an octopus too.

Even after being dead for hours, you can still make out the beautiful colors. Check out the pink rim around its fins!

Big nasty teeth can probably take a finger off!

My heart sank as I looked at this dead gorgeous fish. The triggers are known as "chicken fish" in Indonesia because their meat does taste like chicken. It flakes off in chunks like canned albacore. "You are a savage dude, why you shoot this beautiful fish?!" "Hey man, it's food". " Ok man, you stay away from me, you might shoot me and eat me too!" We all laughed. But seriously this was a stunning fish and I wish I could've seen it alive. What many us hobbyists don't realize is that many of the fish available to us in the trade are actually juveniles. Full grown show sized tangs, triggers, angels, and other fish display the true colors of the species that we do not get to see. Big fish like this, needs to be left alone in the wild. First, big show fish like this are breeders, no need to explain how important it is to preserve the big ones that make the small ones. Second, it is too big to ship anyway and probably will die during transit.

The local name of this purple and green anemone is called "malu" anemone. But upon close inspection, it appears to be a Heteractis crispa - a sebae anemone!

So this ugly creature from the deep has been the hype for the past months. It is a sea cucumber and license to harvest these guys was released earlier this year. About ten years ago, a moratorium was set in place by the King, after the locals not trained properly on deep diving, used compressors to go collect these highly prized sea foods. Both collection and compressors were banned in Tonga waters. This is one reason why everyone uses scuba instead of the more safer and less expensive compressors. Talk of releasing licenses to harvest sea cucumbers were buzzing around even five years back when I first started my venture. Finally this year, a set of licenses were released, prompting a mass total destruction of these bottom creatures. Big greedy Asian companies from Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, using multiple licenses came in and hauled off tons of these helpless "turds". I hear the next time sea cucumbers can be harvested is in ten years.

As I have said before, wild xenias are extremely hard to ship. Still customers want to try, so I do the best I can to get these sensitive corals to them. Small specimens like this ship better than larger colonies. While I was holding to take the picture, a xenia crab came crawling out!

Here is a closer picture of the crab and xenia. Note the colors are identical to each other. Even the darker stripes on the crab matches the darker stems of the xenia - wow!

Underside reveals that it is a female full of eggs. Unfortunately these crabs eat the xenia that it is living on. I suspect that the actual damage is very little though. The crab probably eats some and the xenia simply heals back. I have seen many xenias before and never had one looked damaged because of a crab.

It was dark and I couldn't see much. I decided to take a few photos and "get out of dodge", as the mosquitoes were starting to swarm! Nice red lobo with a white rim.

Another red lobo but with green edges!

Cute little chalice with bright green eyes!

Marbled two headed Scolymia vitiensis.

So this is one of the corals that Tonga is famous for, the Acanthastrea subechinata. This particular specimen is totally unreal. The colors are actually sky blue and purple! Wow!!! Like good old MC Hammer used to say "can't touch this"!

Orange green montipora with red/pink polyps are super nice!

Red marbled favia is uncommon even in Tonga!

So take a look at this beauty! Can you guess what it is? At first glance it looks like a Cynarina lacrymalis. But the tissue is not translucent and the skeletal teeth are too small to be a Cynarina. So it can only be its cousin, the donut coral (Acanthophyllia desheysiana). The only problem is that it does not look like the Indo or Australian donut coral. Even the skeletal teeth that protrudes upwards does not look like those of an Acanthophyllia. Perhaps a new Acanthophyllia species? I have only seen one specimen so far, and this is it. I hope to find a red one someday!


Ok guys that is it for today. Tomorrow I will be heading to Jakarta. Just a few more posts and we will be done with Tonga.


1 comment:

pam@ iLoveShelling said...

wow! what gorgeous coral. I found you because Iam into shelling like you are into coral-ing. i can't identify something we found on the beach. some people hink it's some sort of coral. I'm not sure. If you are on FaceBook, go to i Love Shelling. I just posted a picture.

Any help would be appreciated! Keep up the great blog

Aquaculture Northern Bali

November Corals Collection Part. 1

November Corals Collection Part. 2

Aquaculture - November Shipment

Coral Showcase - September 2008 Inventory

Holding Facility's Corals Collection Showcase 2007