Rapa Nui: Desolation

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The shifting of the South winds to North allowed us to work at the southeast coast of Rapa Nui today.

In a place this remote, where the nearest recompression chamber is across the Pacific ocean on Chile, we try to work safely as much as possible. 

We take our fishermen captain’s boat 45 minutes around the island to reach our site of interest. In stark contrast to the reefs at Anakena, this reef is dominated by small branching corals, Pocillopora, and an abundance of sea urchins. I’ve never seen such a dense population of urchins in my life. Like Anakena, there is a eerie lack of fish; only small damselfish and the occasional butterfly fish can be seen darting about.

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As the day progressed, swells picked up and James and I are thrown side to side 15ft at a time while attempting to finish our surveys.

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Part of Nicolas’ project includes analysis of fish stomachs for micro-plastics. The size of the fish caught on reefs is shockingly small, a prime example of what scientists have observed as “fishing down the food web”, as large/top predator fish are taken first for food; when big fish are gone, the next biggest fishes become prime targets for fishermen until only the smallest fish remain.

We were successful, albeit cold and tired at the end of the day.