Fiji Fish Project Current Status

Our survey of the marine fishes of Fiji involved six separate collecting trips during which a total of 322 rotenone collections were made. Each collection averages about 50 to 70 different species. This has resulted in thousands of lots of fishes that now are deposited at the California Academy of Sciences, where they are available for future study.

The first two collecting trips were conducted from the marine laboratory of the University of the South Pacific in Suva on the island of Viti Levu, in 2002. A total of 85 shallow-water (generally less than 30 meters) and 25 deep (up to 124 meters) collections was made. The deep dives were conducted by a team led by Richard Pyle, using experimental rebreathing equipment. The majority of the deep-water fishes were either new records or new to science. A graduate student from the University of Kansas worked at the Suva laboratory taking tissue samples for future DNA analysis. These samples are now at the tissue collection at the University of Kansas.

The third trip was taken during March and April, 2002, and 78 more collections were made. Additional tissue samples for DNA analysis were taken from fishes during this trip, again by a University of Kansas graduate student. This trip was conducted from a 58-foot sailng vessel that traveled from Latoka up along the north shore of Viti Levu, across to the south shore of Vanua Levu, and then along the north shore of Vanua Levu. This trip was particularly productive because we were able to reach many areas that previously had not been sampled, including localities on the Great Sea Reef. We collected along the west and north shores of Viti Levu, crossed to Vanua Levu where we collected the south and west shores and then out on the Great Sea Reef. The logistics of working from the live-aboard vessel were far superior to the previous situation at the marine laboratory, and thus all future trips utilized this vessel.

The fourth trip was made in November, 2002 and covered the northeast shore of Viti Levu east to Koro Island, including Ovalau and other islands on the way. A total of 44 collections was made during this two-week trip. One of the more obvious undescribed species from this trip was a garden eel taken at Koro Island (Greenfield & Niesz, 2004).

The fifth trip, in January, 2003, was to the Northern Lau Island Group, and reached as far north as Duff Reef, an isolated, pristine atoll. A total of 40 collections was made during this trip, which was cut short due to a cyclone that hit us directly. The vessel, crew and research team survived without injury, but several days of collecting were lost.

The final trip was in May and June, 2003. This trip started at Taveuni, went north to Rabi and Budd Reef, and then west to the eastern and southern shores of Vanua Levu. We then crossed south to Viti Levu and collected Charybolis Reef and the north shore. We made 44 collections on this trip.

During all of these trips, photographs of the collected fishes were taken; in addition, underwater photographs were taken by Randall when he was present.

At the end of the last collecting trip, Greenfield (co-PI) retired from the University of Hawaii. All of the preserved fishes that had been stored at the University of Hawaii were then packed and shipped to the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) in San Francisco. Greenfield then moved to California where he is a Research Associate in the Ichthyology Department at the Academy.

During the year of a no-cost extension to this grant, Greenfield sorted the collections to the family level. Subsequent to that, identifications are being made family by family. Randall (co-PI) traveled to San Francisco from Hawaii and spent a week identifying fishes to the species level, finishing all of the wrasses, groupers, butterflyfishes, angelfishes, surgeonfishes, and miscellaneous other groups. Greenfield has removed all of the Eviota specimens from the gobies because there are many undescribed species in this genus that will be described in the near future. He also identified all of the dragonets which resulted in one new species and several new records. The pipefishes and seahorses also were completed, with several new records being found. He now is identifying the cardinalfishes and will be describing several as new.

To date two new scorpionfishes (Greenfield & Matsuura, 2002, and Randall & Greenfield, 2004) and a garden eel (Greenfield & Niesz, 2004) have been described from these collections. Many other undescribed species of which we are aware remain to be described.

It is anticipated that the end result of this project will be a book on the “Marine Fishes of Fiji.”

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