Simon Chance talks about groundbreaking research into wolf fish, presents his final batch of MSDS, and bids farewell to the readership, plus news from Project AWARE.
It is said often that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ and, as with quite a few denizens of the deep, the wolf fish probably benefits in that respect. Lacking the flashy brilliance of Spanish dancers, the cute pink perfection of the pygmy seahorse, or the sheer impressive power of great whites and orcas, their blue-grey, slightly belligerent look might need a very talented agent to gain them a leading rôle in fishy film features. As divers and conservationists, however, by our very nature we tend to look beyond the surface, seeing more than first meets the - albeit slightly wary - eye. These tough customers live in some very challenging habitats, and diet on crabs and urchins that would challenge lesser mouthparts, so their rather ‘prehistoric’ look is very much a product of their purpose. And, as anyone who has dived the Arnarnes chimneys in Iceland will attest, they can be strangely lovable too. Erlendur Bogason, his daughter Sævör Dagný, and their guests at Strýtan Dive Centre - who are tasked with stewardship of the impressive hydrothermal chimney structures in Eyjafjörður , off the Arnarnes peninsula - have become very fond of the local inhabitants; and, it seems, the sentiment is returned in kind by the fish themselves! Diving so often in these waters, Erlendur and Sævör in particular are able to identify individuals by appearance and behaviour, as much as by their location, and one particularly cuddly native will both roll over to have her tummy tickled, and even perch on divers’ shoulders to be petted and pose for photographs. This close and seemingly natural interaction has a serious side, however, as the wolf fish is a threatened species, so the ability to study them so closely and regularly has real scientific value. This friendly fish - named Stefanie on the spur of the moment, after Bob Ballard’s assistant on an expedition to the Arnarnes chimneys in 2011 - has provided great insights into breeding behaviour, to the extent that Erlendur was able to use the knowledge in studies of others in the area. This further research has been wonderfully supported by local businesses and diving friends, so Stefanie and her friends are now contributing greatly to better understanding of why wolf fish stocks are decreasing. Contact Strýtan Dive Centre and fall in love with these fascinating fish; it’ll be close to Valentine’s Day when this issue hits the doormats, after all!
As well as wolf fish, iceland boasts stunning dives such as the silfra rift