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.

Sport Diver - - Contents -

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

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