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Hawk fish – Cirrhitidae

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Hawk fishes are everywhere on the reef, perching on finger corals on shallow reefs, darting around the pinnacles in surge waters or perched motionless on a black coral in deep water.

Wherever you dive on shallow reefs, you will find the speckled hawk fish, also called Falco’s Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco) perched on the finger corals, peering and gulping, poised to flit away. These little guys are colourful, easily spotted, and ready to hang about for photographs so they are a favourite with photographers. Their fleshless lower fins protect them from damage from the coral, and they can even perch on fire corals without being harmed.

Hawkfishes are grouper- like in appearance, and share many of the same features as the Scorpion fish family. However, unlike the Groupers or the Scorpion fish, the hawkfish does not have a swim bladder. Because of the lack of a swim bladder he is less able to adjust his buoyancy than normal fish, and perches in high places, just like a hawk, surveying his kingdom, waiting to dart down and grab a tasty morsel, feeding on crustaceans and small invertebrates.

He relies on propulsion to move from place to place, propelling himself from a higher position to reach a lower goal, and this darting swooping motion gives him his name, as he is quite bird-like in his movements. Normally solitary, you can occasionally find him as one of a pair towards evening, as it is in the evenings that you can find the hawkfish mating. This is quite a romantic ritual, as he waits for a fertile female, and entices her with his snout, cooing and weaving around her, until she is ready to ascend. At the highest point of the mating dance she releases her eggs, and he releases his sperm, which merge and sink down into the rubble bottom, to remain there as eggs until they are ready to hatch.

On deeper reefs you might be lucky enough to spot the swallow tail hawkfish (Cirrhitidae Polyactis). These are almost always found in groups. These little hawkfish are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning that the largest female with become male once the dominant male dies, and takes over his harem.

In Mauritius we have often hunted for one of the most sought after of the hawk fish species, the rare and beautiful Long Nosed Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typis Bleeker). Common in the Pacific, this little guy is an absolute jewel in Indian Ocean waters. Searching for him can take you down to 18-24 metres where sometimes, on the crystal white leaves of the Black coral which only grows below 18 metres you can occasionally, very rarely, find him. Coin de Mire in Mauritius is home to at least two of these rare little creatures.

Even more unusual is the Two spot hawk fish, and in 16 years of diving I have only ever seen two of these amazing little creatures. They are very shy, and hang out inside the Staghorn corals, so they are almost impossible to see, and as soon as you do see them they dart away.

The Marbled or Giant Hawk fish (Cirrhitus rivulatus). is caught commercially and sold as a food fish in some waters, but on the East Coast these guys are found in only surge waters, and on the East Coast there are very few places where they occur. They are brilliantly camouflaged, extremely timid and hard to spot.

I have had some of my most exciting dives hunting for these guys, as shallow surge reefs can be dangerous to divers. One of them is on the tightly controlled Quarter Mile reef at Sodwana Bay and hunting the Giant Hawkfish there is almost as exciting as looking for pregnant Ragged Tooth Sharks, who go there in December to gestate.


Words Jill Holloway

Pic David Holloway

Copyright Ocean Spirit

www.osdiving.com

Jill Holloway lives in Mauritius and at Sodwana Bay Isimangaliso Wetland Park in South Africa. A PADI qualified Nitrox diver with over 1,500 dives, she is a passionate observer and preserver of the marine environment, and has a database of over 35,000 fish pics and hundreds of Gopro videos on fish behaviour, which she shares with her readers.

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Get moving with the new RAID DPV training programs

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The thrill of speeding through the water behind a diver propulsion vehicle (DPV) is an experience that really gets the blood racing. Using a DPV provides divers both immense fun and the means to achieve goals that would be impossible without their use.

RAID is proud to announce the new two-tier DPV training program with certifications for DPV and Advanced DPV.

Why DPV and why now?
Recreational and technical divers are using DPVs to access sites that would be difficult to reach and explore using traditional propulsion methods; to help propel large amounts of heavy equipment; to increase the safety of dives in areas of strong current; or just for the pure exhilaration of shooting through the water at speed and performing underwater acrobatics.

By extending your capabilities and extending your range, using a DPV opens new vistas for exploration and fun.

DPV
This certification option is aimed at the recreational diver who wishes to learn how to use a DPV to enhance their diving by using mainly natural navigation.

Advanced DPV
This certification option is available to anyone who is familiar with longhose configuration, has logged a minimum of 20 dives and is certified as Navigation specialty divers.

This certification option is aimed at the slightly more experienced diver with preexisting navigational training and diving on a single, twin or sidemount setup with a longhose. Although this level is slightly more challenging, the more advanced navigation exercises provide an important base for more complex types of DPV diving within a team.

PREREQUISITES
You must:

  • Be a minimum of 12 years old.
  • Be certified as RAID Open Water 20, Junior Open Water or equivalent.

Just visit www.diveRAID.com to put some extra dash into your dives.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Beers raise cash for ocean clean-up

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The Driftwood Spars Brewery, a pioneering microbrewery based on the North Cornwall coast, is donating a percentage of all profits from its Cove range of beers to Fathoms Free, a certified charity which actively cleans the ocean around the Cornish peninsula.

Each purchase of the small-batch, craft beers – there are four different canned beers in the Cove range – will help generate funds to purchase a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and fund retrieval dives; every brew will raise the equivalent cost of a fully-funded dive. 

Fathoms Free is a Cornwall-based charity whose day-to-day mission involves dives from their fast-response specialist vessel to recover ghost fishing gear; abandoned nets, pots, angling equipment and other plastic causes severe damage to the marine environment and the death of countless seabirds, seals, dolphins and other sea life.

The campaign to raise funds for an ROV is a new initiative which will take the clean-up work to a new level; the highly manoeuvrable underwater vehicle will be used to scour the seabed, harbours and remote parts of the coastline for abandoned fishing gear and other marine litter.

Project Manager Natallia Paliakova from Fathoms Free said: “Apart from helping us locate ghost gear underwater, the ROV will also be capable of recording underwater video which is always great for raising awareness about marine pollution issues.”

She added: “We are really excited to be partnering with The Driftwood Spars Brewery and appreciate the proactive support of Mike and his team in bringing the purchase of an ROV a step closer to reality.”

Head Brewer Mike Mason personally approached the charity after their work was featured on the BBC 2 documentary, ‘Cornwall with Simon Reeve’.    

He said: “As a keen surfer I am only too aware of the problem of marine litter and had heard about Fathoms Free, but seeing them in action prompted me to find a way of contributing. The scale of the challenge is scary, but the determination of organisations like Fathoms Free is inspiring.”

Photo by Beagle Media Ltd

Photo by Beagle Media Ltd

The Driftwood Spars Brewery was founded in 2000 in Trevaunance Cove, St Agnes; the microbrewery is just a few steps away from it’s co-joined brewpub, The Driftwood Spars; both pub and brewery are well-regarded far beyond the Cornish cove they call home. 

You can hear the waves and taste the salt on the air from the door of both brewery and pub, and the rough seas along the rugged North coast often throw up discarded nets and other detritus; Louise Treseder, Landlady of The Driftwood Spars and a keen sea swimmer, often collects washed up ghost gear on her daily beach excursions.     

Louise commented: “This is a great partnership to support a cause close to our hearts – I know the money we raise will have a positive and lasting impact. The Cove range was inspired by our unique surroundings and the artwork – by local artist Jago Silver – reflects that. Now donations from each purchase will contribute towards the vital ocean clean-up taking place right on our doorstep.”

The Cove range can currently be purchased online here, and is available in good independent bottle shops in Cornwall.

To find out more about Fathoms Free visit their website here.

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