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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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Mares & SSI launch new promotion

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SSI expands financial support to SSI Members worldwide. 

2020 has been an unusual and challenging year for the entire world, especially the diving and travel industry!  To weather the crisis, SSI immediately jumped into action to help Training Centers and Professionals around the world.  

In response to COVID-19, SSI launched the No Water, No Problem Campaign, put Final Exams online, and held hundreds of Webinars to train Professionals on how to use distance learning to teach the dry Specialties online. The FREE SCIENCE OF DIVING promotion resulted in SSI Training Centers worldwide register over 50,000 FREE DIGITAL KITS, funding more than $3.5 MILLION IN RETAIL VALUE. Additionally, SSI introduced an aggressive DOUBLE PRO REWARDS incentive to help SSI Professionals compensate 2020 Renewal Fees and reduce those for 2021. Currently, the WE WANT YOU Crossover promotion aims to fill the industry need for instructors and strengthen the entire SSI Professional community.

Now, in conjunction with Mares, SSI is launching the GO DIVING – PROTECT YOURSELF. OWN EQUIPMENT Promotion, which includes a FREE SSI EQUIPMENT TECHNIQUES DIGITAL KIT. This new campaign strives to motivate divers worldwide to go diving and buy equipment. Look for more information on this next retail support campaign within the next few days.

“These are just a few examples of how we have supported and are continuing to support our Training Centers, Professionals, and divers worldwide. To provide even more economic security and help in business recovery, WE WILL NOT INCREASE PRICES FOR 2021. While travel was restricted and some key resort areas completely locked down, SSI mainly focused on supporting domestic markets with retail-driven incentives. Now, in this next re-opening phase, we need to shift gear and assist resort markets that have no local diving community and are 100% dependent on the traveling diver. Therefore, SSI will grant certain special conditions and delayed payment options to specific resort markets which have been locked down for longer than six months or suffered from closed borders,” stated Guido Waetzig, SSI CEO.

Guido Waetzig, SSI CEO, explains further, “To financially support these needed investments which directly benefit SSI Members and to protect the health of our valuable members and staff, we will forego all 2021 Trade Shows over the next 12 months. Despite international uncertainty, every time we experience one of these events, the entire SSI Network emerges stronger and more resilient. Be assured, SSI is your trustful partner within the Diving Industry!”

For more information about SSI visit their website by clicking here.

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Photo Gallery: Shark Diving in The Bahamas

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In our Gallery feature, we let the photos tell the story… Each Gallery showcases a selection of outstanding images on a chosen theme, taken by our Underwater Photography Editor Nick and Deputy Editor Caroline of Frogfish Photography. This time they look at Shark Diving in The Bahamas.


The Bahamas offers some of the very finest shark diving experiences in the world. The islands have protected sharks in their waters creating one of the first Shark Sanctuaries in the world. Several species of shark can be seen and photographed, with each island offering a different type of shark diving, making this destination the perfect place for a multi-island, multi-shark trip of a lifetime.

Great Hammerhead Shark diving in Bimini

Bull Sharks in Bimini

Tiger Shark off Grand Bahama

Oceanic Whitetip Shark off Cat Island

Nurse Shark off Abaco

Caribbean Reef Sharks off New Providence

Lemon Sharks off Grand Bahama

For more images from The Bahamas and around the world, visit the Frogfish Photography website by clicking here.

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