Inspiring Tomorrow's Ocean Heroes One Fish At A Time In The Cayman Islands

Osprey, Florida   May 01, 2013   Travel News
(PRLEAP.COM) Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands (May 1, 2013) – It's late afternoon and rush hour has started at a busy coral head located in a shallow reef not far from the Ocean Frontiers Dive Shop located at Compass Point Dive Resort on the East End of Grand Cayman. The locals, Sergeant Majors, Blue Tangs, Parrotfish, Chubs and other reef fish, begin commuting from one place to another in their reef community, and inquisitive eyes are watching and taking note.

"The busiest time is dusk between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.," observes Steve Broadbelt, owner of Ocean Frontiers. "There is a lot of fish activity as they come across from point A to point B, and this is just by day, we don't know what they are doing at night." Two thousand miles away in Denver, Colorado, 16 year old Parker Lindsay is watching the same reef activity and also picking up a pattern. "I tend to watch around 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mountain Time, and during these times I have been noticing certain types of fish congregating on the coral head," says the high school junior.

Steve and Parker are watching the same fish on live video being streamed from a webcam they both recently helped install. Anchored in 6 feet of water about 1000 yards from the Ocean Frontiers dock, the webcam is part of a reef monitoring system set up by Teens4Oceans (T4O) a non-profit organization with a mission to empower young people to be ocean stewards through research, technology and education. A delegation of students and T4O leaders traveled from Colorado to Grand Cayman in March to deploy the webcam and several probes with the help and sponsorship of Ocean Frontiers and the Compass Point Dive Resort.

Executive Director Trevor Mendelow says T4O operates six other ocean-monitoring sites in the Caribbean, Florida and California, but the Cayman site is by far the best, and is generating the most excitement. "Cayman has the best internet connection in the Caribbean so that webcam is providing three times the video quality of the other video locations. It is so phenomenal that we can stream out multiple cameras simultaneously," he says. Nate Newman, chair of his T4O high school chapter, explains why."We use a top of the line self-cleaning camera with CleanSweep™ technology, manufactured by Wild Goose Imaging, which maintains the clarity of the gorgeous HD image." Steve Broadbelt also credits technology partner Digicel Cayman for providing a DIA (direct internet access) link for fast uplink speed that wasn't possible a few years ago.

It is not just the quality of the video that has quickly made Cayman a favorite T4O site. "The relationship with Steve at Ocean Frontiers is just a match made in Heaven because he helped make it happen," says Mendelow of the enthusiastic logistical and dive support provided by Steve Broadbelt and his staff. Both teams collaborated in setting up the monitoring system, and Ocean Frontiers converted an old barge into the floating platform that now holds the solar panels and battery packs needed to power the camera 24 hours a day.

Streaming video is just one of an arsenal of tools used by T4O to engage tech-savvy teens into ocean science, and inspire them to get involved in protecting our seas. The Cayman webcam turns 360° every 10 minutes to scan other areas of the reef, and probes record the water's salinity, temperature and acidity. The information collected by Parker, Nate and the other T4O students will help establish critical baseline reef and fish data sets for Cayman, which can later be used for reference, archive video, still photos and other surveys. Mendelow says there is real science in watching the fish. "This is a very unique opportunity because things are happening there with a wide diversity of fish species. We look at the behavior of the fish, the composition of the environment and study the relationship to each other, and we ask 'how do these things affect the fish life?'"

The answers may inspire tomorrow's ocean heroes to determine the best approach to the marine environment, and then exchange ideas on how to protect it. Parker Lindsay and Nate Newman both feel the responsibility. "I can see the dangers it faces and because of this project, I have made an effort to educate other people about what I am doing by sharing both screenshots and videos on my personal social media pages as well as the organization page," says Parker. "Being exposed to the extraordinary ecosystems surrounding Grand Cayman has broadened my perspectives and culminated a profound sense of stewardship for the ocean," adds Nate. "We want Teens4Oceans to reach people around the world and engage students from diverse backgrounds."

This is exactly what Trevor Mendelow and Steve Broadbelt hope to see from the next generation. The Cayman Islands, adds Mendelow, is an ideal place to foster this culture of caring, pointing out the assistance provided by the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment, the quality of Cayman's Marine Parks and the protocols in place to protect them. The T4O team will visit Cayman two or three times a year to keep improving the site equipment and expanding the project. Steve Broadbelt is planning to install lights soon for nighttime viewing when nocturnal critters emerge on the reef and other natural wonders take place, such as coral spawning.

"I'm excited about what we're going to learn during the coral spawning in a few months," he says. "We have a couple of coral heads that will spawn in September, we have monitored them for 10 years, but we want to find out if they spawn at any other time of year." He's got Parker Lindsay excited about that event too. "One of the things I cannot wait for is the coral spawn, and I cannot believe we can watch this from Colorado! We are excited to bring this amazing event to the public."

The live Cayman video is available for viewing on the Ocean Frontiers website http://oceanfrontiers.com/webcam.

About Ocean Frontiers
Ocean Frontiers Dive Shop is located at Compass Point Dive Resort on the remote East End of Grand Cayman. Founded in 1996 with a dream to introduce divers to the wonders of East End diving, the company has grown into one of Cayman's premier dive operations with a reputation for catering to small groups and having the island's friendliest staff. Ocean Frontiers is also recognized as one of the most conservation-minded dive operators in the Cayman Islands with a long history of promoting ocean protection through its company programs, and an unwavering support for outside environmental projects. The winner of Project AWARE's Environmental Achievement Award in 2004 and 2010, Ocean Frontiers has again been recognized in 2012. The company also received the PADI Green Star Dive Center accreditation in 2012 for demonstrating a dedication to conservation, the first dive operator in the Cayman Islands to receive this distinction. The Compass Point Dive Resort, which received the Green Globe Certification award in 2010 for sustainable tourism, is the epitome of laidback luxury. It features 28 luxurious one, two and three bedroom oceanfront, oceanview and poolside condominiums, each with its own private patio or balcony and all beautifully decorated with stylish island décor, and fully equipped with all of the comforts of home. Eagle Ray's Dive Bar and Grill will be open for business this summer. For more information call Toll Free: 1 800-348-6096, in Grand Cayman call (345) 640 7500, E-mail: info@oceanfrontiers.com or visit www.oceanfrontiers.com.

Teens4Oceans inspires, educates and empowers students through nationwide student chapters, innovative technologies, citizen and student science research projects, T4O expeditions, SCUBA & snorkeling programs, and public awareness campaigns and policy initiatives. For more information about Teens4Oceans visit www.teens4oceans.org
Contact Information
Adela Gonzales White
Cayman Bottom Times
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