Thursday, February 16, 2006

Scientists May Have Found New Fish Species

February 16, 2006 — By Miranda Leitsinger, Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Scientists have discovered what they believe is a new fish species and at least 20 types of previously unknown seaweeds during a recent expedition to one of the Caribbean's most diverse marine areas -- a coral-covered underwater mountain off the Dutch island of Saba.

It could take a year before researchers confirm the findings, which local fishermen, working with the Dutch Antilles government, are hoping to use to lobby authorities to steer oil tankers away from the Saba Bank Atoll to protect their livelihoods and the rich underwater life.

During their two weeks at the atoll, divers braved 12-foot seas to plunge 100 feet underwater twice daily to collect marine samples. Their efforts turned up unique striped patterns on the seaweeds and one fish that researchers believe is new to science: a goby with orange spots.

"We were literally discovering a species every day, that's truly remarkable" said Michael Smith, a senior research scientist at Conservation International, which funded the January expedition along with the Netherlands Ministry of Traffic and Water Management and Miami-based cruise operator Royal Caribbean's Ocean Fund.

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