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Marjo

Nautilus baiting and other ethical thoughts

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This is in reponse to Graham Abbotts question from the Milne Bay Sampler thread:

 

The Nautilus come up from the depths at night to feed. They are caught in cages that contain tasty chicken bait. In the morning they are collected and then brought along for the morning dive. The Nautilus are being released after the dive in the same or closeby spot to the dite where they were caught. Typically one or two nautilus are caught during one baiting. While I was in Tawali two bailings were done. The first baiting yielded two Nautilus. I did not participate in diving that day. On the second baiting event nine (9) Nautilus were caught and I was told that this was very unusal. It is my understanding that a nautilus bating happens about once a week or less at Tawali. One can always debate if any bating of any type of animal for non-scientific viewing pleasure is ever ethical.

 

It appears that the Nautilus were not harmed by fish or otherwise while they travelled up from the depths to the feeding cage. Also, once inside the cage, the nautilus appeared safe. However, the cages had apparently been pummeled by sharks, buckling the cages, but keeping the Nautius intact. I am sure the smell of chicken is also appealing to sharks. But in the morning the Nautilus were found at least visibly unharmed.

 

The dive site for the nautilus dive was selected to be one close to the baiting site as the Nautilus should be released close to where they came from. Also, the Nautilus dive was done close to the bating site to avoid having to make the Nautilus come along on a long sloshy ride in the nautilus holding water drum.

 

The Nautilus were swimming about in the holing drum, neither frantic nor lethargic. They did not retreat to their shell.

 

Divers told they could bring a Nautilus along on the dive and should release it into the depth when they were done watching it. The Nautilus were carefully passed down to divers that were already in the water.

 

We were given the option of taking my nautilus back to the boat and then to take it along on a second dive. However, me and the hubby opted to release "our" Nautili on the first dive after taking a few pictures o them swimming around for a while.

 

The nautilus that my husband brought along swam around for a while and then decided to take off down the wall and into the depth. "My" nautilus did not seem to be in any hurry to leave and was swimming around for quite a while.

 

My husband was really worried about the Nautilus journey back to the depths while I was thinking that since they made it up to the feeding site safely they should also make it back down safely. Of course, they journey might be very different during the day as opposed to during the night. The Nautilus is of course able to retrieve its appendages into its shell, but the shell does not cover all of its "mushy bits" (please bear with my blazing ignorance ) In any case. my husband ended up swimming with the Nautilus until he reached a depth that was definitely not consistent with recreational Scuba limits and I think he only turned around due to the being able to tell from the sound of my frantic quacking with the sub-aqua duck that he was going to be in BIG trouble with his wife once we got away from within earshot of other divers...

 

Apparently at least the first released nautilus had a "fish free" start on the journey down the wall, but the second one was plucked at by some fish. These fish were getting shooed and punched by my hubby, but of course the "Nautilus only enjoyed this "service" until it reached a depth where the hubby had to turn around and ascend.

 

On our ride to the second dive site my husband remained really quiet and he was not cheering up for the rest of the day. He still feels that it was wrong to have brought up the Nautilus and has told me that he will not participate in a Nautilus dive again.

 

Something good (besides images) did come out of this dive however:

 

During our surface interval two Nautilus remained in the tank. While waiting to offgas I was sitting on the platform at the back of the boat pantomiming with the two local men who had paddled over in a Canoe to sell shells and necklaces. Apparently the locals do not catch the Nautilus but collects the washed up shells. This is what I was told anyway. The men urged me to show them what was in the tank. I lifted one of the Nautilus out of the tank and was holding it by the shell in the ocean. The men were just mesmerized watching the Nautilus! It appeared that they had not seen live specimens before! Their eyes went wide and they got completely quiet as they stared in amazement at the creature. It was a beautiful moment! After I returned the Nautilus to the tank, the men just launched into an excited conversation... and they tried to get me to show the "Kara Kara" to them again! As much as I appreciate the beauty of the Nautilus, I don't think it compares with the excitement and wonder that these two men exhibited at seeing the creature!

 

In sum, I would probably say "Thank you but I'll pass" to another Nautilus experience, but at the same time I do not condemn it either.

 

During this trip I saw many "behaviors" that I am not used to and that I found a bit uncomfortable because if they would have occurred back here in my home waters they would have been condemned unacceptable. Things like well meaning guides nudging seahorses or pipefish to a better shooting angle etc. However, in general the dive guides were fantastic and after I told them that I wanted to shoot my critter exactly where they were found with no "posing" even at the risk of not getting the shot, they were happy to just show me what they had found. I was 100% percent happy with the "natural" opportunities anyway, because not being used to such a variety and huge amount of "subjects" I felt like I was overwhelmed with opportunities anyway! In fact, I remember one day that I felt this slight irritation at hearing the dive masters "quack" at me to come look at something... I had just started shooting two beautiful mating nudies that the DM had sowed me less then a minute ago. I could not fathom what he possibly could have found that could be MORE exciting than these two mating nudies that would be more worthy of shooting and I was wondering why he was "interrupting" me this way... until I turned around and found him pointing at 4 nudies engaging in "4-way-fencing"! For someone like me who is used to sitting an patiently waiting for a shrimp to "strike a pose" for 90 minutes - I was in heaven and did not need any "additional opportunity improvements"!

 

I already posted in another thread about feeling bad about some of the bad photographer behavior that I saw. However, once the "bulldoze dude" left he was being replaced by no less than 6 photographing guests the following week. To my delight these were all really conscious and considerate underwater photographers. In this group I saw no evidence of prodding, poking, bad buoyancy, boasting, pushing nor any other bad behavior. It restored my belief in that most UW photographers probably care for the critters and environments that we love to photograph.

 

I for one, feel that I still have a lot to learn about the ethics of this hobby. I certaily feel like I am learning as I go and I probably am making mistakes more often than I am aware of. However, I hope that I will never willingly do anything that I myself consider harmful to the critters, to the environment or to other divers just for the temptation of getting a great shot.

 

Thoughts?

Edited by Marjo

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Thoughts?

 

Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,

Child of the wandering sea,

Cast from her lap, forlorn!

From thy dead lips a clearer note is born

Than ever Triton blew from wreathèd horn!

While on mine ear it rings,

Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings: --

 

Portion of "The Chambered Nautilus" from The Complete Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes. Oliver Wendell Holmes. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1895.

 

 

Like you Marjo, I'm conflicted. An animal of the sea that's been here for 400 million years or so. Trapped so tourists can get an experience of a lifetime? Do we know how big the population is? Does it matter? I think they have only been known to exist for the last 15 or so years.

 

Would I love to see one in person, sure. Is it worth endangering this exceptional creature for my entertainment? No. In the end, as I think about it, it's not a difficult personal decision.

 

Thanks for sharing your experience,

Steve

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Beautiful poem.

 

I do think the chambered nautilus (Nautilus pompilius pompilius) have been known to exist for a longer time than 15 years. I can certainly remember from elementary school our art teacher telling us that the "form of the nautilus is the most pleasing shape found in in nature" - and that was ... hummm..longer then 15 years ago... also

From Wikipedia: "Small natural history collections were common in mid-1800s Victorian homes, and chambered nautilus shells were popular decorations."

 

Apparently, the Nautilus pompilius pompilius is the most common Nautilus. I can't find it listed as threathened nor endangered (someone correct me if I am wrong), but trade of the shell is restricted and there are apparently concerns about overharvesting for human conumption and shell collecting as well.

 

Good list of sources at http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=168

Edited by Marjo

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Beautiful poem.

 

I do think the chambered nautilus (Nautilus pompilius pompilius) have been known to exist for a longer time than 15 years.

 

Good list of sources at http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=168

 

Well, since the poem was written in 1895, I would think so! Not to mention another little book that Jules Verne wrote in 1870. Looks like most species were officially "described" in the 1700s. Perhaps they were only seen live more recently . . .

Edited by MikeO

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Well, since the poem was written in 1895, I would think so! Not to mention another little book that Jules Verne wrote in 1870. Looks like most species were officially "decribed" in the 1700s. Perhaps they were only seen live more recently . . .

 

I seem to remember reading that there are six species of the Chambered Nautilus that have been described. The last and rarest (around PNG) only recently. Sorry if I confused anyone. We engineers are on dangerous ground when we get all biological. :huh: I'll see if I can look it up tonight. But if I know this place someone will jump in and help me out.

 

By the way when our old buddy Oliver was writing the poem he was probably holding the shell. I'm on even more dangerous ground with Literature though. :) Sorry if I sidetracked your question, it's a good one.

Steve

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Steve,

 

I mentioned Nautilus in my Honours thesis which I wrote in 1981, so I have known about them since at least then. :)

 

Marjo,

 

I'm not sure what your issue is here. Undersea Explorer has been conduction research on Nautilus for a number of years using pretty much the same technique you describe. They get a lot more individuals in each trapping and get a lot of recaptures (they mark the shells for tagging) so it does not appear to have much impact, if any, on the individuals. I guess the only difference is that Undersea do it for research first and the divers getting to dive with the Nautilus afterwards is just a bonus.

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Several years ago, we were on a live aboard that did nautilus baitings.

After one, several nautilus were put in a large bucket of sea water, along with several red shrimp that came up with the cadge. We watched as the nautilus in the bucket captured and ate the shrimp. As others above have described, after photographing them they were left go off the wall and disappeared downward, none for the worse.

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ATJ: I don't have an "issue"... I am the one who dove with the thing and photographed the Nautilus... My posting in in reply to Graham Abbott's question in the Milne Bay Sampler thread about how my Nautilus image was done and if fish came to eat it. I started a separate thread as I know my answer would be long and it would probably spur a new lengthy discussion.

 

Also, maybe not an "issue" but yes, the Nautilus dive DID make me think and question what my own personal defintion of "marine life harassment" is.

 

Also, I am just a mere layman, a photographer. Baiting for scientific study might be considered far more acceptable than for the sake of providing me with a photo opportunity.

Edited by Marjo

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By the way, here are a couple of my shots:

 

N_pompilius_NHorn06.jpg

 

N_pompilius_NHorn06-2.jpg

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Interesting topic.

 

I was in Palau a couple of years ago. I chose to skip the entire day that included the Nautilus. I was uncomfortable with the concept.

 

I will be at Tawali in October. I was unaware that there would be Nautilus. I am unsure whether I will want the opportunity or not this time. I am looking forward to reading other's responses in this thread. Drawing the line is an individual decision, and at times a difficult one.

 

I appreciate your comments on the guides and "nudging" critters. I would prefer the opportunity to shoot the critters as-is where-is. Nice to hear the guides respect the diver's requests.

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Marjo

As you well know, these are creatures that will react to being stressed in many ways , including inking and retreating into the shell. The most obvious stress is being handled by divers and I've seen 'scientists' handle them like pingpong balls and they neither ink or retreat. Perhaps they have a high tolerance for being jostled around. I try not to anthropomorphize too much. I suppose most species are like that, chased and stressed then go right back to eating. :)

I also do think that making sure the nautilus returns to depth is sort of a 'feel good' measure. Unless they drop it back down to the dark depths where it was caught at night, any predator can snap it from the 120ft to 350ft where they can hide again.

Personally I don't do nautilus catching dives, but I can say that now that I've done it. How many would forgo an opportunity to do it?

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I recall watching J. Cousteau on a special 'in my more formative yrs' where they were night diving in rather deep water. They had a Nautilus swim by and were shocked as they were believed to be extinct at that time. Do not recall what year that would have been but likely between 1965-1975.

 

Of course, my memory MIGHT have slipped in the interim on this topic, however unlikely.

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I recall watching J. Cousteau on a special 'in my more formative yrs' where they were night diving in rather deep water. They had a Nautilus swim by and were shocked as they were believed to be extinct at that time. Do not recall what year that would have been but likely between 1965-1975.

 

Of course, my memory MIGHT have slipped in the interim on this topic, however unlikely.

 

Mr Cousteau probably did say that. I also recall him claiming to have seen a 36' Great White that took off in a "cowardly" manner. I love J. Cousteau and he was a very influential figure in my early childhood, but I think his desire to romanticize the sea and all things in it may lead to the occasional un-truth being told. Maybe I'm going to burn in hell for saying that, but it is what I believe.

 

I did a bit of searching around and following wikipedia's links and in this link, found this statement.

"In 1976, the Waikïkï Aquarium became the first Aquarium in the United States to display living chambered nautilus."

 

Given that they've been on display in Aquariums since 1976 and Linnaeus originally described the Genus Nautilus pompilius pompilius in 1758, I think it's reasonable to assume that we've known of their existence for quite some time even if we had never seen a living example of one.

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I like to think we can tell when we are causing an animal undue stress or harm. Its not always the case of course, because it is quite possible that the mere handling of the animal gives rise to infection or worse. I'd like to see the shell marked and determine whether they are capturing the same animal repeatedly. If so, its a safe bet that the animal is not being harmed in the process. Sort of like tagging a shark. Of course it may be less pretty if its got a manmade marking on it.

 

i also believe that letting people see things is better than simply capturing them and eating them.

 

People feed ducks, swans, pigeons, dogs, cats, fish... Me, I barely water my plants.... There are far worse things than giving food to an animal. Though, in this case, the chicken sort of gets the short end of the stick. :)

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Marjo,

 

Thanks so much for the response and putting in a separate thread here... I had issues a few years ago with seeing these animals taken onto reefs to be photographed and then being published in dive mags.

 

Great photo's too - well done!

 

I don't have issues with Nautilus being brought up. The problem is when they are taken onto reefs. These animals don't live on reefs and in my mind if they are to be photographed they should be shot in open water. I was very glad to see that you shot them in open water.

 

Steve,

 

Thanks for the great poem!

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These animals don't live on reefs and in my mind if they are to be photographed they should be shot in open water. I was very glad to see that you shot them in open water.

Say what? If they don't live on reefs, exactly where (in your opinion) do they live? (Note: I did my honours on cephalopods.)

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ATJ

I can't remember the Nautilus release procedure on the Undersea Explorer. It's been a while since I've been on. Do they just let them go once the divers are done or are they lowered back to the depths under protection of the trap and released there? I seem to remember they do it on the night dive but can't be sure.

My main objection to the trapping is that it leaves them vulnerable out when they are released in the daylight for turtles or triggerfish to kill. Since you did your honors in cephs, you know that they usually dwell well below 100m, only coming up to feed under cover of night. I'm ok with it if let's say it's done once a few months but the liveaboards tend to do this every week or so. I remember the Explorer people say they get a lot of recaptures but they also don't have recaptures of all of the ones they've captured before. So there must be some sort of mortality statistic. I guess the issue is whether that's worth a few photographs.

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Say what? If they don't live on reefs, exactly where (in your opinion) do they live? (Note: I did my honours on cephalopods.)

 

Seems like they make nightly migrations? And therefore probably feed in or around the deep scattering layer? They definitely don't have the feeding morphology to be plucking shrimp from a reef to me, so I assume they rely on a high density of prey in mid water... I like this baiting thing, seems educational, and doesn't seem to harm the animals. Is baiting an excessive practice throughout the Pacific? That would be my concern for the population. I've cared for them in aquaria and they are tough little buggers, typically living for a very long time in captive conditions...

 

-Wyatt

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Wyatt

Actually they are known to be reef dwellers, hanging around deep and coming up to 300ft to feed on crustaceans and fish. I remember the Osprey reef Nautilus are apparently endemic to the Ospreys.

 

As for baiting, it's actually a big industry in South East Asia. Both for the aquarium and shell trade. I remember Juergen Freud did an exposé on it.

Since you've keep them, are they reproducing in captivity?

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Drew,

 

Undersea release them on the night dive at Admiralty Anchor which is in the vicinity of where there were trapped - albeit significantly shallower. The traps are lowered to anywhere between 100 and 300m (around 300m of line is let out) and the traps are basically on the reef. The area may not have corals, but it is still reef. I know Undersea lose their traps from time to time when they get snagged on the reef.

 

The recapture thing works both ways. There is an accepted method of estimating populations of animals through capture, tag, release and recapture. Let's say you capture 100 animals, tag them and release them. You then set your traps and capture another 100 animals of which say 10 animals were tagged. If certain other assumptions are met, you can estimate the population at 1,000 animals.

 

In reality it is more complex than that and there are a lot of assumptions that need to be made, but not recapturing all previously captured animals does not necessarily imply mortality of those not recaptured. It can mean that population is very large. It can mean that some individuals learn to avoid traps. It may also mean that at least some of the animals migrate horizontally as well as vertically. i.e. they move to a different are of the reef over time.

 

Wyatt,

 

They are largely scavengers rather than predators. They normally live in waters around 500m and have a vertical migration at night to shallower water, but they are still in fairly deep water (by diving standards) at night. It is believe they hunt around the deeper reef areas looking for animals that have died and fallen down the reef slope. They find their food mainly by smell (it is dark down there at night). I'm sure you would have seen this behaviour in your captive specimens. As they are fairly slow, I doubt they'd be particularly successful at catching midwater prey, plus they don't have feeding tentacles like those found in squid and cuttlefish which are needed for capture of fast prey.

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OK, I had stated in my earlier response that a nautilus around PNG was first seen about 15 years ago. I'm not sure where I read it originally but I did find a source which may back me up. Thought I had dreamed it there for a while. Here is a picture taken from the Bryn Mawr College web site http://www.brynmawr.edu/geology/WBSaunders/Research4.html

post-4526-1218408845.jpg

"Nautilus pompilius (left) and Allonautilus scrobiculatus (right) trapped at 270m depth in Papua New Guinea and photographed in shallow water. The thick, yellowish periostracum on the shell of Allonautilus is unique to this species, which was seen alive for the first time in 1984." Copyright W.B. Saunders.

 

OK so I was off by 14 years, time flys when your having fun. :drink: I'm on dangerous ground here, but it looks like there are six species of Nautilus left. You folks with a penchant for the biological can back me up here or give me a better place to go look.

I started to say that this proves I'm not crazy.... but then I reconsidered.

Have fun,

Steve

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Fascinating, I had no idea this was so widespread. Always thought of nautilus as a forgotten species, nobody cared much about them except science. I'm envisioning this all wrong I guess, these sound like pretty steep dropoffs (300m, 500m) but they are still associated with the reef? Where does the reef "end"? I need to find myself some ROV footage!

 

As for captive specimens, we always fed them dead shrimp, squid or large krill. They seemed to love that large krill, which is why I always thought of them as a midwater type of animal. I also remember feeding them live pinead shrimp, but maybe those were skewered prior to feeding. Midwater animals aren't always "fast" :-) (jellies&other drifters) And as for reproduction in captivity, I believe only Waikiki Aquarium and maybe an aquarium in Japan has had success with that. Pretty sure the animals we used to have here at Monterey were all from Waikiki.

 

Also surprised to see they are a "big" aquarium trade item, I know of a handful of aquariums still keeping them. I also monitor the major wholesaler stocklists... nautilus seems to be a request item, not something constantly kept in stock. Seems like most aquariums have stopped exhibiting them due to the lack of captive bred animals.

 

I always love hearing these trip reports for precisely this reason... a lot of things goin' on out there I didn't know about...

 

Cheers,

Wyatt

 

Drew,

 

Undersea release them on the night dive at Admiralty Anchor which is in the vicinity of where there were trapped - albeit significantly shallower. The traps are lowered to anywhere between 100 and 300m (around 300m of line is let out) and the traps are basically on the reef. The area may not have corals, but it is still reef. I know Undersea lose their traps from time to time when they get snagged on the reef.

 

The recapture thing works both ways. There is an accepted method of estimating populations of animals through capture, tag, release and recapture. Let's say you capture 100 animals, tag them and release them. You then set your traps and capture another 100 animals of which say 10 animals were tagged. If certain other assumptions are met, you can estimate the population at 1,000 animals.

 

In reality it is more complex than that and there are a lot of assumptions that need to be made, but not recapturing all previously captured animals does not necessarily imply mortality of those not recaptured. It can mean that population is very large. It can mean that some individuals learn to avoid traps. It may also mean that at least some of the animals migrate horizontally as well as vertically. i.e. they move to a different are of the reef over time.

 

Wyatt,

 

They are largely scavengers rather than predators. They normally live in waters around 500m and have a vertical migration at night to shallower water, but they are still in fairly deep water (by diving standards) at night. It is believe they hunt around the deeper reef areas looking for animals that have died and fallen down the reef slope. They find their food mainly by smell (it is dark down there at night). I'm sure you would have seen this behaviour in your captive specimens. As they are fairly slow, I doubt they'd be particularly successful at catching midwater prey, plus they don't have feeding tentacles like those found in squid and cuttlefish which are needed for capture of fast prey.

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Osprey Reef (where Undersea capture and release Nautilus) is out in the Coral Sea, past the continental shelf and is basically a sea mount. The water drops off to at least 1,000m not very far out from the reef. At North Horn and Admiralty Anchor it appears to be a near vertical wall disappearing into the abyss. That's one of the reasons Osprey is good for pelagic species as it is like an oasis.

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Say what? If they don't live on reefs, exactly where (in your opinion) do they live? (Note: I did my honours on cephalopods.)

OK OK, I'll rephrase this! They are not found on shallow reefs where divers ever see them alive. Is this better?

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Actually funnily enough, a long time back in 2000 or 2001, paper nautilus actually appeared in very shallow water off a beach near Melbourne in broad daylight. They were dying but there was a showing.

 

As for creatures of the deep, well Mars seems to garner most importance than studying our own planet, much less protecting it for longevity's sake.

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