I know I’ve said it before, but if you want to see sea turtles, just snorkel Maho Bay. You will not be disappointed!
I believe that we can thank the powers that be here.
To begin with, once turtles were routinely caught in turtle nets and now they are now protected. Catching them is illegal.
Secondly, not only are the turtles protected, but there habitat is also. The turtle thrive on seagrass (especially turtle grass) and the seagrass bed at Maho is lush and healthy. In great part this is due to the mooring program and the prohibition of anchoring in the bay. This prevents the seagrass from being torn up by anchor chains scraping the sea floor as the anchored boat swings to and fro.
The Interaction of Mangroves, Coral Reefs, Salt Ponds and Beaches
Ecological environments everywhere depend upon one another for their survival. This is elegantly and plainly illustrated in the mangrove habitats of St. John as they quietly preside over the orderly transition of life between land and sea….
Chitons are also known as sea cradles or coat-of-mail shells. On St. John they can often be seen adhering to rocks in shallow water. They survive by grazing the algae that grows on rocks, which is helpful in that a clean substrate can be used as a starting point for corals.
I just found out that one of my favorite hard corals, the Orange Cup Coral (Tubastraea coccinea), is considered an invasive species.
Orange cup corals are beautiful brightly colored orange corals with flower-like yellow tentacles that extend at night or in areas of low light.
Although the orange cup coral is a hard coral, it’s not a reef-building coral. Also, unlike other corals, the cup coral, does not depend on the symbiotic algae, which shares it’s photosynthesis-created food with the coral animal. Because of this, the cup coral can grow in dark places such as shaded walls, caves and underneath overhanging ledges.
I first noticed orange cup corals on the walls of an rocky indentation on the Tektite snorkel and again on the walls of the caves at Norman Island. Now I see them elsewhere even on the Trunk Bay Underwater Trail.
Cup corals do not seem to be a major problem here in the Virgin Islands as they seem to prefer the darker areas that other corals don’t like and I’ve not seen any great proliferation in all the years that I have been snorkeling around the Virgin Islands.
They are, however, a problem in the Gulf of Mexico where they tend to crowd out other native coral and sponge species. They especially like oil rig platforms where hundreds of thousands of colonies may be found attached a platform.
You’ll need to look carefully to see the translucent jellyfish in the above photo, but seeing it in the water is even more difficult. It has a dome shaped head and four tentacles. It’s a sea wasp. It stings hard and it’s hard to avoid. If you are unfortunate enough to get stung, pour vinegar on the the affected area and in severe cases seek medical attention.
I saw quit a few of these strange jellyfish while snorkeling the southwestern side of Maho Bay. They were resting on the bottom in about ten feet of water. While most jelly fish swim around with their head up and tentacles down, the Cassiopea spends most of its time with its’ head down resting on the sea floor and with its tentacles extended upward, hence the name, upsidedown jellyfish.
The upsidedown jellyfish can give divers a mild sting, which can be very itchy. According to Wikipedia: “The stinging cells are excreted in a mucus; swimming over the jellyfish (especially using swim fins) may cause transparent, essentially invisible, sheets of this mucus to be lifted up into the water column, where they are then encountered by unsuspecting swimmers,” but being that these jellies were in fairly deep water, this shouldn’t be a problem for snorkelers observing them.
This creature has always fascinated me. When I first saw one, I thought it was some sort of underwater flower, and I was certainly surprised to find out that it was not only an animal but a worm. What looks like the flower’s petals are tentacles, which filter plankton from the seawater for food and increase the amount of oxygen that the worm can absorb. When hungry fish or a snorkelers finger come too close the tentacles retract to the safety of the tube that gives the species the name, tube worm. If a fish is faster than the worm and bites off some tentacles, the worm will regrow the lost parts. The tube is fashioned from parchment, sand, and bits of shell that is permanently affixed to a rock, coral or some other substrate by a sticky mucus secreted by the worm.
St. John and Virgin Islands News
USVI athletes vs. the world
St. John Weather
Mainly sunny to start, then a few afternoon clouds. Hazy. High 81F. Winds E at 15 to 25 mph.
TI photographed this banded coral shrimp along the eastern shoreline of Hawksnest Bay, heading out from Openheimer Beach.
Also known as barber pole shrimp, the banded coral shrimp are cleaning shrimp that eat the parasites off of passing fish, waving their antennae to attract any fish that want to be cleaned.
According to Paul Human’s Reef Creature Identification: “when approached, they retreat into protective recesses. If a bare hand is slowly extended toward the shrimp, it may leave its retreat and even attempt to clean fingers.”
I have to try this!
St. John and Virgin Islands News
Rampant credit card fraud in V.I. most likely cybercrime
Report: National Parks brought $73M into V.I. in 2013
Organic eggs “discounted” at St. John Gourmet and Dolphin Markets
Hallelujah! The price of organic eggs has gone down from the previous $13.95/dozen to only $9.95/doz. It’s expensive to eat healthy on St. John.
All about St John in the beautiful US Virgin Islands (USVI) American Paradise