by Jill Harris, member of the Benthic Team
We pulled up to our dive site at Jarvis this morning and, like every other morning, Gareth jumped into the water to set the anchor. This time, however, his head popped back up: “Hey, it’s pretty sharky down here.”
Everyone talks about how many sharks there are at Kingman Reef, one of the first stops of this trip. It's time that Jarvis should be given its rightful place in the shark rankings. The reef here is, indeed, pretty sharky. It is also very fishy: schools of big jacks, clouds of colorful anthias, and bright angelfish hiding behind coral heads. And it is coral-ly, if I can coin that word. Essentially every surface available on the bottom is covered in living, multicolored coral.
One reason Jarvis, Kingman, and Palmyra are so different from all the other reefs we are visiting, as well as from most reefs around the world, is that these three islands are all protected areas. All three are owned by the US and lie within the newly-created Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, a 86,000 square mile reserve in the mid-Pacific. Within its boundaries, all fishing is banned within 50 miles of the shore. Access to the islands themselves is strictly controlled by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, thus providing a refuge for the countless seabirds sitting and nesting here. Except for occasional visits from scientists to study the reefs and curious looks from passing sailors, these places remain essentially apart from all human activities.