Friday, March 2, 2012

Mysterious Toyama Bay

For the past 10,000 years, the sea forest has stood just as it is today. This mysterious world is a large bay on the east side of the Noto Peninsula, which projects into the Sea of Japan in west-central Japan. 3,000-meter-high mountains suddenly drop to 1,000 meters below the surface of the ocean creating wondrous natural phenomena and extreme habitat for exotic sea creatures. Known for its wide variety of fish, Toyama Bay has been dubbed "a natural fish tank," because throughout the year many kinds of fish (meaning "very fresh" in Toyama's local dialect) are caught and then unloaded from ships at bustling fishing ports along the coast of the bay, such as Uozu, Shinminato, and Himi. Nutrient-rich springs overflow from deep beneath the sea-bed, causing several hundred species of sea life to inhabit the area.

The coastal shelf in Toyama Bay is small, and the sea floor drops sharply a short distance from the land, with the deepest parts of the bay being more than 1,200 meters deep. Into the surface seawater of the bay, warm-water fish species are carried by the warm Tsushima current, while in the deep seawater at a depth of over 300 meters coldwater fish species live in the much cooler waters of the Japan Sea (deep seawater) at a temperature of around two degrees Celsius. Thus, Toyama Bay has an environment where both warm- and cold-water marine life can exist, and thus it is a treasure trove of marine resources.
Seventy percent of the total fish catch is comprised of migratory warm-water fish such as tuna and yellowtail, while the rest includes many kinds of deep-water fish and shellfish such as sweet shrimp, benizuwai crab, Japanese ivory shell, firefly squid, and white shrimp. Rare firefly squid and white shrimp are particularly valuable marine resources that are rarely found in areas other than Toyama Bay. Every spring, a large number of the tiny squids come to the coast from waters more than 200 meters deep for spawning. The mysterious pale blue light emitted by the squids in the night sea when they are caught is a common spring sight in Toyama Bay.

Watasenia scintillans, or the Firefly Squid, is only 3 inches long, but packs a stunning feature in that small package. At the end of their tentacles are special organs called photophores that light up like glow sticks at a rave. In the Toyama Bay, in the central Japan Sea, the squid are found in fantastic abundance. Normally living at 1200 feet underwater, a v shaped canyon in Toyama bay pushes the current, and the squid, to the surface in massive numbers where, forced up, the millions of squids turn the bay into a writhing, gleaming blue froth.
Fished by the ton from March to June, when the fishing boats dump the nets onto the boat floor the squirming squids light up and turn the boats themselves into blue beacons. Thankfully, for the curious visitors, one need not sign up to work on a Japanese fishing-boat tour to see the phenomenon.
The habitat of the world-famous glowing firefly squid limits itself to the Western Pacific ocean. The firefly squid is a middle-deep sea squid that can live on depths of 600 to 1200 (365m) feet. The body of these little squids are covered with photophores that give a blue light. The main goal of these photophores is to lure little fishes, so that it can catch them easier. Just as the vampire squid, the firefly squid has its photophores totally under control. He can make different light show patterns with these photophores to communicate with others, to distract a predator or even lure their pray.
The reproduction of the firefly squid, once a year (March to June) millions of squids come together to fertilize and to drop their eggs in the Toyama Bay in Japan. The big reunion of these squids is one big light show that you can admire and it attracts thousands of tourists. Once the firefly squids have done their job, they die. The firefly squid has a one year life-cycle and once that year is over they die and wash up on the shore. This event is very important for other sea creatures and sea birds who enjoy eating the dead bodies of the firefly squid.
Firefly squids are just as many other sea creature a delicacy in Japan and they're mainly caught when the firefly squids come together to mate.


Early in the morning, after 3 AM, sightseeing boats depart the Namerikawa fishing port (Namerikawa is also home to the world's only museum dedicated to the firefly squid) in Toyama prefecture, making a short journey to fixed nets located about 1 to 2 km offshore. As the fishermen haul in their nets, the light emitted by the firefly squid causes the sea surface to glow a cobalt blue, evoking squeals of delight from the tourists.
Toyama Bay's firefly squid fishing season opened on March 1 and is expected to continue until the end of June. Sightseeing boats are scheduled to run until May 7.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Jellyfish Lake, Palau

Located on an uninhabited rock island off the coast of Koror in Palau, Jellyfish Lake is one of 70 saltwater lakes on this South Pacific archipelago that were once connected to the ocean, but are now cut off. It is notable for the millions of golden jellyfish which migrate horizontally across the lake daily.
An attraction most can only dream of, this daring and unusual phenomena, Jellyfish Lake, departs radically from convention; for it is an enclosed body of water wherein - over the course of a millennia - resident jellyfish have completely lost their sting because they have not had to fight off predators. Instead, they spend their days in privileged leisure, pulsating gently from one side of the lake to the other while catching the sun's rays and farming their own food supply of algae.
Jellyfish Lake is connected to the ocean through fissures and tunnels in the limestone of ancient Miocene reef. However the lake is sufficiently isolated and the conditions are different enough that the diversity of species in the lake is greatly reduced from the nearby lagoon. The golden jellyfish, Mastigias cf. papua etpisoni, and possibly other species in the lake have evolved to be substantially different from their close relatives living in the nearby lagoons.

The millions of golden jellyfish that pack Palau’s Jellyfish Lake spend much of their lives on the move during a daily migration that follows the sun’s arc across the sky. Before sunrise, the jellies cluster along the saltwater lake’s western shore. Each morning around 6, when dawn brightens the eastern sky, they begin to swim toward the light. Pumping water through their bells, these jellyfish use a type of jet propulsion to follow the sunlight until they nearly reach the eastern shore—stopping just short of the shadows caused by lakeside trees.
Two species of scyphozoan jellyfish live in Jellyfish Lake, moon jellyfish and the golden jellyfish.
  1. The golden jellyfish are most closely related to the spotted jellyfish that inhabit the nearby lagoons. They are similar to the spotted jellyfish in that they derive part of their nutrition from symbiotic algae (Zooxanthella) that live in their tissues and part of their nutrition from captured zooplankton.
  2. The moon jellyfish were identified as Aurelia aurita by Hamner. Addition to the three species of Aurelia there are at least six other cryptic species in the Aurelia genus. Three of the cryptic species identified were from Palau. One of these cryptic species is common to four of Palau’s marine lakes with jellyfish populations including Jellyfish Lake.
Swimming in the lake is safe and permitted, but scuba diving is not as it may disturb the ecosystem. Also, you will want to stay away from the dangerous layer of hydrogen sulfide that hovers between 15 and 20 meters deep.

Here is some interesting sightseeing offers:

Jellyfish Lake is one of the truly unique and amazing wonders of the world. No visit to Palau is complete without a trip to Jellyfish Lake! Neco Marine is a 5 Star PADI award-winning National Geographic dive training facility. We offer daily dive tours, boat charters, fishing, kayaking, and snorkeling tours, as well as PADI courses and specialties. Come and experience Palau with our professional and experienced staff. All dive tours include lunch and water, and all trips are guided by one of our multilingual PADI instructors. Neco Marine features a large retail store, a specially designed dive training pool with showers and restrooms where you can relax after diving, and the popular Drop-off Bar and Grill where you can enjoy great burgers and fresh local fish. Free hotel transfers!

We offer an exciting full day of sightseeing, scenic cruises through the Rock islands, snorkeling, and exploring hidden marine lakes filled with fascinating natural wonders. A minimum of 4 passengers is required to ensure our Rock Island tour departures. We are happy to combine bookings to meet our required number of passengers. We also offer customized tours and departures for private charters and group bookings upon request.
Contact: Sam Scott, Founder & President


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