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Today my guest has chosen to dive from the shore, as she gets very sea sick and today is not looking flat out on the open sea!  That suits me fine, a Fish ID Specialty, todays activity, can be successfully done in a lake in the UK, so I’m sure the house reef will be more than adequate.

The guest has already been diving, somewhat unsuccessfully, from the boat, and is glad to be on steady ground!  It’s very rare to have someone who suffers from sea sickness so badly that they take themselves off a boat, infact most people with this condition would give up diving, but not this woman.

Today, the gods are shining on her, it’s a flat calm morning in the bay, and I hope it stays that way for her sake as well as mine.

So the tasks for today are to learn about different fish species, how to tell them apart and to identify the unidentifiable!

Now anyone who has spent a week on a boat with me will appreciate that I am artistically challenged at the best of times, and drawing fish is sadly no different! So with much concentration I draw out the different fish, clearly (??!!) showing the main differences to look for – body size, fin position and shape, colours and patterns are the best ones to concentrate on.  Also useful, but not drawable, are numbers in a school (solitary or group) and position relative to reef or sand. All of these things, when observed together, can make fish identification an easy task.

So, slate in hand, we take to the water (still calm thank goodness) and start our fish spotting – anorak optional!  All we have to do is identify as many fish as possible. Five minutes in and we have seen the major players – a crocodile fish, butterfly fish, pufferfish, scorpion fish, moray eel, eagle ray, blue spotted ray……..With such an easy check list, it doesn’t take us long to move onto my favourite part of the course. ‘Draw diagrams and describe characteristics of unfamiliar fish, then attempt to determine their identities after the dive’ is the requirement. I make sure my students make an effort by explaining that if I can’t identify it from their drawing then they will have to draw it in their logbook, to remain forever. I’ve only actually had to do it twice, I’m not sure if that’s testament to their drawing or my fish knowledge…

However, this particular fish drawing, unusually, has me flummoxed. To save the embarrassment, I won’t publish the picture, but needless to say it ended up in the log book. Green body, yellow head and white fins. What the ???

Answers on a postcard please

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