Several major research projects are currently underway. They include :

The aim of the project is to launch a long-term (to 2020) monitoring study of the fish larvae population; the larvae will be caught using luminescent traps set in a line across the lagoon, from the shore to the barrier reef. We plan to compile a monthly data-set for three sites (near-shore, mid-lagoon, near-reef), recording the concentration of fish larvae ready to settle, with a view to establishing seasonal variations and, perhaps more important, inter-annual variations which might be linked to climate change. These data will be matched with meteorological data provided by the local Met Office (Météo-France), water temperature data provided by the instruments set up by the local research institute (IRD) at various locations throughout the lagoon, and data concerning the chemical characteristics of the water at the three monitoring sites.

Transect used for sampling: from the coastal area (C), through the mid-lagoon area (I), to the edge of the barrier reef (B).

Studies undertaken in French Polynesia have shown that the chemical characteristics of the water play an important role in the dispersion, migration and settlement of fish larvae. The water will therefore be sampled and analysed at each site for each of the four season, at the same time as the larvae are collected. The larvae data-set (number of larvae per species in each sample) will then be cross referenced with the data-base of environmental parameters.

As soon as the contents of the traps are collected in the morning, the larvae will be placed in a bath of sea-water kept at ambient temperature until they reach the lab. The larvae will then be sorted by species, identified, and/or be induced to grow. Some will be set aside to be photographed and preserved, to compile a reference collection.

Implementing the project will therefore require:

  • developing techniques for raising larvae and juveniles of several species to a stage where their identification can be confirmed, and in some cases, where they can be shown to the public
  • taking high-resolution digital photographs of the specimens captured, and of those raised in the Aquarium, in order to compile a juvenile fish identification data-base.