Bermuda Black Grouper | Ocean Vet | S01 E07 | Free Documentary

Bermuda Black Grouper | Ocean Vet | S01 E07 | Free Documentary

This is Doctor Neil Burnie. He lives in Bermuda, a stunning Atlantic Island
six hundred and forty miles east of North Carolina, USA.He’s spent the last thirty
years practicing veterinary medicine, but now he’s transferring his veterinary skills
to help save, protect, and learn more about the incredible marine life of Bermuda’s
Ocean. This is a completely wild shark. Alongside his dedicated Ocean Vet team, are
a number of scientists, Yeah, this and probably. marine biologists,
Just cut a little nick off the back fin. and specialist master divers, helping to perform
a number of unique and dangerous procedures, in a bid to safeguard critically important
marine species.Together, the team will be fitting satellite tags to huge tiger sharks,
saving precious green turtles, dissecting giant blue marlin, and obtaining unique toxin
samples from forty five tonne, migrating, humpback whales. Yay! Woo hoo!My knees are like jell-o. Yes, man! This is Bermuda! Home to Doctor Neil Burnie, the Ocean Vet. The Bermuda black grouper is one of the most
famous grouper in the world. They are synonymous with Bermuda’s pristine
and crystal clear waters. These fish are vitally important to the ecology
of Bermuda’s marine ecosystem and as such have been monitored for several years. Yep. There’s our fish, five eight five two seven. In this special episode, the Ocean Vet team
will be working with the Department of Fisheries to monitor and protect Bermuda’s critical
black grouper spawning grounds. Good to go. Neil, will also be visiting an old friend
who lives at the Bermuda Aquarium. So this is, ‘Darth Vader.’ And testing new and less invasive tagging
methods to lower the impact of future tagging studies. We planted the tag in him, opened the door,
and watched him swim away without a care in the world. It was a fantastic experience! Over several days at sea, the team will be
put through their paces as they set out to ensure the protection of Bermuda’s precious
black grouper spawning grounds. I’m on the roof of the Bermuda Aquarium
and i’m gearing up for a rather special dive. This is the five hundred and thirty thousand
litre North Rock tank. It’s home to sharks, jacks, barracuda, and
most importantly to my friend, ‘Darth Vader’, an eighty pound Bermuda black grouper. It’s gonna be a unique opportunity to show
you more about this important species and frankly I can’t wait to get in. As an Island veterinarian, Neil, has developed
a close relationship with many animals, including other individuals at the Bermuda Aquarium
Museum and Zoo. But this massive black grouper has always
been one of Neil’s favourites. So this is, ‘Darth Vader.’ He’s very old. He’s very wise. I’ve known him for nearly twenty years. There are thousands of these groupers patrolling
the coral reefs around the Bermuda platform. The Bermuda Department of Fisheries has spent
the last ten years protecting these patrolling grouper. So, Tammy, just put a tag in there. That’s number two eighty two. Tagged fish send their location to receivers
positioned over the groupers breeding sites. I’m just using this, er. This enables the Department of Fisheries to
map the exact spawning location, and enforce a precise fishing ban where these fish breed. In spite of strict fishing regulations and
seasonal protected areas, it appears that the numbers of these fish are in decline. The Department of Fisheries is desperate to
obtain more information on the movement of these fish in order to strengthen the protection,
and increase the restricted areas. And that’s what we’re going to do! This year, the Department of Fisheries and
the Ocean Vet team are working together to reassess the size of the southwest grouper
spawning grounds. The team are now over the protected area and
preparing for a rather deep dive. So we’re here at the southwestern grouper
grounds, this is one of Bermuda’s protected areas. And i’m here with, Doctor Tammy Trott, senior
marine resources officer. So, Tammy, what can we expect on this dive? Well, Neil, i’m expecting that you’ll
see lots of groupers down there. The dive is about one hundred and ten, but
the groupers will come up off the bottom so you should be able to see them at about eighty
feet. Excellent! Um, yeah. So, that’s, that’s a fairly technical
dive, we’ve gotta be a little careful, Drew and I are gonna be watching out for each other. But this is gonna be super cool, we’re gonna
get you some great footage, so let’s get ready and get in the water. Excellent. Ok. Diver going in! Diver, in the water! As always, Neil is supported by his trusted
Ocean Vet team. Choy Aming, is the series marine biologist;
Dylan Ward, and Oscar Duess, are assisting with all topside operations; and Andrew Kirkpatrick,
is the team’s underwater videographer. Ok. So i’m heading down. The visibility is perfect and I can just see
the bottom, my depth gauge is reading forty feet. Diving to one hundred and ten feet reveals
a whole new and exciting alien world. I can’t wait to reach the bottom! These protected sites are vitally important
to the future of the Bermuda black grouper. They arrive at these deep sites each year
to breed in such concentrations, that without protection fishermen could easily remove an
entire population. I’m just hitting the thermocline, the line
where cold water meets the warm. The grouper seem to like the cooler water
and it’s thought the water must be a certain temperature for spawning to occur, possibly
one of the reasons why spawning occurs here. I’m at over one hundred and ten feet here,
in one of the most alien landscapes i’ve ever seen. This maze of coral provides the perfect shelter
for these big fish. A truly magical location. On a yearly basis these spawning sites change
in size and sometimes shift location. The only way to provide complete protection
while these fish spawn, and to assess the breeding numbers, is to annually tag more
fish. It’s tricky keeping up with these fish as
they’re being scared by the bubbles shooting out of the scuba gear. The larger fish are almost certainly male
and the smaller ones female. Woo![laughter]
Wicked! Hootie-hoo! ‘Hootie-hoo!’ Is right!’ So we have just had an opportunity to swim
with several hundred black grouper. Phenomenal! Probably, argh, I dunno, hundreds, hundreds
of them! Biggest one, at least one hundred pounds and
we’ve got it all on camera for you. Now, I can’t wait to get bait in the water,
capture some of these fish, get some acoustic transmitters in them, so we can track their
movement around this aggregation site. Great! We found our grouper aggregation. We must have been swimming with about. Before the team brings one of these fish up
for the standard tagging procedure, Neil is deploying a new tag trap designed to lower
the invasive nature of the standard tagging procedure. So the standard method of tagging these fish
is to bring them up to the boat at the surface and we are gonna do that. But we’re also going to try a new method,
and that is to try and put the tags in the fish below the surface of the water. And for that we’re gonna use this, this
is a modified Bermuda fish pot, and we’ve put portholes in it to allow us access to
these fish so that we can actually implant a tag in the fish from outside. If Neil’s trap works it will reduce fish
stress and stop barotrauma, a condition where gas expands in the fish’s body as it’s
brought to the surface for tagging. Ok. Ready? One, two, three! With the trap deployed, attention quickly
turns to bringing one of these grouper up and onto the boat for the standard tagging
procedure. So we’re ready to fish. I’m gonna send my bait and weight over the
side, drop it to about ninety feet, and then i’m gonna send it back away from the boat
using this large float. The grouper, when he takes it, he’s gonna
tire himself out trying to pull this float under water. Then it’s gonna be, hopefully, fairly simple
for me to wind him back to the boat using a rod, then we’ll hand line him in. Once the fish is on board it’ll be anaesthetised
using clove oil in the anaesthetic bath, then moved to the operating sling for the tag implant,
and finally out into the recovery bath before release. Oh! Woah! Woah! As soon as Neil’s line hits the reef, a
grouper takes the bait! Yep! There he is. This is a grouper, no question! He’s pulling like a train. It’s about thirty pounds of drag on this,
and we’re gonna try and get him into the boat. We’re not gonna bring him in too quickly,
because we don’t want him to get too pumped up with gas. As the fish rises the gases in it’s body
expand, pressurising the fish from the inside. By slowing the grouper’s ascent, Neil tries
to reduce the effects of barotrauma. Just like when we’ve done a dive and we
do a safety stop, i’m gonna do a safety stop on this fish. The team’s getting everything ready behind
me. Let’s see if we can get this fish into the
boat, and into the anaesthetic solution, and get this tag placed. So he’s got some marks on him where he’s
obviously been down into the rocks. When we first felt the bite I felt him get
snagged in the rocks and then as he came out, so I was able to pull him up to the surface. Here we go. Ready? Dylan and Oscar position their gloved hands
carefully on the inside edge of the gill plate to lift the grouper up and onto the boat. Once in the sling, the team move the animal
into the anaesthetic bath. So we’ve got him in the sling. We’ve got his gills in the water and we’ve
got the anaesthetic solution not only in the bath, but also being pumped over his gills. So we’re just gonna get him back in the
sling, and then as soon as we think that he’s lost his ability to kick we’re gonna lift
him out and put him in the operating table. So. Yeah. If you. Because you’ve got the gloves, if you wanna
maybe pull them. Yeah. That’s probably the better way to go. The clove oil enters the grouper’s body
through the gills. Once in the blood stream, it slows the grouper’s
respiration and heart rate until it’s fully anaesthetised. So, Tammy. We can see this fish’s opercula moving in
and out. What do you think about his condition? I think he looks pretty good, Neil. His colour’s still pretty good. So, um, he is a little scraped up, from the,
from the reef, but his colour’s really good. So, um, and he’s, and his operculum is coming
in and out, so he’s breathing fairly well. I think that’s enough. Yeah. Right. So now I think we’ve got him anaesthetised
enough, we’re now gonna lift him out, turn him upside down, put him in our sling.So i’ve
prepped my surgery site with some iodine, just as I would when I was doing any operation
in my operating theatre at Endsmeet. Now i’m gonna take my surgical blade, this
is a little stronger than my average scalpel blade because this is a tough fish. I’m gonna make a cut in his abdomen, just
off the mid line. Squeamish? Look away!So there we are, i’m through to
his abdomen. I’m gonna now extend that cut a tiny bit
and i’m gonna insert my tag. Here it is, this is my satellite tag, the
magnet’s been taking off, it’s already transmitting. It goes into the body cavity as simply as
that. Close the body cavity. Now i’m gonna stitch him up.What actually
makes it difficult suturing these fish, it’s not the skin, it’s the scales. They have leather, just as any animal skin
is leather, but they also have these scales which can get caught on the tip of this needle. I’m delighted with how this has gone so
far. I have to say, Doctor Trott! I think we’re making excellent time, are
we not? Yes, you are. So. Doctor Trott, is also going to place a national
marine fisheries tag in this fish, which will be an external identification to let us know
this fish has been tagged before. Of course, the acoustic tag cannot be seen
by anybody and nobody is gonna see this little suture line on this big grouper. The final stage of the process is to lower
the grouper into the recovery bath. Fresh seawater flushes the clove oil from
the animal and prepares it for release. So he’s starting to, er, use his pectoral
fins much more. His respiration rate is coming up. He’s waking up. We’re just waiting, to, for him to get a
righting reflex, for him to try and bring himself into an upright position. It’s a bit difficult because he is still
gassed, remember? But once he’s fighting a bit more then we’re
gonna take him to the back and let him go. Ok. Yeah, you got him? That. I’ll go a little. Choy, has opted to use a small weight. The weight will pull the animal back down
to the reef, allowing it’s gases to recompress. Tammy, has also released some of it’s gases
with a hypodermic needle, this is a common procedure, and ensures the fish makes it back
to it’s original catch depth. Tell me when, tell me when. Whenever you guys are ready i’ll follow
you, because you’re lifting. Ok, three, two, one, go! Yeah. I’m just securing the weight. You guys have all the fish’s weight. Despite the team’s care this fish has been
through a very invasive procedure. But this procedure has protected this species
from local extinction for several years. Three, two, one, down! As a veterinarian, Neil’s primary concern
is always the welfare of the animals he’s working with. The team hope the new tag trap will vastly
reduce the need for such invasive procedures in the future. Oh! So. Woo! It looked like it went great. The release weight pulled him nicely down. What happened when we popped it off? Yeah! It was amazing! The release weight worked perfectly. It went down, popped off one time, no jerking
or whatever, and then it swam off and then hid in a little reef for a little bit. I’m ecstatic! Great job! Well done, Choy! Well done, team! Good job, boys! Yeah! Well done everybody! Nice one! Let’s take the camera. Yeah, you got the cap? With one grouper successfully tagged, Neil’s,
attention quickly turns to the new tagging trap the team deployed earlier. So the trap position is bad, trapped between
these two coral spires. It hasn’t caught any grouper, but it has
caught the invasive lionfish. These fish were released by unsuspecting aquarists
near, Florida, and have multiplied and traveled up the Gulf Stream to Bermuda. With a powerful sting and no natural predators
these small fish may not only render my trap ineffective, they may destroy the marine ecosystem
that I hold so dear. Pacific lionfish have no natural predators
in the Atlantic Ocean. They breed at an alarming rate and eat all
the native baby fish. When you’re ready, Andy. One of the most effective ways to remove them,
is to kill them! Although this may seem cruel invasive lionfish
are out-breeding, out-eating, and out-competing every other native fish in the Western Atlantic. If left unchecked lionfish will locally destroy
the entire marine ecosystem. This special container keeps me safe from
those dangerous stinging spines. The venom can burn like fire and the effects
can last for several months. With the lionfish safely in the container
Neil and the team manoeuvre the trap into a better position for it to be left overnight. The following morning brings in unfavourable
weather! Yeah, we’ll help you. So the sea state has got a little worse since
we were last out, but we’re just gonna head down to our fish pot and see if there are
any groupers inside. If there are we’re gonna plant the tag into
them, while they’re in the pot, and then release them. Avoiding the necessity of bringing them to
the surface and causing that barotrauma. The team slowly make their descent down towards
the trap. This is the last opportunity they have to
prove the new tagging system works. Neil, is understandably apprehensive! Working at this depth is difficult. If I exert myself it changes the amount of
bottom time available to work, so it’s a calm and slow descent through to one hundred
and twenty five feet. The bad visibility and increased current makes
it hard for the team to spot the trap. Eventually, Neil finds the sand hole and makes
his final descent. I’ve finally found the trap, and we have
one fairly large black grouper inside it. He seems to be sitting in there nicely. This is perfect! This is exactly what Neil was hoping for. This fish doesn’t need to be raised to the
surface to be tagged, it won’t suffer from barotrauma and will be far less stressed when
it’s released. I can use the dimensions of this trap to estimate
the size of this fish, he’s around four feet long and about eighty five to ninety
pounds. He’s calm. He has no barotrauma. That’s exactly what we wanted to achieve. It’s time for the tag! Neil is using a tag designed to be tethered
to the fish. Again, it’s less invasive and only causes
the fish a brief moment of discomfort. So a little jump there, but nothing unexpected. Time to open the trap door and release this
fish. The success of this tagging trap may well
set the benchmark for working with these fish in the future. Obtaining the same results but with a less
invasive procedure is surely a good thing for these precious animals. So what we’ve achieved is the same procedure
that we would normally complete topside. However, in this case, the fish has remained
in it’s own environment. It has no barotrauma, very little stress,
and didn’t need any anaesthesia. Although it’s more dangerous for us i’m
extremely happy with today’s outcome. So before we head home i’m gonna put a bait
down and try and capture one of these grouper and we’re gonna try something different. We’re gonna bring him up to about thirty
five, forty, feet down below the depth at which that gas accumulation becomes a problem,
and i’m gonna dive down and try and implant a tag in him while he’s attached to the
leader below the surface. Something new and different that we haven’t
tried before, but we hope it’ll work. As soon as the line hits the reef a grouper
takes the bait! Neil immediately passes the rod to Oscar and
jumps in, making his way down to meet the fish. Alright. Right now we’ve got, maybe, about a sixty
pound grouper on the line. Dylan just told us he’s at about maybe forty
feet. We’re gonna bring him up a little bit to
about thirty, a good, er, depth so that Neil can come down and put the tag in him. Neil eventually meets with the fish at around
forty feet, just before the effects of barotrauma take hold. He takes aim and implants the final external
acoustic tag. Ok. That wasn’t easy, but I have managed to
place one of our tethered tags in this fish. He’s around seventy pounds. Now i’m going to remove the hook. As soon as the hook is free, Neil swims the
grouper down about twenty feet until it starts to swim itself back down to the reef. It is the first successful midwater tagging
of a Bermudian black grouper, and represents another method of lowering the invasive nature
of previous tagging studies. Ocean Vet! This is how we do it! Conditions are less than favourable. If it were, if it was pond vet it would be
flat. But it’s Ocean Vet! This is what you can expect! Woo! By working with these animals in their own
environment, the team have reduced the invasive and somewhat stressful nature of the standard
tagging procedure. They’ve proved that it’s certainly not
necessary to take these fish out of the water to be tagged. Since the filming of this project the Department
of Fisheries have confirmed the ‘no fish zones’ require no further expansion. The Ocean Vet team have helped ensure the
grouper remain sufficiently protected for another year! Next time on Ocean Vet Neil and the team are
on a mission to document the different species and the movements of Bermuda’s inshore night
sharks. Faced with dangerous night dives, heavy equipment,
and new tracking technology this project proves to be the team’s most demanding yet. We’ve got a male tiger shark, juvenile,
male tiger shark. After several exhausting attempts, Neil and
the team finally implant an acoustic tag into none other than a shallow water Bermuda tiger

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16 thoughts on “Bermuda Black Grouper | Ocean Vet | S01 E07 | Free Documentary

  1. seems pretty invasive way to conduct a study. I'm pretty sure if the fish has a say, he would object. I certainly wouldn't want to be studied like this.

  2. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻🎖

  3. Stop handling and domesticating the wild life, so that loose fear of human, they have their since creation, they don't your to survive if you leave them alone.

  4. like 10k people starve to death everyday… yet people playing with fish and I'm watching it, in my defense my income isn't much compared to the budget of this "study" and many others useless studies eating resources that could save people. just thoughts of mine

  5. Lots of animals have gone extinct long before the evolution of humans.
    And we think we're going to save the one's going extinct now.
    Meanwhile we try to develop technology that will help us kill ourselves in war…

  6. if you are against these people's actions, you are severely oblivious to the state of planet earth. through the efforts of selfless people, preservation efforts have been far more frequent and successful. also, corporations are the leading cause of habitat decline. yet nobody puts the blame on them, rather, putting the blame on all of humanity. i know that most common people will incorporate green practices.

  7. I swam with some true monster grouper when I was in Okinawa that could have swallowed me whole and was as friendly as the family dog. They really do love to be pet and the experience swimming with these behemoths was a real treat that I will never forget!

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