|Scientists working on the fish library.|
Here's more on why this is not possible if we want to have accurate science that helps protect fishes and humans that eat fish and need clean water. And how having a fish DNA library actually means scientists do not have to kill as many fishes in the future. Much fewer fishes are killed for the fish library, compared to the many many many more fishes killed to be eaten or by pollution or other ways that do not add to science.
Today is a day of rest for the Singapore Marine Fishes Expedition. I'm going to take this time to explain why we need actual real fishes for the Singapore fish library.
Gorgeous paintings of fishes and amazing photos of fishes are important for helping people to know about our wonderful fishes and to love and protect them.
However, in order to do proper science, we need actual real fishes in the fish library.
Just as we need books in the library that can be opened and read, we need specimens of actual fishes in the fish library, as only these fishes can be 'read' by scientists.
Having a painting or a photo of a fish, instead of the actual fish, is like having a painting or a photo of a book instead of the actual book. We can't read a painting of a book, or a photo of a book. We can't 'open' the pages to 'read' the information if all we have is a photo or a painting of the book.
How do scientists 'read' a fish like reading a book? To accurately identify a fish, close study is needed by experts (who know what to look for) of very small features of an actual fish. Often, a strong microscope is needed as the features are not visible to the naked eye. Accurate identification is hard if not impossible to make from just photographs. Especially if the photograph is not detailed enough, and does not include the features that are needed. Some fishes are only accurately identified by internal parts. During the Expedition, fishes in the library will also be X-rayed.
|A fish being examined under a microscope during the Expedition.|
|DNA being taken during the Expedition.|
All these cannot be obtained from a painting or a photograph.
Which is not to say that photos are not useful. In fact, high resolution photos are among the data meticulously captured about the fishes in the library. Before the photo is taken, the fishes are painstakingly prepared so their fins and other body features are captured. Effort is made to retain the live colouration of the fishes. Taking high resolution scientific photos is a tiring and back breaking task.
|Carefully preparing a Stonefish for photography.|
This is compared to the many many many more fishes that are killed to be eaten or by pollution or other ways that do not add to science.
It is very hard work building the fish library. This massive effort involves scientists, experts and volunteers, divers, anglers, intertidal surveyors. All of us do it because we believe it will be good for all the fishes. We want to better understand details of the fishes, so we can better protect them.
|The intertidal team start work before dawn,|
switching to back breaking netting after sunrise.
The fish library is good for humans too.
One of the 'pages' of a fish that is 'read' by experts during the Expedition, is taking samples of the guts of the fish. This will be closely studied to better understand the microbes that affect fish health in our waters. This can provide important information for our local aquaculture industry so they can raise healthy fish for all of us to eat.
|The gut of a Seabass being sampled for microbes.|
All specimens collected during the Expedition will be kept at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. Well preserved specimens can last for decades. So scientists can answer important questions that we may not even know to ask right now. In an era of climate change, having a library of such information is vital.
These fishes will not have died in vain.
I hope this explains what the Expedition is trying to achieve. And why photos and paintings of fishes are not enough to do the science needed to protect fish and help humans.
More about the Singapore Marine Fishes Expedition 2019 with daily and other updates are posted here.