Large, Strange Fish at the “Last Wild Island”

A bumphead parrotfish.

We have just returned from our third and final study site in our ongoing search for bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) in the Solomon Islands.

At 46 square miles (120 square kilometers) and with zero permanent inhabitants, our last site, Tetepare, is the largest uninhabited island in the South Pacific (read our earlier posts). Commonly known as the “last wild island,” Tetepare has been largely uninhabited since the mid 1800s, save for a few failed attempts at establishing industry and settlements. This leaves the waters surrounding the island and its forests nearly untouched by humans, except for the group of local conservationists called the Tetepare Descendants’ Association (TDA) who take it upon themselves to monitor and protect the island’s extraordinary inhabitants: turtles, crocodiles, seagrass, coconut crabs, forests, fish, and coral, to name a few.

A drone allowed us to get this aerial view of Tetepare Island’s weather coast. (Drone footage by Sly J. Lee)

Our three-day expedition to this astounding site had us underwater for more hours than above. The absence of human stressors has allowed biodiversity to flourish both terrestrially and aquatically. We dove alongside spinner dolphins, dugongs, rays, and the largest snappers, sweetlips, and wrasses our team has ever seen, and at long last we were able to share the sea with herds of gargantuan bumpheads!

After weeks of looking in various places, we finally found groups of adult bumphead parrotfish in the Tetepare marine protected area. (Footage by Mikayla Wujec)

After six weeks of searching for this rapidly vanishing species, it was cause for underwater celebration to finally witness sizable schools of the largest parrotfish species in the world.

During our last dive, in Tetepare’s marine protected area (MPA), we descended into a school of 27 four-foot adult —> Read More