Calls to help aquarium census

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DO YOU know a southern stingray from a poison dart frog?

Then the Blue Reef Aquarium needs the help of you and other sharp-eyed nature lovers.

27/2/2013 (NEWS) PHOTO ESSAY''Photo essay on the Blue Reef Aquarium in Portsmouth.''Pictured is: Butterfly Splitfins, which are registered extinct in the wild.''Picture: Sarah Standing (13578-1141) ENGPPP00120130503113410

27/2/2013 (NEWS) PHOTO ESSAY''Photo essay on the Blue Reef Aquarium in Portsmouth.''Pictured is: Butterfly Splitfins, which are registered extinct in the wild.''Picture: Sarah Standing (13578-1141) ENGPPP00120130503113410

From Friday, the annual animal census takes place.

For two weeks volunteers are being asked to help spot and record the fish, sharks, frogs and rays in the Southsea aquarium.

Each year it is vital the experts at Blue Reef know the numbers of creatures they are dealing with to plan for the year ahead.

They do their official check after the volunteers have done theirs.

JPNS-12-10-12-009 DAYS OUT Clown Fish at Blue Reef''Keepers at Portsmouth's Blue Reef Aquarium are celebrating the successful birth of no fewer than five tiny 'Nemo' clownfish. ENGPPP00120121110130705

JPNS-12-10-12-009 DAYS OUT Clown Fish at Blue Reef''Keepers at Portsmouth's Blue Reef Aquarium are celebrating the successful birth of no fewer than five tiny 'Nemo' clownfish. ENGPPP00120121110130705

And the child who most accurately reports the population of the animals will win a free full year’s child membership to the aquarium.

Jenna MacFarlane, from Blue Reef, said: ‘January has traditionally always been the time of year when we do an official check on all our stock numbers.

‘We thought it would be a good idea to involve the visitors in the whole process as well and turn it into a fun activity that everyone can take part in.

‘Obviously some creatures will be rather easier to count than others.

‘The sharks are usually fairly straightforward, although there are a number of species that like to spend much of their time either hidden among the rocks or under the sand.

‘Tree frogs can be a little tricky as they’re very well-camouflaged and anemones are always something of a guesstimate as they reproduce by dividing so one can quickly become two.’

Lindsay Holloway is the general manager of Blue Reef.

He said: ‘It’s important to do the count, for several reasons.

‘It is a legal requirement as part of our zoo licence.

‘We also need to know how many are in the tanks. In some of the bigger tanks its hard to see and there may have been some baby fish, fry, born.

‘In some cases we need to separate them from the parents just in case they eat them.

‘Our volunteers do not need to bring any equipment with them, just a good pair of eyes.’

Blue Reef replicates the Mediterranean and is home to everything from sea horses and puffer fish to living corals and tropical sharks. For more information go to bluereefaquarium.co.uk/portsmouth.