Friday, December 21, 2007

Blobfish is back, bigger than ever

Remember blobfish? That captivating deep-sea fish with the world-weary look? HE'S BACK.

With a series of well-timed appearances, blobfish has once again hit number 1 on the Blogfish charts. Here's just a small sampling of what blobfish has been up to.

On YouTube, you can see blobfish starring in a bittersweet tale of life's transitions. Or, check out blobfish mujlu , a strange vignette with anti-Microsoft leanings. There's some reality TV with blobfish appearing in situ at 500+ meters deep in the Ocean, and a brief interview revealing the true depth of blobfish's angst.

Here's a revealing portrait of blobfish and friends, and an ad appearance with blobfish promoting a Toyota concept car. Another appearance that built his image is this edgy bit role in Counter Strike, the violent online game. Finally, no listing would be complete without the inevitable blobfish duet with Ziggy.

Stardom has it's downside and blogfish has sometimes resorted to disguises in public, but the papparazzi seem to find him anyway. Blobfish had no comment after he appeared at number 1 on a "10 ugliest animals list, beating even the repulsive star-nosed mole and the loathed hagfish.

Fan tributes are appearing everywhere, with blobfish as a MySpace nom de plume of a 25 yr old Texan, and a 24 yr old from Tasmania.

On Facebook, we have the blobfish pity society, and the blobfish lovers.

In the blogosphere, we have Blob World, and the underwater Blobfish welcomes you.

Can you believe the reach of this mega-star?

Since blogfish is blobfish central, send your blobfish sightings here, and I'll post regular updates. Now let's say goodbye with a final peek at one of blobfish's finer moments of the last few months (photo at right).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

How lucky do you feel?

Which will it be, column thinking or row thinking? Don't know what I'm talking about? Well, then you're out of it.

Everybody who's anybody has seen this video and can talk about columns or rows. It's at more than 4 MILLION views and counting. Even if you've never watched YouTube, it's easy, just double-click the triangle and go.

It's a bit wonky, but do you want to be the ONLY one who doesn't know? You'll feel like that loser in Junior High School who...well you remember and let's not go there.

Watch the video, all the way to the end...and then change the world Greg Craven's way.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

CO2 poisoning is killing the ocean

Imagine a poison so nasty that it dissolved your skeleton. Sounds like a horror movie, but it's real. Excess carbon dioxide is a vicious ocean killer that dissolves shells and bones, and it's happening today.

How bad is it? CO2 poisoning will kill, corrode, and dissolve most of the world's corals by 2100 if we don't fix our CO2 habit. Unchecked, CO2 poisoning will also kill vital plankton that are food for many of the ocean's fish and whales. And the damage has already begun. Yikes.

OK, are you paying attention now? Shall we do something about this ocean menace? Does "CO2 poisoning" sound like something we need to fix? More so than the bland term "ocean acidification?"

Or, should we stick with a nice 6 syllable word (a-cid-i-fi-ca-tion) to talk about a vicious ocean killer? Does that work, or does it just spell b-o-r-i-n-g to most people?

Is this the best way to talk about CO2 poisoning?
"Under conditions expected in the 21st century, global warming and ocean acidification will compromise carbonate accretion, with corals becoming increasingly rare on reef systems."
Or how about this:
Acidifying the ocean is particularly detrimental to organisms that secrete shell material made of CaCO3, such as coral reefs and a type of phytoplankton called coccolithophorids.

I'll make you a deal. If you're one of the 17 people in the world who really understands all the details of CO2 chemistry in the ocean (see figure, right), then you can say "acidification" in public. Otherwise, it's time to start using real words like CO2 poisoning to talk about this vicious ocean killer.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Turning shrimp into gasoline

What makes more sense, eating prime Gulf of Mexico shrimp or turning them into gasoline? If midwestern farmers have their way, we'll be turning shrimp into gasoline.

If you burn a gallon of corn-based ethanol in your car, you're pouring nitrogen onto a field in the midwest, and the runoff from that field runs down to the Gulf of Mexico where it adds to the dead zone. So instead of shrimp from the Gulf, you have ethanol from the Mississippi watershed.

How do you feel about putting lovely shrimp into your car? I'm not too happy about it. Growing shrimp is a higher and better use for the Gulf of Mexico than serving as a waste receptacle for corn-growing ethanol makers.

We need some way to tie the two problems together, so that we can make the proper judgments about what to do.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Acid oceans worst in North Pacific

If you like the Pacific Ocean, you should start to worry about CO2 in the atmosphere. Because of the way ocean waters move, the acid ocean problem will start here.

How bad is the problem right now?

"Corrosive water between 600 and 700 feet deep has already been detected off the continental shelf of Washington, Oregon and Alaska" said NOAA scientist Richard Feely

So what? Why should we worry? Because the entire ocean food web could unravel. Anything that uses calcium carbonate, for shells or bones will have a hard time making shells or bones. Where acidification is severe, corrosive water will dissolve shells or bones and make it impossible to grow more.

The biggest bad news is that ocean acidification won't go away quickly, even if we reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. Some scientists say the ocean will become permanently more acidic.

“For all practical purposes, this is permanent,” said Steven Emerson, UW oceanography professor. “That’s not true of temperature. But with ocean acidification, the time scales are long.”


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Lumpfish love isn't free

Who knew lumpfish could stir passions so? After yesterday's post on lumpfish, Jón Baldur Hlíðberg from Iceland sent an email saying lumpfish caviar is great, and kindly shared his fantastic illustrations of the fish of Iceland, including this lovely male lumpfish (right).

As if that wasn't enough on lumpfish, the astute Wolfman Jack noted the risks of fishing lumpfish in a comment to yesterday's post...just as I was ready to get some lumpfish caviar thanks to Jón's note. And I didn't get just one or two lumpfish items, the prolific Greg Laden featured lumpfish as "cool and odd" on his great blog, and the blogfish hit counter went nuts on Friday, partially due to lumpfish traffic. We scored over 5,000 unique visits on Friday, a blogfish record. Thanks all for stopping by, and since you seem to like odd sea creature stories I'll try to find more for you.

Now if you really want to know more about lumpfish, they are cold water fish that guard nests of young, some have suckers on their bellies that allow them to cling to rocks, Webster's online dictionary tells us that the word "lumpfish" is used 6 times out of 100 million words written or spoken in English, and the lumpfish is also known as paddlecock or lumpsucker.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lumpfish caviar, the sublime ugly

Would you buy caviar from this fish? Here's someone who will sell you lumpfish caviar? When the high end caviar gets scarce, who knows where we'll have to go for more.

Maybe it's time to bring back one of our lumpfish caviar, tomorrow blobfish caviar?

Sea lice from salmon farms killing wild salmon

Very bad news from British Columbia, super-dense salmon farms breed sea lice that may exterminate wild salmon runs in the same areas. We may face a choice between salmon farms and wild salmon. Which would you choose?

This isn't a new problem, we've been killing wild salmon for decades with our government-run salmon farms called hatcheries. Meant to protect salmon, we now know that hatcheries harm wild salmon runs while producing fish for people to catch. Hatcheries are controversial at best among wild fish advocates.

What is a salmon hatchery? Salmon hatcheries are fish farms that release fish to live part of their life wild. They're built to compensate for habitat loss, or simply to try to increase salmon production so people can catch more salmon. Fish agencies have routinely blocked and killed wild salmon runs on rivers where hatcheries are built, to protect hatcheries from contamination.

Can wild salmon be helped? Not so long as the seafood industry and the federal government count hatchery salmon as "wild."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Electric eel lights christmas tree

Is this the ultimate in green energy? An electric eel's power has been harnessed in Japan to light a Christmas tree.

Some eels generate electric fields to detect prey in murky waters, by detecting disturbances in the electric field. By placing electrodes in the eels tank, the eel-power is made to flow through a circuit and light up a christmas tree.

This is cute, but I doubt we'll see eel-power used for industrial purposes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Science vs. religion clash: is a whale a fish?

What seems like a basic biological question blew up into a vitriolic public smackdown. Sound familiar?

In 1818, a whale oil dealer refused to pay a fish-product fine on whale oil, because a whale isn't a fish. The inspector insisted on the tax, and a spirited court and public battle played out.

This struggle sounds silly today, but it ignited a culture clash much like the current struggle over evolution and creation in public schools.

Ultimately a jury ruled that a "whale is a fish," until the New York legislature settled the matter by voting that whales are not fish. I knew we could count on NY.

This fascinating tale comes from D. Graham Burnett in Trying Leviathan: The Nineteenth-Century New York Court Case That Put the Whale on Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature.

The Princeton University website says this about the book:

In Moby-Dick, Ishmael declares, "Be it known that, waiving all argument, I take the good old fashioned ground that a whale is a fish, and call upon holy Jonah to back me." Few readers today know just how much argument Ishmael is waiving aside. In fact, Melville's antihero here takes sides in one of the great controversies of the early nineteenth century--one that ultimately had to be resolved in the courts of New York City. In Trying Leviathan, D. Graham Burnett recovers the strange story of Maurice v. Judd, an 1818 trial that pitted the new sciences of taxonomy against the then-popular--and biblically sanctioned--view that the whale was a fish. The immediate dispute was mundane: whether whale oil was fish oil and therefore subject to state inspection. But the trial fueled a sensational public debate in which nothing less than the order of nature--and how we know it--was at stake. Burnett vividly re-creates the trial, during which a parade of experts--pea-coated whalemen, pompous philosophers, Jacobin lawyers--took the witness stand, brandishing books, drawings, and anatomical reports, and telling tall tales from whaling voyages. Falling in the middle of the century between Linnaeus and Darwin, the trial dramatized a revolutionary period that saw radical transformations in the understanding of the natural world. Out went comfortable biblical categories, and in came new sorting methods based on the minutiae of interior anatomy--and louche details about the sexual behaviors of God's creatures.

When leviathan breached in New York in 1818, this strange beast churned both the natural and social orders--and not everyone would survive.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Chesapeake oyster tragedy

The fabled watermen of the Chesapeake Bay have just finished digging their own grave, and they're taking the oysters with them.

This is a sad story that didn't have to be this way. Oysters used to be so numerous that they cleaned the Bay every 3 days, and oyster reefs were a hazard to navigation. But overfishing has removed most of the oysters and destroyed the oyster shell reefs necessary to provide a good home for young oysters.

The oyster catch is now down around 1/1000 of the rich plunder of a century ago, and pessimists outnumber optimists. Oytster farming, once a heresy, is now the most likely hope for an oyster revival.

It's enough to make an oyster lover cry. Where did the oyster-loving watermen go so wrong? Why did the government allow it to happen? Why were we the people asleep at the wheel?

hat tip: Shifting Baselines

Monday, December 10, 2007

Better fishing by fishing less

How can a fisherman make more money? By fishing less. This one has blogfish written all over it.

A new study says fishing is better when there are more fish in the water. No big surprise there, but I guess it's a big deal when this common sense idea is dressed up with lots of equations.

Is it going to matter? Will this study lead to better fishing policies? I doubt it, since we've known for a long time that overfishing is bad and yet it still happens. It is an advance to show scientifically that less fishing is more profitable for fishermen. But it won't solve most of our problems. Why?

Because most of our fishing problems are fights over who gets the fish. Until that's settled, few fishermen will quit racing to catch fish.

I don't mean to be cynical and pick on good research. It is a great advance to show conclusively that less fishing is better fishing. And I hope that this research is implemented by fishery managers and politicians. Maybe the scientists involved will help with this messy task?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Blue crab collapse in Chesapeake bay

Another sad story, blue crabs are disappearing from Chesapeake Bay.

Why? We're catching too many, at the same time as pollution makes it difficult for blue crabs. Watermen who catch crabs stubbornly persist in catching too many crabs, even though they're killing their own livelihood.

Blogfish has been here before, complaining about killing too many blue crabs. Now the overfishing has come home to roost.

Talk about killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Carnival of the blue 7

Enjoy the best of ocean blogging at Carnival of the Blue 7 at Natural Patriot.

There are some new entrants, so even if you've looked at the Carnival before, try this month's entry and find some new ocean bloggers.

Mini nuclear power plants

There's a new nuclear power option for producing low CO2 electricity, mini nuke plants. Oregon State University scientists propose baby nukes in the relative safety of Corvallis, Oregon.

This is not the only place where baby nukes are being talked up as a solution. What do you think? Should we have these mini nuclear reactors "dotting the countryside?"