Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Congress considers climate change impacts on oceans

Will our oceans get hammered by climate change? Is it true that corals are already being harmed by climate change? The US Congress wants to know, and decided to ask a panel of experts in a hearing today.

The answers? Climate change is already harming oceans, and corals are the canaries in the coal mine, showing impacts before most other ocean life. Climate change is first an ocean issue. Should people care? Well, our oceans absorb over a third of the greenhouse gases produced and up to 80% of the world's excess heat, so oceans truly are the engine that drive and steer the earth's climate

What to do? Ocean Conservancy President Vikki Spruill suggested the following actions:

First, every climate change bill should include support for adaptation strategies. Mitigation alone won't solve the problem. We need to take on both the cure and the recovery of this disease called climate change. Second, this Congress should pass three ocean bills that are already in the pipeline: Oceans 21, the Coral Reef Conservation Act and the National Marine Sanctuary Act. Lastly, do no harm. There are ocean sequestration proposals to deposit the CO2 underwater that would be potentially devastating to the health of the ocean and need to be researched further.

Love corals, and corals will love you

Yes, it's true for corals just like people. Share the love and you'll be glad you did.

Saving corals is an economic miracle. Worldwide, corals generate $9.6 billion per year in money that people can put in their pockets, thanks to coral-related tourism alone. That's a lot of love that corals give us.

Will we return the favor and do what it takes to save corals? Or will we piss away all that money as we over-love the world's beautiful corals?

Coral week

Hold onto your hats, it's Coral Week at Deep-Sea News. Did you know that some corals glow? Or why some places have more corals?

Well, join your genial hosts Craig (right), Peter, and Kevin, along with some special guest bloggers, as they tell you some strange and wonderful things about corals. And who is that man in the photo anyway, looking so Neptune-ish? Go to Deep-Sea News and find out.

Here's their latest, on bioluminescent corals.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Boat made of discarded plastic bottles

What better way to see the Great Pacific Garbage Patch than in a boat made of plastic bottles?

The Algalita Marine Research Foundation will make a raft out of plastic junk, call it "Junk," and sail across the Pacific, through the garbage patch, to Hawaii.

It's a boat of the Junk, by the Junk, and for the junk. You can read about it on their blog, of course.

Now there's a shifting baseline, so much junk you can sail it, and Shifting Baselines is, of course, on the story.

The image above is crew member Marcus Erickson, imitating an ocean creature floating in a sea of junk.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Shark bite hits close to home

Swimmer killed by great white shark. A very rare event, but this one hits close to home. I used to swim on this beach in Southern California.

Worrying about shark attacks is silly, the risk is very, very low. But it's hard to avoid picturing the horrendous image of being held in the mouth of an 18-foot long, 2,000 pound shark. Especially after watching this shark attack video. I do NOT want a piece of that action.

When I was in graduate school in the 1980s, I used to swim on the beaches of San Diego County, including Solana Beach where the recent fatal shark attack occurred. It was great fun to swim out around local buoys or across coves, sometimes up to a mile across some deeper water. Occasionally, I would get a creepy feeling, and ignore it and keep on swimming. This time, it was real for one swimmer.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sherman's Lagoon on saving sharks

Want to know what can happen to a shark if he's not careful? See what happens to Sherman of Sherman's Lagoon as he gets his fins sliced off, reattached, and lives through the whole ordeal, as Sherman's Lagoon takes a stand for saving sharks.

Here's the opener from last Sunday, and if you go to the Sherman's Lagoon website you can watch Sherman's adventure over the next week (April 14-20, 2008). I don't want to spoil it for you, but it does involve an online bidding site (see toon above--Sherman tries to get his fins back).

In the real ocean, most sharks aren't so lucky and getting their fins sliced off is a one way trip to death. Too many sharks are getting killed for their fins, and courageous cartoonist Jim Toomey is to be congratulated for taking a very public stand for shark conservation, in addition to writing a very funny comic strip.

Thanks Jim. I've always wondered what cartoonists are like, and I had the privilege of meeting Jim and finding out. He's a really funny guy, no kidding! Dinner with Jim is an adventure.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ocean refuges gain ground in California

Wouldn't it be nice if fish had someplace to hide in the ocean? A safe area where invasive, high-tech fishing couldn't get them? My kids understand the idea, when they play chasing games there's always a safe "base" where they can't be chased--often daddy's leg.

In the good old days, fish could always hide somewhere. Rough ground where fishing gear would snag, or small pockets of habitat that fishermen couldn't find, like seamounts. The difficulty in finding fish provided a natural refuge, and some fish would always survive to reproduce, even if extreme overfishing prevailed elsewhere.

Nowadays, with GPS and super-high-tech sonar fish-finders, people on boats can see the eye color of a fish from a mile away. And we've lost the natural refuges and most fish have no place to hide. Only the great depths are out of reach, and fishermen are getting better at going there with their fishing gear.

Conservationists have responded to the loss of natural refuges by asking for man-made refuges, places closed to some or all fishing. It's a common sense concept championed by smart fishermen in rivers and lakes, and some courageous ocean fishing leaders. But, sadly, most ocean fishermen have chosen to fight rather than join the refuge effort. Angelo over at Saipan Blog reports the sad news that refuges won't happen right now in the Mariana Islands, and Rick at Malaria, Bed Bugs, Sea Lice and Sunsets points out a possibly nefarious effort by fishing interests to stop these refuges.

Thankfully, there is progress in California. The state's Blue Ribbon Task Force recommended a new network of Marine Protected Areas where fishing is banned or restricted to give fish a place to hide. Now the proposal goes to the Fish and Game Commission for final action, and they'll likely approve the package or something close to it.

The fantastic conservationist and blogger Kate Wing over at Switchboard blogs about the process, the people and how it warms her heart to see government in action like this. Kate, my friend, you're almost as strange as me if you like this stuff. She's got such a sharp wit, she really oughtta find a better gig than the nice but institutional Switchboard--someplace where she can really get the fur flying.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mercury from fish to spiders to songbirds

OK this is just too weird. Songbirds are contaminated with mercury near a river in Virgina where the fish are too mercury-contaminated to eat. But the birds don't eat from the river. What gives?

Oh, it's the spiders. The mercury-laden songbirds are getting it from mercury-contaminated spiders. Nobody knows yet how how the spiders are getting the mercury. Unless the spiders are eating the mercury-contaminated fish. What a tangled web of pollution, and the first known instance of mercury from fish infiltrating a purely land-based ecosystem (spiders and songbirds).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The false battle between truth and persuasion

It’s interesting and a bit unfortunate to watch the battle currently raging over communicating science. This battle has now devolved into a false battle between truth and persuasion, as though they're mutually exclusive.

It's possible and desirable to use smart communication and accurate persuasion to build public support and acceptance of science, and to strengthen the role of science in public policy. I'm amazed that so many scientists don't wanna go there.

The truth vs. persuasion battle has turned into a shouting match (see post and comments), as scientists, communicators, and communication scientists debate the best way to respond to the anti-evolution and anti-science movie that opened last week, Expelled (No Intelligence Allowed).

Many scientists want to debunk the movie and leave it at that. They seem to believe that it’s wrong to do anything other than speak the truth and hope for the best.

This is most obvious in the science blogosphere, where most science bloggers seem to be wrapped around the axle of truth. Their version of defending truth has put us in the position of ignoring other needs such as winning hearts and minds. And truth, by itself, is only a weak approach to winning hearts and minds, no matter how much science bloggers may wish it to be otherwise. Hoping to change that is a quixotic struggle, with a misguided motivation.

Why do some defend this version of truth so vehemently? It seems that too many scientists view defending truth as the be-all and end-all of being a scientist. Any other task is wrong and beneath us. Who cares if we can build support for science by being persuasive, because that would be an illegitimate success.

What is the relationship between defending truth and being persuasive? Are they really at odds, as many scientists seem to believe? No. It's possible to be accurate AND persuasive. That's the challenge in front of us, and too few seem to recognize that. Several who have tried to point this out are getting attacked, including Matt Nisbet, Chris Mooney, and Randy Olson.

Why do many scientists seem to believe that truth and persuasion are at odds? That's a tough question, and here's my suggestion for an answer.

Most scientists cling too tightly to our preferred method (simple truth statements) because we’re afraid of the slippery slope of trying to persuade. We fear that trying to persuade means accepting that “the end justifies the means.”

But if we use the science of communication, we can be persuasive while still being accurate. If nothing else, we can select what is persuasive from a list of different simple truth statements. Or, if it’s not too scary, we can actually build persuasive materials that are also true. We can parse carefully in communication science, just like we all parse carefully within our specialties.

It’s strange that most of us can split hairs so finely in our specialties, but bluntly refuse to engage in or even tolerate such fine distinctions when we get outside of our specialties. This problem seems to be rooted in how we’re trained and how we get comfortable with certain approaches and tools.

To succeed as scientists, we’re forced to get really, really good at parsing ideas and data in our specialties, and it’s hard to get there. But that’s where success resides, so that’s where we all aim. It works. But what happens when we seek to go outside of that comfort zone?

Outside of our specialties, life gets challenging. Either we’re babes in the woods with little expertise, or we take the risk of using comfortable approaches in a new field where they’re relatively untested. Success may follow, but mistakes should not be a surprise.

How does this apply to anti-science outreach like Expelled? Debunking is an adequate response within scientific endeavors, but it’s only a partial response to Expelled. Relying on debunking alone is misapplying a particular scientific approach. To supplement debunking, we need lots of accurate and engaging outreach that speaks well to large, diverse audiences. We need more movies like Randy Olson’s Flock of Dodos. And they need to be fun, not just crotchety attacks on the products of others.

Persuasion has the goal of getting people to change their minds, and simply stating the truth (like debunking Expelled) is one possible approach that may not be maximally effective. However, stating the truth is the preferred method of scientists, and dropping the method is unacceptable even if it’s persuasive. It’s a clash of goal vs. method and there’s no right answer. Overemphasis of either can turn into a major stumble.

It’s not ok to lie to persuade people that evolution is real, and scientists are justifiably worried about this risk (the worry that the end justifies the means). But many scientists fail to notice that we can make another important error if we cling too tightly to simple truth statements because we’re afraid of the slippery slope of trying to persuade. We can end up indirectly encouraging people to believe in intelligent design, because we’re unwilling to buckle down and learn the science of communication and use it in service of accurate persuasion.

In case you wonder why I feel capable of speaking to this subject...my thoughts come from my experience as a trained scientist and subsequent experience as a communicator and persuader. I learned science successfully, published two papers in Science as a first author from my thesis research, and got a tenure-track professor job. Thus, I believe that I know the science side of this very well. Subsequently, I quit academia and I’ve spent the last 15 years learning how to do conservation work. I’ve learned a lot about persuasion in that time, and it was a long, hard learning process. Not unlike my science training. Others like Randy Olson have similar tales of dual training, science and persuasion. And experts like Matt Nisbet pursue the science of communication and have a lot to teach us if we’re willing to listen.

It’s interesting and ironic to see so many scientists get so worked up regarding the false battle between truth and persuasion. If you take the time to get fluent in both, I think you’ll see that there’s really no problem. We can be truthful persuaders and do a much better job of building support for science and strengthening the role of science in public policy. And we don't need to be afraid of the slippery slope that heads downhill to spin and lying.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

New laws build wave of green jobs in Oregon

If you build good sustainability incentives into state law, they will come to Oregon with green jobs. Such was the promise when renewable energy legislation was being debated. It worked. Now the Oregonian reports a wave of green energy jobs is coming to Oregon.

The promise of sustainability is real, and it's time to bury the tired old conservation vs. jobs story. Conservation and sustainability are good public policy and they're good for everyone.

The jobs are good ones, like SolarWorld expanding their photovoltaic manufacturing operation in Hillsboro outside Portland.

On Earth Day, make love to the Earth

This is the day for LOVING the earth. Get excited, unleash your passion, revel in the glory of being alive on this wonderful planet.

Go outside, breathe the air. Feel the sun or the rain or the cold. Stoke your fires for the days ahead.

We can work on Earth Day, but let's all take the time to feel the earth and stay connected. And let's remember to treat earth like a lover.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Missing salmon, where have they gone?

There's no mystery in this year's salmon collapse. We killed our salmon many years ago, and we just failed to notice.

Why do others see a mystery? Because they weren't paying attention.

This year's salmon crash was inevitable, now that we've reduced our salmon portfolio to just a few stocks. Lacking a diverse portfolio, a bad year for one stock is a very bad year overall.

Think of this like a financial investment porfolio that consists of only one stock. If that company does well, you win. But if that company goes bankrupt, you lose. Who would be stupid enough to invest their life's savings in just one stock?

But that's what we've done with salmon. After a century of salmon abuse, we've reduced the diversity of our salmon portfolio to just a few stocks. And diversity is important for salmon, it's the foundation of productivity. It's no surprise that we finally had a bad couple of years. It was bound to happen, since we failed to put a value on diveristy.


And for those naysayers who want to blame water withdrawals in the Sacramento River delta...

This year's crash isn't just in California, things are bad in Oregon rivers too. So the crash can't just be caused by water diversion in California rivers. There is very clear evidence that ocean conditions played a major role in the salmon collapse. For a glimpse of the role of diversity in productivity, check out this description of how some Columbia salmon are doing fairly well, compared to others that are in trouble. Even now, we can see the value of diversity. But will we pay attention?

Will we begin to protect diversity and resilience, the foundations of salmon productivity? Or will we count noses and hope for the best?

Go ahead, put your retirement money in Enron stock.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

First-in-a-century fish success

Who says we can't undo damage done to the environment? Here's a success story.

A 13 inch rainbow trout made history last week. It swam upstream to spawn in the Clark Fork River, past the former site of the Milltown Dam. This is quick success for the restoration project, and it should give hope to everyone that ecosystem restoration can work.

Blogfish brought you the news of the Milltown Dam coming down, and now I'm very pleased to tell you that fish are moving past the old dam site. Go Fish! They're tougher and more resilient than many people think.

image: Fish Eye Guy, one of his amazing collection of photos

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Organic sticker shock a lesson for sustainable seafood

Organic food is a success story right? But some organic farmers are going back to conventional farming, even though demand for organic food is high and prices are high. Is this a problem? YES!

Sustainable seafood people should watch and learn.

Rising costs snowball from farm to market, scaring off customers. Prices are skyrocketing for organic food, according to the New York Times. Some reliable organic customers are responding by cutting back their organic food buying. All because the supply of organic food is too small.

The demand side of organic is doing well, it's the supply side that's struggling.

The lesson for sustainable seafood is that we need to do things to increase the supply of sustainable seafood. Otherwise, we might face the same problem as organic food right now.

Who is working to increase supplies of sustainable seafood? Most sustainable seafood advocates think the invisible hand of the marketplace will solve that problem. It ain't working for organic food right now, so why do we think sustainable seafood will be any different?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Kill the Ocean Garbage Monster

Imagine you had an aching gut, and your doctor told you that you're gonna die because you ate too much plastic and your stomach and intestine were clogged and split open. Ugh, what a way to go, from eating little bits of plastic mixed in with your food, and the occasional super-realistic plastic steak or burger.

It's not a horror story, it's a tragic reality for too many ocean animals because of the scary new Ocean Garbage Monster. That's an ugly mess that our foremothers and forefathers never had to worry about.

Ocean animals eat plastic accidentally, either mixed with their real food or sometimes because it looks just like their real food. To a sea turtle, a floating plastic bag can look just like a yummy jellyfish.

Fortunately, something is being done, and you can help. The Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup removed 6 million pounds of trash from our oceans and beaches, through the combined efforts of 378,000 people in 76 countries worldwide and 45 US states. Join us for the next cleanup on Sep. 20, 2008.

It's the largest ocean cleanup event in the world, and now it's time to start a sea change by making it a lifestyle instead of just a one day event. "Live Blue" by resolving to limit your impact on the ocean, starting with your personal trash footprint.

Wanna know what trash items are most often found on beaches and in the ocean? The ICC report will tell you, so you know what items to worry about. Did you know that straws are in the top ten list of ocean and beach trash?

Join the fun, and you'll be smarter, sexier and richer.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ocean winds revealed

Ever wanna know what the winds will be like in March off the Oregon coast? Here's a new tool that will tell you, COGOW, the ocean wind atlas.

To find out about ocean winds, just click the link above, select an area on the map that comes up, and select a month. You'll get an image like the one at left, showing wind patterns and strength for that area and month.

For March off Oregon (left), notice that great swirling pattern of winds centered in the Pacific off California. It shows where the gyre monster lives, accumulating plastic trash.

Whales vs. Lobster

That's the title of a great post by Jives over at The New Blue, a new blog on ocean issues from the New England Aquarium. Great stuff on whales and lobsters, and a heads-up on the newest Olympic sport, ray racing (photo at right).

Are comments allowed, Jives? I can't find a comment link so I can bet on the ray to win.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A side of whale with your lobster?

Would you still buy Maine lobster if it came with a side of whale meat? Well guess what, when you buy lobster you’re paying someone to lay a spider web of ropes in front of whales, and some of the whales get caught. Is that what you want to buy?

These days, we think of other people when we think about killing whales. Japanese whale hunts disguised as science, or Iceland and Norway resisting international management. But lobster fishing kills whales right here at home, despite more than a decade of work to protect whales. If you buy lobster, you own a piece of this problem.

Lobsters are caught with traps, and ropes are used to hold and retreive the traps (see diagram at left). Where lobster fishing is good, there are a lot of traps on the bottom and a spider web of ropes that float up in the water creating a potential trap for whales.

How bad is the risk to whales from catching lobsters? Entanglement scars have been found on 75% of critically endangered right whales, most probably caused by lobster fishing. Some of those whales die from drowning, while some escape with injuries caused by thrashing around in the ropes.

Lobstering isn’t the only thing that kills whales. Other fishing gear like gillnets can also catch and kill whales, and large ships can kill by running over whales. So why focus on Maine lobster?

The proud Maine lobster industry wants to fetch a higher price for their catch by promoting Maine lobster as sustainable. I have a problem with calling Maine lobster sustainable if catching lobster means also catching whales.

I believe lobstermen when they say they don’t want to kill whales, but they could do more to save whales. Lobstermen are fighting a new federal regulation designed to protect whales. It’s the latest in a series of usually-successful efforts to get powerful politicians like Senator Olympia Snowe to protect the lobster industry.

There is more the lobster industry could do, and the painfully slow progress on protecting whales is not what I would expect from a fishery that wants to be called sustainable. Sustainability includes protecting ocean ecosystems.

Here's the lobstermen’s side of the story, and a link to Maine Lobsermen's Association legal defense fund where you can contribute money to fight whale protection rules that lobstermen don't like. For more info, you can reach the Maine Lobstermen’s Association at info@mainelobstermen.org

Here's one example of a thought from the Jan. 2003 Massachusett's Lobsterman's Association newsletter, another place you can find the lobster industry's views:
"...I promised myself I would refrain from further criticism of developments in the whale theater of the absurd hoping, I guess, that some type of reason would prevail when dealing with the National Marine Fisheries Service’s efforts to save whales. I guess I was willing to believe that in the end they would see that fishermen are more important than the whales..."
Image: entangled humpback whale

Monday, April 14, 2008

Saving the ocean with guilt or desire-part 2

You ocean lovers, how do you want to save the ocean? Do you think it's better to use guilt to get people to stop harming the ocean, or is it better to link our cause with people's positive desires?

The blogfish poll results are in, and 60% said the sustainable seafood movement relies on guilt, compared to 25% who said the movement does not rely on guilt. But most of you who identified guilt as the motivator don't mind using guilt in trying to motivate people to conserve fish.

I worry about using guilt, and this has been an interesting quest to solicit other views. The poll was successful in my eyes, a lot of you answered and the results were informative. Also, I was curious whether any of this would draw answers from elsewhere, and it did.

Here's my earlier post on guilt vs. desire, where I weighed in with support for the value of desire as a conservation motivator, and below are 4 blogs that posted substantive responses that I found interesting.

Ezra Klein at The American Prospect says:
It's an interesting point, and it builds well from the work done by Alice Waters, who's been able to create a politics around food that argues for more sustainable, organic, and even limiting approaches but does so by painting such choices as ones you want to make on your own terms -- because local ingredients taste better, and less processed foods are more healthful.

Andrew Savits at The Triple Bottom Line Blog agrees:
Of course Powell's overall point is well-taken and important. From a marketing standpoint, you never want to be in the position of defending negativity (fear, guilt, No) against positivity (optimism, pleasure, Yes).

And Neil Sinhababu at Cogitamus suggests:
In keeping with Mark Powell's view, linked by Ezra, that environmentalists in the sustainable food movement need to play into people's positive desires more effectively by offering them delicious food of the right kind, I'd like to suggest a similar strategy for veggie evangelists.

Finally, Sam Fromartz at Chews Wise is interested buy not quite convinced:
Mark's essay speaks to a broader issue that food advocates confront, which involves changing habits. And the best way that can be done is by creating new desires - whether for new (sustainable) fish they haven't yet eaten, fresh local food, slow food or what have you. But I imagine the purveyors of guilt won't be happy with this message. I'm not sure I'm convinced either.

Blogfish poll results-


No 41 (25%)

Yes, and that's ok 64 (40%)

Yes, and that's bad 33 (20%)

What's sustainable seafood? 21 (13%)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Shore birds crash in Australia

You know those birds you see wading in shallow water at the ocean's shore? The ones that are everywhere. Well, look again, they're not everywhere these days. At least not in Australia, where shore birds are in trouble.

Agriculture and industrial development are claiming shore habitats that used to provide resting and feeding areas for shorebirds. Lacking habitat, the shorebirds are in serious decline. Treaties to protect migratory birds have proven ineffective and stronger measure are needed.

I guess it's bad luck to crave the beach, unless you have pockets full of money to buy your place at the shore.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Selling biology, a new source of funding?

Wanna name a new ocean animal after your partner or your dog? It'll cost you upwards of $5,000 and the money will pay for science.

The venerable site of my ocean education, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, is offering a new special. A super-fancy hydrothermal vent worm could carry your chosen name for $50,000 and you can have a nice orange speckled nudibranch for $15,000.

I suppose it had to come to this, since there's never enough money for research and rich people are always looking for new ways to conspicuously consume. I'm thinking the nudibranch is just perfect for Paris Hiltonii.

And looking back, this is hardly a new thing. Rich patrons have always been important for scientists and artists. Here's a new way to get back to the good ol' days of patronage. Of course, that carries with it the need to appeal to fickle personalities for support, instead of the more logical and bureaucratic funding agencies.

Maybe we'll get to corporate sponsorship, and we'll have the "Verizonia" or "BankAmericania" as new groups of animals, with interesting new TV commercials to follow. Hey wait...maybe this is a good way to get science back in the public eye, the gecko seems to be working for Geico. Maybe Verizon will feature a tube worm with a cell phone in their ads next year?

Happy 2nd birthday to blogfish

Two years of blogfish, and I'm still here. You, my dear friends, have grown in number from a few each day to a high of 5,000+ on one really big day. Visitors from 136 countries all over the world (even Uganda?)

Thanks for dropping by, and I hope to offer you more and better ocean blogging over the next year.

Please feel free to drop a note in the comment box, let me (and others) know who you are, why you come here, and what you'd like to see on blogfish in the future.

See you,

Snail sex-too hot to handle

...but also strangely seductive. Here's an over-18 clip of snail sex, with an awesome soundtrack ("Sexy Boy"). The entry of the main character is not to be missed, also the early courtship scenes. It's not strictly oceans, but I'm sure underwater gastropods would be equally charismatic if captured on film like this.

Hat tip: The Other 95%

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Strange internet black holes that suck data

Ever have trouble getting your daily blogfish? Now we know why, startling new virtual "black holes" in the internet can suck in data and block communication.

The newly-discovered black holes last longer than 15 minutes and are found by tracking incidents of "partial reachability," where a particular site on the internet is reachable from some computers but not others. This means the site is working, but blocked from access by some users.

The strange virtual black holes open and close, and are now being mapped by a University of Washington research team, using the aptly named Hubble tool. See sample map above right or click to get a more detailed real-time map. At the Hubble link you can also check the status of your site, to see whether someone can't reach you!

Now I'm ready to look for virtual biology like internet sharks and virtual hagfish.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Prehistoric whale hunting

Whale hunting is not new. Arctic people were hunting whales at least 3,000 years ago in what is now Alaska and Russia, according to a new study.

According to scientists: "The importance of whaling in arctic prehistory is clear. Prehistoric settlements were situated and defended so that people could hunt whales"

No reports on whether anti-whaling activists interfered and tried to block the hunts.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Saving whales with sound

Whales talk. Hmmm...can we tune in to whale talk and save whales from getting run over by big ships?

Yes, thanks to the Massachusetts Bay buoy network. It's a system of listening buoys that hear highly endangered right whales and tell big ships when to slow down. It's a real-time "whale zone" sign, designed to work like school crossing signs that get people to slow down when kids are bursting out of schools.

Wanna know where whales are right now? Check out listenforwhales.org and see for yourself what buoys can do.

Hugh Powell has the story over at surf.bird.scribble, thanks Hugh.

Carnival of the blue 11

The best of ocean blogging gets a unique treatment this month at Zooillogix (Don't stick your fingers in the cage) . The incomparable, inimitable, and indomitable Brothers Bleiman put on a great show and take Carnival of the Blue to a new level. Not sure if it's higher or lower, maybe you should go decide for yourself.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Octopus sex includes flirting and fighting

Human mating behavior is not so different from an Indonesian octopus. The prelude can include flirting and passionate hand-holding, but it can get rough when macho males jealously guard a female's home and strangle rivals.

The photo above right shows octopus sex, including the males specialized mating arm. The secrets of octopus mating have been hard to uncover, since octopi are so secretive. The current study came as scientific voyeurs hovered over the homes of shallow reef octopus and watched until they had seen enough. Special secrets include small "sneaker" males that mimic females and try to slip past other males to get to a willing female.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Milltown Dam removal in Montana

As I visit Montana, I'm happy to bring you news and video of the latest big dam removal. Milltown Dam is now gone, and the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers now flow free. Here's video from American Whitewater (posted below--4 minute time lapse of the dam's demise) and a link to the Clark Fork Coalition's Milltown Dam cam.

While you're on rivers, swing by the excellent American Rivers Blog, for all the best in river news, quotes, and more.

Phantom cod

Cod are missing from Chatham, Massachusetts. Where did they go? Chatham's fishermen are afraid that cod don't have enough to eat.

Interesting that the article makes no mention of overfishing. For at least the past couple of decades, and probably the past couple of centuries, we've been guilty of overfishing cod. That's catching fish faster than they can reproduce. Why worry about subtle, indirect harm when we're busy pulling too many cod out of the ocean?

So the cod are gone. I wonder if we'll finally do what it takes to bring them back. I worry when the focus goes away from overfishing before we're done solving that problem. Food for cod is important, there's no doubt about that. But focusing on herring while cod overfishing continues is like trying to do calculus before you learn to add and subtract. Let's stick to basics first, and tidy up that nasty little overfishing problem.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The best dinner in the world

Today, I had the best dinner in the world. It was fantastic: free-range, grass-fed, organic, locally produced, locally harvested, sustainable, native, low-stress, low-impact, humanely slaughtered meat. Best of all, it was delicious.

I had medallions from the finest part of the animal, the backstrap. It was snowing outside on April 1, the skiing was unbelievable with a couple of feet of fresh show the last week of March. The meat was passed our way by a friend of my hosts, and we had a fine glass of wine to go with this Montana mule deer.

It's enough to turn some ideas upside down, what's best and why. Hunting is suffering a bit of an image crisis, and it's now viewed by many as a barbaric practice. But locavore, get your gun. If it's ethics in food that you want, hunting can take you there.

I predict that in 10 years or less, hunting is cool again among the urban elite, after the meat gets rebranded. Maybe I'm nuts, or maybe it's the fact that I grew up with hunting. Either way, let's reconvene in a decade and see if hunting is the exciting "new" passion of locavores.

Now let me go sharpen my edges for tomorrow, it's snowing again tonight.