Sunday, August 31, 2008
We've dammed the Columbia, and perhaps damned this poor sturgeon and it's kin. Take a look at the sheer number of dams in the Columbia River basin (below right).
White sturgeon are not doing well in the Columbia River. One problem is toxic contamination that accumulates in the muck locked up behind the many dams. Sturgeon root around in the muck and eat muck-living critters and get the benefit of all that chemical buildup. Resulting in the kind of scene I saw on my vacation while trying to enjoy the river.
I paused a moment to take some pictures and mark the passing of this fine young 3 foot long sturgeon. Yeah, that's just a baby. A big one can be (are you sitting down?) 20 feet long, 1500 pounds, and well over 100 years old. I've seen pictures of huge sturgeon that were pulled from northwest rivers many years ago. Don't see many of those anymore.
Then it was back to windsurfing and remembering that it was not a work day. Dead river, dead fish, what do we expect? Tweet
Voters, I guess, since polling shows 25% of Washington voters don't know what GOP stands for, so it's a safer label than Republican this year.
One of Dino Rossi's ads is amusing: "tonight the Democrats have a nominee, and I agree with him on this: change is needed, but not just in Washington, D.C." Ummm...isn't he forgetting that his party's candidate is McCain?
He's not alone, he and other Republican candidates are dropping the Republican brand and skipping the Republican national convention in order to hide their stripes. He's says he's just too busy to go, but we all know he'd embrace a popular president or presidential candidate if he had one to embrace.
I know Washington is called a blue state, but this is surprising. Tweet
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
"If you see them in the water, for God’s sake get rid of them," said Gagnon. "It is not illegal to use them. Anyone who feels right has all the right in the world to use them. But I’m not going to guarantee that things aren’t going to change."Here's to Bill for taking on the problem of the garbage patches of the Northeast, and to fish with rubber-free bellies.
BassAssassin's Electric Chicken goes down easy... Tweet
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Where's blogfish? Windsurfing the gorge.
Maryhill is one of my favorite gorge windsurfing sites. I've probably windsurfed there at least 100 days in my life, it has a nice launch and big swells when the wind gets up over 25 mph. It also has my favorite camping in the Columiba gorge: home of famous big winds thanks to routine westerly flow that gets funneled up the river channel through the mountains.
I was a bit tense diving right in after no windsurfing for 3 years, but everything turned out alright. Except the skin on my hands, now a bit torn up. I'm blown away twice, once by the wind gusts and again by David and Pepijn for calling my location within minutes. Nobody got the 4.2 reference, though, that's a sail size.
That's tuk-tuk rigged and ready in front of Stonehenge. Tuk-tuk is the family carpool minivan moonlighting as a replica of the noble Fred, my old E-150 Ford windsurf van that saved my life when he was viciously totalled getting t-boned by a stinking new red camaro going way too fast on a highway (thanks to an old guy crossing in the way). I was sitting still at a stop sign and that Camaro pushed me 15 feet sideways, pushing my driver's side door in 2 feet. The Camaro stopped bending the van and started pushing it when it reached the beloved I-beam. I smile when I see the "built Ford-tough" commercial on tv. Walked away from that one--the Camaro driver was not so lucky, needed jaws of life and hospitalization. Whoa.
tuk-tuk is no match for the Vanagon WRX tres arboles, but it does the job. Now for the gusty and lusty gorge wind video:
4.2 all day
Check back later for the answer. Tweet
Monday, August 25, 2008
In all cases, the mislabeled fish were marketed as a more expensive, better known fish, which seems to imply it's not just a simple error. It's tough to know where the misleading began -- the buyer at the dock, the manager at the processing plant, the grocery supplier, or the chef? When popular items grow scarce and expensive, there's a strong incentive to counterfeit, be it fish or Dior handbags.
The NYC samples were part of a larger study on mislabeling published this week in Food Research International. The same trend held true for the full 90 sample set: about 25% were mislabeled. I like that both of the girls involved mention only a passing interest in science per se, rather they just like asking questions and finding out the answers. Add a little research funding to that curiosity and DIY spirit, and I should have a Fish Barcode App on my iPhone in the next year. Tweet
The drive for sustainability is getting seafood people to revisit freezing, in order to reduce transport costs. A pound of salmon shipped fresh from Alaska by air has a high carbon footprint, compared to fish frozen at sea and shipped by boat.
What happens when chefs revisit frozen seafood? They're finding out that frozen fish can be as good or better than so-called fresh. For good frozen fish, quick freezing is an important factor that makes a big difference. These days, high quality frozen fish may well be fresher than a so-called fresh fish.
So now we may have to revisit what exactly is a "fresh" fish? It might be frozen.
Oh, and in case you're wondering what's happening with blogfish, I'm on vacation these days and posting less while I ponder life's great mysteries from the safety of wide open spaces here and there in the northwest. Ahh.... Tweet
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
When I saw the refer, my spirits sank: "Eric Ripert, a four-star seafood chef, takes on a 99-cent frozen salmon fillet." Do we really need a four-star chef showing us how to eat cheap, farmed salmon? Isn't it bad enough that Top Chef continually features Chilean seabass?
But I had to reconsider when I saw the slideshow with the packets of "Wild-caught Pacific keta salmon filets." Keta salmon? Ah, it's chum salmon, reborn with a sexier name. In this case, returning to its scientific name, Oncorhyncus keta. The Alaska chum salmon fishery is MSC certified, but I don't see their logo on the packages. That, combined with the multinational ties of the Simply Seafood brand and the "frozen at sea" label, leads me to suspect these are chums from the coast of Russia or Korea. Not always the most well-managed fisheries, but chum populations have historically been fairly strong and resilient. Chums were smart enough to pick rivers in places too remote to dam up.
In the U.S., "chum" conjures up images of that bloody stuff they used to lure Jaws. Not very appetizing. You might see chum in cans, or in your pet's food. It's nice to see a noble salmon getting a promotion to Eric Ripert's frying pan, even for the ridiculously low price of 99 cents.
photo of chum salmon transforming from ocean bright to river stripes
thanks to the Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife Tweet
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Most of the top ten countries looking up fishing -- fly fishing, fishing licenses -- weren't that surprising. The U.S., New Zealand, Australia, South Africa -- countries with lots of coast, popular sportfishing destinations, and commercial fleets. Then there's #8: Iraq. I suppose its possible that Iraqi citizens are using their intermittent electrical power to wonder how best to fish out Saddam's private lakes, but it seems more likely that American soldiers are missing the bass and grouper of home. So, we really owe it to them not to decimate everything before they get back.
Friday, August 15, 2008
What do I think? Does this dim my optimism? I doubt it, since optimism vs. pessimism is probably rooted more in brain chemistry than rational judgment. This paper makes a strong case for ocean decline and offers a stark warning about our future if we fail to change.
Will we change? Here's where I differ with Dr. Jackson. I can see change coming. He sees bad stuff coming down the road at us, and he thinks we're paralyzed like deer in the headlights, getting run down by a big black Humvee. Ouch.
Jeremy Jackson is good at doom and gloom. There's something about his habit of dressing his pale skin in black, and the obvious contrarian pleasure he takes in promoting the decline of his own body by smoking cigarettes. Lugubrious scientist offer requiem for the sea, it's "Brave New Ocean: the Opera."
But I'm unfair, Jackson does offer some remedies. "Talk to Mark Powell," he says, "and work for implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act." OK, that's a paraphrase. Really, he says if we just end overfishing (by implementing the Magnuson-Stevens Act), then things will get a lot better in the US. That would be a nice start.
Well, working with my colleagues in the Gulf of Mexico, we've helped deliver an end to overfishing in this recalcitrant region. It took a lawsuit and lots of other work, and now it's going to happen. They said it couldn't be done, and they were wrong. Next stop for the End Overfishing Express? New England. Anything is possible. Tweet
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Craig awards Greenpeace the "Not Having the Faintest Idea of What They Are Doing Award" and Miriam of Oyster's Garter points out that Greenpeace just put prime invasive species habitat in a sensitive area. Oops.
Phil Kline of Greenpeace offered a comment to my original post. I love ya, Phil, but I'm not buying the rationale. These boulders may do more harm than good, and I doubt that they'll be effective protection.
Nevertheless, I welcome Phil's response to my original post, and here he explains in his own words:
"There is a critical need to implement a network of fully-protected marine reserves and sustainable fisheries management in order to help reverse the dramatic decline in the ecosystems of the North Sea. The Sylt Outer Reef provides a perfect example of how we are failing to give our oceans the protection they require. The area has been officially recognized as being an important site for a variety of marine life and warranting protection under European environmental law and yet destructive activities are still allowed in the area ensuring that the environmental and conservation objectives can never been achieved. Our action was intended to give real protection to the site that is currently a 'paper park.'Maybe we need some activists to board Zodiacs and drive themselves under Greenpeace's crane to stop the ocean dumping! Tweet
The principle of non-violence is core to Greenpeace’s ethos and is borne out by our long history of successful non-violent direct action to protect the environment. This principle of non-violence is shepherded within Greenpeace by sound science and judgment. The fisherman were alerted to our presence and it was determined that the boulders would not be unsafe to vessels operating in the area. The boulders, however, were big enough to serve as an effective obstacle to the beam trawlers that strip mine the ocean floor in the area. This action is on par with the placing of similar obstacles to protect vital seagrass meadows as practiced in the Mediterranean.
By protecting this area, we have the opportunity to protect an ecosystem at its heart and publicly defend the need for an integrated marine management system that will allow sustainable fishing so that generations to come can enjoy the bounty of the seas.
Sadly there appears to be a general denial by government and the fishing industry about the highly damaged state of the North Sea and our oceans globally despite the mass of scientific evidence. The fishing industry is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the marine environment and urgent action is required if we are to prevent further collapses in stocks of commercially valuable fish and major ecosystem shifts. Please join us in protecting this area:
Phil Kline, Senior Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace and former commercial fisherman"
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Greenpeace has crossed a line in my view, going too far in their zeal to protect ocean fish. Greenpeace should not have decided on their own to disturb ocean bottom habitats by dumping rocks, based on a misguided notion that the end (stopping fishing) justifies the means.
The Greenpeace action is reminiscent of the tree spiking wars from the Pacific northwest a few years back, when activists placed spikes in trees in an attempt to stop logging. Ultimately, almost everyone denounced tree spiking, even manhy early proponents of this so-called "natural defense" strategy for trees.
This is ecosabotage, a deliberate action aimed at weakening activities thought to be ecologically harmful, through subversion, obstruction, disruption, and/or destruction.
Why did Greenpeace dump granite blocks on the ocean? According to Greenpeace:
The Sylt Outer Reef is home to an abundance of sea life and is a popular fishing ground. Although the reef is designated as a ‘Special Area of Conservation’ by the EU, highly destructive fishing practices such as bottom trawling and sand and gravel extraction are permitted. This is decimating the marine life that inhabits the area, including well known fish species such as plaice and sole, and destroying the reef. By strategically placing granite rocks, Greenpeace intends to protect this ecologically diverse area from destructive practices including bottom trawling.Is ecosabotage justifiable, or did Greenpeace forfeit any moral high ground that may have been held by conservationists?
One response is that German fishermen condemned Greenpeace, saying the rocks could damage fishing boats and even endanger human life. "We believe what they've done is illegal and risks the lives of fishermen," Peter Breckling, general secretary of the German Fishing Association, told Reuters. He denied German fishermen used nets in the area and insisted the reef was not in danger.
I don't like ecosabotage, it tends to polarize issues and turn off people who might otherwise support conservation. I doubt this action will be effective in stopping fishing, and if it does work it's equivalent to taking the law into one's own hands, which is a very slippery slope leading towards very bad things.
Did Greenpeace actually harm ocean ecosystems by placing non-natural materials in a Marine Protected Area, home to rich marine life? Greenpeace says no harm was done, but this action created outlaw artificial reefs with unknown impacts to natural ecosystems in the area.
Greenpeace denied suggestions it might be damaging marine life by dropping the rocks on the seabed. "We have a very clear knowledge of this and are placing the stones next to the old reef, effectively extending it. There is no damage," Greenpeace oceans campaigner Iris Menn told Reuters.
I've done a lot of ocean bottom research, and I don't believe that Greenpeace can be sure no harm was done. It's impossible to map the ocean bottom so precisely and dump huge blocks so carefully as to avoid all damage. Even if nothing was crushed, this action replaces natural habitas with artificial habitats. Greenpeace is doing disruptive habitat alteration with inadequate attention paid to likely biological impacts since there was no chance for the public to comment prior to the action. This is a surprising thing for a conservation group to do, since we often complain when such things are done by governments.
Ironically, if the boulders were placed on sand (a common habitat in the area), the ultimate result may be that the blocks end up buried or sunken into the sediment, and turn into an expensive nothingburger.
How about the claim by some that ecosabotage is terrorism? This is going too far, and is about as credible as the 2005 film Severed, in which tree spiking turns loggers and activists into scary zombies that go on a rampage and attack people.
I contacted some Greenpeace staff to get their comments on this action and my views, but I didn't get a response within a couple of hours. I've offered Greenpeace a chance to respond in a future post.
How about you readers? This is a subject that deserves a rousing discussion. Tweet
Dr. Mooney will not only look into how squid perceive underwater sound, he also plans to train them with sound aversions. Way to use your fellowship grant to write off all those Kenny G albums... Tweet
"As the creatures dive and hunt in one of the most inaccessible environments on Earth, they are feeding back information that is helping to shed light on the climate, using sensors that have been stuck to their coats.Elephant seals are well suited to the task, diving as deep as 2 km and ranging widely under sea ice in areas inaccessible to people. Sounds like the work deserves a PhD for the elephant seals, if they're willing to talk about their findings at a public seminar. Tweet
The transmitters, developed by St Andrews University, are glued to the elephant seals and effortlessly measure the physical properties of the ocean, until the mammals shed their coats and lose the small devices after about a year."
Monday, August 11, 2008
If it were an upside-down catfish (photo at right), the upside-down swimming would be normal. No, this is simply a strange goldfish with an alternative lifestyle.
The upside-down goldfish seems perfectly happy (see photo at left).Speculation is that a problem with his swim bladder has "Aussie" taking a strange posture in the world. Pub customers watch him for hours, and naturally wonder whether he's been imbibing too much. Tweet
Thursday, August 07, 2008
And, as you'd expect from super chef and sustainable seafood advocate Rick Moonen, the seafood in Fish Without a Doubt is chosen with sustainability as an essential ingredient. Some unsustainable choices are left out entirely, and for fish where there might be doubt, there is good advice on choosing the most sustainable sources.
But sustainability, while important, is only part of the picture here. Fish Without a Doubt inspires even this seafood-loving veteran to try some new and different things.
Thanks to Rick Moonen and coauthor Roy Finamore, I'm now hot on slow roasting. That's cooking fish in an ordinary oven at temperatures as low as 170 F. The slow roast recipe in the cookbook says 250 F, but I asked pushy questions after eating slow roasted wild Nunavut Arctic char from CleanFish at Rick's restaurant RM Seafood in Las Vegas last week, and I was told they used 170 F for the char.
Fish Without a Doubt has detailed and comprehensive sections on all aspects of preparing and loving seafood, from equipping your kitchen, shopping for and preparing your fish and shellfish (e.g. shelling and deveining shrimp), and how to tell when it's done (a very important and sometimes overlooked part of cooking seafood). Then there are the recipes and enticing pictures. Enough to spend years digging exploring.
I'm now resolved to go through Fish Without a Doubt and try new fish and shellfish prepared in new ways. I had planned to review this cookbook after I'd done a bit more sampling, but this blog post just popped out of my head and I couldn't stop it. It's going to take a year to do what I had hoped, really get a feel for what's inside Fish Without a Doubt. Meanwhile, I already this cookbook is a success and I want to tell you. Thanks to Fish Without a Doubt I'm opening up to new possibilities, and I'm loving it.
Fish Without a Doubt is a winner, and the first place I'm going to turn when I want to enliven my dinners. Thanks to Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore for a great cookbook! Let's see...next I think I'll try the oil poached salmon, and there's some great Washington wild coho on special for only 7.99 per pound at Town & Country Market in Bainbridge.
Photo, left to right: Mark Powell, Rick Moonen, Polly Legendre (CleanFish), and Tim Thornhill (Mendocino Wine Co.), after a CleanFish/Mendocino Wine/RM Seafood/Ocean Conservancy benefit dinner at RM Seafood, Rick Moonen's fabulous restaurant in Las Vegas. Tweet
The job of the dive tender is not taxing. You must keep the rope taut, so it doesn't tangle on rocks or ice. If you see an orca nearby -- or worse, a leopard seal -- you give a series of short warning tugs. Leopard seals were particularly notorious for chomping divers. Otherwise, you let your lab-weary eyes take in the vast beauty of the Ross Sea, with tiny penguins picking their way across the ice. When the Marks return, their mesh bags contain sponges, corals, and other strange animals surprisingly brightly colored for life that never sees sunlight.
I'm reminded of this by an article in the current issue of American Scientist: Ecological responses to climate change on the Antarctic peninsula. Down in MacTown, we called the peninsula the "banana belt" for its relatively milder temperatures. Heck, they even have plants. Now, it seems the banana belt is getting even warmer, both in the sea and on land.
Dr. James McClintock (lead author and former advisor to one of the Marks) describes a world where salps supplant krill at the base of the food chain, and sponge-crushing crabs move into the invertebrate gardens. Even if you're not a regular sci-journal reader, check it out for the introduction and the illustrations. Tweet
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
In a recent study, eating seafood helped to protect people from aging-related brain decline. The effect seems to be prevention of unnoticed mini-strokes (silent brain infarcts for you medical nerds).
What does this mean? Loss of thinking skills (dementia) and other declines in brain function can be a serious problem in healthy older adults. Silent brain infarcts seem to be a cause of dementia, and it may help quite a bit to eat lots of fish.
Cowabunga, I knew I needed a reason to eat another Dungeness crab, after the 2 I had yesterday and today (with the smoked salmon chaser). That's right, it's crab season in the northwest, and if you're not lucky enough to get some crab, too bad for you. I want to protect my brain, so I guess I'll have to go back to Central Market in Poulsbo to get some more crab and salmon. Tweet
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Thankfully, it will go. Click here for a live dam cam, and watch the action.
Removal of this dam is good news brought to you by the awesome people at American Rivers, and I don't just say that because they hired me for a few jobs in the mid-90's.
I'm glad to offer some success stories to you pessimists out there. I hope you notice that some things do get better, like rivers that improve when bad old dams are removed. Note that I'm not saying all dams should come out. These dam removal projects are the win-win scenarios that are leading the way for productive removal of harmful dams, and replacement of dam benefits where some benefits remain.
Check out the Milltown Dam in Montana, the Marmot Dam in Oregon, and others including the grandaddy dam removal project for the US, the Elwha Dam in Washington now set to come out in 2009. I can hardly wait. Tweet
Monday, August 04, 2008
That's true enough, Atlantic salmon is farmed fish, but that's actually the case for all fish labeled organic. The USDA does not have standards for labeling wild fish as "organic" in part because conservation and food advocates have asked them not to.
'Chef Diane Morgan is the author of "Salmon: A Cookbook." She says she's noticed a bit of bait-and-switch at high-end restaurants lately.
Diane Morgan: You'll see Scottish organic salmon and so people are drawn to that like, "Oh, I like to eat organic." It doesn't say on the menu that it's farmed. If you know enough about this industry, you know that any salmon coming out of the Atlantic is farmed.'
Why? Because the organic label originates in the world of farming, where standards are based on the control of inputs: fertilizers, pesticides, colorants, etc. Wild fish swim where they want and eat what they want. You can test fish for contaminants, but you can't prevent them from snapping up tasty, mercury-filled plankton. Labelling wild fish organic is like having free-range peanut butter -- the label's irrelevant to the conservation question at hand.
There's an aquaculture working group at USDA looking at the thorny questions of "organic" fish -- what kind of feed they should eat, what kind of pens. For now, if you see organic, you're looking at a farmed fish.
A spokesperson for the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility and showed no remorse for setting a house on fire with a family inside (including 2 young children). Unbelievable. This attack is simply attempted murder by someone who hates, and I hope the authorities catch the person or persons responsible and punish them severely. Tweet
According to the New York Times,
Within the past year, there have been beach closings because of jellyfish swarms on the Côte d’Azur in France, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, and at Waikiki and Virginia Beach in the United States.Some authorities have responded by posting jellyfish warning flags and deploying boats to scoop jellyfish out of the water. How about fixing our ocean problems, by reducing pollution and getting serious about stopping climate change?
“Human-caused stresses, including global warming and overfishing, are encouraging jellyfish surpluses in many tourist destinations and productive fisheries,” according to the National Science Foundation
Or...we can just get used to jellyfish and the faint of heart can go to Vegas Beach . Tweet
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Now before I get reamed by my detractors again, listen up. The Las Vegas Ocean is no substitute for the real thing. It's busy, with thumping music and lots of people looking at each other, so it's not for quiet contemplation of the sea. You probably won't like it if you don't like a busy beach with an oceanfront bar.
What is Vegas Beach? It’s a way for people to have an ocean experience with all of the challenges removed, and some beautiful people running around in next to nothing. And they serve drinks everywhere. Wanna play in the surf but too scared? The wave pool is a way to get started. Wanna meet someone on a hot beach? You can probably do that. Wanna see fish but don’t dare go underwater? The Shark Reef Aquarium can make you feel like you’re underwater without getting wet. And the sunken temple in the jungle theme turns it into a bit of an adventure if you let yourself go there. Combine this with a sublime dinner at RM Seafood, and you have an ocean day in the Nevada desert.
We ocean lovers can’t afford to be picky, anything that gets people to think about the ocean for an hour or a day is good. With all of today's ocean problems, we need to find a way to bring oceans higher up on the list of things people care about and every little bit helps. Who knows…maybe a day at Vegas beach will get someone to plan a real ocean vacation, and we can start winning over a new ocean lover. I suppose it didn’t hurt that I got upgraded on my flight to Vegas, got bumped up to a deluxe suite at The Hotel at Mandalay Bay, and enjoyed a private benefit dinner at RM Seafood with super chef Rick Moonen as company for desert. And he even signed my copy of his fabulous new cookbook, Fish Without a Doubt (more on this incredible cookbook later).
All in all, a fun trip when I thought it would be just business. Tweet
Saturday, August 02, 2008
I'm working with the online community team for an eco-friendly spirit and spent time checking out Blogfish to make sure it was appropriate for me to start a conversation with you.
I am trying to get the word out about this drink (called "VeeV"), and thought you and your readers might appreciate the sustainability efforts of this company.
Walking the Talk
VeeV was started by two brothers and is the world's first acai spirit. More importantly, a core part of the VeeV brand is sustainability. Here are some of the company's green initiatives:
1. They donate $1 for every bottle sold, which goes back to the rainforest where the acai berries used in their product are grown.
2. Everyone in the company either drives a hybrid, or is carbon-neutral.
3. Their distillery is the only one in the U.S. that gets at least 25% of their power through wind generation. Their distillation uses about 200% less energy than a traditional hot still.
4. VeeV is the only alcohol brand that is a member of Business for Social Responsibility. They are also members to several other green organizations like Co-Op America and Social Ventures Network.
The End of Vodka?
You might also appreciate that VeeV is not another vodka entry. Fact is, we are looking at a new spirits category altogether – just as clear and mixable as vodka, but devoid of all the superficiality vodka has bred over the last decade. What superficiality, you ask? Just check out the www.TheEndofVodka.com to see what I mean!
We'll Send You a Bottle
We are giving a few lucky bloggers a free bottle of VeeV to try for themselves, give to friends, or use to run a contest for loyal readers. Let me know if you are interested in receiving this free sample, and we will send it directly to you.
Spread the Word
TheEndOfVodka is also mobile. Check out our Facebook page or befriend a vodkabot on MySpace.
On a more personal note, I hope this email is not offensive to you. I maintain my own personal blog, and am familiar with the annoyance of spammy messaging. If you have ideas on how VeeV or TheEndOfVodka.com might be able to promote your blog or better contribute to your interests – please be sure to let me know.
ROOM 214, INC. on behalf of VeeV