Monday, November 23, 2009

Big changes for blogfish

Blogfish is undergoing some big changes. Watch this virtual space for more exciting news very soon. For now, I'll leave you with one clue.

It comes with filets de perches frais du lac LĂ©man.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Green index for all products?

Do you want a green index on everything you buy? Something that lets you comparison shop environmental impacts like you comparison shop on price? Good for you, and prepare to shop at Wal-mart to find your dream green index.

Wal-mart is developing an index, and the first details are starting to come out. Companies will have to reveal their practices in four key areas: energy and climate, natural resources, material efficiency, and people and community. From this information, a yet-to-be-developed ranking system will allow shoppers to compare the sustainability of two similar products.

Interesting that Planet Green couldn't give Wal-mart adequate credit for this earthshaking initiative. They offer plenty of doubt and only "reluctant kudos." Get over it, Planet Green, Wal-mart is leading and they have the clout to begin making their green index a reality. Even if it's not perfect, it'll be the first index and that's a great step forward for sustainability.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Carnival of the blue 29

The best of ocean blogging for September is now compiled and ready for your enjoyment at Cephalopodcast.com.

This month's edition features the artistic touch of Jason as host, along with the stunning variety of ocean goings-on like Miriam's plastic-search expedition, Kevin and Karen doing science under sail, a pack of snails, pseudo-genitalia on the heads of fish, auks, sharks, and even using nuisance algae as fuel may fuel. Be there or be square.

That's right folks, you guessed it, Carnival of the blue is back. Worthy of note is the handoff of czar duties and privileges from me to Jason Robertshaw, the chief cephalopod. From now on, Jason will be coordinating the carnivals and I'll retire to czar emeritus status. Wonder if that comes with a pension? Hidden deep in the carnival post is some exciting news about my future that you might not find anywhere else, since I'm such a shy fellow.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Klamath River dam politics look good for a change

Good news for fish, thanks to heavy politics involving some strange bedfellows.

There is a deal and a plan to remove the 4 nasty Klamath River dams, the ones that harm water quality and salmon and irrigators and fishermen. Just so we don't forget what's at stake, the photo at right is from the bad old days of the 2003 fish kill. Ugh.

These dams block over 300 miles of prime salmon habitat, and some river advocates are calling this the biggest-ever river restoration project. If the money and politics are any guide, they're right.

The Klamath system could produce a lot of salmon if everything were right with the watershed. The dams are probably the biggest problem, so removal will be a helluva good start on renewing the river, salmon, watershed, and communities.

Hallelujah! There's more work to be done, to be sure, but each milestone of progress is worth celebrating.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Coral recovery in the Pacific

Bleached corals are staging a surprising recovery in Kiribati's Phoenix Islands.

Great news for a world where climate change may challenge corals with more bleaching in the future. Scientists are studying the recovery to learn more about what we can expect when our oceans boil in 100 years.

OK, it's not really that bad, just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

Coral bleaching is when corals decide that they don't like their color, and go for something "jazzier" like a nice off-white instead of the more typical greens, reds, and yellows. They bleach themselves by convincing humans to burn lots of CO2 so our atmospheric blanket thickens and warms the ocean.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Do you have a retractable sexual appendage on your forehead?

If not, then you're outshined by a male chimaera, such as the newly discovered black ghostshark.

The strange shark-like fish has lots of strangeness about it, but nothing matches it's ...ahem... tentaculum. According to ichthyologist Douglas Long:

“They have this club on the top of their head with spikes. People think it’s used for mating,” Long said. “It’s like a little mace with little spikes and hooks and it fits into their forehead. It’s jointed and it comes out. We’re not sure if it is used to stimulate the female or hold the female closer.”

Sadly, you can't see it very well in the pictures at right. I'll keep searching for a usable image, because you're not the only one who wants to see it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What is success in sustainable fishing?

New Zealand hoki is a shining example of success or failure in fishery management, depending on who you ask. Mostly because of a decline in catch in the last decade.

There are other issues that matter, like bycatch of sharks and seabirds, and habitat impacts from trawling. But the most interesting part of the success/failure argument is the significance of the decline in hoki catch that happened in the last decade.

What does it mean when we see a decrease in the amount of a fish caught? Is this a sign of a collapsing fishery? Or is it a sign that managers are doing the right thing? People will claim both, and it's important to look at the details.

When a fishery is virtually unregulated, then declining catches are likely a sign of problems, such as a collapsing fish population. But when less fish are caught because managers reduce fishing limits, in response to scientific advice, then the shrinking catch may be a signal that sustainable management is responding to changing conditions.

A story in the New York Times presents a case for failure, but the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership presents a case for success. All based on the same set of facts about hoki.

Rather than speculate, I'll wait another year to see if hoki numbers increase or decrease. If the fishery is failing, then we should see further declines in the amount of fish. If management is sustainable, then the fishing decline should allow the fish to rebuild.

The latest sign is that managers claim hoki have already recovered to healthy levels. If that's true, then I lean more towards success as the correct story for hoki.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Baghdad's river revival

As the rivers go, so goes the nation...

Or is it the reverse? Regardless of which comes first, you can read the health of a country by looking at rivers. And in Iraq, Baghdad's rivers are in revival.

According to Hamza Hendawi:
Men in shorts splash in its murky brown waters or hop onto pleasure boats that blare sexy Iraqi pop songs. Lovers meet by its banks or take a short nighttime cruise, some even defying the rules of conservative Baghdad to steal a quick kiss in the dark.

During the sectarian violence of 2006-2007, the Tigris River that cuts through the capital was a virtual front line between Sunnis on the west bank and Shiites on the east. It was here, in a river whose name has traditionally evoked poetry and love, that death squads dumped their victims.

Nowadays, as the violence has eased, increasing numbers of Baghdadis are casting aside bad memories and embracing the river like a long-lost friend.

What a treat to hear some good news for rivers from the cradle of civilization. Next up for the Tigris River? How about a little imagination, like Salmon in the Yemen?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ethically correct fish and fishing

Can a fishery be sustainable if customers waste the fish? That's the provocative question raised by scientists Daniel Pauly and Jennifer Jaquet in their critique of the Peruvian anchoveta fishery. Pauly and Jacquet say it's wasteful and wrong to use anchovies for fishmeal instead of feeding people, so it would be wrong to certify the fishery as sustainable.

For me, this stretches too far the definition of sustainable fishing. It's already difficult to find consensus around the definition of sustainable fisheries when it's just about fishing. But this messy debate gets far worse if we include issues like what happens to the fish.

Sustainability should be about not catching too many fish, limiting bycatch, and protecting habitat. We can, and do, debate the proper benchmarks for overfishing and bycatch limits. But if we get into debates about ethical uses of fish, there is no limit to the issues that someone may want to include.

Today, Pauly and Jacquet criticize feeding fish to animals not people. What's the next complaint about how fish get used? Are high-priced fish unsustainable because they're just for the privileged wealthy? Is it a problem to waste fish in processing or preparation? Is a fishery unsustainable if mercury levels in the fish are too high? Can you lose your sustainability certificate if you run a good fishery but the people who buy your fish do bad things?

Certification of fishery sustainability by the Marine Stewardship Council addresses some ethical issues. But it's a mistake to attempt to use the MSC process to address every perceived ethical problem in the seafood supply chain.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monster trout a record or an abomination?

Performance-enhanced trout, can they be counted as world record fish? Rainbow trout genetically engineered for faster-than-normal growth escaped from a fish farm in Saskatchewan's Lake Diefenbaker 9 years ago. Now the world sportfishing record for rainbow trout are these genetically "juiced" fish. It's strange at best to see a world record set by these cultivated fish with an unnatural advantage.

Should this be a record fish or not? Debate rages online over whether these fish should count as records since they were spawned and fed in captivity before escaping into the lake.

The questions get stranger and stranger as human manipulation of fish (and human) performance develops. Not like the good ol' days when people got busted for pouring lead inside a fish to make it heavier.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Squid that eat salmon?

Everyone knows that salmon can eat squid, but how about the reverse? Would you believe that squid are eating salmon as far north as Washington state? At least that's the report from fishermen who say squid are taking salmon off their fishing lines.

These are not just any squd, they're giant Humboldt squid that can grow to be 6 feet long and weigh more than 100 pounds. Salmon fishermen are catching squid instead of salmon this year, and some are getting concerned.

A state biologist thinks the squid are moving north with the warm El Nino ocean waters, and they're likely to head south again. Global warming may lead to more problems of this type, but it's worth noting that there was a previous attack of the killer squid in the 1930's, so it's not unprecedented.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Sea otters vs. fishing in SE Alaska

How do we divide fish and shellfish between people and sea otters? In Alaska, sea otters are reclaiming their historic food supply, and people are unhappy.

In the absence of sea otters, fishermen got used to catching lots of fish and shellfish. Now that the otters are coming back and eating more seafood, what do we do? Do fishermen have rights to the fish, or do otters have prior rights? And how do we decide?

The first step is a scientific study. We need to figure out whether otters are really undoing human fisheries. It's not good enough to just say that otters are back and fishing is worse. If the study says otters are hurting human fisheries, then we get to the hard question. Especially since sea otters are a threatened species that can't be harassed.

We do have some examples of US government action to protect fish from natural predators by removing protected species like sea lions. But such action is rare, and typically restricted to extreme cases like sea lions that swim up the Columbia River and eat salmon out of the Bonneville Dam fish ladders, 145 miles upriver from the ocean.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Of salmon and sea lice

What's this? Pink salmon are thriving in British Columbia despite salmon farms? I don't know all the facts yet, but I'm curious. And it's worthy of note to see that some salmon are thriving these days, amidst the bad news for salmon elsewhere.

Recently, scientific studies projected extinction for pink salmon due to sea lice (parasite) infestations caused by salmon farms. But now we hear of an historic boom for pink salmon in the Campbell River, an area in British Columbia that is rich with salmon farms. What's going on here? Is there some reason why this pink salmon run is doing so well despite salmon farms nearby?

Meanwhile, sockeye salmon are having trouble elsewhere and that's now being blamed on salmon farms. Here's a response from salmon farmers on this sockeye problem.

What's the truth? It's hard to say, but the best guess is that salmon farming (and sea lice) are not the only cause where salmon are in trouble.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Where's Mark?

And what happens next?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Bright green, what is it?

It's no longer adequate to talk about green consumers or green products when talking about sustainability. The green movement is too complex to use just a single term; now we need to talk about what shade of green.

Are your customers or supporters bright green? Dark green? Light green? Or perhaps gray? How would you know, and what can the shade tell you about what they want.

Here's a key to the new shades of green that people are talking about, thanks to WorldChanging.com.

...bright green environmentalism is a belief that sustainable innovation is the best path to lasting prosperity, and that any vision of sustainability which does not offer prosperity and well-being will not succeed. In short, it's the belief that for the future to be green, it must also be bright. Bright green environmentalism is a call to use innovation, design, urban revitalization and entrepreneurial zeal to transform the systems that support our lives.

Light green environmentalists tend to emphasize lifestyle/behavioral/consumer change as key to sustainability, or at least as the best mechanism for triggering broader changes. Light greens strongly advocate change at the individual level. The thinking is that if you can get people to take small, pleasant steps (by shopping differently, or making changes around the home), they will not only make changes that can begin to make a difference in aggregate, but also begin to clamor for larger transformations. Light green environmentalism, as a call for individuals to change, has helped spread the idea that concern for sustainability is cool.

Dark greens, in contrast, tend to emphasize the need to pull back from consumerism (sometimes even from industrialization itself) and emphasize local solutions, short supply chains and direct connection to the land. They strongly advocate change at the community level. In its best incarnations, dark green thinking offers a lot of insight about bioregionalism, reinhabitation, and taking direct control over one's life and surroundings.

Grays, of course, are those who deny there's a need to do anything at all, whether as individuals or as a society.

Now that you know the language, spend some time thinking about which shade of green you are, and also your customers or supporters. Do the terms help you figure out how to focus your efforts?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Green consumers, who are they?

Who buys green goods? People who rank sustainability above all else? No.

A survey on who buys green uncovers some green surprises. Despite prevalent myths, people who buy more-sustainable products still care about price and value. So sustainability won't sell if it's too costly.

Other interesting myths: that saving the planet is the top goal of green consumers. And here's my favorite: more information won't necessarily spur people to make greener choices.

Monday, August 24, 2009

People vs. fish in the Caribbean

Where there are more people, big fish disappear. At least in the Caribbean.

A study of Caribbean reef fish says that "as human population density increases, presence of large-bodied fishes declines, and fish communities become dominated by a few smaller-bodied species."

Yikes, people and fish conflict, and the relationship is simple and direct. How sad. The causes of the Caribbean fish decline include habitat damage and overfishing.

Sustainability says we can reverse this trend. Let's get to work. I want to see the trend disappear as the big fish come back to reefs near people.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wild salmon declines--possible causes

Salmon are in trouble in British Columbia and elsewhere. Is it salmon farming? Pollock trawling? Or what?

I'm not up on all the data, but there are signs of salmon problems from California to Alaska. Not just near salmon farms, and not just where trawlers catch pollock.

The problem has hit sockeye from the Fraser River. But it's also hit salmon from British Columbia all the way to California. Salmon farming has been blamed, but there aren't salmon farms to cause problems all the way to California.

The kings are in trouble in the Yukon River, and pollock trawlers have gotten some heat, but there are disease problems linked to warmer temperatures also causing problems for these fish.

Oh...and there are seabird problems in some of the same areas, British Columbia and the US west coast.

Not sure what to think about all this, but I'm going to focus my worrying on the larger scale issues like ocean warming, either cyclical or CO2 driven.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Watch out for the methane monster

Runaway global warming coming soon--if the ocean bottom starts releasing methane.

It's the scare story of the decade, and there's scary news just out. Ocean farts are leaking methane already, sooner than expected.

How does this work? The ocean bottom has methane stored as methane hydrates, stable at cold temperature and high pressure as found in the deep ocean. But only slightly stable. Warmer temperatures make the methane hydrates melt and the methane is released as a gas...ocean methane farts. Enough farts and the methane can contribute to global warming. And so on...and so on...until we're all melting. Read the book.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Alaska's fishery failure

King salmon have turned up missing in Alaska this year...and last year...and the year before that. Wait a minute, this is the land of sustainable fisheries, right? WTF?

Alaska's pride has been sustainable fishery management, buoyed by good productivity. What will happen now that our fickle ocean mistress seems to be forsaking Alaska's king salmon? Will the management system look equally good?

The test of good fishery management comes when times are tough, and a rigorous test may be coming for Alaska.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Climate control

What if we save the earth's climate without the pain of reducing CO2 in the air? Who would support action? I worry that the idea would become a political football, sort of like health care in the US.

Climate engineering is close to reality, probably a lot closer than global reductions in CO2 production. Aerosol particles are being considered to shade the earth, and seawater mists might work to make clouds reflect more sunlight. Both ideas could be tested fairly soon at a reasonable cost.

Critics correctly point out that climate engineering is risky, but so what's safe about our current CO2 orgy? We're pumping up our atmosphere with CO2 in a massive and risky experiment already. It's time to be brave, smart, and active, and that means we should consider designed climate engineering instead of our current accidental climate engineering mess caused by our love of combustion.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Oyster restoration success in the Chesapeake

Good news for oysters, and that means good news for the Chesapeake Bay. Gigantic oyster-shell artificial reefs are proving successful as a home for oyster refuges. This is good news, after a spate of bad news for oysters in recent years.

Oysters are great things to have in a bay, they produce habitat and filter out algae that can otherwise contribute to nuisance algae blooms. And...they make a great dinner, especially when eaten raw.

The newly-made oyster reefs are sanctuaries where oysters are left to grow and breed unmolested. Protecting some good reefs makes sense, to help repopulate the bay. Let's hope the early success continues.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Ocean plastic study--watch it as it happens

Are you dismayed by reports of plastic garbage in the ocean? Wanna peak over the shoulders of scientists as they explore and study the problem? Here's your chance to watch science unfold in real time.

In case you haven't yet heard about the problem of plastic in the ocean, here's a nice CNN story on Seaplex, including a little bit of debunking. The plastic accumulation is NOT a giant floating island or anything so dramatic. It's a lot of plastic, but even in the middle of it, you might not see anything visible to a human eye while standing on the deck of a boat. What is the reality, what's the hype?

Go to Seaplex Science's website or twitter feed to watch the action as it happens. Poke my friend Miriam Goldstein as she leads the expedition and drags the scientific world, kicking and screaming, towards real-time reporting of results.

Wow, I'm on the edge of my seat. And hey, isn't that a giant vampire squid?!


View SEAPLEX in a larger map

Friday, August 07, 2009

A new day for salmon?

Could it be that political tides are turning in favor of saving salmon? Will we finally muster the political will necessary to reverse habitat loss and restore salmon?

A story in the always-stimulating High Country News suggests that we may finally be ready to do what it takes to help salmon recover.

We already know that salmon restoration is a good investment that will make money.

The bottom line? Idaho does not deserve a government-subsidized seaport, it's too far upstream (435 miles from the ocean) and uphill (738 feet above sea level). Get real, Idaho, and wait for rising sea levels if you really want to have a coastline.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Nasty Venice algae to become green energy source

Real green energy for Venice--nuisance algae blooms to be harvested and used to produce electricity. Up to half the electricity needs of the historic city center can be generated by this goop to gold alchemy scheme.

If only every nuisance could be so readily transformed into a resource. Imagine using CO2 to eliminate wrinkles and unsightly cellulite. We'd be using up so much CO2, we'd have to worry about global cooling.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

guilt was never a part of it...

There's too much guilt in the non-profit world. Here's an exciting new charity that is turning heads with success in delivering clean water to poor people. Why? One reason seems to be the attitude of Scott Harrison, the founder of charity:water, a new group that helps deliver clean water to people who need it:
Guilt has never been part of it,” he said. “It’s excitement instead, presenting people with an opportunity — ‘you have an amazing chance to build a well!’ ”

It's an awesome story...build a well, save a child, build a movement...by turning off the faucet of guilt that is so popular among non-profits.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Seagulls attacking whales

It's like a Hitchcock movie made real--attack of the birds. I wonder if whales are as scared as I was when I saw "The Birds" as a boy.

Seagull attacks are a new threat to endangered right whales off Argentina. In 1974 only 1% of whales were attacked, but the number of victims has increased to 74% today.

Roger Payne from the Ocean Alliance said “You see big open sores, which we thought were pock marks of infection. Some are half a metre across and the edges look like thousands of bites."

The gulls are driving the whales crazy as they try evasive manuvers to avoid getting pecked to death while on the surface to breathe. Especially at risk are mother-calf pairs, the preferred target of the gulls.

hat tip: zooillogix

Sunday, August 02, 2009

New study on rebuilding global fisheries

Google and Microsoft just joined forces to improve your life. OK, not really, but something equally monumental just happened for us few interested in fisheries. The result? Some optimism that fisheries can flourish, but only if we get serious about ending overfishing.

Marine ecologists and fisheries scientists just smoked the peace pipe and worked together on a "what's up in global fisheries" study. That's good news for those of us caught in the middle, between projections (not predictions) showing the end of the line for fishing by 2048, and critiques that such an idea was "mind-boggling stupid."

The collaboration is timely, given the release of the apocalyptic movie "The End of the Line" this summer. So who was right?

As usual when smart people disagree so strongly, both sides have a good point. Lacking controls on fishing, we're headed for fisheries disaster. But fish and ocean ecosystems can thrive where science-based limits on fishing are well-implemented.

What's ahead in our shared future? Fisheries success seems likely where effective management respects scientific advice. Fisheries failures will continue where social and economic forces conspire to inhibit effective management. What's needed is creative solutions that cross traditional boundaries.

How will we fish and seafood people get to solutions where governance tends to be weak, such as international fisheries or small-scale fisheries in the developing world? Creative solutions do exist, where people are willing to put their ideologies aside and work together in pursuit of shared goals. That's right, shared goals. After all, NOBODY really wants to get to the end of the line for fish, not in 2048 or ever.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The economic value of rebuilding depleted fish

There's big money to be made with smart fishery management. That's the unsurprising conclusion of a new report.

Where overfishing has reduced fish populations, battles over what to do often center on the cost of rebuilding...how much money fishermen can lose from restrictions on fishing. Sometimes neglected is the economic value of rebuilding...how much money fishermen can make once rebuilding is complete. This study looks at the value of rebuilding in one region of the US, the Mid-Atlantic. According to the sponsors of the study:

“Results from this study provide strong analytical evidence that there is significant value in rebuilding fish populations and lost financial benefits from delayed action,” said Dr. John M. Gates, report author and professor emeritus, Departments of Economics, Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, University of Rhode Island. “It’s important to note that the primary, direct benefits represent a conservative estimate and, if related economic benefits had been included, the result would likely expand well beyond the figures estimated in this study.”

Delays in rebuilding translate to lost opportunities for commercial and recreational fishermen to catch the maximum amount of fish that can sustainably be taken from a population. Failing to quickly address overfishing and allow populations to rebuild as quickly as possible forgoes current financial benefits and may result in more costly regulations in the long–term.

I think the battle isn't so much over whether it's a good idea to rebuild, it seems to be more about who gets those benefits once rebuilding is complete. Who survives the trip through the "valley of death" that rebuilding looks like to fishermen? We need clear decisions on how to manage the transition to rebuilt fisheries.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Giant blob creature in Alaska is identified


It's big, it's scary, it's stinky, and it's in the ocean off Alaska so it could be really weird. But, sigh, it's only ocean algae. I like algae a lot, but this had the potential to be something fun and exciting like some new crazy oceany monster out of science fiction. It certainly looked good for awhile, when it was the unknown 12-15 mile long oily blob-thing.

No word on whether the algae blob gooey monster has an agent.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wal-mart is the green leader, again

Wal-mart has done it again, confounding critics by leading the sustainability revolution.

Next up for Wal-mart: broad sustainability information on product labels, using standardized measures of things like carbon footprint, water use, etc.

Elitists who hate Wal-mart and doubt their green credentials are just going to have to get over it. We should celebrate leadership where it exists, not where biases suggest it "ought" to be.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Seafood sustainability measured in anchovy equivalents

There's a new battle that may change how you view seafood sustainability. Is it possible that the best and highest use of anchovies is feeding farmed fish? Maybe.

Kona Blue and Food & Water Watch are slugging it out over the sustainability of kona kampachi, thanks to a new analysis that says farmed fish are more sustainable than wild-caught fish.

Author Neil Sims of Kona Blue is sticking his neck out with this analysis, but that's nothing new. As a fish-farming entrepreneur with green credibility, he's successfully working what some think is an impossible divide. Now he's challenging critics and trying to undermine what he calls the "widely-promoted misconception that eating wild-caught fish is better for the oceans than eating farmed seafood."

Sims estimates that "on a global basis, sustainably farmed fish may represent around 60 times more efficient use of anchovy and other baitfish resources than wild fish." As a result, he asserts that "fish farming is a better and higher use of these resources than reliance on commercial exploitation of wild predatory fish species."

On the other side of the battle is Food & Water Watch, the consumer organization that challenged the "good alternative" rating given to kona kampachi by the Monterey Aquarium's Seafood Watch. Part of their mission is to "challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water" and they advise seafood consumers to "in general, choose wild-caught" over farmed fish. Not surprisingly, they're not impressed with Sims' analysis.

Sims makes some good points in his defense of farming predatory fish. If we're going to eat predatory fish, then it's worth thinking about the "anchovy equivalents" that go into farmed fish vs. wild-caught fish.

Also posted at SeafoodSource.com under "blogs"

Back in the saddle

Thanks for those cards and letters, and no I didn't get eaten on my swim around Bainbridge Island.

I've been busy the last month, exploring some exciting new futures. More on this later as things develop. For now I'll just say I enjoyed the mussels in Brussels.

One new thing, I've been invited to do some blogging on SeafoodSource.com, a seafood industry e-newsletter. Come on by for a look.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Finding coral

You think it's easy to find coral? Then you're not thinking about that rarest and most special of corals, the deep sea variety.

The Finding Coral expedition, sponsored by the Living Oceans Society, is doing heroic work in finding deep corals in British Columbia's ocean waters, and documenting threats to their survival.

The videos are great, they give a sense of what it's like to go deep looking for corals, with a strong dose of threats along with the beautiful footage.

Stop by and join the expedition...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Too many beavers

When I was a boy, there were few beavers around. This was true even in rural Oregon, the beaver state. Well now there are more beavers than you can shake a stick at.

Too many beavers, in fact, since they're undoing what people have done to tame nature and otherwise control water.

It's funny, we liked them for the fur, we love them as a symbol (see Oregon state flag at right, the only state flag with images on two sides, and look there's a lovely little beaver on the back!)

What'll we do with too many beavers? Start a bounty program to get rid of them? Or learn to live with them?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cry, the beloved oyster

Oysters are my favorite ocean animal. What can I say, they're charismatic and sexy and interesting and yummy and important and...well...beloved.

Imagine my dismay when I read this article. Actually, it wasn't a big surprise to me, I've heard about this before. But the news just keeps getting worse.

Acid in the ocean seems to be killing oysters today, as we sit on our cushioned chairs and sofas watching TV. It's not a future crime, or a distant speculation of what might be. It's here and now.

Cry, the belove oysters, while it still might make a difference. Cry, and then get off your cushions and do something. And it won't help to simply stop eating them. Indeed, eat an oyster first, and then go charging of to save them, fortified with the elixir of life.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rapid recovery of damaged ecosystems

Now there's a title of a scientific paper that makes me sit up and take notice. In this era of doom and gloom, it's nice to hear some good news.

What's behind the title? Let's listen to the authors:

Recent reports on the state of the global environment provide evidence that humankind is inflicting great damage to the very ecosystems that support human livelihoods. The reports further predict that ecosystems will take centuries to recover from damages if they recover at all. Accordingly, there is despair that we are passing on a legacy of irreparable damage to future generations which is entirely inconsistent with principles of sustainability.

We tested the prediction of irreparable harm using a synthesis of recovery times compiled from 240 independent studies reported in the scientific literature. We provide startling evidence that most ecosystems globally can, given human will, recover from very major perturbations on timescales of decades to half-centuries.

Accordingly, we find much hope that humankind can transition to more sustainable use of ecosystems.

Hooray, some validation that optimism is more than just wishful thinking.

hat tip: The Natural Patriot

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Victoria BC out of the Victorian age

Victoria BC finally admits that their shit stinks just like the rest of us. Well, most of them admit it, there are a few holdouts.

Thanks to Mr. Floatie (a person dressed as poop while running for major), among others, for getting Victoria to begin the process of treating their sewage before dumping it in the ocean.

Victoria will begin building sewage treatment plants soon. Welcome to the modern world, Victoria. Now about those unnamed "others" who say there's no need for treatment. I want to see you go swimming in the ocean near the outfall pipe.

Now, just for fun, enjoy the picture of Mr. Floatie one more time before he retires from politics (right).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Instant river, just add water

The so-called Chelan River works if you add water. See photo (right).

According to the online-only Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

The Chelan County Public Utility District is spending nearly $16 million to restore year-round flow to the Chelan River Gorge, a four-mile stretch of river that tumbles from the dam at the foot of Lake Chelan to the Columbia River, about 400 feet below.

As a test, crews started spilling water Monday into the normally dry river bed. Water pooled near the river's mouth and spilled into a carefully engineered channel with strategically placed boulders, logs and rocks, all to provide new spawning habitat for steelhead and chinook salmon.

"It's one thing to look at the drawings, but when you see how the water actually flows around the boulders and wood structures and riffle, it's another story," biologist Steve Hays, the PUD's fish and wildlife senior adviser, told The Wenatchee World.

It's great to see water put back in a river, and it's truly strange to know that there are rivers around the world that have all their water removed. It's a traveshamockery (a borrowed phrase that means a travesty of a sham of a mockery).

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Trouble on the beach

Wanna get sick? Go play on the beach in one of those cute little streams that flow down to the ocean, and play in sewage. Ugh. At least that's the story for some Oregon beaches.

The good news? Things are improving. People are looking into the problems and trying to track down the causes. In some cases, solutions have been found.

It's good to see problems acknowledged and progress made. But it's still sad to have to read about yuck in the pretty little streams that run across our beaches, they'll never look quite the same to me again after reading about massive bacterial contamination and toilet paper flowing across the beach. Ugh again.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Carnival of the blue 25

On this World Oceans Day, it's a singular pleasure to host Carnival of the Blue 25, a movable feast of ocean blogging. Featuring the best ocean bloggers doing their very best to write the best posts, it's just the best.

Now here's a fish to get you in the mood and because fish are the best.



Fish are way better than dolphins, because rising star Miriam Goldstein will tell you that dolphins are infanticidal, violent predators if you swing by The Oyster's Garter or is it Double X? I can't keep up with all of her outlets.

Fish are so great that people want to cut their fins off just to get a piece of the action, even in Brazil, according to Lucia Malla in her post on shark finning in Brazil

In fact, fish are so great that people want to eat the last bluefin tuna, preferably raw and served by a fancy chef. What should a fancy chef like Nobu do when fishy activists make a stink? Sam Fromartz gathered the views of a crop of sages at Chews Wise

That's right, fish are just the best and even a bunch of really nice pictures of silly birds can't begin to compare, even if they're incredible photos of Kelp Gulls from Capetown, by Charlie Moores. OK, these are good and if they were fish they'd be the best.

Which fish are the best? Hard to say, but certainly the luckiest ones are the fish that live in MPAs, since MPAs work in Hawaii according to Rick MacPherson.

And even though Susannah at Wanderin' Weeta shows us how worms are tenacious, they're still not the best like fish.

If you want to see some fish, who ya gonna call? Probably the Johnson-Sea-Link, which just happens to need saving and Kevin Zelnio is taking names of the people who want to help save this venerable submersible, which may be the best submersible but it's certainly not quite up to the standards of fish.

This bad news about JSL is more than matched by some good news for sharks in Florida on Southern Fried Science, thanks to Why Sharks Matter. That seems redundant, actually, sharks matter because they're the best.

Urchins are pretty good, especially when there's going topless involved, and you can see the whole business at i'm a chordata! urochordata, on a post that is sure to show up on the wrong kind of google searches.

Turtles ain't bad, especially if you're looking at green sea turtles in Hawaii like Bobbie and Jerry.

Now here's a fish that's really the best, the magnificent peacock flounder--master of camouflage.

The best thing you can do with fish is don't be a dummie and catch too many. Here's some schoolin' on overfishing by Kelsey Abbott of mauka to makai, which she'll also explain to you if you just go on over and read it.

And what happens if you can't read or don't bother, and end up running out of fish? That's really the worst says Caspar Henderson over at Barely Imagined Beings. It's so worst that it will cause at least 100 million hungry people to march as coral reefs disintegrate -- and that's on a good day!

If that's not worst enough, then try on the Undersea mining bummer which says, oh too bad, undersea mining ain't going anywhere fast, from new celebrity The Saipan Blogger, who's probably famous enough to get punk'd.

Fish are the best, but boats are not bad and most of us can always use a lift, so stop by Sea Notes and get a lift from Blue Boat Home.

Oh yeah, you probably need another fish picture since fish are just the best and on World Oceans Day you probably deserve at least 2 fish pictures from my vacation...

Here's proof that fish are just the best, look at this coexistence baby--big fish and little fish living together in harmony--it doesn't get any better than that. A lesson for world peace, fish going all Obama on us:


But not all fish are soooo awful nice, here's the word from a staunch sergeant major



get off yer ass and go read the blogs, dammit, they're really the best.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Catfish wars

First Vietnamese catfish are not catfish, then they are catfish. It all depends on which definition makes more money for US catfish farmers. Biology be damned, it's time for economics-based definitions of catfish.

In 2002, the US catfish industry got a law passed that defined Vietnames catfish as not-catfish. Then, an opportunity arose to get Vietnames not-catfish denied entry into the US if they got their catfish status reinstated. So now the US industry is seeking to restore rightful catfish status to Vietnamese catfish.

Nevermind whether these finny animals are really catfish or not.

And nevermind the real challenge for the US catfish industry, the competition and market position of their products. Look for delacata, the new name for US catfish.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Whales on the beach?

Why do whales end up on the beach, and why do we kill them?

Like the 55 false killer whales stranded on a South African beach last week, whales and dolphins on the beach usually end up dead. When nudged back out in the water, they often just swim back onto the beach.

Is it illness or injury and a hope for rest & recovery? Are they following one lost soul and trying to help? The answer is that there are many reasons why whales and dolphins end up on a beach, including illness, injury and unknown causes.

Whales have been beaching themselves since the time of Aristotle, so we can't blame it purely on industrial disease.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Don't be such a scientst

Finally, reason for hope. There's a new book coming that would have saved the Roman Empire if it were written in Latin, published 2000 years ago, and if someone taught Caligula to read.

It's 'Don't Be Such A Scientist' by filmmaker and scientist Randy Olson. It's all about how to reach people with information that matters but usually comes cloaked in scientific mumbo-gumbo.

It'll be great, and you can pre-order here.

Of course, I don't really believe any of this, I'm just trying to butter up Randy and save $19.95 plust tax by getting a free copy to review if I promise sycophantic praise a la Hollywood.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Putting garbage in the ocean on purpose?

I guess it's ok if you sink a big old warship and call it a "reef." In fact, it's not only OK, it's an economic opportunity. Project officials expect the $8 million cost of the project to be recovered in just a year of wreck-diving related revenue.

I like to dive underwater and look at things, but I've never understood the fascination with diving on wrecks. I'd rather look at ocean stuff than human stuff underwater. If I want to see deteriorating hulks, I can just go to a junkyard.

The warship Vandenberg was all done warshipping and needed to go somewhere. So the Key West Dive community put together an effort to sink the ship where divers can enjoy it and spend a pile of money enjoying it. Call it economic development. I wish they put the effort into natural habitats, making natural diving better.

Oh well, nobody asked me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Desalination in California

Salt is the enemy, at least if you want to use ocean water for drinking or irrigation. With the world running out of fresh water, and plenty of salty ocean water at hand, no wonder people want to do industrial-scale salt removal. It's easy to do, and the only obstacle has been the cost. Is that changing? Will we turn to the ocean for our fresh water supplies?

Here's the latest, the largest ever desalting plant in the US up for final approval in Southern California.

Desalination, desalinization, desalinisation, salt removal...whatever you call it, it may be an idea whose time has finally come.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Our vanishing oysters

I love oysters. I love to eat the little buggers, and I admire their "fix-it" role in ocean ecosystems--consuming at least some of the fruits of our effluent when they eat plankton. I also enjoy looking at them underwater in reefs, and separate when they're malleable and often twisted shapes are visible.

In brief, oysters rock. To show my appreciation and bond with oysters, I have a fantastic little oyster shell (drilled naturally by a predator and smoothed by ocean surf) that I found in Baja California and now wear around my neck on a leather string (right).

So imagine my dismay when I read the first-ever worldwide report on the status of oysters, and it's gloomy. I know that oysters are in trouble in the US, but I don't really know that much about their worldwide status.

A study by the Nature Conservancy says that 85% of the world's oyster reefs are gone. Oyster reefs are one of the most endangered ocean ecosystems in the world. Cry for the missing bivalves.