Friday, January 30, 2009

Ocean dead zones made worse by global warming

If you like to breathe, then you should hate global warming. If you like to breathe water, that is.

A new study says that global warming will make ocean dead zones worse. Worse means more dead zones and bigger dead zones. Yuk.

Ocean dead zones are low oxygen areas that kill most animals. One natural protective factor that prevents ocean dead zones is ocean mixing that stirs oxygen from the air into ocean water. Global warming is likely to reduce ocean mixing and...voila...bigger and badder ocean dead zones.

This isn't a new issue, but the recent study says the ocean dead zone monster is even bigger and badder than we thought.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ocean fertilization won't stop climate change

I had my doubts all along, and new science confirms. Adding iron to oceans is not the magic solution to excess CO2 and climate change.

So much for John Martin's famous quote "give me a half tanker of iron and I'll give you an ice age." He was right that iron can cause plankton blooms, but wrong about taking his results to geo-engineering.

"Ocean iron fertilization is simply no longer to be taken as a viable option for mitigation of the CO2 problem," says Hein de Baar, an oceanographer at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research in Texel.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sea kittens

PETA has a new campaign to stop people from eating fish. It's calling fish "sea kittens."

Some interesting and strong reactions have popped up, including this dive shop owner dive shop owner who eviscerates the whole thing, and this photo that someone called a sea kitten grown up to be a big catfish as a way to put the big ugly to the idea of little kittens of the sea.

The Economist weighs in with this article entitled "deep fried kittens." and the National Fisheries Institute blog has a few critical things to say.

I'm with the critics on this one, calling fish sea kittens is dumb, and I don't think it's going to do anything to reduce consumption of fish. In fact, it's more fun to punch up the sea kittens campaign with articles like deep fried kittens.

Sex, not piety brings eternal life

Remember, you learned it first from a sea creature.

Sex, not piety is the secret to eternal life. So says the Sun based on studies of Turritopsis Nutricula, the hydrozoan. And it you want a more authoritative source, Wikipedia agrees with the Sun. Or, if you prefer hard science you can find this great truth verified in Developmental Biology Online.

The way it works is the hydrozoan de-differentiates after reproducing, basically becomming a baby all over again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Frankly, I knew it. Piety never felt that good to me, and sex seems ever so much more promising.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pesticide mixtures hurt salmon

What happens when salmon get a snootfull of toxic chemicals? It's not good, and it's not a big surprise that it's not good. But hey, somebody had to prove it.

This study shows that real world levels of pesticides make it harder for salmon to smell, which is how they find their way home in their miraculous migration.

According to study author Keith Tierney:

"Our results indicate salmon restoration efforts may meet with limited success unless water quality issues are resolved first."
Lest you think this is alarmist bunkum, here's more on how pesticides are bad for salmon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Poisoned killer whales? Blame salmon be fair...let's blame ourselves since we're the ones who poisoned the salmon. It's industrial disease poisoning killer whales, the toxic effluent of our life and commerce. It gets out into the nearshore ocean in Puget Sound, contaminates the salmon, and really poisons the killer whales that eat up to 500 pounds of salmon a day.

It's a tragic Christmas present, imagine opening up a gift and enjoying it, and then suffering later because of the toxic chemicals that sprayed out onto your body.

Or...ponder the reality of eating toxic food and getting poisoned. After all, what we do to the killer whales, we're doing to ourselves. The Inuit who eat marine mammals have it worse than the rest of us, with poison levels that appear to be making them sick.

But no matter who you are and how careful you are, you're probably getting some contamination from somewhere. Eating organic food helps, but then you might get poisoned from your platic coffee maker, or the flame retardants in your mattress, or ...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fish poop saves our bacon

Fish worship--is it wrong? Not when you find out that fish poop may save us from death by acid oceans.

Fish eat a lot of calcium and poop out calcium carbonate. And now it seems that the calcium carbonate in fish poop may help buffer the ocean and protect against the acid ocean death caused by excess CO2. Remember high school chemistry and buffers? If not, shame on you. You should have paid more attention instead of ogling the sexy person in the row in front of you.

And now Milton Love, the fish biologist, has penned an ode to fish poop:

There once was a mola (I read it)
Who angrily said (I must edit)
"I nourished the sea
With what comes out of me
And never get one word of credit!"

Milton Love
And you thought I was wierd.

Fish worship quote borrowed from Ray Troll

Monday, January 19, 2009

Science Online 09 and the ocean of the unknown

For nearly 3 years now blogfish has been swimming boldly into the ocean of the unknown---the blogosphere. It hasn’t been easy out near the edge of the world, there are scary monsters lurking in the mare icognita. Thanks to Science Online 09, it don't seem so bad no more.

Swimming alone into the blogosphere is an uncertain thing. Will anyone care, will there be a response? Will it be all negative, high risk and little reward?

Right now is a tough time to look at that question. I’m getting some negative feedback that makes me question the value of blogging the ocean. But there is reason to be optimistic in the face of challenges, and thank goodness for the timing of my new reward.

I’m coming home from Science Online 09. I've had a great time meeting the people who are leading the online revolution in science communication. It's been incredibly helpful to hearing a wide variety of opinions on how science is best presented in the modern world of facebook and anti-intellectualism.

It’s been an inspiring chance to learn from some real experts and pioneers. People who have been presenting science through new media since before most of us heard the term.

-Journalists who can tell us about the norms of the profession and how the new channels of communication create new situations that stretch the boundaries of what's OK.

-Editors with long experience as arbiters who reveal the tensions playing out in some of the hoary and hallowed institutions that referee scientific truth.

-Practicing scientists who want to escape the strictures of the academy, and touch directly the consumers of science with some of their opinions as well as data.

There’s a place in this community for the blogfishes of the world. As we swim through this mare incognita, it turns out to be not so incognita as it might seem.

I’m here, for better or for worse. I’ve swum out into the unknown, with a great faith in the rightness of reaching out through whatever means are available. And now I know there is a great community of explorers that are willing and able to help.

So the blogfish feels a little less exposed, and a little more confident. Why not keep at it? There’s no going back anyway, no matter what I might wish.

As Jason Robertshaw said, everyone’s online personna exists, like it or not. Better to seize control and not let others do the job instead.

One highlight for me was meeting many people that I've seen in the virtual world of ocean science communication, but never met in person. People likeRick MacPherson of Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets. He's sharp and a good storyteller, and already a great friend. Jason Robertshaw of provided endless deadpan humor along with peeks into his magic bag of tech tricks. Kevin Zelnio of Deep Sea News proved he has the stamina of Alvin and questionable taste in alcohol, although some of the blame for the choice of beverages may go to Southern Fried Scientist. With those two on board, deep sea biology is going somewhere, I'm just not sure where. It was great to see Miriam Goldstein of Oyster's Garter again, and also Sheril Kirshenbaum of Intersection.

I know I'll forget someone if I try to make a list, but here's at least a good start on thanking the new people I met who aren't fortunate enough to be very wet and salty. Thanks for helping the blogfish!!

Bora (of course he needs no other identifier), Grrl Scientist who runs Living the Scientific Life, Dr. Free Ride who provides Adventures in Ethics and Science, Mike Bergin who must've seen 10,000 birds, Karen James who's making the Beagle sail again, James Hrynyshyn who lives on an Island of Doubt too far from the coast, Greg Laden who covers everything, and a host of others.

Now I can exhale.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

$100,000 tuna

That's a pile of money for a fish, no wonder bluefin tuna are vanishing.

At the first auction of the year in Tokyo, two restaurant owners shared the prize tuna at a cost of $100,000 for the 280 pound fish. And that's not even the all-time record, in 2001 a 450 pound bluefin sold for $219,000 which is nearly $500 per pound. That's an expensive fish.

The writeup in the Wall Street Journal failed to mention the sad fact that these fantastic prices are driving bluefin tuna close to extinction. I guess they're too busy worrying about vanishing investment banks.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fishing makes fish grow smaller?

If you catch them, they will change. Now we can put numbers to the problem, and the news is bad.

Animals change fast in response to fishing, hunting and other human uses. "Harvest selection" can cause rapid and potentially harmful changes in exploited fish and other animals.

Killing large, healthy individuals of an exploited species can

have profound conservation and economic implications. Specifically, the widespread potential for transitively rapid and large effects on size- or life history-mediated ecological dynamics might imperil populations, industries, and ecosystems.
Translated into English, it says catching the biggest fish can produce a population of runts. And it says so in fairly alarming terms, unusual for staid scientists.

Should we care? Yes. Can we do something? Yes. We can reconfigure our use of fish so that we're not giving a big survival advantage to the runts. So we don't end up like the fisherman in this satirical picture above.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Free the lobster

An 80 year old lobster is headed back to the ocean now that a Manhattan restaurant gave in to please from animal rights activists.

George the 20 pound lobster, estimated at 80 years old, will be driven north to New Hampshire where a crustacean expert will "ease his transition" back to the wild before releasing him in protected waters near Kennebunkport, Maine.

The restaurant manager and executive chef said George was never going to be served, instead he served as a mascot.

A lot of to-do over a lobster.

The latest report says George is back in the ocean.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Change leaders, not light bulbs

What's the best way for a person to go green? Thomas Friedman says to vote smart, it's so much better than the cult of personal action (like changing light bulbs).

OK, I think he goes too far, we should change leaders and light bulbs. But he has a good point, the "ten simple things you can do" lists do not really change the world. Useful steps like changing light bulbs do little unless they save kilowatts while also spurring all of us on bigger collective actions.

Voting right is good, but it's an empty platitude to emphasize voting as a solution since there are no electable leaders who really push true sustainability in their platforms. Instead, we can develop real campaigns for social change that put sustainability on the mainstream agenda. Like mine, of course.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

New ocean protection from the Bush administration

Yee-haw, we have some new protected areas and they're BIG ones. The latest action comes from the Bush administration's last days, as they look for an ocean environmental legacy.

They're not perfect on oceans, but this is real ocean conservation action, and they deserve credit for what they've done. With this action, President Bush has protected more ocean area than any other person in history.

It's a historic day for ocean protection.

The protected areas include the Central Pacific islands and atolls known as the Line Islands, extending nearly 2,000 miles and including Johnston Atoll; Howard, Baker and Jarvis Islands; Kingman Reef; Wake Island; and Rose Atoll, and the marine waters around the Northern Marianas in the western Pacific, including the Mariana Trench, the deepest canyon in the world.

photo: Palmyra atoll
map: Washington Post

Monday, January 05, 2009

Carnival of the blue 20

Is up at Biomes Blog. Thanks to host Mark Hall for hosting, and for blogging oceans in the big leagues in his Marine Life Series at Daily Kos. He probably gets more visitors in one day than blogfish gets in a year.

...and I'm back from vacation (5 feet of new snow in Montana, wow!) and ready to blog some more. Hope you all had a great Christmas break like I did.