Friday, February 27, 2009

Peak fish, is it real?

You've heard of peak oil, is there such a thing as peak fish? Some scientists and pundits argue that we're already past the point of peak fish, and our use of wild fish is doomed to go down...down...down. Fact or fiction?

First, the analogy to peak oil is not good. Things would look different for our oil supplies if the little oil molecules could get together and reproduce underground. Imagine the different situation for oil supplies if a 5 year moratorium on pumping would allow underground supplies to double! Bonanza! Well, surprise, fish DO reproduce, and while we may end up running out of wild fish, the analogy to peak oil is nothing more than a handy news metaphor.

Does this mean that everything is fine for fish? Am I arguing that fish sex will save us from the doom of peak fish? NO. It is possible to use up wild fish, and we've done a good job of doing that in many places. Click here to see the figure at right expanded into a very cool animation showing the "fishing down" of most of our oceans.

Yes, we can run out of fish, but it's not peak fish. It's more about killing the goose that laid the gold egg.

What does the future hold? That outcome is in our hands. There's fishing done right and fishing done wrong, and if we fish right we can take fish out of the ocean forever. I won't speculate on what level of catch is sustainable, some say less than today's catches and some say more. Finding the right level will be a challenge but we can do it if we make a serious effort.

The wild card of climate change will make it difficult to fish right in the future, since we don't know what our future oceans are capable of producing. So a view that's correct today may be wrong tomorrow. But that doesn't change the underlying principle.

Peak fish is a news metaphor, and not a biological reality. We may get to peak fish because of human management mistakes, but that would be human foolishness, not an inevitable outcome. Unless you think human foolishness is inevitable...and then you should be reading a different blog.

thanks to the World Resources Institute for the peak fish graphic

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fetid ocean playground in Dubai

Wanna swim in the fancy ocean off Dubai? Along with the toilet paper, raw sewage and chemical waste? I didn't think so.

In a nasty case of the right hand knowing not what the left hand is doing, luxury tourism in Dubai is suffering from an excess of waste.

According to the Times Online:
A stretch of the exclusive Jumeirah Beach — a magnet for Western tourists and home to a string of hotels — has been closed.

“It’s a cesspool. Our tests show too many E. coli to count. It’s like swimming in a toilet,” said Keith Mutch, the manager of the Offshore Sailing Club, which has posted warnings and been forced to cancel regattas.
The cause is too-rapid development that neglected the minor niceties like sewage systems. Now the 6-star hotels and gliterati reputation is fading under a tide of...well...poop. The risks of swimming now include typhoid and hepatitis, if you're foolish enough to brave the stench and visible toilet paper.

I guess there is a reason for those silly rules about sewers and the like.

Yes we can save coral reefs

And here's a specific action plan that makes a good start.

This action plan is a collaborative effort by a broad range of groups and individuals, including the groups listed at right.

The coalition is presenting the action plan today at a meeting of the Coral Reef Tast Force, with the hope that it will inspire and guide progress on coral reef conservation.

I applaud the efforts of the coalition and share their enthusiasm and optimism that the new Adminstration and Congress will move forward on coral conservation.

Thanks to Angelo at The Saipan Blog for posting the text of the action plan.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Crazy weird fish

It's a plane! It's a submarine! No, it's a barreleye fish.

This deep sea fish has freaky tubular eyes, embedded within a transparent head. Why? To see in the dark and battle stinging siphonophores for food. At least that's one theory.

I think it just wants to win the prize for best imitation of a submarine by a marine fish.

See the barreleye (aka spookfish) swim in this YouTube video sure to hit the top ten.

hat tip: Deep Sea News

Monday, February 23, 2009

Big women are sexy

At least among humpback whales. A new study says larger females attract bigger crowds of eager males with lovin on their minds.

Why? Apart from any media-fueled bias, the big mommas have bigger babies with a better chance to survive. So a male has a better chance of passing on the family genes if he mates with a big female.

Female humpback whales can attract anywhere from 2 to 20 males into their harem, and the males will fight off intruders that hope to break into the group. This means that the biggest females travel with a fairly nasty retinue.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Akumal underwater

I just spent most of the last 2 weeks in sunny Akumal with my family, swimming a couple of hours every day from a beachfront condo on Half Moon Bay called Yool Caanal. Mostly around 80F, air temp and water temp. Very nice. Here's the view from our deck (right).

Thanks to the supremely hot Mrs blogfish (left) for making the vacation memorable, and for my birthday present of a nice underwater digital camera so I can show you some of the fun.

Here's the number 1 boo as she's snorkeling in the ocean for the first time at age 7 and seeing coral reefs, fish, a turtle, etc.

Here's boo number 2 learning to snorkel at age 4, and looking at what he called "inifinity fish" after swimming through vast schools of sardines.

I'm so impressed to see these two little boos snorkeling in the real ocean. A dive instructor friend said that kids this young can learn, and these two are definitely not too young. They did some swimming and I did some towing and we got out to look at coral reefs despite a few bouncy waves now and then, sponges that looked like they were sending creepy fingers up to grab little toes, and some big scary-looking fish like barracuda and greater amberjack.

Here's a small sample of what we saw underwater (hope the IDs are right). Click photos to enlarge.

french grunts and a doctorfish

stoplight parrotfish terminal coloration

stoplight parrotfish initial coloration

sharp-tailed eel

reef squid

hawksbill turtle

southern stingray

hound needlefish (aka houndfish, crocodile needlefish, mexican needlefish)

caribbean trumpetfish

black grouper

spotted trunkfish

sergeant majors

french angelfish

juvenile blue tang

adult blue tangs

foureye butterflyfish

horse-eye jacks

sailors choice grunts

peacock founder (note the camouflage)

and here's a sighting of the rare Mexican blogfish

Hasta la vista, Akumal.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

More I'm back

I couldn't believe it when I saw this...

I'm back, and feeling sharp

Here's why (see photo)...

More on this later.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Saving the oceans

Sun-baked, fish-fed, brain dead and depleted. It could be worse. At least I was saving the ocean and it was 75 and sunny.

It’s a strange sort of work so close to the edge of collapse, mental and physical. Just getting to the heart of an issue with an interesting mix of people, some I’ve never met before, when the warning box starts popping up: “recharge immediate to avoid immediate brain shutdown.”

It’s tough to keep talking smart through the mental fog, the endless drinking (purely social, of course) and the pounding onslaught of the finest seafood on earth, selected in the company of people who make a living buying and selling seafood.

…and of course, the crushing guilt, no time to blog…

I’m just done with the most intense 4 days of my year. Seafood Summit 2009 in San Diego, where I meet with fish and seafood people nonstop from waking at 7 until collapsing in bed at midnight (or later).

I wish I could link to independent reports on the doings, like the words of seafood journalists John Sackton and the boys from, but those are subscription-only sites. Too bad, since John seems to think that I took a fairly interesting stand. And then there’s the deep thinking from the Ashoka Foundation, which is uniformly surprising, occasionally contrarian, and also sadly unlinkable.

So what the hell, I think I’m going to take a pass on reporting the event, and just blunder into a couple of things that keep echoing in my head.

One thing I need to ponder is the sometimes-deep divide between the business world and the views of ocean environmentalists. Are we really so different? Is that the way it has to be? Or can we do a better job of finding the areas where we have the same goals? Sometimes we don’t seem so far apart…is it a coincidence that usually happens later in the evening?

What are the duties and obligations of people who make a living buying and selling seafood? Do they owe a special debt to the ocean? And if they don’t feel such a debt, should they have their feet held to the fire? Will that make them see the light and transform into ocean heroes?

Am I really evil if I eat thresher shark, swordfish, or –gasp- Mary’s bluefin tuna? There are maybe 3 or 4 people on the planet who understand my relationship to these fish, and so far as I know they’re not talking, so what up with anyone who presumes to know what I should or shouldn’t do? I’ve told one story--of me and coho salmon--do such things matter?

Is it true that environmentalists eat our young, as a friendly seafood business guy asked me?

And finally, will next year’s meeting be equally productive if it happens in Iceland in the winter, as the rumors would have it?

Regardless, it seems like a good time for a vacation. So I’ll take this opportunity to let you know that Blogfish is going mostly off-line for up to 2 weeks as I retire to a beachfront apartment in Akumal and lick my wounds. It’s rough duty but someone has to do it.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Seattle's ocean wonderland

See Puget Sound like never before, and learn about the world-class ocean diving available right off the beaches of the Seattle area. And while you're having fun, learn about what makes our ocean so special.

All brought to you by Still Hope Productions with an underwater TV show, and a travelling event that will be on Bainbridge at Islandwood Feb 1, 2009 and REI in Seattle April 2, 2009, 7-9 pm. Check the Still Hope website as more events will be added.

Or if you can't make any of that, you can buy an amazing DVD, I have a copy of Return of the Plankton, it's unbelievable and I'll be buying it as a gift for friends.

Did you know that there are colorful fish and invertebrates in Puget Sound that rival tropical reefs for beauty? Get a DVD and see for yourself!

image: low-res sample from