Thursday, April 30, 2009

The virus formerly known as swine flu

The WHO (World Health Organization) says it's "the virus formerly known as swine flu" and it is henceforth represented by an unpronounceable image (see photo below):

Bad gull

Nature, red in tooth and claw...and beak.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bad fish

Fish can be bad if you're a fan of biodiversity in lakes. Or at least it's bad to have fish in every lake.

Scientists have found that we're killing biodiversity with our love for fish and our penchant for plunking fish in every lake, pond, puddle, or stream. In Maine, for example, scientists believe that only about 50 lakes are fishless out of about 6,000 lakes.

What happens when we add fish? Various amphibians and invertebrates get eaten up and vanish. Swing by the Journal of the North American Benthological Society if you want to read more.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fish farming entrepreneur

Here's a story about a young man with a passion for farming fish. Love him or hate him, Brian O'Hanlon is the kind of person who has the energy to conceive of a future that's different than the status quo.

Is he a friend or enemy of conservation? Some who hate fish farming would call him an enemy because of his zeal for fish farms. But I like anyone who can envision a new future, and I hope his energy helps to make a better world in our shared future.

I think fish farming is a key part of our ocean future, and we need to learn how to do it and do it well. That will require energetic entrepreneurs like Mr. O'Hanlon.

And I'm dying to know, who's that ZZ Top character in the background? Some sort of fish guru?

What's happening in this picture?

The first person to guess what's happening to me in this picture wins a prize. No fair if you've already seen this picture elsewhere and know the answer. Post your answers in the comments, please.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Egg-laying boys

Watch out fellow males, you too could be recruited for a dastardly experiment.

A fish researcher has created egg-laying male bluegills by giving the boys estrogen. Then he uses normal males to fertilize the male-produced eggs. The offspring? So-called "super males" that have two y chromosomes and can be counted on to mate with normal females to produce only male offspring.

Why? Because fish farmers prefer to raise male bluegills--they're twice as big as females and thus more profitable.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What's really stiff and also flexible?

No, not that. The "beard" of a mussel--it's byssal threads that it uses to attach to a rock or piling.

A mussel's byssal threads are super strong, but also able to stretch up to 70% of their length. They need to be stretchy and strong to hold on during rough storms that threaten to tear it loose from wherever it wants to be, like on a wave-pounded rock or piling that supports a dock. Let go, and the mussel will likely die for lack of a good home.

So nature has evolved the incredible byssal thread, with properties that we can't create in man-made materials. It's super strong, but also able to stretch up to 70% of it's length. Wow.

Mussels are some of my favorite animals, both in the sea and also steamed in a bucket.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Recession aids conservation

Thanks to our blessed recession, the Elwha dams will come out a year sooner! Now that's economic pain to die for.

Stimulus money will be used to create dam removal jobs and speed the crumbling, tumbling of this devastating bit of concrete. I know, let's have a recession every year, so we can speed up conservation projects!

Why is this a big deal? As the Seattle Times explains:

Supporters of the Olympic project hope it will restore once-legendary salmon runs destroyed when the Glines Canyon and Elwha dams blocked access to 70 miles of habitat.

Dam removal was approved by Congress in 1993, and demolition had been scheduled for 2009, until rising costs for the $308 million project delayed the start to 2012. With work expected to start in 2011, the dams could be gone by 2013 or 2014.

The new schedule was welcome news to Robert Elofson, natural-resources director for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. The tribe has worked to see the dams removed for 25 years, with an eye toward bringing back salmon that were vital to the tribe.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Great barrier reef coral recovery

Good news from the Great Barrier Reef--bleached corals recovered 10 times faster than anyone expected.

Corals bleached (got very sick) in 2006 on the Great Barrier Reef, due to high temperatures. Experts thought the corals would die, but they didn't. Instead, corals have made a spectacular recovery. What happened? According to Science Daily:

the rapid recovery is due to an exceptional combination of previously-underestimated ecological mechanisms.

“Three factors were critical. The first was exceptionally high re-growth of fragments of surviving coral tissue. The second was an unusual seasonal dieback in the seaweeds, and the third was the presence of a highly competitive coral species, which was able to outgrow the seaweed.

“But this also all happened in the context of a well-protected marine area and moderately good water quality”, said Dr Diaz-Pulido.

“It is rare to see reports of reefs that bounce back from mass coral bleaching or other human impacts in less than a decade or two,” he adds

Before we get too smug about the future, we must heed the warnings of scientists that this is not going to be a typical outcome. OK, but I still want to be happy about a bit of good news.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Obama wants energy from ocean wind

It's like I wrote President Obama's Earth Day speech. In Iowa, Obama announced the death of Captain NIMO with a nod to blogfish:

"Captain NIMO is dead, and we're going to explore clean energy options from the ocean" he said, "and I'd like to thank the ocean blog, blogfish for leading on this issue."

OK, he didn't really say that, but it's almost like he did.

He did announce new regulations that authorize offshore wind energy leases. And the goal of the program is clean energy and green jobs.

Now it's time for ocean people to find a way to play in the new push for clean ocean industry, by helping solve problems rather than playing Captain NIMO. If we're worried about the acid ocean zombie plague monster, then we have to find a way to bring some ocean-based solutions to the climate change table. Otherwise, we and the oceans will be road kill in the race for solutions.

It's the new face of Earth Day, who will help find solutions instead of just pointing out the problems??

image: ocean wind energy, solution or threat?

Fish get seasick

How would we ever know if fish get seasick?

A scientist has found that fish subjected to weightlessness behave like seasick people, losing their sense of balance.

Not sure that this really equals seasickness, but Dr Reinhold Hilbig, a zoologist from Stuttgart, Germany thinks so.

Fishing out our rockfish

Here in Puget Sound we have another dubious distinction. We have the first proposed listing for fish that were pushed into the crapper by fishing.

Canary rockfish, yelloweye rockfish and bocaccio rockfish were all proposed for listing yesterday by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which will wait a year until making a final decision. Canary and yelloweye are proposed as threatened and bocaccio as endangered.

Go here for more info, or if you have anything to say about the matter and wanna know where and when to say it.

And then sit back and watch us greenie Starbuckaroos show the rest of the world how to recover endangered fish. Just like we done for all of those salmon that are hurtin.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Southern Fried Screeds

If you want to know where to find two guys that look at things from the bottom, head on over to Southern Fried Science.

Now I don't like fried things, the south baffles me, and I once burned myself on a particularly nasty science, so there's nothing about this blog that attracts me. Yet I can't quite turn away. They're young and brash (I know I met one of them and I can tell what kinds of friends he has) but at the same time, they're not old and shy like me. They have stupid ideas even while not being very smart. But ultimately, somehow, they do that blog thing by frying up something worth eating.

For example...

First Why Sharks Matter fondles his passions by describing "5 things worse for the planet than global warming." Oh yeah, he thinks dolphins suck too.

Then the Southern Fried Scientist blasts off over "what the hell happened to the environmental movement?" He's wrong of course, with everything he says until the end when he comes around to being right. Now how did he do that?

It's the best of blogging, where people spout spume and after the mess has settled a bit you look at it and see the image of Darwin on a tortilla and go "whoa."

Earth Day--store CO2 in ocean?

What is Earth Day? Happy celebration of planting trees? Yes, and more. In 2009, Earth Day poses a new challenge. It's questions like: should we store CO2 under the ocean? How we respond will determine our fate.

On one side, we can do NIMBY or NIMO and say: Not In My Ocean, too risky. On the other side, we might find a viable technology for reversing climate change by storing CO2 underneath the ocean.

How we settle on questions like this will determine our future. I think Earth Day 2009 presents us a challenge and an opportunity. Will we grow and change and solve problems?

Or will we atavistically look backwards for our models of problem solving?

It would be easy to look at things like banning DDT and say we need more of that kind of firm action stopping the bad people or bad things. But in this complex world, there are few if any simple answers and we won't be saved by a brave hero. This ain't no cowboy movie.

I don't know if ocean disposal of CO2 is a good idea or not. But I do believe that if we reject such options dogmatically, we're not likely to solve our looming problems and move forward into a better future.

So for me, Earth Day 2009 will involve a celebration and happy-making. And a redoubled effort to advance productive problem-solving as heart of the modern environmental movement.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

When the rivers run dry

OK, maybe not dry. But rivers are running lower over the last 50 years, a process that threatens to reshuffle ocean conditions in ways we can barely imagine.

If you're an ocean lover, you CARE DEEPLY about river flows...or you should. River flows matter in ocean productivity patterns and such problems as dead zones. And here's a chance to post that nifty photo I found showing a plankton bloom of my bit of coast (right).

An interesting side note, why was this article in the politics & government section of the paper? It sounds like science, but I guess it's likely to turn into one of those political footballs that gets kicked around (like climate change).

What's happening to make rivers run lower? Several factors combine to reduce river flow, including climate change, dams, and water withdrawals for human use. Oh, now I see why this isn't covered as "science." Will river flows become the next big partisan shouting match, so that hydrology is the next science to gets mangled by politicians.

Drugs in water

Don't ask, don't tell seems to be the US approach to drugs in water. According to an AP story,

"U.S. manufacturers, including major drugmakers, have legally released at least 271 million pounds of pharmaceuticals into waterways that often provide drinking water - contamination the federal government has consistently overlooked"

But don't worry, the concentrations are low enough that the drugs and drug-making chemicals are not a problem. At least, we dont' think they're a problem even though we don't really know because we're not monitoring.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Executed for killing endangered salmon

Take a look at this face (left). Did he deserve to die for killing endangered salmon?

It's a tough question, we all want to save endangered species, especially iconic and valuable fish like salmon. But what do we do when there's a conflict between this and other social values, like the respect many people have for marine mammals?

In this case, some sea lions are being killed by the government when they're caught feeding on salmon that are vulnerable because they have to swim up narrow fish ladders. The endangered salmon present an easy target for the non-endangered and thus expendable sea lions.

The sea lion in the picture was known as C265, he was an adult male California sea lion and he was the first sea lion killed for eating endangered salmon in the Columbia River. According to the Sea Lion Defense Brigade, other sea lions have been killed in the last month.

In a sense, the executed sea lions were just doing what comes naturally, eating fish. But they exploited some man-made habitats where they found easy pickins of endangered salmon that we're spending millions to save.

It's worthy of note that the sea lions were killing fewer salmon than human fishermen, so it's a bit hypocritical that we object so heavily to what the sea lions are doing. Sea lions were seen taking 0.4% to 4.2% of the salmon run, not exactly devastating by itself. But, in combination with human impacts, they were eating too many salmon, and they had to go.

In reality, these sea lions were the victims of human development. There's no easy answer here, and we're going to face more of these problems in the future if we really want to save endangered species.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Don't try this at home

Fish are smarter than people. Or at least that's how it looks when you compare the picture on the left to this very sad story: a deckhand on a charter boat choked to death in front of a bunch of kids when he put a baitfish in his mouth.

Fish can do it, but people shouldn't try.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sniper fish uses water gun to hunt insects

Here's an amazing video of archer fish hunting insects. The fish shoot a jet of water at insects up to 2 meters away. The water stream is used to knock the insects off plants and into the water, where they're quickly consumed by the archer fish.

The video includes some showy but gratuitous special effects and a vignette near the end where a bemused human smoker gets his cigaretted doused by an anti-smoking archer fish.

George Will's war

What's up with George Will? I used to respect him as a thinking man's conservative columnist, sort of a Charles Krauthammer with neocortical implants. But now he's gone off over, believe it or not, denim. George Will thinks denim is a problem.

After calling demin an "infantile uniform" he offers this fashion advice:

This is not complicated. For men, sartorial good taste can be reduced to one rule: If Fred Astaire would not have worn it, don't wear it. For women, substitute Grace Kelly.

Come on George. Are you really so priggish as that?

Apparently he's steaming because denim is rightfully worn only by the working class, and for others it's a foolish pretense, trying to look like a laborer. He does let loose one comment that shows he's not only an elitist about clothes, he bemoans the fact that:

Seventy-five percent of American "gamers" -- people who play video games -- are older than 18 and nevertheless are allowed to vote.

Presumably the problem is that gamers vote wrong.

After being in the news recently for his zero credibility stance that global warming is a media myth, George must be ready to come out of the closet and just declare as a poor loser.

Here's my advice to Mr. Will...try to loosen up a bit, you might have a bit of fun now and then. Kick up your heels and actually try wearing a pair of jeans now and then, maybe in the safety and comfort of your own home. Who knows where it might lead, George, maybe you'll even re-discover your inner Boy.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Your inner fish

Genomic studies show that you're more like a fish than you thought. No, not because you're slimy and cold-blooded, because some of your genes haven't changed in a hundred million years.

Is this anything besides scientific trivia? Oh yes, it's a powerful insight that underpins great advances in understanding important things like why your spouse bugs you so much when (s)he leaves socks lying around the house. Er, ok, it's important if your an academic biologist.

But hey, it's like fine art, it's useful for it's own sake. You have an "inner fish" and it looks a lot like that guy in the photo (above right). And the part that's the most similar is the brain. So much for our highfalutin' notions about ourselves.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Good news about blue whales

Big blues again in the big blue--blue whales are once again being seen off the coast of British Columbia. Seeing a blue whale is a special treat, and a return to former haunts is enough to gladden the heart of an ocean lover.

There is scientific caution about this good news, let's not leap too quickly to assume it's a sign of a population boom. It may be whales migrating from other areas that are now seen off BC.

Our US whale biologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have a lot to say on the subject, and there does seem to be scientific evidence that blue whales ARE doing better in the Pacific Ocean.

Worldwide, blue whales are still depleted from historic highs, especially in the southern hemisphere and the Atlantic. But our Pacific populations are doing fairly well and I'm going to take the BC sightings as reason for optimism.

It's a good day for an ocean lover, and welcome back big blue.

The great turtle race

It's back, the great turtle race. Watch as 11 leatherback turtles vie for 14 days to see who migrates the furthest. Side prizes for deepest dive, coldest water encountered, etc. etc.

It's the great turtle race and you don't want to miss it!

Oh, did I mention that these turtles are BIG (see photo at left)?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sturgeon reappears

A young atlantic sturgeon was found in the Baltic Sea, for the first time in perhaps a century (left).

Hallelujah, what fun it would be to note a fantastic species like a sturgeon, which is amazing to look at and can get huge. Like the size of an elongated large motorcycle or small car (right).

But wait, it might just be a stray from a Polish captive breeding effort, so it may not be the miracle it sounds like. Oh well, either way, sturgeon in the Baltic is a good day for a fish lover. Or a good day for someone who likes the ocean. Or even a good day for someone who doesn't care, even though they won't know they're having a good day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Plastic bags vs. people and animals

Will people stop plastic bag pollution in our oceans when the bags start to attack us? Check out this video from Save the Bay (San Francisco Bay) and let me know if you feel moved to do something to stop the plastic bag menace.

It's a bizarre concept, and very well done IMO. It's an "ocean of plastic bags," and not a very nice one.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Your butts don't belong in my ocean

And now we're doing something about it. Cigarette butts are the number one biggest debris item cleaned off of beaches in the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup.

Now the state of Oregon (love my home state!) is doing something about it with a leading effort to get butts off the beach. An Oregon state representative is sponsoring a bill to make littering with cigarette butts illegal.

This is a "butts off the beach" effort that I can really get behind.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Coolest dive mask around-augmented reality

Think your local dive sites are boring? Try an augmented reality mask that can overlay virtual additions to your boring underwater excursions.

Sad there's no big fish? No worries, augment the reef by adding some extra large virtual fish. Want to see an octopus but aren't finding any? Virtual cephalopods galore can make your dives worthwhile.

If only I could augment the temperature of Puget Sound, and get it up to a more reasonable 60F from my last few outings at 45F.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Was it a good idea to free Willy (Keiko)?

If you're an ocean person, you probably know about the Keiko release project, inspired by the movie Free Willy. What do you think, was it a good idea to attempt to reintroduce Keiko into the wild?

After release, Keiko swam in the ocean, but never was able to survive without human feeding and he continued to seek human company. He never dove like wild whales, and didn't appear to reintegrate with wild whales.

A scientific paper offers an answer:

“A release program can be considered a success when the released animal is able to feed, maintain health and stress levels comparable to his wild conspecifics, show normal predator avoidance behaviour, and ultimately reproduce (unless unable for other reasons, such as reproductive senescence),” write the authors of this new paper.

“Under these criteria, Keiko’s release to the wild was not successful, since though physically unrestricted and free to leave, he kept returning to his caretakers for food and company.”

At the end of the day, while it might have been appealing for humans to free Keiko, it may not have been good for the whale.

Remember that upwards of $7 million was spent on this release program, and Keiko died of pneumonia a couple of years after reintroduction to the ocean.

I would not have chosen to spend this much money on an attempted reintroduction of Keiko.

Mody Dick read aloud

Not everyone in New Bedford, Massachusetts was busy debating fishing rules this month. Some of them were reveling in the legacy of New Bedford's last great resource hunt, whaling.

It was the annual Moby Dick marathon at the whaling museum, where 170 people read aloud the entire text of Moby Dick. No, I'm not kidding, the read the whole thing out loud, it took just over 24 hours. This year marked the 13th undertaking of the leviathan task. Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank read chapter 3, nice going Mr. Frank.

The rise and fall of whaling was New Bedford's last big boom and bust, and fishing has done some of that. But unlike whaling, fishing should last forever if done right.

There's more than a little bit of Melville in the current New England groundfish debacle, but it's more Bartleby than Moby Dick. Like Bartleby, when directed to end overfishing to save themselves, New England's cod fishermen respond with the enduring "I would prefer not to." Sadly, unless they come around, New England's fishermen will suffer Bartleby's ultimate fate.

And Barney Frank seems determined to help the fishermen avoid saving themselves, carrying their self-defeating messages for them in the halls of Congress.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Seahorses at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Seahorses and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, now that's an all-star ocean team. Seahorses are amazing, they barely seem real. And the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the place that started the modern aquarium boom, does ocean exhibits like nobody else.

Did you know that male seahorse get pregnant and give birth to baby seahorses? How about guessing the size of the smallest known seahorse-a half inch! All of this and more at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and it's open now.

I hope I get down there soon to see the seahorses!

Electricity from tides gets real

Canada gets real on energy from the ocean, with the first commercial tidal energy plant in North America set to go online before the end of 2010.

Just like other ocean people, I'm worried about the impacts of industrial development of our oceans. But...CO2 rise is probably a bigger threat, so it's time to test tidal energy and similar options.

"Just say no" to ocean energy is no longer an option, we have to learn when and where to say yes to projects that can help solve our CO2 problem. Captain NIMO (Not In My Ocean) needs to go into retirement.

Is this the right tidal energy plant, in the right place? I don't know, but that's the question to be asking.

Ocean Now expedition

Maybe it should be called Ocean Wow. You've GOT to check out the latest from National Geographic, it's the Ocean Now expedition to fantastic places like the Line Islands in the South Pacific.

And yes, there is a Starbuck's, only this time it's Starbuck Reef, and here's the character who'll take your order (photo at right). Do you think he meets the dress code?

Here's a short video of their dive at Vostok Island.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

New ocean game

It's called Coastal Fling, and it lets you fling things. That's always good.

What do you fling, where, and why? You get to fling people, animals, not sure what all, into a place you've never heard of called Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (hint: it's in a place you have heard of, called Canada, see map at right). The purpose is to show you some of the places in PNCIMA. Learn about "PNCIMA" and have fun.

Dysfunctional fishery management in New England

Yes, dysfunctional management in New England...again. Quoting from John Sackton of, which I can't link because it's a subscription site.

Here's a photo (right) to show what we're missing with this foolishness.

Dysfunctional Fisheries Management continues in New England (editorial comment)

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS - (Editorial Comment) by John Sackton - April 8, 2009 - Because of working for many years in both New England and Alaska, I have long been extremely critical of the New England approach to fisheries management because it has suffered from a fatal flaw: a failure to believe in the basic goal of maintaining fish stocks at their optimum level.

This underlying rejection of the fundamental goals of fisheries management is what has led the New England council time and again to fail to adopt effective measures to rebuild stocks, which now for a generation have been in serious decline.

Now, the council is again acting like a dysfunctional spouse in a domestic abuse case - unable to stop fighting the last war despite the intervention of grownups.

Yesterday, following largely the advice of lawyers based in Gloucester, the council voted again to affirm its rejection of NMFS interpretations of the mixed stock exemption, arguing explicitly that in a situation where many stocks are harvested together, the council has the ability to refuse to rebuild those stocks most at risk if it interferes with the other stocks being harvested at their optimum yield.

NMFS says simply that Magnuson requires action be taken to halt overfishing when a stock is overfished, and it does not matter whether that stock is part of another species complex that may be healthy or not.

In fact in the rest of the country, this is not even an argument. On the West Coast, the groundfish industry accepted severe restrictions due to the depletion of some specific rockfish species. Hitting the rockfish target bycatch even shut down the far larger whiting fishery for a significant time in 2008.

In Alaska, the council just wrestled for days with how to reduce salmon bycatch by the pollock fleet, and at the end of the process, not only did the pollock industry support the lower caps, but said in effect that they would be well under them due to the right combination of incentives. Here again, a billion dollar fishery is being managed partly to protect a smaller and weaker stock.

But the New England council turns this logic on its head. They say that the fact that winter flounder in Southern New England are severely overfished and declining is not a good enough reason to continue existing restrictions on multi-species catches.

At a time when NOAA is asking them to focus on a new sector based management system that will align the interests of the fishing community with long term stock rebuilding, the council is fixated on fighting the last war, seizing the opening given them by an ill-fated intervention of the courts on a two year old ruling.

Why does such a discrepancy in attitude exist? I think it harks back to the failure of regional managers to force allocation decisions on fishing communities. When the first hard TAC's were imposed in New England in the late 1970's and early 1980's, so much illegal fish was being landed that New Bedford unloaded more pounds at night under darkness than they did during the day when inspectors were present.

Other fishermen in Gloucester and Maine openly told me personally how they evaded catch limits by moving in and out of state waters, and taking various action to make their catches untraceable.

This spring, when the Gloucester auction was cited by NMFS for selling illegally caught fish - the reaction has been widespread indignation that they would even get a citation.

The council buckled back then (1982) and abandoned the idea that they would ever shut the fishery down to conserve stocks. Since then, a series of measures involving effort reduction, days at sea, gear modifications, closed areas -- all have failed to gain wide support despite the fact that they did make some progress in stock rebuilding.

Anytime the regulations had to be tightened, various port and state representatives ran to their political allies and said their fishery was being killed.

In 1994, this was first ended by a lawsuit by the environmentalists, in which NMFS admitted it had failed to implement rebuilding measures, and settled an agreement to begin to do so. Since then, it has been a continuous fight to keep those measures on track and working.

The latest row between the council and NMFS is simply another turn in this hundred years war.

The legal memo written by the Gloucester lawyers lays out the explicit argument that some stocks must be sacrificed if they get in the way of the maximum sustainable yield of other stocks. In other words - the fishery must be free to prosecute to the maximum economic value whatever stocks are strong, even at the expense of never ending overfishing on the weaker stocks.

As anyone who has studied ecosystems in fisheries knows, this a recipe for fishing down the trophic chain until jellyfish become the most valuable fishery. It is how many unregulated fishing ecosystems actually work. Harvesters target the most abundant species in turn until nothing is abundant.

In other areas of the country, the industry interests have become strongly aligned with the scientific and regulatory case for keeping multiple stocks at their maximum sustainable yield, and accordingly, the industry supports the needed compromises and effort to make this happen, so long as they have real input and some influence over how these measures are carried out.

In New England, we have not yet even arrived at the point where the industry supports the goals of the Magnuson act. That is why this seems like a fight that will never end.

I actually feel sympathy for Jane Lubchenco, who will address the New England council today. She is going to have to start their re-education from an extremely low level. It seems absurd to me that the head of NOAA has to spend her first month on the job fighting a political fire that should have been settled decades ago.

Somebody ate a megamouth shark

This is sad. Megamouth shark number 41 (it's the 41st megamouth ever seen) was eaten in coconut sauce in the Philippines. It's ironic, considering that the region is the home of whale shark-based tourism, so they ought to know better. They used to eat whale sharks, now they sell trips to see whale sharks.

Even if the megamouth was dead when found, there must be a more dignified fate than eating it.

Megamouths are large filter-feeding sharks, first discovered in 1976. Perhaps the world's rarest fish.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Carnival of the blue 23

Is now live at Deep Sea News. Check out this month's "best of" ocean blogging.

Why we surf

Beautiful words from Florida surfer Dan Reiter on why we surf.

"We surf because we love the feeling of motion. The push and pull of the sea, the breathless drop into the deep, round lean of a bottom turn; the speed of the high line, the glide along the shoulder; the transcendental, weightless discharge of the barrel — these things fill us with an animal joy. To fly, pelican-like, over the shimmering surface of the sea, to soar through section after section as the sky unfolds and the universe courses through our bodies is to feel as one with the whirling cosmos. The power of the ocean compels us onward. It is a bodily lightness, and yet a connection to the water at the same time. When we surf, we are literally pouring forward, a sensation that cannot be replicated on dry land.

We surf to maintain balance, both in our bodies and in our souls. Though it might seem a stretch to compare surfing to yoga or martial arts, the act of riding a wave, of paddling, duck-diving, even the simple feat of sitting on your board without tipping over requires a certain symmetry and stability that can only be trained, and which grows more natural with time. In fact, surfing is very similar to the martial arts, in that the masters of both display a sense of equilibrium, a consciousness of form, and a physical artistry seldom displayed in other sports."

Monday, April 06, 2009

Asians banned from the Chesapeake Bay

Asian oysters will not be allowed to populate the Chesapeake Bay, despite declines in native oyster populations.

Is this xenophobic protectionism or smart ecology? Opinions differ.

The native Eastern Oyster, reduced 99% by overfishing and disease, is in trouble despite officials spending many millions of dollars in efforts to bring them back.

Asian oysters were touted as a possible ecological replacement by some, in hopes that they would help filter the water and provide income to watermen who could farm and sell the oysters.

According to the Washington Post:

Today's announcement also marks the end of discussions over the past few weeks, which began with Virginia officials for Asian oyster farms, Maryland officials against them, and the Corps in the middle. A number of federal agencies and environmental groups had also weighed in against the Asian oyster, saying the risk of it escaping and playing havoc in the Chesapeake's battered ecosystem was too high.

Could it be that it's time for ecological replacement therapy in the Chesapeake? Shall we hold out for species purity even where the need for oysters is great and the native species seems unable to mount a comeback? I don't know, but I wonder.

Introduced species are usually a problem, even when well-intentioned. But can we hold out for native species entirely in a warming world in desperate need of ecosystem services like those oysters can provide? I have a feeling this is an issue that will receive more, not less debate in the future.

For now, let's cheer for oyster restoration projects, in the hope that the native Chesapeake oyster will come roaring back.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Proper pet poop procedures

Just what you've always wanted, a practicum on proper pet poop procedures.

What's the right way to keep waterways clean and free of pet poop? The Seattle Times, feeling their oats now that their main competition (the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) has ceased print publication, gives us the scoop.

The result: putting pet poop in the garbage, inside a bag, is the preferred method for poop cleanup. And it's even better if you can get spot to do it himself (right).

Friday, April 03, 2009

Underwater porno--sex lives of ocean creatures

Isabella Rossellini is back, and this time she goes underwater to enact the sex lives of ocean creatures in Green Porno 2.

My favorite, of course, is the deep sea anglerfish, but others may find reflections of human behavior in the right whale gauntlet.

This is some good storytelling, and here's a teaser.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Canada beats US in fighting fish fraud

Responding quickly to the blogfish expose from a few hours ago (wink), Canadian government authorities today announced action to combat seafood fraud in a letter to seafood importers.

Showing productive leadership, a US-based seafood industry group praised the Canadian action and questioned a lack of action by the US government.

“We’re pleased to see CFIA taking such a thorough and proactive approach on the net weight issue,” said Lisa Weddig, Secretary of the Better Seafood Bureau. “At the same time we’re disappointed that our own Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has failed to recognize the importance of this issue and devote needed resources to it.”

Who is the Better Seafood Bureau? A seafood industry group dedicated to tackling the problem of fish fraud, in order to build consumer trust in seafood.

Way to go, guys. Now if we can only get the US government moving.

Seafood fraud is a big problem

USA Today says seafood fraud is a big problem.

What is seafood fraud? According to a USA Today story, which refers to a report on seafood fraud by the Government Accountability Office:

Sometimes excessive amounts of water, ice or breading are added to increase weight, sometimes seafood is shipped through an intermediate country to avoid customs duties, and sometimes packages are labeled as containing more seafood than they actually do, called short-weighting, the GAO report says. It was released this month.

The Food and Drug Administration is hearing about species substitution — selling cheap fish, often in fillet form, as more expensive species — "with increasing frequency," says spokeswoman Stephanie Kwisnek.

What does the seafood industry say about seafood fraud? "It's an industry-wide issue," says Gavin Gibbons of the industry's National Fisheries Institute. The GAO report says that seafood companies routinely receive written solicitations to buy fraudulent products. But the report says that when the National Fisheries Institute forwarded several solicitations to the FDA last year, the agency took no action, because insufficient funding forced the FDA to focus on health concerns ahead of fraud.

Until we get some solutions for seafood fraud, customers will have some sketicism about seafood, and that isn't good for anybody.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The rumors are true, I really did see a coelacanth in Puget Sound

Rick MacPherson tells the story better than I can, at his blog Malaria, Bed Bugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets.

It's in a smoker in my backyard right now.

Note added: this is an April 1 post!

Fish can count

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish--who knew fish could think such thoughts?

A new study shows that fish can count, and it makes me wonder what else fish might be thinking when they're staring at me.

Suddenly, I feel naked under a judgmental eye, which is not what I was thinking when I snapped this picture of a scrutinizing sergeant major (left).