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.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Green Gotchas

Beware some dangerous and neglected monsters that lurk in the underbrush of the new green revolution. They’re scary, well-disguised, and they do a good job of hiding on the moral high ground. They’re the Green Gotchas.

What's a "Green Gotcha?" An attempt to embarrass, expose, or disgrace someone or something with a green attack.

A green gotcha knows no ideological home, it can come from anywhere and be used against anyone, from George Bush to Al Gore or from Exxon to the Nature Conservancy.

A green gotcha is closely related to a real green critique. But a green gotcha is different in purpose, tone, and use. A critique is an honest attempt to uncover or understand a neglected or unsolved problem, and a productive critique can often help in finding a solution. A gotcha is an attack designed to use green issues as a weapon against an enemy, with solutions being at best a secondary purpose.

Why bring up this unseemly subject? Why say anything negative about the green movement that I hold dear? Because it seems to me that there is presently no way to rein in the purists among greens who would take the movement down in flames in pursuit of a staunch and often misanthropic ideology.

Naming and shaming green gotchas is a good start.

If you doubt the need, consider what builds standing in the green movement. Answer these questions for yourself, and if you agree with my answers you should help find a solution. Perhaps by working with me to refine this list of green gotchas.

1. Who wins the moral high ground in a typical green argument? Often it’s the person who holds out for the purest and most extreme position. Practical progress often gets derided as "selling out," "caving in," or otherwise failing to stand strong.

It shouldn’t be this way. A statement of green dreams is good, and green progress in the right direction is also a good thing that deserves admiration.

2. What passes for green cred? Self-denial and sacrifice, like attempting to live in New York City with zero impact, despite the incredible unreality of such self-indulgent and hair shirt-type pursuits. Green credibility seems to rise alongside guilt and pain.

This is backwards. Green cred should go more to the problem solvers of the world, and novelty pursuits like sacrifice and penance should be recognized as nothing more than cute stories.

3. What green messages stand out? The green screeds that talk about how foul, evil corporations are trashing the planet because of greed.

It would be nice if life were so simple that we could rely on such cartoonish us vs. them narratives, but few green problems are caused by bad people or truly rotten systems.

So what to do about these symptoms of a movement in decay?

I think we need a countervailing force, a simple way to name and shame green gotchas so they lose their status as the moral watchdogs of the green movement.

To that end, I hereby open the discussion on green gotchas. Here’s version 1.0 of my list of Green Gotchas.

1. Absolution—critiquing green efforts in order to force specific penance. In its most pernicious form, the penance involves paying a fee.

2. Imperfection—attacking green efforts if they fall short of some imposed high standard.

3. Original Sin—some green efforts will never be accepted, like improving fuel economy in SUVs, improving sustainability of fast food, or selling sustainable products in a big box store.

4. Profit—green efforts that make money are tainted, as though every good green effort must be expensive.

5. Pleasure—green gotchas claim that a good green effort should require personal sacrifice, so if there’s no suffering involved it can’t be real green. Even worse, if there's pleasure involved it must be really, really bad.

Copper River salmon coming

Boats are on the water as we speak. And, if you really want to know what's going on...Plitt Seafood is keeping us informed on twitter.

What will happen once the fish hit the market? Prices are expected to be down from last year's peak of $50 per pound. Will you be buying this year? At what price will you jump on a fantastic, first-of-season wild Copper River king? Sockeye?

I can't wait. friend Dylan Tomine promises to produce something soon on the flavors and delights of many varieties of NW salmon. Soon we'll be savoring the varieties of salmon like some of us do already with wines and oysters. Hmmm...maybe right alongside wines and oysters!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Abalones, orgies, and conservation

Who likes slugs and snails? You do, when they're in the ocean, because they're called abalone. Abalone are cute and yummy, they're everyone's favorite ocean snail.

Now where does the orgy part come in? Abalone need orgies to reproduce, a pas de deux just won't do. Maybe counseling would help, but for now we need to find a way to reignite abalone orgies if we want them to survive.

So it's time to study abalone orgies. Here's a photo (right) of the high point of an abalone orgy, at least for the guys. It's a close up of a male abalone in flagrante delicto. Don't worry, this is science not porn, it even says so at the top of the picture.

The trouble for abalone comes from one main source, that bit about them being yummy. Sea otters eat them, but they can't do the damage that we humans can do. People slaughter abalone and we've driven many into deep decline.

Here in Washington (the real Washington out west) we have a problem with our pinto abalone. We ate them up, and now we're crying about it. Boo-hoo, what can we do?

Abalone need to get together in orgies to spawn, and we've spoiled their fun and success by eating so many that they can't orgy very well. So now we're in the business of orgy-making for an ocean snail. Life is strange.

Oh, BTW, there are some other nice ocean snails, so I guess I should say that abalone are one of the favorite ocean snails.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

If a pteropod flaps its wings...

in Bainbridge, what effect does that have elsewhere?

Watch this video to find out.'s the interesting part...this is part of a new web technology test, SmallRivers. If you want to check it out, click the "flip" button at the bottom of the video.

Remember, you saw it here first Jason.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pisco erectus-the upright swimming fish

Watch out people, Pisco erectus is coming. Soon fish will rule the earth.

We're so proud of our upright posture that give us the ability to use tools and make war. But did you know that upright posture has evolved also among the fishes?

Seahorses swim upright, and I hear they're planning to start swilling beer (right), filming sitcoms, and getting diabetes from too much junk food. Watch out people, we may lose our unique status of world domination.

How did seahorses get to this exalted place? It's all due to seagrasses according to a new study. Seagrasses give hiding cover to upright swimming fishes, so seahorses stood up and took their place.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cigarette butts toxic to fish

I'm quite the reasonable guy, but not when it comes to cigarette butts. Now I have even more reason to hate cigarette butts...they're toxic to fish.

A new study found that the chemicals in just one cigarette butt can kill fish living in one liter of water (about a quart). Yuck.

Cigarette butts are the number one litter item hauled off of beaches in Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup. That's right, there are more cigarette butts than anything else. Why? Many smokers don't seem to think of their butts as litter, even though they're toxic and they don't decompose. They're small, they're common, it's trouble to deal with them, so they just don't count as litter.

Well, that needs to change. And the picture at the top right is part of a fun campaign to keep cigarette butts off the beach, let's hope it helps.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Where the basking sharks bask

Who knew they follow the sun, just like people? Basking sharks are big, they eat plankton, and they look really funny with their huge mouth and throat swung open to do their plankton-eating thing (photo at right).

BTW, the latin name for basking sharks is Cetorhinus maximus or "big monster-nosed fish" (roughly). Can you see why?

Ocean magic, sea creature disappears

What is it? It's been called 'ninja seaweed' but methinks it's an animal... You gotta watch this quickee video, it's fun and cures gout.

Hat tip: via Deep Sea News

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Invasion of the spiny dogfish

Invasion of the spiny dogfish. It doesn't sound too bad, having a few dogfish around, but wait until you hear what's happening. It's worse than ocean zombies...

Or is it? Spiny dogfish are getting blamed for ruining fishing, when New England fishermen have been doing a good job of ruining fishing themselves. Catching too much of many fish...even catching too many dogfish. Now they're blaming the victim? Check here for the rest of the story.

Now, back to the dogfish zombie invader doomsday warning...
A plague of spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) is interfering with fisheries in coastal states from Maine to North Carolina. Unprecedented numbers of these voracious predators are clogging nets, stealing bait and ruining the catch in fishery after fishery, needlessly penalizing the affected fishermen and coastal fishing communities. In addition to this direct interference with other fisheries, dogfish are eating vast quantities of much more valuable species, negating the effects of drastic management-mandated fishing effort reductions in those fisheries. Fishermen are sacrificing to conserve extremely important recreational and commercial species and their efforts are doing little more than providing more food for an ever-increasing population of dogfish.

How have we gotten to this sorry state? How have we let a low value species like the spiny dogfish become so plentiful that it is standing in the way of the successful rebuilding of other, far more valuable species and costing the coastal economies of a dozen states tens of millions of dollars? The simple answer is that’s what federal law requires.

OK, in case you haven't figured it out yet, blogfish thinks this is a bunch of hooey. But go ahead and decide for yourself, it's a free country.

Ocean zombie attack

They're the zombies of the deep. Un-dead nets that keep fishing even after they're lost by people and presumed dead. They're bad, they're deadly, and they're everywhere.

Fishing gear is designed to catch fish, and it keeps working even if lost at sea. How bad is the problem? Pretty bad, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Group.

In some fisheries, 25% to 50% of fishing gear can be lost each year. That equals a lot of zombie fishing gear.

It's the real life ocean zombie plague, yikes.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

200,000 visits to blogfish

Thanks to YOU, blogfish logged visit number 200,000 on Sunday morning. Who knew we'd be at it things long together, you and me?

Here's how I celebrated the blessed event (photo at right). The water was a balmy 48F, visibility 8-12 feet, calm wind, and overall it was a great swim.

Here's a photo (below) of the ocean off Fletcher Bay on Bainbridge Island, on this perfectly calm day, with the Olympic Mountains just peeking out of the clouds in the background.

Now let's dig in and build ocean connections even higher, on our way to the next 200,000 visits!!

Oh, just for fun, visit number 200,000 came from Salt Lake City at 6:36 am PDT.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Channel Islands MPAs after 5 years

Results Show Positive Ecological Effects of Reserves. That's the headline of a new study released by the California Dept. of Fish and Game.

Wow, who's surprised? If you stop fishing in an area, then you get more fish and bigger fish. And that makes ocean ecosystems more healthy.

Quoting the report:

Many species of fish and invertebrates targeted by fishing outside reserves are bigger and more abundant inside no-take reserves, while non-targeted species’ abundances are essentially equal. Marine reserves have greater biodiversity and greater fish biomass than fished areas nearby. Studies of fish movement suggest that even wide-ranging species can benefit from the Channel Islands reserves and that some individuals move from reserves to fished areas. These results show that the Channel Islands reserves and other protected areas may contribute to the goals of protecting and promoting healthy ecosystems.

How about the warnings of doom from fishermen, about their expectations of devastating socioeconomic effects? Especially from recreational fishermen?

The number of boats seen at the Channel Islands has stayed approximately the same, but the boats go to different places. Fishing boats no longer go to the now-protected areas, while more sailboats are observed in those areas. Since MPAs were established, some commercial fisheries (rock crab, spiny lobster, market squid, and red urchin) have grown in value at the Channel Islands, while others (sea cucumber, California sheephead, and rockfish) have declined. Many of these changes also occurred throughout southern California, suggesting that the causes are due to factors other than MPAs. Detailed studies of the lobster fishery suggest some changes in number of fishermen and catch may be linked to the MPAs. The number of party boat trips for recreational fishing has remained fairly constant since MPAs were established.

Note that final line...The number of party boat trips for recreational fishing has remained fairly constant since MPAs were established. All that fuss for nothing. What a shame.

Carnival of the blue 24

Check out this month's best of ocean blogging at SeaNotes.

That's right, it's carnival time again, and Carnival of the Blue makes it's monthly return to the blogosphere. This month's greatest hits of ocean blogging features fantastic visuals, photos of a dolphin, sea cucumber, a barreleye fish (wow), a Humongous leatherback sea turtle (the size of a Volkswagen beetle?), and my favorite, the geoduck (left).

Next month's carnival will be right here at good ol' blogfish.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Energy from ocean heat

It sounds too good to be true. Use warm and cool ocean water to make electricity, from a heat engine. The concept is good, it's been around for decades, but now it might be time to get serious.

Take a look at these 3 engineer-looking fellas on the right. What are they doing? Looking up the poop chute of a giant squid? No, looking at the water pipe that's part of a prototype electricity plant that uses ocean temperature gradients.

And here we go, it's Captain NIMO (Not In My Ocean) time again here on blogfish. Shall we consider ocean energy? Dismiss it immediately? Does Captain NIMO get to decide?

I think we need to consider it, because climate change may be a bigger worry than ocean thermal energy plants. OK, I'll admit it, my current prediction and guess is that climate change IS a bigger ocean worry than ocean thermal energy plants. So let's do the research and the prototypes in the right places, and figure it out as best we can.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Get outta yer house, cuz I'm comin at ya!

I'm the big, bad climate change monster, and I bring big, bad things like really slow floods that bug the crap out of you until finally you end up with more than just wet feet (left). And this is Alaska so that water is COLD.

Newtok is an Alaskan village with 340 residents and they've given up, they're done, they're packing it in after thousands of years of withstanding some of the harshest weather conditions that humans tolerate. The residents of Newtok are moving to higher ground to escape flooding from climate change, if some way can be found to pay the estimated $130 million.

Who should pay? Newtok didn't cause the demise of their own village. But there's no way to tax the whole world based on CO2 production.