Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tokyo and bluefin tuna

Could there be more stirring words for a sustainable seafood person? I'm off to Tokyo to look for shared goals with people who catch and sell a lot of bluefin tuna. And a trip to Tsukiji Market, Grand Central Station for fish. All fish roads lead to Tokyo, I guess.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ocean plankton decline

Who cares about whales and fish, the loss of ocean plankton is the big scary trend that we should all be worried about.

Why is blogfish worried? Phytoplankton (microscopic floating ocean plants) are the foundation of ocean food webs and they make most of the oxygen we breathe. Not only that, but plankton also make about half of the organic matter made on earth. With an earth full of people, we can't afford to lose this productivity.

Hints of the plankton decline have been surfacing for years, and now the latest study shows a worldwide decline in phytoplankton.

The most likely cause of the plankton decline is warmer ocean waters. Phytoplankton need nutrients like nitrogen to grow, and warmer waters suppress the churning up process in ocean waters that brings plankton fertilizer up from nutrient-rich deep ocean waters.

How about the other (excess) nutrient problems that you've all heard about--eutrophication? Won't they just balance out, not enough nutrients here, too much there? Well it's sort of like people, you don't want the wrong thing in the wrong place. You may enjoy watching professional wrestling on TV, but would you invite the Undertaker and all his friends to your daughter's 16th birthday party?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

When endangered species eat each other

What do you do when you have one endangered species eating another endangered species?

That's the dilemma facing officials who are hoping to protect orcas (killer whales) and endangered Pacific salmon. New science shows that orcas in Puget Sound seem to prefer to munch on especially rare types of salmon, much to the chagrin of those who want to save the salmon. We can't exactly go out and kill orcas to protect salmon.

Swimming wild water

Maybe inspired by Swim Around Bainbridge, people are swimming in all kinds of impressive places, usually for a cause.

Like swimming 610 kilometers down the wild Skeena River in British Columbia, swimming across Switzerland via lakes, or swimming the US East Coast. And those are just a few noteworthy examples.

Not sure what I'm going to do next to keep up... Stay tuned...

Note: Ali Howard completed her Skeena swim.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

China now world's biggest energy user

That day has come, China has now passed the US and become the world's biggest energy user.

China disputed the figures without offering any alternative view. Maybe it feels bad being the world's biggest polluter. As an expat American, I know I feel a lot better knowing that my homeland is only the world's second-biggest polluter.

Now our ocean future is held by China, not only leading the world of seafood but also leading the world in ocean acidification and other CO2-linked ocean ills.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

BP tries to buy up Gulf scientists

If you're BP and you're worried about the damage you've done to the Gulf of Mexico, what's your first response? Would you hire all the scientists in the Gulf so that they couldn't testify against you in court?

Stories are circulating that say BP is doing exactly that, searching for prominent scientists who will work for BP and thus not be available to work against BP.

According to

For the last few weeks, BP has been offering signing bonuses and lucrative pay to prominent scientists from public universities around the Gulf Coast to aid its defense against spill litigation.

BP PLC attempted to hire the entire marine sciences department at one Alabama university, according to scientists involved in discussions with the company's lawyers. The university declined because of confidentiality restrictions that the company sought on any research.

The Press-Register obtained a copy of a contract offered to scientists by BP. It prohibits the scientists from publishing their research, sharing it with other scientists or speaking about the data that they collect for at least the next three years.

Nice move, BP, really looks like you're trying to solve problems with this attempt to buy scientists.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Obama launches ocean protection plan

America's oceans will be better protected in the future, thanks to a new ocean protection initiative from US President Obama. The new plan is to create a national ocean council to coordinate and strengthen ocean management, to create spatial planning to organize what we do in the ocean, and the emphasize ecosystem-based management.

That's a lot of bureaucratic hoo-hoo, but the result should be a more careful watch on our normal practice of doing anything anywhere in the free-for-all frontier approach we normally use in our oceans. News reports seem cautious but basically positive, so maybe people are ready for this type of smart ocean use.

Good on Obama, ocean progress!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sea turtle egg rescue in the oily Gulf

Scientists and turtle advocates are busy in the Gulf of Mexico, rescuing sea turtle eggs and taking them outside the oily zone. Without this rescue the baby turtles are likely to die from getting oiled, or from getting burned as humans burn oil.

Hope runs high for the first 56 baby turtles that were just released into oil-free areas.

Some scientists worry that it's hope and not data guiding decisions about turtles. It's true we don't know everything about baby turtles, so this could be a mistake. Maybe they're just getting released to starve or become bird food. Good intentions are no guarantee of good results. I suppose it makes sense to try something.

How about trying BP executives in a court of their peers (see photo, bottom).

Toxic whales

Wake up everyone, and face what is being called perhaps "the single greatest health threat that has ever faced the human species" according to an expert.

Toxic chemicals are corroding whales from the inside. "The entire ocean life is just loaded with a series of contaminants, most of which have been released by human beings," said whale scientist Roger Payne of The Ocean Alliance.

How does this threaten people? Whales get contaminated from seafood which is a primary source of animal protein for 1 billion people.

How bad is the problem? According to Payne: "you could make a fairly tight argument to say that it is the single greatest health threat that has ever faced the human species. I suspect this will shorten lives, if it turns out that this is what's going on," he said.

Hmm...worse than the plague? Worse than wars? Maybe not. This sounds bad, but the "doomsday" statement seems a bit overblown. Maybe he was misquoted.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Super corals survive high temperatures

What a story, super corals, intrepid scientists, and a race to save the world's coral reefs. Visit Ofu with Stanford professor Steve Palumbi and find out all about it.

Corals on Ofu survive periodic heating up to 94 F (34 C), a temperature that would kill most corals. They seem to have super algae symbionts that help, but that's not the whole story.

Is there a lesson here that will help corals survive warming oceans, and perhaps even survive the ocean acid monster? Maybe!

Great to know there are a few good news stories for corals these days, even as the world's corals decline.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Top 5 underwater sex acts

Since you liked Isabella Rossellini's seduce me series, here's more...

It's strange underwater sex in the animal kingdom, from planet 100. Featuring transgender fish, sex circles of hermaphrodites, well-endowed barnacles (see video, wow), and more.

Salmon and political drama

Fraser River sockeye salmon are not just a fish. They're also the centerpiece in an ongoing political drama over endangered species, sustainable fishing, salmon farm parasites, etc., etc.

One thing that might get overlooked in the struggle is the actual fish. How are they doing? Here's one place to go for up-to-date information on how many salmon are coming home to spawn in the Fraser watershed.

Some information that we can kick around for a while, no doubt. Let's just hope the principals don't take a dive and call foul quite so easily as a World Cup footballer.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Seduce me underwater

Green porno is back, better than ever. Check out Isabella Rossellini's fantastic new series on animal seductions, featuring mate-and-die salmon, the sneaky males that defeat cuttlefish harems, and the astonishing labyrinthine vagina that allows the beleagured female duck to have some control over who fathers her ducklings. Wow. And that's just the aquatic fun in store in these quick, funny videos.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Very ba-a-a-d whale

This is one bad whale, with foot-long teeth, it's a real sea monster that once killed and at the much smaller whales we're used to seeing. Dubbed "Leviathan," it's an extinct whale that lived 12 million years ago off Peru. Recently understood by scientists, this is one ocean fossil that gives life to sea monster stories. Yikes.

Ocean acid experiment

The great ocean acid experiment has a new front line...Puget Sound, near Seattle.

That's right, my home waters are going to show the world what an acidifying ocean means. Already, ocean waters in Washington are going more and more acid, thanks to the interaction of man-made CO2 and natural conditions.

By the way, oysters are having a hard time reproducing, there hasn't been a good spawn in more than 5 years. Tough news for an oyster-producing region and for oyster lovers everywhere (and who doesn't love a good oyster!).

But hey, let's just ignore it and go blithely ahead loving our fossil fuels. And maybe I can dip my silver spoons in Puget Sound for cleaning in a few years.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Methane disaster dead zone--not just an oil spill

If you thought the Gulf oil disaster was bad, it just got worse. Now it's a methane disaster too.

Scientists are finding evidence of new BP-caused dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico. Methane is gushing out of the broken well and polluting the ocean at up to 100,000 times normal levels. Bacteria gobble up the methane and suck oxygen out of the water, similar to a more typical dead zone caused by excess nutrients.

This mess comes underneath (literally, deeper than) the "above average" dead zone already predicted by scientists because of the routine nutrient pollution fouling the area.

We've been treating the Gulf of Mexico like the Great American Toilet, and now the chickens are coming home to roost. We get the ocean we deserve.

Oil harms cleanup workers

News reports say that nearly all cleanup workers from the Exxon Valdez oil disaster are dead, and their life expectancy is 51 years.

Reports are circulating that BP oil disaster cleanup workers are suffering illnesses.

President Obama says in one of the video clips linked above that toxic chemical levels are not elevated in coastal communities but "that may not be the case" out where people are doing the cleanup work.

This mess is so bad we have to stay away from the contaminated area if we care for our health. OK, marine life, please evacuate if you care about your health.

...which reminds me, there's a scary new report out on toxics found in sperm whales world wide, stay tuned...

Surreal scene flying over Gulf oil disaster

This defies description. Like a scene from a sick imagination, the ocean is a living hell. Pink and purple slicks, dolphins and a sperm whale surfacing through colored slop in their death throes.