Sunday, April 30, 2006

Salmon, salmon, who's got the salmon?

We were promised in the mid-20th century that we could have dams and all of the salmon we wanted. It just doesn't seem to be working. Chinook salmon in the Columba River are doing poorly this year.

Scientists expected more fish to come home and spawn, and they're just not showing up.

Ooops. Darn fish just didn't read the plans.

Friday, April 28, 2006

hungry corals survive bleaching

Now that bleaching is as common on coral reefs as in Los Angeles hair salons, it's good to know some corals have coping skills.

Scientists bleached some Hawaiian corals and found them sneaking large meals of plankton soon after, staying healthy enough to survive and reproduce.

Coral bleaching happens when warm water causes corals to lose their normal food supply, the internal cultivated algae that give healthy corals their vibrant colors. Until now, bleached corals were thought to be helpless and doomed to starve without being fed by their helper algae.

I guess no more blond coral jokes.

Steelhead amber alert

Scientists are putting radio transmitters in young fish to find out who or what is killing them.

The missing fish leave home as young juveniles and are failing to return on schedule a couple of years later.

More so than their cousins, the salmon, these hard-headed fish travel alone, frequent rougher neighborhoods near the ocean surface, and wander further from home. Speculating that predators might be to blame, biologist Brodie Antipa said "we just don't know what's going on out there.

The transmitters are expected to show when and where these young fish are running into trouble.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The (fish) empire strikes back

A direct hit by a leaping fish sent a boater to the hospital in Florida this week.

There was no report on the condition of the fish, believed to be an endangered Gulf sturgeon or one of it's endangered relatives.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Please don't touch the fish

another on the list of things Mother never warned you about.

Scientists in Australia used DNA testing to track down the culprit in some nasty infections that sent people to the hospital...their fish did it.

Who knew that fish tanks could be dangerous?

Dr. Diane Lightfoot, one of the scientists involved, said "commonsense hygiene is needed."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Plastic, the new plankton

Floating plastic is the new plankton, in some places more abundant than the real thing.

Studying the mess in the Pacific, Charles Moore found more plasto-plankton than similar sized zoo-plankton, the yummy wee animals preferred by 5 out of 6 marine animals surveyed.

Not only worthless as food, this faux-plankton can be a "poison pill" because it absorbs toxic chemicals such as PCBs and other oily pollutants. Nobody knows the full impacts of plastic in our oceans, but examples of dead animals are common.

Worldwide, where ocean currents converge, floating garbage makes a mess of remote beaches and now even remote stretches of ocean. Puts a bit of a new spin on the question: "plastic or paper?"

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Coral reef thrives with no fishing

Scientists report that a no-fishing area is good for corals.

The corals thrive because more large parrotfish live in the no fishing area, and they eat algae that would otherwise overgrow corals.

Big surprise, who would've believed that ocean ecosystems are healthier when humans don't take out a lot of fish?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Accidental fish contraception?

Scientists have found troublesome amounts of hormones from birth control pills coming out of sewage treatment plants and into waterways. In some locations, the result may be "intersex" fish with both male and female characteristics

That's worrisome, notes scientist Chris Metcalfe, since intersex fish "usually aren't interested in sex--in spawning."

A new kind of birth control accident.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Happy, fireproof fish?

Pollution threatens urban salmon, but maybe they won't mind now that anti-depressants are in the toxic mix. And flame retardants may make them easier to grill without those nasty flare ups.

"People need to be mad as hell about this situation, but they aren't," said Brad Ack, head of the Puget Sound Action Team, referring to toxic pollution in waterways around Seattle.

I guess we're all just a bit too reliant on better living through chemistry.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


This beautiful mouthful of a name belong's to Hawai'i's state fish, newly reinstated to this lofty status.

Humuhumu-nukunuku-a-pua‘a means "triggerfish with a pig-like short snout". Also known as wedge tail triggerfish. Whatever you call it, a fun sight on Hawai'i's shallow reefs.

...and speaking of unusual names, who knows what a "gooey duck" is? (a local favorite where I live, definitely not a bird, and it's gotta be high on anyone's list of unusual animals)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Transsexual salmon?

"This is clearly abnormal" says biologist James Nagler and I must agree.

Male salmon in the Columbia River are spawning as females. DNA testing shows that the Mr. mom fish started life as males and transitioned sometime before being found spawning as females.

Speculation centers on gender-bending chemicals as a cause, but nobody really knows what's going on. I suppose if it started happening to members of Congress, we'd have answers in a hurry.

Monday, April 17, 2006

What ho, octopus?

Tell me, O Octopus, I begs,
Is those things arms or is they legs?
I marvel at thee, Octopus;
If I were thou, I'd call me Us.

-Ogden Nash

Oceans in deep trouble

According to scientist Jeremy Jackson, our oceans are in bad shape and getting worse. When he started in on "the rise of slime" it took a few minutes to figure out he wasn't talking about politics.

As an optimist, I believe it's possible to have healthy oceans in our future. But it's hard to stay optimistic after listening to Dr. Jackson. He's seen dramatic decline in coral reefs in his lifetime, and he believes things are only getting worse.

Maybe ocean ecology is the new dismal science?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Sustainable seafood

Wal-mart and several other big seafood retailers have announced plans to buy only sustainably-caught fish. Judgements about sustainability will come from the Marine Stewardship Council, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and others.

This incentive-based approach to conservation has the potential to complement laws and regulations in reducing or eliminating fishing practices that are harmful to fish or ocean ecosystems. Where requirements have been ineffective, perhaps better markets for sustainably caught fish will spur improvement.

This is good for fish and good for oceans.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Sensible ocean habitat protection!

Don't destroy habitat while catching fish! That common sense approach is gaining support around the world, most recently on the US West coast. Managers announced recently a ban on bottom trawling for 150,000 square miles of ocean bottom.

As the name suggests, bottom trawl nets drag on the ocean bottom to catch fish. Anything that gets in the way is torn up or caught in the net. It makes little sense to bottom trawl through hundred year old corals to catch fish. That would be like using a bulldozer to hunt for deer in a forest. Web video of a trawl net scraping the ocean bottom.

Recognizing the need for ocean bottom protection, fishermen and environmentalists worked out a compromise which led to this ban. Neither side got everything they wanted, but the end result is some valuable habitat protection and continuation of economically important fishing.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Good news for goliath grouper?

Goliath grouper are making a comeback in parts of Florida, and that's reason to cheer. These magnificent fish are now coming off the "species of concern" (=intensive care) list.

Goliath grouper (formerly known as jewfish) can get very LARGE (more than 800 pounds--much bigger than your refrigerator!) and they're popular since they can be easily seen or caught in shallow waters. (web video of a battle with a goliath-ya gotta see this, worth the long load time)

It took a fishing ban to start these fish on the road to recovery, and pressure is already mounting to end the ban. Fishing for goliath grouper now is like resuming a boxing match after a knocked-down boxer has barely struggled up off the floor. Will these fish be allowed to recover?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Cape formerly known as Cod

Fishing was bad last year off New England. So bad that it was hard to find cod.

Time to think of a new name for Cape Cod, how about "Cape Jellyfish?"

I wonder if this fisherman hauling in a cod would believe that he and his colleagues could really catch the last fish?

The sad news from Maine:
"New England fishery managers formally approved new restrictions for the region's struggling groundfish industry on Thursday. Some fishermen said the rules won't work, and a Canadian study raised new questions about the ability of cod populations to rebound...."-Portland Press-Herald

Mark who?

Mark "Blogfish" Powell

Director of Fish Conservation
The Ocean Conservancy

likes fish
likes diving in the tropics
likes dramatic clouds and orange clothes

Monday, April 10, 2006

Are some fish too valuable to kill?

…are some fish too valuable to kill?

Yeah, some fish are too valuable to kill. This is simple common sense, like:

-don’t kill the goose that laid the golden eggs
-don’t eat the seed corn
-don’t butcher your prize bull …and all that.

OK, so which fish are that special?
The last few of something
The really big ones
Females (or males) protecting eggs or young

What are BOFFFs? Big Old Fat Female Fish--they're special because they produce Big Fat Eggs and Big Fat Babies that have the best chance of surviving and reproducing their species. This is a big deal for fish in deep doo-doo like cod.

This will be a bit of a hard sell, who's gonna believe that it's good to be Big and Old and Fat?