Friday, June 29, 2007

Cheney's role in Klamath salmon die-off probed

Congress will look into VP Cheney's role in the Klamath salmon crisis. I guess the blogfish expose has already spurred action. At issue is whether Cheney's role violated the Endangered Species Act.

More to follow, I expect.

Dangerous Chinese seafood banned

The FDA has banned some types of imported Chinese seafood, primarily farmed fish. The problem is contamination with drugs used to treat fish, which may not be safe for people who eat the seafood.

Yikes, this is a scary time for the seafood business. While US seafood may not be tainted by the ban, consumer confidence in seafood will definitely suffer. And how many people won't bother to notice the details? Especially since seafood labeling is not exactly helpful in finding out everything you want to know.

Would you look at the back of this can to find "product of China" before deciding whether to buy? Note that this tuna is not subject to the ban.

Maybe this will spur improvements in seafood labeling?

Carnival of the blue 2

Please contribute by posting or coming on board July 2...

Carnival of the blue 2--on blogfish July 2. It was fun last time, and it'll be even better next time.

Details at Carnival of the blue homepage.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Encouraging ocean conservation with bad news?

Would you rather be an oceanographer or dig in garbage? Popular Science says studying garbage is a better job, because studying the ocean is too depressing.

OK, this means we've told the story of ocean decline too well. Popular Science says oceanographer is the second worst job in science, because it's all about weathering bad news. Yikes, I think we've gone too far.

Oceanographer ranks second behind hazmat diver (diving in sewage or nuclear waste), and just ahead of elephant vasectomist (sterilizing male elephants) or digging in garbage to study people's waste disposal habits. Ugh.

This is a change from my youth, when everyone wanted to be Jacques Cousteau and dive in the beautiful deep blue sea.

Yes, we need to tell people about problems, but we also need to inspire with our visions of solutions. Otherwise, we become the bummer brigade that everyone wants to ignore.

Now pardon me while I take a vacation from ocean conservation work and go do something fun like dig in garbage.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Punishment threat maintains orderly fish mating line

Imagine keeping order in a situation where only the top-ranked male and female are allowed to mate. It works in some small coral reef fish, but only with a strong threat of punishment.

Lower-ranked gobies not only keep their place in line, they starve themselves to stay small and non-threatening. Now that's an orderly queue.

What's the threat? Any lower-ranked fish who challenges the fish above gets expelled from the group for losing a fight. And that can mean death for these small fish who depend on the group's coral reef territory for shelter and food.

I guess it's better for a little fish to stay small and wait for their turn, rather than risk losing an all or nothing challenge to move up the line and get a chance to mate.

This is a classic example of a dominance hierarchy, such as the "pecking order" observed in chickens. It's fairly common in the animal world for social status to determine access to food or sex. Sounds like junior high school to me.

Salmon vs. irrigation and fish politics

How does a top elected official exert influence on science-based resource management? A fascinating article at shows how Vice President Dick Cheney engaged in the fish vs. irrigation crisis on the Klamath River.

The Klamath crisis has turned out to create many downstream effects. Hydropower operations may be affected, and salmon fishing seasons were affected. The ripple effects have been huge, and it seems that they weren't fully explored as the decisions were being made.

From my read, this is a primer on political involvement in natural resource issues. Some of Cheney's efforts have been limited by court decisions, but much of what he did seems to be legal. We elect politicians to set policy, and that's what he did. The byzantine workings of the government include many viable opportunities to influence policy. Some may be legally questionable, and a vigorous politician will pursue those opportunities and hope for success.

If people don't like Cheney's way of influencing federal policy, is it more about tactics or the ideology involved? If it's tactics, then let's mount a "good government" campaign to tighten up use of science in government policy. If it's ideology, then there's a simple solution: VOTE

I know I may be out of step with some of my environmental colleagues on these issues, but that's the blogfish vision. I don't think Al Gore's "Reason" is the right principle, and I don't think "better use of science" will save us. We need to understand the ideologies of those we vote for, and expect them to play out when people get elected.

Hat tip: alevin

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Orca Attack Seal with Waves

Amazing video of orcas hunting a seal, with a surprise ending. Hat tip: Greg Laden, with thanks to Richard Conner

Monday, June 25, 2007

Please don't pee in our pool (ocean)?

Is this what corals are saying? Should divers hold it until they're back on dry land? Is it better to pee on shore than in the ocean?

Believe it or not, enquiring minds want to know. Google "ok to pee in the ocean" and you'll get a lot of debate, mostly ending with the view that it's natural, it's not much, so it's ok. Even the venerable Umbra Fisk at Grist takes this blithe attitude. But Rick over at Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets has some concerns over pee and sunscreen effects on corals in popular dives spots like MPAs.

I'm with Rick on this one, it might be time to worry about peeing in the ocean, at least in heavily used and sensitive sites. Remeber that people once thought it was ok to dump sewage in the ocean, because it's natural and it's not too much on the scale of an ocean. Now we know better, and few places still dump untreated sewage into the ocean. Read the justifications of peeing in the ocean, and you'll see the very last frontier of the thoroughly discredited slogan: "dilution is the solution to pollution." Maybe it's not even ok for pee.

Stop by Rick's terrific blog Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets and tell him it's ok that I stole his great picture (above)!

Photo: Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets

Tuna overfishing leads to deer meat sushi?

Tuna overfishing is hitting Japan and other seafood lovers where it hurts. A tuna shortage has sushi chefs looking for substitutes...including deer meat.

That's right, among the substitutes being considered are deer meat and horse meat, reported to be pretty good, soft, easy to bite off, and with no smell. Hmm...I don't see raw deer and horse being a big seller in the US.

Last year blogfish brought you the story about Japan getting busted for overfishing bluefin tuna. In response, Japan was forced to reduce tuna catches and business leaders predicted a shortage. Now overfishing is also a problem for yellowfin and bigeye tuna, which are the best tuna that most of us ever see since bluefin fetches such high prices.

Japan isn't the only culprit, US officials are criticizing the European Union, but this is a convenient finger-pointing exercise that neglects our own homegrown brand of US overfishing. Overfishing is a problem nearly everywhere, it's not yet on the public agenda as a big problem.

What can we do? With top grade tuna in short supply, cutting back on your sushi habit probably won't help, since it's easy to sell your tuna to someone else for a high price. We need to see strong, concerted international action like the pressure put on Japan recently to stop breaking international agreements. And, we need some better science-based catch limits that will allow tuna to thrive and rebuild. Conservationists need to work with seafood buyers to unify regulatory and incentive-based approaches.

Note: Jennifer over at shifting baselines has more on this story.

Friday, June 22, 2007

How bad is blogfish?

Are we breaking any social taboos? Just a bit. Anyone under 13, please go ask your parents for some guidance

What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Online Dating
This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

dead (5x) kill (3x) sex (2x) hurt (1x)

This comes from a silly little widget sweeping the blogosphere, it scans blogs or websites for content and issues a rating according to the movie codes. We'll strive to do better. I wonder if more political controversy would earn the coveted R rating?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Seabirds dying off Florida

Seabirds are dying off Florida. The cause is unknown, but this is eerily similar to mass seabird deaths that have been seen off the US west coast in the last couple of years.

Greater shearwaters are one of the open ocean birds found dead or dying, and this is strange because they're normally always found offshore, rarely seen by people.

Herring get a hearing in New England

A new conservation alliance in New England is airing herring overfishing concerns. And judging from the media attention, people are beginning to listen.

The goal of the herring alliance is to protect this small fish that is “New England’s most important fish” because of the role it plays in the marine food web. Makes sense to me, if there's no fish food, then there's no fish.

Already, some battle lines are being drawn, but the most interesting reaction came from blogger John Sackton over at The Winding Glass.

John worries that the fishing industry is reacting with futile knee-jerk opposition.
Unfortunately, the industry is reponding in the old manner: the TAC should be bigger, the problems are exaggerated. This is going to lead to a showdown that they cannot win....

he continues
...New England has been cursed as the "middle east" of fisheries management, where there has been no peace for 30 years. The herring fight is likely to continue that poor record.

In Alaska, the basis of much of the strong managment has been an industry willing to put up money for science, to pay for observers, to respond to issues, and in general act as a partner interested in solving legitimate scientific issues, knowing that to fight all the time was a recipe for more and more restrictions, but to uphold scientific principles was a recipe for industry longevity.

Well said, John. If only the rest of the industry was as forward looking as John Sackton. I don't agree with everything he says, but at least he's got some sense on.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Why keep overfishing?

The best analogy I've ever seen on why we keep overfishing.

Michael Tobis over at Only in it for the Gold posted this as an explanation for why we don't act on global warming. Sorry Michael, but I think this analogy actually works better for overfishing--and I hope you don't mind me using this long quote. Stop by his blog and tell him it's for a good cause!

Imagine that you are an economist who enjoys playing Tetris on your computer, so while your bathtub is filling you decide to play a round in the TV room upstairs.

The round of Tetris is going fabulously well. You are in the zone. You are placing piece after piece where it goes; you have long since passed your all time high score; you are having a whale of a time. Your bathtub is meanwhile filling up.

A tiny corner of your mind suggests that you ought to go downstairs and check your bathtub, even though it would interrupt your excellent Tetris game.

Fortunately, you are an economist. The tiny corner of your mind that is concerned with the structural integrity of your house and not the joy of Tetris is sufficient to reason as follows.

Probably the tub is not full yet, so the utility to me to keep playing this next piece exceeds the utility of running downstairs to turn off the water.

Maybe the tub is already flooding. Well, then, that is too bad, but the additional flood cost of playing this next piece will be small compared to the total flood cost, while the pleasure I am getting from this game going so well would be terminated.

Perhaps the tub is right at the point of starting a flood; a "tipping point". Well in that case you certainly would run right downstairs and turn it off, but what are the odds of that? There is no way to prove this highly unlikely ands speculative circumstance to you. There really isn't enough information to know exactly when that moment might be, so this almost certainly isn't it. Surely you can just dispense with that sort of wild speculation.

You have just proven that the matter does not deserve much attention for the duration of placing this next Tetris block. You will revisit this problem later when you are placing another block, with the same small shred of your attention. Tetris is such fun!

So you keep playing, secure in the knowledge that you have maximized utility.

San Francisco studies electricity from tides

Help end global warming by generating electricity from ocean tides? San Francisco wants to try under the Golden Gate bridge, where currents can rip by at 5 miles per hour or more. That's a lot of moving water and a lot of free energy.

Sound familiar? Blogfish brought you this story when the last study was announced.

Is this progress or more fog at the Golden Gate? The current study, paid for by PGE, will be more expensive and more detailed, and presumably another step forward.

Ocean power is not a new idea, as The Energy Blog can explain.

Ocean impacts are a real concern. After all, once upon a time we thought hydropower dams were clean power, until we learned about the ecological havoc caused by dams. Oh, wait a minute, the US government still like dams? Sigh, an advocate's work is never done. interview of Charles Clover

Some media attention for fish conservation. Check out the interview of Charles Clover on

Clover is the author of "The End of the Line, How Overfishing is Changing the World and What We Eat." Business reporter and organic food expert Sam Fromartz is spending more of his time covering sustainable seafood issues, and the exposure is very welcome. Sam blogs at Chews Wise.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

High-bandwidth thinking

There is a new kind of thinking emerging. As our capacity for scanning information expands, driven by new technologies, it's becomming possible to scan incredibly vast and diverse streams of information and draw out of them something useful.

It will change the way we do what we do. If you want to save the ocean, you can scan huge information streams covering oceans, fish, fishing, pollution, climate change, environmentalism, and more. Try it. If you do, I'll make a bet that you find something somewhere that somehow rocks your world. A new connection you've never made before, or a new idea you can try.

It's not an entirely new skill. It's similar to a job I had long ago in a Pepsi bottling factory, inspecting the assembly line as up to 4 bottles per second rushed past a lightbox. Grab the defective Pepsi and smash them in a nearby barrel, bam and they're gone no time to look twice. The trick was to defocus, scan the flow, and grab anything that looked out of place. It was an intense lesson in scanning.

Now I scan vast information streams to do my job. With a feed reader, I can keep up with an unbelievable number of information streams, so long as I use a fast-scan approach to grab the best and drop the rest.

There's an interesting emergent property as the number of information streams gets over about 50 or so. Patterns seem to form almost by themselves. There must be a brain backchannel working, but it feels almost as though the information handles itself.

The sorting is strange, but it works in finding gems. Start with blogs, and you'll never go back. Pick your favorite 50 or 100 bloggers that you can rely on to select interesting news, useful links, and pithy commentary. They do a lot of work for you, there's an army of them, and some of them cover the things you care about.

Reading blogs is a study of idiom, the uniqueness of expression that comes from briefly considered thoughts published. It's almost like each has a unique "texture" or "feel" and familiarity allows quick grasp. I've timed myself, I spend usually just a few seconds on each post that arrives in my feed reader. Only the selected few get much time. But with such a high-throughput scan happening, the select few are really good.

This process is not foreign to a luddite. If you're a lover of the New York Times Sunday edition, how do you choose what to read and what to ignore? Probably a similar fast scan of headline, sub-head and a few random sentences near the top that catch your eye.

What's the point of all this? High-bandwidth thinking is a different type of analysis. Quick scan of a million(?) things brings new conclusions in a different way than deep scan of a few things. Don't just drink from a fire hose, drink from a hundred fire hoses. Yee-haw!

Oysters to the rescue

Puget Sound needs oysters like a car in Seattle needs windshield wipers. Once upon a time, oysters filled the Sound and filtered and cleaned the water.

Too bad we ate most of our oysters and killed the rest with water pollution. But wait, maybe it's not too late. The Nature Conservancy, the Puget Sound Restoration Fund, and volunteers are trying to restore our native Olympia oyster by building them new homes.

It's a great example of ocean restoration done right, because the new homes are nothing more than old oyster shells put back into the Sound. Baby oysters grow best on old oyster shells, making huge oyster reefs a normal part of a healthy bay.

The program will rely on natural reproduction to reseed the bays, so there are no worries of planting the wrong oysters from hatcheries. The Sound seems clean enough for oysters to thrive now, so it's worth a try.

Some people say the small native Olympia oysters taste better than the exotic imports now common in oyster farms. Maybe someday the world will know about Puget Sound's famous Olympia oysters.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Gore's Assault on Reason is wrong

I think the central idea of the book is wrong. I don't think the use of reason has declined in the last few decades.

Things have certainly changed, and I can see why a "just the facts" person feels unfairly marginalized. Mastery of facts doesn't carry much weight.

Facts or Gore's reason have never been dominant in public discourse, except maybe for a "mini-Enlightenment" around the 1960s and 1970s. Dense policy proposals were kind of cool, because of basic respect for wonky, professional problem-solvers. But after major failures, the respect faded. Don't make the mistake of believing that wonky solutions ever carried the day because of reason. It was merely minor celebrity for the Reasoners.

Biases and mental filters have changed, and Gore failed to change with them. He became marginalized but doesn't understand why. He failed to adapt.

Ironically, reasoned study of how to move people has helped others adapt and defeat Gore. Better reason has allowed others to surpass Gore's ability to persuade. Only in the last few years, as he made a big movie, has he begun to catch up. It's not his reason that's attractive, it's his celebrity.

Public discussion has always relied on biases, mental shortcuts, and choices of trusted authorities. The supposed enemies of reason in Gore's book just learned better (using reason) how to become trusted authorities and win votes.

For a while, faith and similar badges of trust became more useful than an advanced degree and an erudite vocabulary. This too shall pass, and in fact its passing feels like a giant kidney stone in America's midsection right now.

What matters is finding ways to connect with people, to build relationships and trust, to get past biases and mental filters. Only then do ideas have power. Is that manipulation? No, it's just defeating the natural and pervasive skepticism that we all have against our own image of who are the purveyors of snake oil remedies.

We're all skeptics, and our biggest difference is what triggers our skepticism and makes us begin to ignore a public speaker. Professing faith turns off PZ Myers and professoring turns off a different set of people. And when turned off, listeners are deeply skeptical of whatever is said. What Gore decries is just the ability to use reason as a badge that inspires trust. People never understood and bought the arguments of Gore's reason, they just liked the people who sounded like Reasoners.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Orca rescue success-better than Free Willy

Springer the orphan orca is living wild with her family group. She's a successful animal rescue story, one that seemed like it was headed for failure just a few short years ago.

When I first saw Springer the orphan orca, she was lolling in the water near the Vashon Ferry, acting like a pet. Now she's a wild animal traveling with her family group.

The once-orphaned orca, 2 years old and 11 feet long at the time, probably became separated from her family group, and looked for a comforting place to live. She befriended the Vashon to West Seattle Ferries, and the people on board. I was living on Vashon Island at the time, and you could count on finding the orca toddler playing with your boat if you rode the right ferry. Or, you could often see her lounging around the Vashon Island ferry dock. I've never seen anything like it, she was almost a Vashon Island pet.

After spending $ 400,000 plus to relocate the orphaned orca, Springer, back to her Canadian home waters, she's doing fine. She's a wild animal again.

I remember thinking it wasn't going to work, and that the whole thing was a waste of money. It seemed like a charade done just to make people feel good. Was the cost worthwhile? Perhaps, as a symbol of concern for wild nature. This orca that almost seemed like a friend of mine is now back where she belongs, and I'm glad to hear that.

Visible and expensive animal rescue efforts often seem like a waste of time and money. I used to think the California Condor recovery program was a waste too, but recent Condor success has made me change my mind. It now looks like the California Condor recovery program is worth the cost.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Surfing rats

Too strange to pass up

I found this on zooillogix, who found it on Those Responsible.

The first video on blogfish, because we need some ocean fun today.

Next carnival of the blue

Good news for ocean blogging, oceans, ocean lovers, and pretty much everyone else too. Carnival of the blue was a rousing success and it will live on!

Check out Carnival of the blue homepage for a schedule and list of future hosts. Please email me at mpowell at oceanconservancy dot org to sign up for hosting. And remember, blue is the new green.

Corals, sharks fail to win international protection

Down to the wire, an international conservation effort failed for spiny dogfish sharks. Even worse, previous action to conserve precious corals was overturned.

The international intrigue of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) convention yielded some conservation progress in liminting trade of sawfish, but sharks and corals will have to wait for another time.

Early announcements of coral protections turned out to be premature, as conservation opponents "re-opened" and overturned the Committee decision to limit trade in endangered precious corals. More later as details are available, including who led the anti-conservation charge (usually Japan).

The trend is in our direction, and this is merely a speedbump in the race to conserve.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Captive-bred salmon don't count for conservation

Fish hatcheries produce low-grade fish that can not substitute for wild fish. So says a federal judge in overturning some fishy politics by the Bush Administration.

It's a long-standing struggle in the northwest, what to do about salmon? We love them, but we've dammed them, overfished them, and poisoned them into serious trouble. In response, we've created a new problem disguised as a solution: we raise salmon in fish farms and then let them go for fishermen to catch. It's a way to pretend we still have salmon.

It's the Great Salmon Charade.

The Bush Administration wanted to "save the salmon" with more of the same problems disguised as solutions. They wanted to increase fish counts by simply counting hatchery fish as though they were wild. Salmon recovery by sleight-of-hand. Science has shown that typical production hatcheries produce inferior fish that can do more harm than good. Like including feral dogs when we count wild wolves. Not good.

There are some modern attempts to use fish hatcheries carefully, in service of conservation goals. Such efforts have promise, but that's not what's on the table here. We're talking about the big, bad hatcheries that produce fish for human use.

Note that these hatchery-produced fish are called "wild" when they're on your plate, since a fisherman caught them during their post-hatchery walkabout (swimabout).

Sea turtles protected from drift gillnets

Drift gillnets are still used to catch fish?! Wait a minute, I thought they were banned worldwide. That's what most people say when they hear the latest fishing news from the US west coast.

After terrible publicity about 40 mile long "curtains of death" killing many kinds of ocean life, an international ban on drift gillnets was implemented in 1991. But this so-called "ban" actually allows use of drift gillnets up to 2.5 kilometers long.

Now move to the ocean off California and Oregon--there is a legal drift gillnet fishery for sharks, swordfish and tuna. Drift gillnets also catch and kill whales, dolphins, sea turtles and other fish, most of which are thrown overboard dead. To protect endangered sea turtles, a large area off California and Oregon is closed to fishing during turtle season.

This week, federal managers decided not to re-open this area to drift gillnet fishing during turtle season. It's a great victory for conservation. The amazing thing is that the push for more drift gillnet fishing got as far as it did. Fishing interests have strong influence, almost control of fishing regulations in US waters, and they almost got their way in re-starting fishing that is bad for sea turtles. Not this time. I doubt the idea will just go away, but for now, turtles can breathe easier. In this case, the fishery management process worked.

The back story here? Who knew that drift gillnets are still legal?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Whale found with hundred year old harpoon

Traditional whale hunters in the Alaskan north found a century-old harpoon fragment in a bowhead whale, suggesting that the whale may have been 130 years old.

The whale was killed as part of a traditional Eskimo hunt, carried out under strict regulations. The weapon fragment came from an exploding cannister that hit the whale, but failed to kill it. After the whale was killed with a similar modern device last month, the piece was found when the whale was butchered.
The weapon fragment was unusual enough to date the time the whale was first shot, sometime between 1885 and 1895. The whale survived more than 100 years with the weapon fragment near it's shoulder blade.

Scientists have had trouble aging whales, so this finding is an important advance. Too bad the "Rutherford B. Hayes" whale had to be shot again to reveal this unpleasant reminder of an old whale hunt that it carried for more than 100 years.

Bowhead whales are endangered, with the Alaskan population doing better than anywhere else in the world. Subsistence hunting of a few whales each year is not expected to harm the populations.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Overfishing leads to jellyfish boom in Black Sea

Now that jellyfish can be up to 90% of the animal life in the Black Sea, it's worth asking why? Did the bad jellyfish kill off all the nice fish?

A new study says overfishing is to blame, by removing the fish and letting jellyfish take over the ecosystem.

"Initially, the jellyfish was blamed for the fish stock collapse," said Georgi Daskalov, from the UK's Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas). Now they believe that overfishing was the reason for the jellyfish boom.

This is not the first example of overfishing leading to jellyfish booms. Looks like Jeremy Jackson was right when he predicted the rise of slime.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Gulf red snapper rebuilding plan

Red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico may actually be rebuilt in our lifetimes. Fishery Managers voted in New Orleans Thursday to accept fishing restrictions and rebuild these sadly depleted fish.

For 6 years, I've been assisting conservationists in the Gulf of Mexico region who were trying to make this happen. Some days were bleaker than others as managers denied the need, and delayed and deferred the actions. But managers finally got serious about rebuilding red snapper this week. If we can win rebuilding for red snapper, then anything is possible. This was a good lead-in to World Ocean Day, and I'm sorry the Carnival kept me too busy to report this on Thursday or Friday.

Success required a lawsuit that we won, and new legislation that toughened laws against overfishing, along with a new IFQ program that reduced the size of the commercial fleet and gave remaining fishermen a clear stake in a better future, so that some commercial fishermen actually supported a 45% reduction in fishing rates. Things have changed so much that the Management Council actually voted UNANIMOUSLY to implement this red snapper rebuilding plan. It's a new day in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf of Mexico shrimp fleet had to take some restrictions also, including a 74% reduction in bycatch from recent levels. I think we'll soon start seeing more red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico...lots more.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Carnival of the blue

On World Oceans Day, June 8, 2007, blogfish is thrilled to bring you Carnival of the Blue. Check out our Carnival of the blue homepage for details, a schedule of rotating hosts, and how to sign up. Now enjoy the best of ocean blogging:

Deep-Sea News offers us a yin/yang vision of two possible ocean futures. They "see our modern industrial culture as a blind man wandering down a forking path with a divining rod, flipping a Ying-Yang coin, with a Devil on one shoulder and an Angel on the other. The blind man never knows what to do exactly, just to keep moving forward." Terrific stuff. glass half full / glass half empty

The Natural Patriot celebrates World Ocean Day, admires the ocean and reminds us with beautiful words that the roots of biology often lie in biophilia--love of life.

Certainly one of the best ever of ocean blogging at 140,000 hits, the creeping crinoid at Zooillogix deserves a look.

Are you inspired by this World Ocean Day but simultaneously worried that it's a distraction? Maybe you're pondering the "one-off effect" of Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea lice, and Sunsets and you'll need to check back in a year to see if Ocean Day and especially ocean blogging and the carnival of the blue is a help or just a distraction for the bloggily inclined.

If you've never met a hagfish, then you have to stop by Shifting Baselines and learn about slime and soul food. Anyone who blogs hagfish is a hero of mine, and she does it again on world oceans day with a tribute to the unglamorous.

Who knew we'd find oceans at Daily Kos? Find out how pearls are formed at Mark H's diary, and it's not how you think. Did you know that the world's largest pearl weighs over 14 pounds?

Did you know that the ocean burps, and what it means? Learn about radiocarbon dating and ocean releases of CO2 at surf.bird.scribble

What would an expert on the organic food business say about the future of oceans and seafood sustainability? Chews Wise views sustainability as a process more than specific standards, and wonders about how to keep it real in the future.

No discussion of a sea creature seems possible without "hearing some knucklehead ask how it goes with lemon and butter, " a maxim henceforth to be known as Gorton's Law suggests, who also has an interview with a giant squid scientist.

At Island of Doubt, the fascination with two lost whales raises questions about people and whales.

And speaking of those two whales, Retrospectacle looks at the spectacle as an opportunity to sing about whale songs and even link to whale songs

Ocean blogging from the South Pacific includes The Saipan Blog from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

We even have a voice from fishery management further South in Noumea, Gonedau-fishy musings from the Pacific islands, where big ideas meet island realities such as long download times for New Caledonia-based servers.

Swim on over to biodiving if you want to know more about diving in Italy and happen to speak italiano.

A real world ocean celebrity who bests the one word name people by going with a single letter, J blogs his love of Sea Turtles and fishermen who help save them, ocean poetry, and more.

Kate Wing offers her thoughts on World Ocean Day and what you can do to make things better.

Advice on how to use oysters as an early warning sign of pollution is available at The Blue Economy

Over at Coral Bones, we have extinction risks for Caribbean corals, sobering news even for an optimist

Check out the thoughts on surfing, beaches, and building a house in tune with the beach at Three Tree Journal

Water Words That Work offers, well, water words that work when you want to talk to people about saving the ocean.

Real ocean politics from the people who know, Ocean Champions enters the blogosphere next week and will be worth watching.

Chef Barton Seaver of Hook, a sustainable seafood restaurant in Washington, DC, offers these inspiring thoughts on why he does the great things he does.

Blue meets green over at, with an interview of an ocean blogger that has some sharp spines.

Ready to reach beyond your comfort zone, and try something new to bring people and oceans together? Blogfish thinks you might enjoy it and it just might help.

And since some ocean bloggers escaped being hauled up into the carnival, either by resisting the bait or escaping detection, here's an "editor's choice" selection of ocean blogging picked up off the beach:

Ever wonder how an octopus hides itself? Check out this photo series of an octopus and some thoughts on the biology of camouflage from His Cephalopodmasness himself

From someone who knows, concerns about industrialization harming the seafood industry at Winding Glass

Surfers care about ugly, smelly little fish just as much as great waves, or maybe almost as much.

Read about fishermen getting mad at a photo crew catching some nasty business, how the targets of protests feel about being targeted, and more at Oceana's blog...and tell them to burn a feed.

And speaking of activists raising ire, Greenpeace is still around and tracking those that do other than they would have them do, like hunt whales, and now blogging about it. I hear rumors of a Greenpeace interview going up on World Oceans Day, and I'll add it if the rumors are true. Sure enough, here's Greenpeace's John Hocevar with words from Alaska, asking are North Pacific fisheries really as "sustainable" as claimed.

Thanks to Jim Toomey of Sherman's Lagoon for the blue carnival logo (top left), thanks to Jason Robertshaw of for the carnival of the blue badge (middle left), and special thanks to Coturnix for encouragement and advice.

Wow, who knew there were that many of us?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Reaching beyond the comfort zone

I think our ocean future lies in reaching beyond the comfort zone. Can we do things differently, and bring oceans and people together?

My image comes from Santa Cruz in the late 1980s, Waddell Creek to be precise. I was windsurfing in 25 knots, with a modest surf, and I saw an alluring image, a large racing yacht far offshore running downwind with a huge spinnaker flying. Wow. After a moments thought, I took my next reach out further and further wondering if I could get close enough for a good look.

Offshore on an 8 1/2 foot fiberglas sliver may not be too smart, this gear goes like hell when it's together, but it breaks now and then. I once had my sail separate from my board, and another time snapped a boom in two.

But no problem this time, I got a couple of miles offshore and made a close pass and waved at the party crowd on board. It was a beautiful sight. Inspiring, I still remember that day far offshore, alone, except for that big boat going fast. Maybe they had fun watching me too, who knows?

What drives us to reach beyond our comfort zone? It needs to be something magnetic. For us advocates, it's easy to push for change. But for most, even an email to a Senator may be a long reach.

We need to connect with people if we want them to save our oceans, and provide something attractive enough so that they reach beyond their comfort zone. What will it be? Wonky "action alerts" that describe the latest federal register request for comments? Or some really fine ocean blogging? We've tried quite a bit of the former, maybe we need a bit more of the latter.

So join the fun, reach beyond your comfort zone, and start blogging oceans. If you've read this far, then you must already care. Start your MySpace page and talk to a few people about oceans. Let's start making more ocean connections and we'll have a chance.

You've done it before, at some other time and place, and you know it's great. What's your story of reaching beyond your comfort zone? Would you do it again?

Chef Seaver of Hook talks to blogfish

Chef Barton Seaver of Hook in Washington DC offered these thoughts to blogfish:

Hook Restaurant is committed to providing an exceptional dining experience with our fresh local produce and sustainably sourced seafood, but also to educating the community about our mission. The menu changes daily to reflect whatever sustainable fish are in season and available so that we can be responsible stewards of the oceans, and by using local farms we're supporting our immediate community. Our eco-friendly practices are merely a reflection of a deeper ideology: the two things that link every human on the planet are food and environment and we cannot live with out either. When our guests leave they have had a fantastic dining experience as well as food for thought, and hopefully we have inspired them to action.

Now here's someone truly committed to sustainability, and doing something real.

Save the oceans, but how?

Flying home from Washington DC to Seattle I always wonder. Did I talk to the right people? Did I pull on the right levers and push the right buttons? This year I left before the NOAA fish fry, a great shmoozefest of fishy people. Did I miss out on something useful?

We had an Ocean Conservancy board meeting, reporting on progress and planning the future. Lots of feedback from smart scientists, successful businesspeople, some fiery creative souls, and distinguished and committed ocean savers. And we also had a couple of inspiring staff brainstorms. Was the OC work the best thing I could do?

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is deciding today whether or not to adopt a rebuilding plan for red snapper, and it includes major changes in the shrimp fishery. For the first time in two decades, red snapper may be on the road to recovery. Should I be there?

I met with some bloggers to network and build community, is that the wave of the future or just a glorified chat room, fun but useless?

I had dinner at Hook, and enjoyed the very best in sustainable seafood. And also on the plane I bumped into someone from the Marine Stewardship Council, and we talked about how to make more fisheries sustainable. Will seafood be our lever for improvement?

Where will we find a path to success, in New England where cod are missing because fishing seems to be a jobs program? Or in Alaska where they ruthlessly send some people home to cut fleet size and there’s more of a long-term outlook?

And what are we going to do about farmed fish? Are they spawn of the devil or the ocean’s savior?

There are no classes in how to do this stuff. Nobody can tell you right or wrong. There are no maps to follow, or at least none that are reliable. There are even more opinions that there are people involved, and almost everyone has at least a nugget of truth in what they say.

This Friday, we’ll have even a new option to consider here on blogfish. Carnival of the Blue, an ocean blog carnival. Let’s focus free-for-all micro-media on oceans for a day, as much as we can. Can we measure a blip of buzz from this? It might help. And if it does we’ll have another thing to put on the to-do list.

Oh well, it’s a lot like surfing—pick your wave and ride it. A quick choice, a big drop, and it’s hard to tell what’s coming next. That’s what makes it interesting. Planning sometimes helps, but it always comes back to gut feelings and quick judgments in difficult situations. I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I do. And please join the ocean blog carnival fun tomorrow, Friday, June 8, World Ocean Day.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sustainable seafood at Hook in DC

I had the great privilege of enjoying dinner at the sustainable seafood restaurant Hook in Washington DC tonight, during Capitol Hill Oceans Week. My dining partner was Sam Fromartz, author of Organic, Inc. and friend of chef Barton Seaver.

OK, this was tough duty but somebody had to do it. Hook is a great place to spend some time, and the staff were friendly and extremely knowledgable about the seafood on the menu. The first remarkable thing I noticed was that everything on the menu was sustainable. There was not a single doubtful fish or shellfish. That's a tremendous achievment, and a credit to chef Seaver's hard work.

But most importantly, the food was wonderful. The crudo were fabulous, and Sam and I went all out and sampled every one of the 8 items. My favorite was the rainbow trout roe and Sam loved the ivory king salmon. I had the blackfin tuna entree, which was as good as tuna gets, and Sam had the most perfectly cooked sablefish which was amazing. Sablefish (aka black cod) are the favorite fish of some northwest seafood fans, and Seaver's was perfectly cooked thanks to his secret, a 100% humidity 150 degree F oven. It was also nice for me as a fish person to see the fish called by it's real name and not the more popular "market name" of blackcod. The salads and deserts were also very nice. Chef Seaver was generous with his time visiting with us as his restaurant filled to capacity with people having a great time. The wines recommended by the staff were also the perfect complement to the great seafood.

Chef Joshua Whigham graciously stopped by the table to chat also, and described his fishing trip in Tobago where he helped land some blackfin tuna and got a little white-knuckled fishing from a small boat while learning how their fish got from ocean to table.

Eating at Hook is a terrific experience that shows the world that sustainability can be fun and delicious. I recommend Hook to one and all as the place to go for seafood when you're in DC.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sewage to fertilizer

A large sewage treatment plant in Oregon is testing a process to make fertilizer from sewage. The process, from a Canadian company, is advertised as a win-win process that saves money and turns waste into a useful product.

The process uses Magnesium to capture phosphorus and ammonia and turn it into BB-sized pellets that can be spread as fertilizer. So long as there are no problems with toxics in the sewage, it ought to work.

Now about their proposal to put some of the fertilizer in streams to fertilize salmon production. Nice try, mimicking the natural nutrient delivery of dead salmon carcases, but I've seen this idea misused in the past. Most of our streams need fewer nutrients, not more. And pellets are not the same as salmon carcases, which are eaten directly instead of just fertilizing plant growth.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Talking science to non-scientists

Debate continues in the blogosphere on how to talk to non-scientists about science, especially when the science can inform a policy debate. As a scientifically-trained conservation advocate, I routinely use scientific findings in policy debates, and have views on this subject. The vehemence of this debate is surprising, and I think the debate has become inflamed partly because people are talking at cross purposes. So…

I wonder if it’s foolhardy to attempt to state succinctly the core arguments for and against what’s being called “framing” science. Probably, so here goes:

Framing: The best way to talk about science to non-scientists is to extract accurately the core results of a scientific subject and present them in a comfortable context. This builds trust and acceptance, encourages listening, and minimizes the impact of ideological or other filters. This approach is especially important when policy implications exist, because that’s when it’s hardest to get people to listen to and understand science.

Against framing: The right way to talk about science to non-scientists is to display science including assumptions, evidence and uncertainty. This is much like talking to scientists, except understanding can be encouraged by helpful examples, translation of jargon, and engaging presentation. This approach is especially important when policy implications exist, because including any opinions or spin casts doubt on the reliability of the science.

There you have it, the blogfish view of the essential pro and con sides of the argument. For what it’s worth. If I have them wrong, perhaps somebody smarter on these subjects will do a better job of stating the essential framing pro and con.

Anyone out there who wants to comment? Or perhaps blogfish is too small of a pond to attract any fish.

New effort to restore Puget Sound, MudUp!

I attended a meeting last night where Kathy Fletcher of People for Puget Sound explained the new Puget Sound Partnership formed by our Governor and legislature.

And she mentioned an exciting new campaign that went live yesterday, MudUp Check it out, and get dirty for Puget Sound. You can do it even if you don't live here, we're going to need all the help we can get.

I'm optimistic that this new effort will actually learn from past mistakes and make good progress on the big issues facing us, like shoreline protection, non-point source runoff, sewage systems and leaky septic tanks, etc. Will it make headway on our transportation system? That's a real weak point for Seattle and the Puget Sound area, so we'll have to wait and see. Or...better yet...get active and help push that boulder uphill.

Thanks to Kathy, People for Puget Sound, Governor Gregoire, State Senator Rockefeller, and the countless others involved.