Saturday, May 31, 2008

youz can't ketch me up here

i'm in yer oshunz

This is too much. Rick over at Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets has raised the ante on lol oceans. I have to reprint, since all is vanity, no?

Carnival of the Blue daddy, Mark Powell, over on blogfish trotted-out those ubiquitous LOL Cats--this time in service to ocean conservation. Well done, Mark. I've had an LOL love-affair going for some time with my Hawaii field manager, Liz Foote. Unfortunately, I can't print most of our creations for fear of losing our jobs (or public lynching).

So here's one just for you, Mark. Our new ocean poster child?

Thanks Rick, for taking the bait. Now I have an excuse to do another one.

Friday, May 30, 2008

i can save seas

i can save seas?

LOL ocean conservation, anyone? Here's entry #1 from Pepijn Koster over at My Favorite Places. Who has the nerve to try to beat this one?

Who knows, this could get big, like LOL cats,or i can has cheezburger, or the walrus bucket thing. If you've never yet seen LOL cats, or the whole "kitty pidgin" humor, shame on you. Go here for the wikipedia explanation.

Solar power from huge islands floating on the ocean

It sounds weird, but could it work? Can we help solve the CO2 crisis with huge floating islands of solar cells?

Thomas Hinderling wants to build solar islands several miles across that he claims can produce hundreds of megawatts of relatively inexpensive power. He's the CEO of the Centre Suisse d'Electronique et de Microtechnique, a private R & D company.

I'm skeptical these islands would withstand the ocean environment, and some researchers think desert land is a better place for large solar power plants.

One side effect, the islands would attract fish, and I'm sure somebody would want to go fishing there. Could help lower the cost, I suppose, by selling fishing rights.

hat tip: wired science

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Our oceans are on fire

and the Flat Earth Society can't deny it. Human CO2 production is causing the scary Ocean Acid problem, and it's simple chemistry. There is scientific consensus, and the effects are bad.

I'm proud of my federal elected representatives for highlighting the ocean acid problem at a US Congress field hearing in Seattle yesterday. Senator Maria Cantwell chaired a Senate hearing, and invited Representative Jay Inslee to participate. Both of them prodded the scientific witnesses to offer their candid views of the problem.

Jay Inslee offered the memorable line that our oceans are on fire, I think he's right. Carbonic acid from CO2 dissolving in seawater is making our oceans more acid. It's happening NOW, and the risks to ocean food webs are very real and very scary. Ocean acid can dissolved calcium carbonate (bones and shells) when it gets severe, and recent studies show it has reached the shallow water off the US west coast.

This story is just beginning.

image: Planet Views

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Is wilderness a place or a feeling?

Some people define conservation as saving the wildness in places. I want to save the wildness in people. I know who's winning this debate these days, and it isn't me. But I'm right and you'll all agree eventually.

To enter this deep subject, consider what motivates conservation. Often it can be feelings of reverence for special places or animals, usually because of memories of special experiences in the past. These feelings often get attributed to "sacred places" and people want to protect such places so others can have a chance for the same transcendant experiences.

This wilderness protection effort goes astray when we focus our protection on only the most special and pristine places, forgetting that special feelings for nature often arise from youthful experiences in barely-wild places.

It's the special feelings for nature that we all need to foster, nurture and protect. If we protect pristine places and forget to nurture special feelings, then we're failing to build a constituency for pristine places.

Justin Van Kleeck is posting on Sensory Flashbacks, Sacred Places, and Environmentalism over at sustainablog, and you ought to read what he has to say, not least because of his reference to Proust and sensory flashbacks. He talks about sacred feelings, and I found his words in a series of posts to be moving and insightful. Especially his personal testament on the healing power that he found in barely-wild nature.

These ideas aren't new, William Cronon has talked about "The Trouble with Wilderness" and argued that wildness lives in US, in the hearts of people, more than in special places.

Does any of this matter in practical conservation work? Yes, I think it matters a lot.

I've sat in debates over "Ocean Wilderness" protection, and argued for a program that emphasizes people's special feelings for oceans, often derived from exposure to nearby oceans, not special pristine locations.

I've mostly lost those debates, and watched programs get designed to focus on protecting the most pristine places remaining in our oceans. Such programs often undermine their own objectives by failing to honor the people we hope to recruit to our cause.

The root cause of this mistake? Failing to notice that it's the wilderness experience we need to protect, and that feeling most often occurs outside of perfectly pristine ocean places.

How can we fix this wilderness mistake? We need to get people exposed to our oceans, get them to experience the wonder and majesty, and then celebrate those feelings. Even if they happen when a person is holding a fishing rod or driving a motorboat.

Blogfish grows

Blogfish now has twice the power, in order to serve you better.

Kate Wing has come over from Switchboard, and will be blogging for you as part of the new blogfish team. She brings wit and charm along with courage and smarts. I've known Kate for almost a decade, ever since we applied for the same job (which she got). We've fought a few battles together, and I know you'll appreciate her as much as I do.

Now if she would only come all the way over and agree with me on everything!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The goby diet might save your life

...if you're a small goby. It's a new take on dieting: small fish turn down food in order to avoid bullying by bigger fish.

These gobies are small ocean fish with a rigid social structure. If small individuals eat too much then they grow and become an apparent threat to the bigger dominant fish. That invites attack, expulsion from the sheltered environment, and probably being eaten. Diet, stay small, and avoid attack. How's that for strong motivation?

These gobies maintain social hierarchies where the dominant fish is 5-10% bigger than the next largest fish, and each fish down the dominance ladder is 5-10% smaller than the fish above. This precise size range is maintained by smaller gobies refusing to eat offered food, in order to stay small and avoid attack. It's an unusual way to promote social order, but it seems to work for gobies.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ugly American invader detected with DNA testing

How to find and eradicate the boorish, bullying ugly American invader in sensitive French environs? French scientists used DNA tests to find bullfrogs that threaten more refined French frogs. The DNA testing works where it's hard to find the actual culprit.

Why go to such great lengths to find and hopefully get rid of this ugly American invader? The bullfrog is
"one of the world’s most harmful invasive species, since it is responsible for the decline of natives by direct predation, competition, diffusion of diseases and complex biotic interactions."
This approach is useful since finding invasive species can be difficult, especially when invasions are new and perhaps capable of being reversed. Early detection is important in mounting an early response.

Image: bullfrog (below) green frog (above)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Corrosive oceans are now real

Seawater that dissolves skeletons? Sounds like a horror movie, but it's now reality. Scientists found CO2-spiked seawater closer to land than expected.

It's an excess CO2 scenario that the climate change deniers can't deny, because it doesn't rely on climate. It's simple chemistry, more CO2 in the ocean means higher acid, and eventually it'll corrode shells and skeletons of marine animals.

Only now it's not "eventually," it's NOW. Today, hot off the elctronic presses, an article in Science Express describes what's up with the scary CO2-spiked ocean water that we've all been worried about. OK, some of us have been worried about it, and now you will worry too.

CO2-ocean is real off the US west coast, and the water has reaced the surface off Northern California. It's happening faster than the models predict, and it could change our oceans in a bad way. Your favorite animals may be affected.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Orcas (killer whale) hunting dolphins

Wow, look at that picture! An orca drives a dolphin out of the water during a chase. Reporters suggest this is the first time people have ever observed orcas hunting their cousin, the dolphin.

Off South Africa, 6 people watched a group of 5 orcas cooperate in hunting and killing a dolphin. Then they got in the water with the orcas, who wouldn't?

The dolphin in the picture was a lucky one that got away, but another dolphin from the same group was later killed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Following FADS is risky and can be fatal

Going with the crowd can be risky for juveniles, especially when it involves a FAD. It can lead to death by capture in a purse seine net, or perhaps to an ecological trap that can harm the group.

Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) are floating objects that attract large and small tuna. Fishermen rely on this poorly-understood aggregating behavior of tuna and use FADs to exploit populations that might otherwise be hard to catch.

The result is enhanced fishing succes, and perhaps even worse is the apparent risk of enticing tuna to move away from ecologically favorable areas to places where it's harder to survive and thrive.

Your mama always told you to stay away from FADs, and now we know she was right...if you're a young tuna.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Up close and personal with giant fish

Face to face with fish bigger than me, maybe 20 of them. Wow. I was swimming along in water about 20 feet deep, and there they were, all around me. Double wow. Not every one bigger than me, but all of them 4-6 feet long, maybe more. Shiny silver tarpon, milling around. They let me come almost within touching distance, then slipped slowly away.

I hung around with them for 5 or 10 minutes as they slowy moved into deeper water and spread out. It was an amazing sight, and a little intimidating.

What else? Just a nurse shark, a goliath grouper (I think) a big jack of some kind, and lots of smaller fish. In warm water, it's a trip to make a Seattle guy happy.

Seems like the fish were bigger than the last two times I was here, more than 5 years ago. Hmmm...I wonder why?

Where was this great trip? I'll award a free lifetime subscription to blogfish to the first correct answer. And another free lifetime subscription to anyone who can name the ocean conservation luminaries I was with, pictured below.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sex change shop in Atlanta airport

Buy a sex change in Atlanta airport? Really? Check the photo. The guy on the right seems to be in a hurry, I wonder if he's late for his appointment.

OK, I don't know Atlanta very well. I'm just flying through on my way to Key West, and I'm amazed to find a shop with a big sign that says NEW SEX CHANGE. It just looks like a newsstand, with people buying magazines. Then I get it...NEWS EXCHANGE. Somebody oughtta tell them to put bigger spaces between the words.

This reminds me of the sign I used to see on the freeway in Portland, Oregon, where a popular bookstore shared a sign with a home furnishings store. The sign said:


Sounds interesting, wonder what they had in the back room.

Copper river salmon, the thousand dollar fish

Would you pay $1000 for a fish to eat? If you want a whole king salmon from the Copper River today, that's what it'll cost you.

First of the year Copper River salmon are in Seattle, but supplies are down and prices are up because of bad weather. At some markets, prices were as high as $50 per pound--$1000 for a 20 pound king like the one in the picture.

Those are nice fish, but that's too much money for me. I'll wait a week and try to find a deal. Wow.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Rapid evolution in fish

A small fish now provides a great example of rapid evolution, thanks to an accidental experiment.

Pollution control turned Seattle's murky Lake Washington into a beautiful clear lake. Good for us, but the lake's threespine stickleback was suddenly visible to hungry trout. They had to do something quickly if they wanted to survive...evolve. And they did.

Threespine sticklebacks in Lake Washington lost their armor, made up of bony plates, when the lake got dirty and the water got cloudy up until about the mid 1900s. Then, an expensive cleanup in the 1960s made the water clear and sticklebacks because trout food again. The response? Sticklebacks regrew their armor of bony plates.

No sign of intelligent design in this case, just genetic changes that confer a survival advantage.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Plankton deficit in New England's ocean

If you love the ocean, then you love plankton. That's why a plankton deficit matters. Plankton feeds everything, including whales, dolphins and fish.

Last fall, the normally rich waters of George's bank were not so rich, and a plankton deficit was to blame. The normal fall plankton bloom didn't happen.

Perhaps more worrisome, a long-term warming trend is continuing in the region. Some fish that we care about are near their southern (warm water) limit in New England, and declines in these fish may happen if warming is maintained. Of course, this whole problem is much worse in the face of decades of persistent overfishing, which continues for some fish.

hat tip: Penobscot Bay Blog

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Coastal oceans getting cleaner

Now here's some good news, toxic pollution levels are going down in our coastal ocean waters. The results come from the US government's Mussel Watch program that has tracked pollution over more than two decades.

Toxic pollutants that are decreasing include the following serious problem pollutants: DDT, PCBs, and tributyl-tin.

Not everything is peachy keen, some pollutants are still entering waterways and creating concerns, such as oil related hydrocarbons (really high in SF Bay after an oil spill) and PDBE flame retardants.

It's nice to know things are improving, and it's really nice to know that this valuable government program has been out there plugging along for decades. And it continues. Go here if you want the full scary 29 MB report.

We're doing some things right.

Marine protected areas in the western Pacific Ocean

There is an online poll at the bottom of the Saipan Tribune website today asking "Do you support the proposal to create a Marine Monument in the northern (Mariana) islands?" Click the link and scroll down for the poll.

You might want to tell them what you think. Swing by the Saipan Blog if you want more info before you vote, and Angelo will give you the word.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pelican vs. swimmer

Who wins when a diving pelican hits a swimmer? The swimmer, a 50 year old woman, got a nasty gash on her face. The pelican died.

It's a very unusual event, not to be confused with Hitchcock's "The Birds," which incidentally was filmed in beautiful Bodega Bay where I used to live. The birds there are quite normal.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Grand Canyon flood good for fish?

Open the taps and flood the Grand Canyon with a great torrent of water. What a great deal for fish, if only it happened more often.

It's like brushing the Grand Canyon's teeth, it's a good idea, and it's necessary for river health. If it happened more often, and was combined with the other flow patterns the river needs, then we'd be doing ecosystem-based management.

But as a one-off, this flood is more like a photo make that a video opportunity (who is that guy turning on the flood), and the Department of the Interior gets to claim credit for managing the river like a river. That's making some environmentalists hopping mad.

But hey, one flood is a good start, assuming it doesn't do more harm than good as some critics predict. It is nice to see the feds realizing that they have to at least pretend to do a good job running the faucets at the big dams.

So far, we know the fake flood created some new sandbars, which is good news.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Greenpeace protest at Brussels seafood show

Greenpeace protesters disrupted the Brussels Seafood Show last week, locking themselves to booths, broadcasting messages, and unfurling banners.

Why? Greenpeace said "we got our message out today directly to fish suppliers that unless fisheries go sustainable then neither those who trade in fish, nor our fish stocks, have a future."

But did they really get their message out to fish suppliers? Was anyone listening to the words they broadcast? Check out this Greenpeace video on YouTube and see what you think.

One Maltese fish supplier didn't seem to be tuned in to the details of the message, exclaiming that "Greenpeace have surpassed all limits."

The seafood world is already buzzing with talk of sustainability. It's on everyone's mind, and most seafood sellers want a piece of the sustainability action. In this context, will it advance the cause to use confrontational tactics to gain attention?

I think the seafood world is already paying attention, and what's needed now is a practical path towards sustainability.

I'm putting my effort behind the Common Vision for Sustainable Seafood instead of protests.

What do you think?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Common Vision for Sustainable Seafood

This is the way to advance seafood sustainability!

There is now a Common Vision for Sustainable Seafood that is supported by a wide range of conservation groups and seafood businesses. For more information, here is the press release announcing the new effort.

If you're a seafood business person and you're interested in helping to advance a shared vision for sustainable seafood, please contact me or go to the link above.

Consumers, you will soon see the benefits of this effort when you visit your favorite seafood retailer. Or...if you don't...ask them to get involved.

For a better ocean future!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Conservation, sensuality, and Proust

What was your first taste of conservation? Love of nature? My guess is that your senses were involved before your brain.

Maybe you saw something fantastic, or had a blissful time soaking up nature in a beautiful place.

Then what happened? You saw a threat and got worried or even angry about harm to nature?

If you're like me, you fell in love with nature first, and only later had your brain awakened to threats and the need for conservation action. You started with a loving connection to nature, and only later got all thinky and brain-centered about saving things.

This is well-said by Justin Van Kleeck over at sustainablog, where he writes

environmentalism is mostly about the amazing power and glory of nature. Indeed, environmentalism means luxuriating in the abundance of beauty lying just beyond your door. It is like a life lived within a Proust novel: every thing, every moment, is just dripping with sensuality.

Which part of environmentalism do you talk about now? How do you try to hook people on conservation? Do you invite the connection first, or call people out on the need for action? If you're like most of us, you probably rely on facts--talking about a development project that threatens harm or the risk of rising sea level from warming.

But what happens when people hear "WATCH OUT OR YOU'LL BE UNDERWATER SOON!" Their adrenal glands contract, squirting out adrenaline and they get a "fight or flight" response. Or...they turn the page and go on to something more pleasant.

In his strong post over at sustainablog, Justin Van Kleeck invites you to consider the sensual side of conservation--invoking Marcel Proust as his guiding light. It's a great take on conservation and desire, a blogfish favorite subject.

In this post, he sets out to explode three myths about environmentalism:

This myth that being environmentally responsible is just downright too costly and complicated in numerous ways is perhaps the most pervasive

But, in truth, we need not forsake modernity or take out another mortgage in order to afford new ultra-efficient gadgets. Little things can have big impacts, too: tossing that can or bottle in a recycling bin rather than a trashcan, replacing an incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent, bringing your own bag to the grocery store.

A second myth is that environmentalism is like reading the obituary page unto eternity: nothing but gloom, doom, disaster, and death. We see images of mountaintops and glaciers simply erased. We see forests felled and rivers drained dry. We see polar bears paddling in an endless Arctic Ocean. These sorts of things can shatter both your heart and your ability to hope for our future. Even worse, such hopelessness easily leads to the “What can I do?” syndrome in which any changes, small or large, seem futile.

But, in truth, environmentalism is mostly about the amazing power and glory of nature. Indeed, environmentalism means luxuriating in the abundance of beauty lying just beyond your door. It is like a life lived within a Proust novel: every thing, every moment, is just dripping with sensuality.

One other myth is that environmentalism is some sort of contagious disease whose main symptom is a smug clique mentality, with side effects ranging from mildly annoying uppity behavior to slinging red paint, destroying property, and even homicide.

But, in truth, this smugly antagonistic environmentalism is by far the worst pollution: the spewing out of toxic deeds, words, thoughts, and energy that raise the temperature of our warming planet ever higher. I believe that environmentalism is about loving kindness—for the Earth and its inhabitants, one and all and all as one…living community, that is. I believe that the real green movement, the greenness that can lower our global thermostat, is a green with heart.

Great stuff, Justin, thanks.

Now for the critique: Why do you start with an apology--your admission of an addiction to nature? You've got a great message, and I encourage you to start with a celebration.

And what about Justin's solution? He talks about exploding the myths of environmentalism, but his recipe seems a bit off to me, he calls for maturity and thinking:

We can explode the myths of environmentalism—these myths of costliness, gloominess, and smugness—much as we did the one of the monster under the bed: with self-education and a few mature actions. Yes, the changes on our planet may leave us wanting to hide under the covers. But sometimes we have to grow up. Sometimes we have to drop the myths and be the change.

I think there's a better solution, and it's found in Justin's "living community" that's "green with a heart." Rather than telling people to "grow up," we should invite them to feel connected and live their lives with a consciousness and a celebration of the connections between people and nature. That's the way to explode the myth that environmentalism is costly, gloomy, and smug.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ocean garbage mess and possible solutions

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is in the news again. Today, the Washington Post profiles a citizen hero who saw the nasty mess and is trying to do something about plastics in the ocean.

Or, if you prefer your news with a sharper edge and a foul tongue, then check out the sharp reporting of VBS-TV as they sail into the Garbage Patch and pull no punches regarding what they find.

Why all the news on human trash turned to ocean flotsam?

Something important happens to people when they encounter the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the central Pacific Ocean. They get very upset. Jean-Michel Cousteau found it "horrifying," and First Lady Laura Bush saw how our waste can "devastate marine life." There's something awful about plowing through mountains of mostly plastic trash on beaches, or sailing through seas choked with plastic garbage in the middle of the ocean.

On land and at sea, dead animals testify to the harm caused by man-made trash in the ocean. Plastics seem to be the worst of the mess, animals can eat it, or get tangled in it, and many of them die. Yecch, what a way to go, starving because your stomach is stuffed full of indigestible bits of garbage.

Everyone who sees this mess seems to agree that something must be done.

And that's where the agreement ends. Talking about solutions just gets arguments started.

Some advocate getting rid of plastic bags, like Rebecca Hosking, a Washington Post Innovator (the world's ground-breakers and contrarians, problem solvers and restless minds). She cried tears that changed her life when she landed on Midway Island in the Pacific. "All you could smell was death," she recalled, thanks to plastic debris that clogged the stomachs and killed the dead albatrosses rotting on the Midway beach.

When she got back home to the village of Modbury in England, she found plastic bags littering the nearby sea. She researched substitute bags, enlisted the local butcher to test biodegradable cornstarch bags, and won a unanimous vote of support from local merchants. Now, most shoppers in Modbury carry reusable cloth bags, a key goal of the campaign, and the movement is spreading around the world. "I'm not an eco-warrior" she says, "we just did a little thing that worked."

Others, such as the American Chemistry Council (a chemical industry association), think the solution is recycling and litter control. They quoted Jean-Michel Cousteau in an Earth Day press release, saying people (not products) pollute. They believe the solution is in recycling, and they have a new campaign to promote recycling of plastics, because they're "too valuable to waste."

Doubt about the effectiveness of recycling are raised on the blog rise above plastics, but The Plastics blog reports on the other side of the story, and how corn-based bioplastics just confuse consumers.

How can we cut through the confusion? Let's listen to some experts.

The answer may be in green chemistry, the effort to design products and production methods so that we prevent problems like plastic waste accumulation in the ocean. An authoritative report from the University of California notes the Garbage Patch as the type of problem that could actually be prevented using smart production.

Contamination of the environment by plastic materials reflects a product management system gone awry. Plastic products are manufactured out of non-renewable materials, contain substances that are toxic to biological and ecological systems, and are designed and packaged for disposal rather than re-use. The resulting pollution presents unique environmental hazards; ocean plastics provide one example.

The North Pacific central gyre is a region of the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii in which ocean currents and wind patterns gather plastic and other debris into a central area. Plastic debris now covers an area of the gyre about twice the size of Texas. Researchers estimate that the mass of plastic particles is about six times greater than that of plankton, and that this ratio will grow ten-fold over the next ten years.6 Nearly all of this material comes from urban areas. Plastic debris has been found in the stomachs of 43 to 86 percent of seabirds and marine animals studied.

Due to their small size, plastic particles are not recoverable from the ocean; they are likely to remain in the marine ecosystem for hundreds of years. Ninety percent of the mass of floating debris in the world’s oceans — and 99% of the material on the world’s beaches — consists of plastic products and the pellets used to manufacture them.
A product management system gone awry? Those strong words are endorsed by 127 faculty members from seven UC campuses, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Maybe we should listen carefully to what they're saying.

Or, we could keep on making the mess and pay federal tax dollars to clean it up.

What do you think we should do about the garbage in the ocean? Please answer the blogfish poll in the upper right sidebar. I want your opinion on solving the ocean plastic trash problem.

The most important solution for the ocean plastic trash problem is:

-better plastic recycling
-ban the worst products
-clean up the mess
-what trash problem?

Jumbo squid on the move

Watch out, jumbo squid may be coming to an ocean near you. They're coming at me at least, moving north into Oregon and Washington's ocean waters. And this may be just one more result of climate change.

Some worry that the voracious predators will harm already-depleted salmon populations, but we humans should not deflect the credit for that achievement.

It's much more fun to ponder the coming of the red devils that are reputed to attack divers when alarmed.

Probably a good idea to keep your alarm clocks at home when you go diving.

Image: Deep-Sea News

Monday, May 05, 2008

Carnival of the blue 12

is on an island, thank goodness...far from parts well traveled, in unchartered waters beyond the Sea of Certainty, on the Island of Doubt. This outpost of welcomes all who dare to abandon all dogma.

Stop by for the best of ocean blogging if you can do without dogma.

Ocean plant will save the world with ethanol

Give me sunshine and CO2 and I'll make a highly useful and convenient energy source. Sounds too good to be true? Well it isn't. You can kiss climate change goodbye, thanks to a blue-green algae from the ocean.

Umm...that is if all the kinks can be worked out. But hey, it's a great concept that deserves a chance.

Scientists produced genetically modified cyanobacteria that convert sunlight and CO2 into glucose, sucrose, and cellulose that are readily convertible into ethanol. If development goes well, algal ethanol (Alganol?) can be produced using much less land and far fewer resources than corn-based ethanol production.

Hat tip: Endangered Spaces

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Sea otters worse than seals in some very bad behavior

A bad behavior spree by a sea otter that took indecent liberties and actually killed up to 20 young seals a few years back seems more extreme than the much-noted recent example of a a seal that attempted to mate with a penguin.

Somehow, the heinous otter crimes have gone unnoticed. The story is that at least two sea otters sexually assaulted young seals and killed the victims through drowning or shock. Most of the problem was caused by a certain sea otter, dubbed "Morgan," that had been found abandoned as a baby and rehabilitated by people and later relased into the wild. But at least one wild sea otter was seen doing similar bad things. The end of the story? Morgan the very bad otter was captured.

Scientists and commenters have suggested that the recent 40 minute seal attack on the penguin is "the most unusual case of mammal mating behavior yet known" but I don't think so. A serial rape and murder spree by sea otters victimizing young seals seems more unusual.

Sea otters certainly look cuddly, but looks can be deceiving.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Ocean dead zone monster feeds off climate change

Bad news from the deep dark and scary ocean, a new sea monster is rising from the depths and threatening people. Or at least it's threatening our uses of the ocean. It's toxic water with no oxygen, and it's getting worse thanks to global warming.

Low oxygen dead zones are not a new thing, but a new study says that the dead zones are getting bigger and scarier, probably because of global warming.

And there may be real monsters in the story. Massive Humboldt squid (bigger than you!) are lurking in the dead zones since they can tolerate low oxygen (like a real monster!), and devouring unsuspecting fish. Are you scared yet? Ready to give up that gas-guzzler, or at least turn off the engine when you park?

Note that the monster in the picture bears no resemblance to actual ocean life, which is mostly fun and cuddly--okay maybe a little to wet and cold to be cuddly, anyway the picture is just a visual metaphor for the scary ocean hypoxia monster.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Rescued from a remote island

Some stranded people were rescued from a remote Pacific Island. The question is: why would anyone want to leave?

No, it's not Gilligan's Island, it's Palmyra. It's beautiful, pristine, perfect, and why would anyone want to leave?

I suppose it would get old after a while, but I'd love the chance to find out how long I'd have to be there before I got tired of it and wanted to leave. Probably longer than the week this stranded group was there.

How about you? Wanna go to Palmyra? And how long would you want to stay? I'm thinking a couple of months at least, maybe a year.