Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cheated at the fish counter

Do you like to pay fish prices when you're buying ice? Some people are happy to sell you ice at $15 per pound. An investigation of people selling fish packed in ice, and charging you for the ice, found the deceptive practice is common. It's bad enough that you might want cod and get pollock instead. Adding insult to injury, you might get 10 ounces of pollock when you pay for 12 ounces of cod. Ouch.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Underwater sand circle mystery

Imagine you saw this sand design underwater, what would you think? Aliens? Mysterious underwater artist? How about puffer fish? Japanese diver Yoji Ookata found the sand circles and filmed puffer fish making the intricate designs. Here's the story from Colossal:
Using underwater cameras the team discovered the artist is a small puffer fish only a few inches in length that swims tirelessly through the day and night to create these vast organic sculptures using the gesture of a single fin. Through careful observation the team found the circles serve a variety of crucial ecological functions, the most important of which is to attract mates. Apparently the female fish are attracted to the hills and valleys within the sand and traverse them carefully to discover the male fish where the pair eventually lay eggs at the circle’s center, the grooves later acting as a natural buffer to ocean currents that protect the delicate offspring. Scientists also learned that the more ridges contained within the sculpture resulted in a much greater likelihood of the fish pairing.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Sustainable seafood...from China

Who knew that China is a world leader in seafood sustainability?

Check out this video about some fascinating low footprint fish farms in China, using integrated farming methods that date back more than one thousand years!

The video above is the 60 second promo, and below you'll find the full 8 minute video.

Fish, mulberry plants, and silkworms are grown together and the waste of one process feeds the next step.

BTW, in case you wondered what I've been doing lately, now you know, helping to turn over interesting stories and make some videos.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Amazing shark video

This is your world on CO2

An 11 mile stretch of the Mississippi river was closed to traffic by the US Coast Guard because of low water levels. Nearly 100 large boats and barges were stuck, with only small boats allowed to try to make the run through the shrunken and shrivelled Mississippi River near Greenville, Mississippi.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Forget what the world used to be like...

...instead we need to plan for how we want the world to be.

Welcome to the Anthropocene, the Age of Man. Our human actions have so much influence on the world that we might as well forget the idea of going back to some pristine environmental baseline.

So says Professor Ursula Heise, eco-critic in Stanford University’s English department, who is busy untangling the environmental stories we tell ourselves.

“We need to shift from thinking about what ecosystems used to be, and how we can get back to an [environmental] baseline,” she says. “The conversation needs to be about to what kind of world we want for the future and to work toward that.”

I think she's right. Even though I wish she was wrong.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Global resource fight has just begun

Think food and energy prices are bad? Just wait, it'll get worse.

Scientists offered grim warnings at ReSource 2012, a recent conference. According to the Guardian:

"We are nowhere near realising the full impact of this yet. We have seen the first indications – rising food prices, pressure on water supplies, a land grab by some countries for mining rights and fertile agricultural land, and rising prices for energy and for key resources [such as] metals. But we need to do far more to deal with these problems before they become even more acute, and we are not doing enough yet."

Countries that are not prepared for this rapid change will soon – perhaps irrevocably – lose out, with serious damage to their economies and way of life, the conference was told.

Fighting over fish has happened before, and it could happen again. Cod wars, mackerel wars, what next?

Feeding 9 billion people

The other inconvenient truth is that it will be hard to feed people in the near future. Conservation advocates like me have to face the truth that our treasured places will suffer if people need more food. We can't control fishing if people are catching fish to avoid starvation. Most of us would probably eat the last fish if we were truly hungry.

We need to produce food more efficiently, and that has many aspects. More food production with a lower ecological footprint is key. Not just more food per area used, but more food per resources consumed. Jon Foley points out in Time, we need to alter our diets.
Much of the grain grown in developed nations goes to feed not human beings but domesticated animals, and inefficiently too — one filet mignon requires 32 lbs. of corn, and converts that grain into calories at just 3% efficiency. Globally we'll likely need to eat less meat — if only to give parts of the growing developing world space to eat a little meat — and, at least in much of the unhealthily overfed West, eat fewer calories overall. That might help reduce global food waste — one out of every three calories produced globally are never eaten, which isn't just a waste of food but of water, land and energy.

Eating meat and ocean predators like tuna is a resource-costly way to feed ourselves, and we need to get started in cutting back on resource use in eating.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Electric bikes and motor scooters in China

During a recent visit to China I was impressed to see so many silent motor scooters. Electric motor scooters. I even rode on one.

Now I know why, Time reports that 90% of the world's e-bike sales are in China.

Electric scooters look the same as gas scooters, except for no trail of smoke. They don't sound the same, they're silent. This would be hailed as a great green success if it were happening in London or New York.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Me and my shark fin

Must-watch video featuring Kool Kid Kreyola.

KOOL KID KREYOLA - ME AND MY SHARK FIN from Spencer Keeton Cunningham on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Explosion blows out big dam, wahoo!

OK river cowboys, here's your dream. Watch as an explosion blows out the bottom of a big dam (471 feet long, 125 feet high) and the reservoir floods out of the hole. Man's work undone in the blink of an eye, and nature restored. It'll be years before recovery is complete, perhaps decades. But it's grand glory to watch this critical beginning of the process.

This dam is in salmon country, where I'm from, in the Columbia River gorge in Washington. I've been there, I've seen it, and I argued for it's removal. What a reward. I only wish I had been there to see it in person.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A genetically modified crop produces spillover benefits

Here's a mind-bender for people who oppose genetic modification of crops. Bt cotton reduced farmer's needs for pesticides--on neighboring fields as well as on fields where the Bt cotton was grown.

That's right, if I grow Bt cotton and you, my neighbor, don't grow Bt cotton, you might get a spillover benefit of having more predatory insects in your fields, and you might need less pesticide on your cotton.

According to the New Scientist:

Environmentalists might one day run barefooted through insect-rich fields of genetically modified crops. At least, they might if the conclusions of a two-decade study in China hold up.

Kongming Wu of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing and colleagues looked at the impact on surrounding farms of Bt cotton, a GM crop that protects itself against bollworm larvae by making its own pesticide.

As pesticide sprays were no longer needed, beneficial predator insects such as ladybirds, spiders and lacewings could thrive and spill over onto neighbouring farms, where they ate aphids. This reduced the amount of pesticides neighbouring farmers used.

"Transgenic Bt crops with less insecticide use can promote population increases of predators in the whole agricultural landscape," says Wu.

This study alone won't settle anything, and criticisms remain against Bt cotton. But this spillover effect deserves attention in the debate over the future of agriculture.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Flying whale

Here's proof that a whale can be more of a Ferarri than a John Deere. From Australia, a photo of a humpback whale entirely airborne.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Tuna feeding frenzy

If you can tolerate hearing the word "wow" one thousand times, watch this amazing video. I've seen something similar once, with fewer tuna but with dolphins and diving birds.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Swim Across the Sea of Cortez

Want to know what it feels like to be an open water swimmer?  Watch the opening scenes of the video above.

Paul Lundgren is sharing his experience as he trains for the first-ever solo swim crossing of the Sea of Cortez, 76 miles of big water.  

I can feel it, I've done a bit of swimming, and I know this water.  One of my most memorable ocean experiences was near his planned finishing point, when I happened into an incredible feeding aggregation while sailing.  Dolphin and tuna underwater and seabirds above, on, and in the water were converging on a massive swarm of small fish, and they were so excited they forgot to notice a small about drifting into their midst.  We watch from mere inches away as many species of animals tried to eat and avoid being eaten.  I can see it like it was yesterday, even though it was decades ago.  Sigh.

Such is the value of watching Paul's video, I got lost and re-found myself minutes later sitting in a small room in front of a computer in landlocked Switzerland yet somehow feeling wet and salty. 

Go Paul, and thanks for sharing! 

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

TheBlu - what is it?

There's something new in the (virtual) world, TheBlu.  A way to create your own ocean, using fish and habitats created by digital artists everywhere.  Is it anything?  Time will tell, but I'm going to give it a try.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Little fish that matter--forage

Scientists are now telling us that forage fish matter. It's not a new finding, but it's getting new emphasis.

What are forage fish and why are they important? Forage fish are "small to medium-sized species that include anchovies, herring, menhaden, and sardines." They're important because they "play a crucial role in marine food webs, preying on plankton and transferring energy up to marine mammals, seabirds and larger fish" according to the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force.

I think they're right overall, but something is troubling me about this notion. Everything is forage for something, so why the special emphasis for sardines and their like? Big fish are forage for marine mammals, and small marine mammals (seals) are forage for bigger marine mammals (orcas). Even the great whales are "forage" for chemosynthetic tube worms after the whales die and fall to the bottom of the ocean, and depletion of whales is a problem for the ecology of chemosynthetic tube worms.

To me, it seems like we're focusing the term "forage" on the prey of fish and birds and etc. that we like the most. Sport fishers that like to catch salmon and billfish want to save the forage of their preferred catch. Bird watchers want to save the food of the birds they like. I studied chemosynthetic tube worms (and clams) as a graduate student, and I want to save the forage of these worms, so whales are my favorite "forage" animals. So to me, save the forage means make sure lots of whales die natural deaths and fall to the bottom of the ocean. Harumph.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Innovative use of twitter in a policy forum

Tweets can seem silly, like the proverbial tree falling with no one listening. So Greenpeace projected tweets with a hashtag for a tuna managment meeting on the wall near the coffee the tuna management meeting.

Think about it, YOUR WORDS from your computer projected in a live stream in front of the delegates to an international policy forum in the remote Pacific Island of Guam. I think someone is hearing these tweets as they fall!!

It helps that the twitter board has a "mesmerizing virtual aquarium" as the backdrop.

Reports are that the delegates are reading the tweets, as some emotions have been aroused.
It’s an absolute hit! It’s loved and hated, depending on whether you’re asking a tuna plunderer or a delegate who’s also fighting to save out tuna. And that’s the whole idea.

We’ve received thanks and praise from many here for giving you the chance to speak directly to them. There are encouraging countries and individuals and there are tweets chastising those who act as roadblocks to sensible reforms.

There are favourite tweets, and there are tweets that have made some delegates sweat – we’ve been asked to take some down, we’ve been asked to repeat some - usually the same tweet will draw opposite reactions depending which side of the sustainability fence you’re sitting on.

People rescuing stranded dolphins

I don't know anything about this video, but it's good to see people making an effort to do a good thing, reportedly on a beach in Brazil. When it's personal, people usually rise to the occasion.

Maybe these dolphins are sick and beached themselves again later--who knows what happened--but for these few minutes people who saw a problem pitched in and helped.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Weather extremes linked to human-caused climate change

From Nature Climate Change, a real bona fide scientific journal:
The ostensibly large number of recent extreme weather events has triggered intensive discussions, both in- and outside the scientific community, on whether they are related to global warming. Here, we review the evidence and argue that for some types of extreme — notably heatwaves, but also precipitation extremes — there is now strong evidence linking specific events or an increase in their numbers to the human influence on climate. For other types of extreme, such as storms, the available evidence is less conclusive, but based on observed trends and basic physical concepts it is nevertheless plausible to expect an increase.
Yes, it seems obvious, but now it's more than apparent. (photo: Lake Geneva ice storm this year near my home).

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Voyage to the bottom of the sea

Explorer and film-maker James Cameron just completed the first-ever solo dive to the deepest point in the ocean in the Mariana Trench.

I can imagine a bit of what this felt like, I once was privileged to dive 10,000 feet to a hydrothermal vent site off the Galapagos Islands. The Mariana Trench, hallowed water for oceanographers, is about 35,800 feet. I expect the National Geographic writeup will include an exact measurement using modern technology and stunning visuals. Stay tuned.

For now, cheers for a grand adventure and adventurer, proving that the age of heroic exploration is not over.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rock and roll aboard a ship in heavy seas

This video captures well the feeling of being on board a ship rolling strongly from side to side in big waves.

Climate change damage to ocean 2 trillion per year in 2100

A new study on valuing the ocean says that climate change of 4 degrees C will result in $2 trillion per year in damage:
without action to limit rising greenhouse gas emissions, the global average temperature could rise by 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century causing ocean acidification, sea level rise, marine pollution, species migration and more intense tropical cyclones. It would also threaten coral reefs, disrupt fisheries and deplete fish stocks.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fish swims up the butt of a sea cucumber

Talk about getting your strange on. Adult pearlfish live in a place where it's hard to hide. So these vulnerable fish hide where they can--up the butt of a handy sea cucumber. Don't believe me? Watch the video. Now you tell me there's a stranger fish in the sea.

Cross-dressing male cuttlefish sneaks past guarding male for sex

Here's an idea. In this video, a small cuttelfish mimics a female to sneak past the guard of a big male and mate with the female he's "guarding."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fishing for small fish

Fish small, not big to take pressure off threatened big reef fish like groupers and snappers. The trick is trying a new fishing technology, a bagan or fishing platform. It has lights and a net and it's designed to lure and catch smaller fish like sardines and anchovies.

Why not? It's a good way to keep eating when traditional reef fish are harder and harder to find.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Shark swallows another shark in one bite

Here's a crazy photo of a strange Wobbegong shark that swalled another shark whole. Only the tail was left hanging out of the wobbegong's mouth.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Effing oyster finds a Twitter gold mine

Effingham Inlet Oyster Farm was a typical oyster farm with good oysters and limited success. Until they lauched a cheeky Twitter account (@effingoyster) and tweeted their way to major business growth.

According to sproutinsights, a social media company:

"Thanks to creative marketing tactics like irreverent hashtags (see image above) and tweeting about hot topics like the nutritional value of oysters, the Effing Oyster Twitter handle became an instrumental tool in the development and awareness of the brand.

Before long, restaurant patrons, owners, and celebrity chefs with massive Twitter followings (like @steamykitchen below) began retweeting Tryon’s posts, uploading images of Effing Oysters, and inquiring where and how they could order these so called “effing oysters” for themselves.

Connecting with Celebrity Chefs

“Now I’m getting inquiries from places as far flung as Tulsa, Oklahoma and Milwaukee, Wisconsin and all points in between, asking about my premium oysters,” says Tryon. Not bad for an oyster-farmer tweeting from one of the most remote places in North America!"

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Sustainable salmon farming in China

Great news from China, the Holy Grail of salmon farming is becomming real. Good news so long as it doesn't replace carp as a Chinese staple.

A new salmon farm in China will grow fish in closed tanks on land, eliminating most environmental concerns about salmon farming. From a pay-only story on

"Production levels at AgriMarine Holdings' closed-containment salmon farms in China are not yet high enough to fill orders from China’s supermarket chains, but as the company sets its sites on big contracts, it is seeking further investment.

On Friday, AgriMarine doubled the size of its non-brokered private placement announced Feb. 15, from a maximum of 25 million units to a maximum of 50 million units. It is selling the units at $0.20 (€0.15) each, for total gross proceeds of up to $10 million (€7.4 million). So far, there has been strong interest from investors, AgriMarine Director Sean Wilton told *IntraFish*.

There are strong indicators that AgriMarine's salmon farming operation is poised for strong growth in China, he said."

But there's one problem. China is currently farming the right species, mostly carp, kelp and clams. These plants and herbivores have a very low ecological footprint, and switching to farming of top predators like salmon would dramatically increase the ecological foot print of China's seafood production. So growing a few salmon for Chinese consumers isn't a problem but replacing carp with salmon would be a problem.

Growing demand for salmon produced elsewhere, like Norway and Scotland, shows the value to China of farming salmon at home. Let's hope that China sticks with the traditional low-footprint seafood that currently tops the charts, and smartly produces just a few salmon for an occasional treat.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Sailfish catching sardines in slow motion

Amazing video of a group of sailfish as they dart through a school of sardines and eat them one by one until the sardines are all gone. Super slow motion shows how the sailfish hit the sardines with their bill to separate them from the school before eating them.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Dolphin gets a little too friendly

Are you sure you want to swim with dolphins? Watch out if you see an aroused male dolphin while underwater! In this video the dolphin makes some unwanted advances to first the woman and then the man.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Roadkill--sustainable meat?

Have you ever eaten roadkill? I have, and it was good. But *surprise* eating roadkill can now be a political act.

When I was a boy of about 10, I was in a car driven by my father and we hit a deer. Fortunately for us, he kept control of the car and stopped.

The deer was dead next to the road, and my father wrestled the deer into a trailer he was towing and we took the deer home. We were a hunting family, so butchering the deer was no big deal, and later we ate it. It wasn't the only time, and it was just a normal part of thrifty living in Oregon.

Now I see that it's the latest thing in sustainable meat. Rebranding thrift as sustainability, sounds good to me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Flush again, I'm thirsty

Toilet to tap water is becomming real. It's the brave new world of water shortage. Brace yourself for more jolts like this.

San Diego is now using reclaimed wastewater (after treatment) in city water supplies. It took some time for people to get over the yuck factor, but the resistence has mostly subsided. Drought and rationing did a good job of letting people know why the idea was proposed.

And it's not really that new. Forever we've been drinking water from someone else's waste stream, we all live downstream from somebody. The new approach makes it a little more direct, but also a lot more carefully treated.

It won't be long before there's no such things as "waste" water.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

China leads world in aquaculture

China grows more farmed fish than anyone else, see bizarre-looking graphic below to get a real feeling for the situation.

What does this mean? Anyone who wants to advance sustainable aquaculture needs to succeed in China. Next question, can outsiders matter in Chinese aquaculture, or will change only come from within?