Sunday, 29 August 2010

Top Fish Predators Decline in Stellwagen Bank - The Epoch Times

photo credit Jodi Hilton/Getty Images

"The Gulf of Maine Cod Project found that there has been a ‘significant decline in animal diversity and abundance’ in the Stellwagen Bank, according to the Marine Historical Ecology Final Report."

Research says that the species richness and habitat quality of Stellwagen Bank and the Gulf of Maine has been declining drastically over the past 100 years.

Stellwagen Bank is off the coast of Massachusetts and was declared a National Marine Sanctuary in 1992. It is a popular site for ecotourist activities such as whale watching.

Fingers point to overfishing, especially bottom trawling which disrupts the environment on the seafloor. Evidence in the report suggests that the effect can be reversed if the government can provide greater protection and fishermen can practice greater restraint.

Wondering if the fish you're eating is contributing to the decline? Need a reminder on which fish to buy and which fish to avoid? Educate yourself about sustainable seafood!

Full article here (The Epoch Times)

Gulf Seafood With a Side of Oil Dispersant? - National Geographic

photo credit Ali Sanderson/Expedition Blue Planet

A short article with a good quote:

""This is the safest seafood in the world. It's like flying after 9-11," remarked the Lafourche Parish President's husband over dinner with Expedition Blue Planet last Friday night. His reasoning: The catch coming into shore here is probably more thoroughly tested than anything being imported into the state."

Full article here (National Geographic)

Fin-printing will Help Track Sharks - Times Live

photo credit Alison Kock

Great white sharks, although they seem scary, really aren't that bad. As a species, they really aren't that interested in us, and most attacks can be attributed to the mistaken identity of a human for a delicious seal. As far as I'm concerned, they deserve a break.

Alison Kock seems to agree. She spends her time chasing great whites up and down the South African coast, and is working on a "fin-printing" project to help save the sharks, which are vulnerable to extinction.

"She and a worldwide team of researchers are creating a massive photo library of great white fins - each one unique, like human fingerprints - to learn more about shark movements and population size."

A computer program recognizes fins to make monitoring the shark population simpler. The photos can be used much like fingerprints to identify individuals.

Full article here (Times Live)

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Save the Whale Sharks!

photo credit PangeaSeed

Did you know that Monday, August 30th is International Whale Shark Day? And it couldn't have come at a better time, because there are two whale sharks that need your help.

In Cancun, Mexico August 30th is a day to swim with these gentle giants. Affectionately called "Dominoes" due to their spotted patterns, the sharks migrate to this area and hang out to be adored by locals and tourists alike from May to September. You can even swim with them! But only two people are allowed at a time, you must have a guide, and you must NEVER touch the animals. A proper way to experience the beauty this shark emanates. It's on my bucket list.

But back to business, Japanese (surprise) fishermen have caught not one, but TWO whale sharks, and are keeping them in a mere 50 x 50 meter net until they can profit off their sale to an aquarium. Currently no aquarium can house the huge fish, so they're sentenced to swim in circles until NOVEMBER, upon which the fishermen will give up and release them - if they're still alive. To add insult to injury, 40 divers and a glass-bottomed boat float around in the net to bring in some cash while the sharks await their fate.

"In addition, the tiny enclosure forces the shark to make a lot of sharp turns, causing it to burn off it’s energy very fast. The man-made environment can also not cater to a whale shark's special feeding requirements. In short, its inability to adapt to this captivity will drastically reduce the shark’s lifespan," says a posting from The Global Shark Initiative on Facebook (which obviously I'm suggesting that you join).

So what can you do to help? Simply send an email - and it's already been written for you! Take a moment of your time to help save one of the most beautiful creatures to ever grace the face of this planet. Follow this link to a PDF file that has both the Japanese and the English translation, respectfully calling for the release of the two sharks. Highlight, copy, paste and send it off to the address provided and know you have been a voice in saving these unfortunate individuals. Action needs to be taken now to minimize the effects of captivity!

I did it, will you?

The Global Shark Initiative on Facebook
PDF Letter Calling for the Release of the two Sharks
International Whale Shark Day in Cancun

SeaWorld Is Fined For Safety Violations Related To Trainer's Death: What It Means For Captive Orca "Lolita" - Seattle City Brights

photo credit Seattle City Brights

I've been wondering about this.

I'm sure you remember the incident at SeaWorld where orca Tilikum killed his trainer Dawn Brancheau.

SeaWorld has been fined $75,000 for safety violations investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This amounts to couch change for the famous and prosperous theme park, but still they're gonna go ahead and fight it...

"Why? Because the consequences of that finding are going to roll through the amusement park industry, affecting all the parks which display marine mammals like circus animals - and the Miami Seaquarium, where one of the Southern Resident orcas "Lolita" lives, will have to make substantial and costly improvements to her illegal and substandard conditions."

The park was fined for a bunch of little things, such as a missing railing on a stairwell, but the kicker was the "willful" violation of the trainers' safety.

"OSHA defines 'adequate protection' as a physical barrier, or any other engineering solution that gives the trainers the same level of protection as a physical barrier - in effect putting an end to whale shows that involve humans swimming with whales."

This is bad news for SeaWorld, and this is why they're fighting the OSHA findings. If the findings stand, it will bring a rapid end to the "dolphin shows" most sea park customers are used to, which is also obviously the main moneymaker.

Here's a great quote from the article:

"That means that, lacking the carnival appeal of human mastery over big animals, the amusement parks such as Seaworld and Miami Seaquarium are going to have put their money where their mouths are and present true educational shows - and any educational show will only underscore that the whales in their care have dismal lives, nothing like the wild animals they represent."

The article goes on and contains a great statement from a SeaWorld customer, which I won't paste here because I really think this one is especially worth reading in it's entirety. Please follow the link below!

Full article here (Seattle City Brights)

Britain Creates 15 New Marine Wildlife Areas - AFP

photo credit AFP

The British government designated 15 areas for marine conservation last Friday in an effort to protect "some of the most diverse species and habitats in the world."

"Today is a major step forward in helping us to achieve clean, healthy and vibrant seas where marine life can thrive,"
says Marine Environment Minister Richard Benyon.

"Fishing, dredging and other activities, including wind turbines, will be banned or restricted on the 15 sites, according to reports."

Full article here (AFP)

Friday, 27 August 2010

Greenland Begins Whale Hunt, Illegally - Mother Jones

This really just pisses me the hell off. Greenland hasn't hunted whales for 60 years, and now they suddenly need to again? Bullshit.

I'm even more pissed off that the whales that travel there will potentially be the whales I see when I go whale watching at home. What if they kill Salt?!?! I would honestly cry.

So, at the complete disaster of IWC this year (more), Greenland was granted 27 humpback whales. But if that's not enough, they've begun the hunt early - illegally. The kills were granted for aboriginal hunts only, but whale meat has been finding its way into the mainstream market. Surprise surprise.

Extremely disappointing.

Full article here (Mother Jones)

Toxic Oil Found Deep on Gulf Seafloor? - National Geographic

photo credit USF

So, we've been hearing that all the oil that was "supposed" to be on the surface has likely been pushed down to smother the seafloor thanks to dispersants like Corexit. This is bad news considering much of bottom life is at or near the base of the food chain and is sedentary, meaning creatures cannot move to a less contaminated environment.

"Tiny deep-sea creatures are showing a "strong toxic response" to hydrocarbons, an ingredient of oil, according to preliminary results released Tuesday by the University of South Florida (USF)."

Sediment samples were taken from an important ecological site near the Deepwater Horizon wellhead.

"By shining ultraviolet light on the samples, the team indirectly detected hydrocarbons in the sample that seem to have the same fluorescent fingerprints as oil from the wellhead, which was capped July 15."

The team also took healthy specimens of bacteria and phytoplankton and exposed them to water samples from the surface and from the deep. The Phytoplankton, which have a slight natural glow, showed "enormous reduction" in light upon exposure to the deep-water samples. The bacteria showed similar results when exposed to the surface samples. It is not yet clear why they show opposite reactions.

"It's possible, for example, that different species have different reactions to the toxic effects of oil and chemical dispersants,” says David Hollander, a USF chemical oceanographer.

Hollander emphasized that his team's observations are preliminary: "I hope they don't get misconstrued as scientific fact."

Full article here (National Geographic)

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Microbes Ate BP Oil Deep-Water Plume: Study - Reuters

photo credit Reuters & Hoi-Ying Holman Group/Handout

Okay, wait wait wait.

I literally JUST posted this article about how the plume is still there. Not five minutes later, someone sends me this article saying it's been magically eaten. No wonder people are so confused with the news in the Gulf.

So, this article says it's gone. Yay! Granted, it is about two months after the initial study from the other article I posted. Scientists did say the microbes are "infamous for being unpredictable."

This article says that the microbes have "degraded the hydrocarbons so efficiently that the plume is now undetectable."

Here's a weird quote:

"Another factor was the consistency of the oil that came from the Macondo wellhead: light sweet Louisiana crude, an easily digestible substance for bacteria, and it was dispersed into tiny droplets, which also makes it more biodegradable."


Finally, here's some clarification:

"These latest findings may initially seem to be at odds with a study published last Thursday in Science by researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which confirmed the existence of the oil plume and said micro-organisms did not seem to be biodegrading it very quickly.

However, Hazen and Rich Camilli of Woods Hole both said on Tuesday that the studies complement each other.

The Woods Hole team used an autonomous robot submarine and a mass spectrometer to detect the plume, but were forced to leave the area in late June, when Hurricane Alex threatened. At that time, they figured the plume was likely to remain for some time.

But that was before the well was capped in mid-July. Hazen said that within two weeks of the capping, the plume could not be detected, but there was a phenomenon called marine snow that indicated microbes had been feasting on hydrocarbons.

As of Tuesday, there was no sign of the plume, Hazen said."

Alright, that settles it. Job well done, little guys!

Full article here (Reuters)
Original article here (National Geographic)

Scientists Draw Ancient Squid using its own 150 Million-Year-Old Ink - MNN

photo credit BNPS

Things that make you go "hmm..."

"An ancient squid was so remarkably well-preserved, that scientists were able to draw a picture of it using its own 150 million-year-old ink."

This is strange, but it's also cool. It's awesome when paleontologists find super-old, super-well-preserved stuff. Squid ink wasn't on the list of things I'd assume they'd find, but it's cool nonetheless.

Not all of the ink sac remains were used, as findings like this are very rare, but the scientists "just couldn’t resist creating the drawing."

Says Dr. Phil Wilby, leader of the excavation: ""We felt that drawing the animal with [it's ink] would be the ultimate self-portrait.”

Full article here (MNN)

Giant Underwater Plume Confirmed—Gulf Oil Not Degrading - National Geographic

photo credit Cameron McIntyre/WHOI

I'm beginning to feel the "Isn't this over?" sentiment. Not just because I want to stop thinking about it - because I actually want it all to be OVER. I want all the little fishies to be happy. Unfortunately, it'll be a long time from now...

Scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have discovered a 22-mile-long, 650-foot-high pocket of oil that's been hanging out at 3,600ft for months.

"The oil plume's stability is "a little unexpected," study leader Richard Camilli, of WHOI's Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department, said at a Thursday press briefing in Washington, D.C.
"We don't have any clear indication as to why it set up at that depth.""

The oil-eating microbes everyone thought would be gobbling it up haven't been working as hard as we would all like.

"Counting on microbes to quickly clean up an oil spill is "like asking a teenager to do a chore. You tell them to do it on a Friday, to do it when it's most advantageous, and they do it on a Saturday,"" says Christopher Reddy, marine chemist at WHOI.

The oil remains.

Now for more bad news: It's on the move.

"The plume has already fanned out a considerable distance from the BP wellhead, [Ruoying] He, [physical oceanographer at North Carolina State University] noted. At the time of the survey, the plume was migrating about 4 miles (6.5 kilometers) a day southwest from the spill site, according to the study."

With all the trouble that's been focused on protecting our beaches in the aftermath of the spill, little has been devoted to protecting the deep sea and the ocean as a whole.

Says Robert Carney, biological oceanographer at Louisiana State University: "We are badly in need of new ideas."

Full article here (National Geographic)

Monday, 23 August 2010

Let's Talk about "The Bends"

This isn't really news, unless you're me. And still then, it's not so much new information as it is current events. Right now my dear boyfriend is sitting in a recompression chamber. He'll be there about six hours.

Ain't he cute?

Why? Diving accident. My accident - not his. And now he has to pay the consequences, while I sit here and scan the symptoms to make sure I'm not suffering as well. So, while I'm at it, why don't I just inform all of my readers about "The Bends?" That's a great idea.

Decompression sickness aka "the bends" happens when dissolved gasses in your blood come out upon rapid depressurization and form air bubbles in your body. Basically, when you surface too fast after breathing pressurized air under pressure (water), bad shit goes down. Think of it as opening a fresh bottle of soda too quickly. Then think of that bottle of soda being you.

Once those air bubbles get into your system, a bunch of bad stuff can happen. This can range from fatigue, skin itchiness and rash formation to shortness of breath, dizziness, joint pain – even paralysis and death. In short - not something to mess around with. Symptoms usually appear immediately (literally, or within 12 hours), but can be delayed significantly (especially if air travel follows).

The name "bends" comes from the most common symptom of experiencing joint pain (where you bend) after surfacing. Applying pressure to the joint will sometimes alleviate pain as gas is released from the area, compared to normal joint pain where applying pressure will often cause an increase in pain. Pain in the legs and arms is also common, but less so. The pain usually begins subtly, but will likely grow into a "deep dull ache."

The trouble we've been finding with diagnosing these symptoms is that many of these things can be attributed to other factors in play while scuba diving. Your skin may be itchy due to the salt water or a crappy rental wetsuit, you might have a cough due to the tank air drying out your mouth and throat, you might have a headache or abdominal pain for any old reason, and obviously you'll be exhausted because you were just scuba diving all day long. Divers Alert Network (DAN) notes that the first symptom of the bends is often denial for this very reason.

So what happened? We surfaced too quickly. I surfaced too quickly. I didn't think he would follow me as quickly as I went up, but he did. I'm fine, for whatever reason; that fact that I had no air in my lungs, that fact that I'm female, pure luck. He's sick for whatever reason; the fact that he was still breathing pressurized air, the fact that he's male...hypochondria...?

Then we got on a plane, which was stupid. I was feeling fine, but I told him please PLEASE see a doctor before you step on that plane. But no, and here we are...

You're supposed to wait at least 12 hours after diving (one dive) before flying (more time for more dives). Why? Same reason. Underwater there is more pressure on you than at sea level. If you come up too fast, you get the bubbles, remember? Now go even higher, say 32,000ft higher. Even pressurized air cabins are not at the same pressure as sea level. This makes more bubbles. The same symptoms, pain, and risks apply – but now they’re compounded.

So you've got the bends, what do you do? If your symptoms came on quickly, you will most likely be administered 100% oxygen while on your way to the nearest recompression chamber. If your symptoms came on gradually and then you got on a plane for a few hours and went to work for a week in spite of them, your girlfriend will probably make you call the damn dive clinic already and then you'll go to the hospital and jump in the recompression chamber anyway. Hope you brought a book, 'cuz you'll be in there a while.

Mild symptoms and a quick treatment have the best prognosis, but individuals vary and long-term damage is not uncommon.

So let's talk about prevention, since that's the only way to deal with this beast.

First of all, chill. Swim easily, breathe normally, relax, enjoy yourself. Don't over-exert yourself or push yourself too far. You'll use more air which means more gas will be diffused into your body. Follow your dive tables, computer and dive guide. These are the things put in place specifically for your safety. There is a danger in going too deep or staying too long. Always err on the side of caution. Individuals vary, so your body may react differently than your dive buddy's. Communicate with each other, make sure you're both okay. Use your decompression stops if you're diving deep enough to warrant them. You may want to incorporate a safety stop at 3 - 6 meters either way. Ascend slowly. Here's where my problem came in - and we're paying for it. Ascend slowly. If your equipment failed like mine did, remember to continuously breathe out upon ascent, and don't rise up faster than your bubbles. (I wasn't consciously thinking this, but it happened anyway. Maybe it's a natural reaction? Maybe my subconscious took over?) Respect your surface intervals if you're doing repetitive dives. Some gas will still be in your body even if you do everything right, so follow your dive tables and take a rest to blow off the rest of it. Try a quick nap, I find it quite lovely on a sunny boat. Wait before flying. I like to wait at least 24 hours. No worries means a pleasant flight. Smoking, being overweight and diving in cold water increases your risks - try to avoid these scenarios (although there's some really cool stuff in colder pun intended).

If you think you’re experiencing any symptoms of the bends, call the organization you dived with or your local dive clinic. Find the nearest recompression chamber, get checked out. Bring a book. Be more careful next time!

I’d like to add a personal note. This is kind of my fault. My response to failed equipment was instinctual rather than logical. I was drowning, I was scared. I made the decision to swim up and I didn’t think I would be chased so quickly. I didn’t expect to be chased at all, honestly. It was scary, and I’m still very new to diving. Everyone else I know has been on loads of dives and nothing bad has ever happened. I’ve been on six dives, and two of them have gone wrong for reasons out of my control. It’s not a very good ratio. When I got to the surface I thought that’s it – I’m done. No more diving for me, it’s not worth it. But I got new equipment, I went back down. I had a good time. I had to “get back on the horse,” so to speak. Diving is not scary in itself, but when the very thing that’s keeping you alive down there breaks, it is. So, I’m not really sure what lesson to take away from all of this. I don’t want to stop diving, but at the same time it seems like I’m having a bit of bad luck with it. I’m not sure what I would have done differently if given a second chance. I know what should have happened, but I’m not sure I had time to do anything differently.

I’d love some comments from more experienced divers on this entry. Suggestions, more info, experiences…Anything welcome.

More info on “the bends”:
Divers Alert Network (DAN)
National Association of Rescue Divers (NARD)

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Great Barrier Reef's Great-Grandmother is Unearthed - New Scientist

photo credit Naoi, Flickr & Getty

Scientists have found an ancient fossilized reef just 600 meters away from the existing Great Barrier Reef of Australia. The fossils went down as far as 110 meters into the sea floor and are up to 169,000 years old!

"The prevailing wisdom has been that the Great Barrier Reef sits atop an older, dead reef, but 110 metres beneath the live reef, the team hit rock. Corals need light to live, and [John] Pandolfi [of the University of Queensland] now thinks that when rising sea levels at the end of the last ice age threatened to put the lights out on the ancient reef, some larvae travelled to shallower waters and seeded the modern one."

Am I the only one who thinks this is unbelievably cool? I'd love to see a documentary about it.

Full article here (New Scientist)

Only Nine of 63 Whales Survive N.Zealand Stranding - AFP

photo credit AFP

Bittersweet news from New Zealand.

Sixty-three pilot whales stranded themselves at Karikari beach on Thursday. Of those, only nine made it back out to sea.

""It's been tough but we're glad nine have survived," Kimberley Mulcaster of the Project Jonah organisation said."

It's better than no survivors, but still - 54 dead whales weighs heavy on a marine biologist's heart.

Full article here (AFP)

Friday, 20 August 2010

BP Oil Spill: Barack Obama Dives into Safety Debate with Gulf of Mexico Swim - The Guardian

photo credit Reuters & Pete Souza

"As a result of the clean-up effort beaches all along the Gulf Coast are clean, they are safe and they are open for business," Obama told reporters. "That's one of the reasons Michelle, Sasha and I are here."

'Bams and the fam fam visited Florida for a special Gulf holiday this week in order to prove the Gulf states are a safe vacation spot again. The states have been suffering from a large decline in summer tourism as a result of the spill.

I'm all set with a Gulf summer vacation, but I'd like a few more of these photos.

Mmmmmm, giiiirl...
All hail the Chief. :P

Full article here (The Guardian)

Soaring Temps cause Mass Coral Killing in Indonesia: Study - Reuters

photo credit Reuters & Nila Tanzil

Just look at that photo! It's so sad!

"A dramatic spike in ocean temperatures off Indonesia's Aceh province has killed large areas of coral and scientists fear the event could be much larger than first thought and one of the worst in the region's history."

Corals are sensitive creatures, and rising sea temperatures are one of the things they don't tolerate well.

Andrew Baird, of James Cook University's ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, told Reuters that climate change could have played a role in the extreme ocean temperatures around Aceh.
"I would predict that what we're seeing in Aceh, which is extraordinary, that similar mortality rates are occurring right the way through the Andaman Sea,"
he says.

"I suspect the scale of this event is so large there is unlikely to be many healthy reefs in the rest of Aceh."

Full article here (Reuters)

Allen: 'Our First Goal is to Do No Harm' in Gulf - CNN

There are a lot of things I could say about that, but I just won't.

So, we're still working out to bottom kill, yeah? Figuring out whether we'll remove the blowout preventer and replace it with a new one, or invent a whole new thing to make the current one okay. What a mess...

"Once crews get their marching orders, it will take them about four days to prepare, drill the final 50 feet of a relief well and intercept the main well. Then, the "bottom kill" process of plugging the well from below will begin. Allen said Wednesday cementing will require another several days."

When that's done maybe I'll stop finding gray hairs on my scalp. I'm only 24, sheesh!

Gulf fishing is reopening again, which I think is okay - for now. It's been tested and apparently it's safe to eat. I wouldn't chomp down on jumbo shrimp if you're pregnant or anything, but for the rest of us I think it's proven to be fine - for now. Emphasis on "for now." The thing is, oil still remains in the ecosystem. As we just learned, it's not "mostly cleaned up" as some government officials would have you believe. So, as the oil continues to enter the food chain, the Gulf fish will need to be continually tested for contamination. I have a suspicion we will find that some time from now, the Gulf fish will not be safe to eat. But for now, okay. I'm willing to trust the government assessments on this one - for now.

This is only in the re-opened waters, mind you. Twenty-two percent of federal waters still remain closed due to possible contamination.

In other news, Wednesday was the deadline for people and businesses to submit their damage claims to BP. BP will no longer accept claims (which I think is BS, because we still don't understand the spills impact), but will direct them to Kenneth Feinberg, who is in charge of the $20 billion escrow account (which is better than nothing).

"This facility is going to be much more generous, much more efficient, and much quicker than BP," says Feinberg.

Full article here (CNN)

Gulf Oil Spill: University Study Contradicts Government Estimates, Up To 79% of Oil Could Remain - Huffington Post

photo credit Huffington Post
(I mean really, does it look like it's mostly cleaned up??)

Ahhh, back from my glorious relaxing holiday...back to thinking about the spill. I leave these thoughts at home while I'm away, but they're always there to greet me upon my return!

So remember that post I made before about how the White House energy advisor, Carol Browner, said that the oil spill was mostly cleaned up? Yeah, we knew that was a load of BS, but here's proof.

A group of scientists from the University of Georgia did a study separate from the government's assessment and found that 70-79% of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon event is still present in the ecosystem.

"The research team...said that it is a misinterpretation of data to claim that oil that has dissolved is actually gone or harmless."

"Charles Hopkinson, who helped lead the investigation, claims "the oil is still out there, and it will likely take years to completely degrade." The UGA marine sciences professor, and director of the Georgia Sea Grant, added, "We are still far from a complete understanding of what its impacts are.""

Thank you, and sheesh! Obviously we're not gonna clean up 205 million gallons of oil in 100 days. That would be great - that would be a miracle! - but it didn't happen.

To finish, here's a pretty big quote, but I think it's important:

"Whether a glass is one-quarter full or one-quarter empty isn't exactly a matter of perspective. Why the discrepancy? According to a news release from UGA:

Hopkinson notes that the reports arrive at different conclusions largely because the Sea Grant and UGA scientists estimate that the vast majority of the oil classified as dispersed, dissolved or residual is still present, whereas the NIC report has been interpreted to suggest that only the "residual" form of oil is still present.

Hopkinson said that his group also estimated how much of the oil could have evaporated, degraded or weathered as of the date of the report. Using a range of reasonable evaporation and degradation estimates, the group calculated that 70-79 percent of oil spilled into the Gulf still remains. The group showed that it was impossible for all the dissolved oil to have evaporated because only oil at the surface of the ocean can evaporate into the atmosphere and large plumes of oil are trapped in deep water."

Full article here (Huffington Post)

Saturday, 7 August 2010


photo credit Oceana & Carlos Suarez

Okay, how could I not write an entry about sharks on Shark Week? Sadly, I don't have any television services, so I haven't been able to participate in the sharky-madness, but I've been hunting around the net for some good stuff anyhow.

To get ourselves in the proper shark mood, let's check out this AWESOME commercial for something unfortunately titled "Air Jaws"...Lame name, awesome video. Seriously, just check this out.

Alright, now that we've all been sharkified, let's move into a general history of Shark Week, and why we love it.

First of all – there’s sharks. Who doesn’t love sharks? Okay, seriously.

"The idea for a week of programming about sharks arose in the late ‘80s when Steve Cheskin—now the head of programming for Discovery’s sister network TLC—blurted it out during a brainstorming meeting at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C."

No one was really hot on the idea besides Discovery founder John Hendricks. He knew the program would draw viewers to Discovery during the summer when normal programming was suspended.

"It was an immediate hit with audiences, helping grow Discovery into a company with $3.6 billion in annual revenue, and spawning sister network, Animal Planet, in 1996."

Hendricks drew cable companies to carry Discovery on the grounds that it would give a greater variety in programming and that it was popular amongst parents and community boards for its educational value. Shark Week was here to stay.

I've heard a bunch of people saying that they're a little tired of all the shark attack hype Discovery brings with their programming and that they should be more responsible with the information and the images they're showing to the public. But I’ve also heard that it's been better this year. I think this is a much needed step in the right direction. I'm sure we've all heard the figure by now that approximately 5 people are killed each year by sharks, while 100 million sharks are killed each year by people. It's not really fair of us to be showing them as the deadly predator.

So how can you help our beloved sharks? First of all, you can jump on the bandwagon cause of putting an end to the gruesome practice of shark finning - where a live shark has its fins sliced off by fishermen, only to be thrown back into the water to die in agony. I suggest writing to your Congress or other representative - it takes two seconds and it's really not as hard as people make it out to be. Additionally, you could adopt a shark from Oceana, and also make some pretty awesome cookies while you're at it. Check out this page for more ideas.

But the coolest thing I've seen in a very long time has to be this. Go on, click it. This is an auction to bid on shark experts. That's right - real people! Winners get to share an afternoon with their favourite shark expert and the money will be used to help protect our favourite cartilaginous fish. I'm going for Sylvia Earle or Eugenie Clark.

If you're just up for some good ole' sharktacular fun, you simply must check out these two games on Newgrounds:
Miami Shark
Sydney Shark

A little ridiculous, a little crazy, a little far-fetched. But we all just need one week a year to go fanatical and completely lose our minds. And that week, my friends, is Shark Week.

History of Shark Week article here (The Daily Beast)

Rare Yellow Lobster Caught in Narragansett Bay off Rhode Island - NY Daily News

photo credit AP & Ruben Perez

Look at him! He's so pretty!!

This attractive little guy knows how to stand out in a crowd - experts estimate his colour variation only occurs about once in every 30 million lobsters! This is even more rare than the beautiful blue lobsters we sometimes see.

For those of you who are wondering - no, he will not be eaten. It's not mentioned in the article, but I looked into it and this little dude is headed off to college at the University of Rhode Island, where they have an excellent marine biology program. I think his tuition has been waved.

Full article here (NY Daily News)

BP Oil Spill: Obama Administration's Scientists admit Alarm over Chemicals - The Guardian

photo credit Reuters

Scientists are finding that almost two million gallons of Corexit were used to disperse the BP spill. The trouble is that no one knows what the long term effects will be. The EPA has recently come under fire for allowing BP to use such massive quantities of dispersant in the first place, and for allowing the company to ignore their advice to cut dispersant use by 75% back in May.

Says Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat who introduced a ban-on-dispersants bill passed by the House of Representatives last week: "[The EPA] have fallen down on the job very substantially because they allowed BP to use dispersants. Even when they told BP not to use dispersants they allowed BP to ignore their advice."

According to the article, the EPA as a whole wasn't even involved in these decisions.

"Other than a few people in the united command, there is no involvement from the rest of the agency," says Jeff Ruch, the executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. He adds that several toxicologists he has spoken with were deeply concerned, particularly about where the EPA was getting their information. "The concern was the agency appeared to be flying blind and not consulting its own specialists and even the literature that was available," he says.

Reports last week suggest the dispersants have entered both the ecosystem and human food chains via blue crab larvae. But if that's not how the dispersants end up killing us - don't worry. They still will.

Full article here (The Guardian)

Thursday, 5 August 2010

BP Oil Spill Mostly Cleaned Up, says US - The Guardian

photo credit Herald Herbert & AP

What the fuck?

Can I just leave my whole review as that? 'Cuz that about sums it up. How in the hell did half-assing BP and government workers clean up 205 MILLION gallons of oil in about 100 days? Please. PLEASE! Is anyone actually buying this shit?

"The White House energy adviser, Carol Browner, said a new assessment had found that about 75% of the oil had been captured, burned off, evaporated or broken down in the Gulf."

This is ridiculous!! Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's gone, assholes. If I hide a lion in my bedroom, guess what? You can't see it, but there sure as hell is still a fucking LION in the bedroom (get in the car).

So, the static kill worked. That's great - don't get me wrong. I was very pleased to hear that news. The well has been plugged, the gushing is over. But we still have to deal with all of the oil that's still in our waters and on our shores...And no - It's not mostly gone.

Full ridiculous article here (The Guardian)

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Scientists Plumb the Depths to ask How Many Fish in the Sea - The Guardian

Did you see The Guardian yesterday? Holy shit. It caught my eye lying on a table while I was out because of the huge colour photo of a dragonfish on the front. Open up to pages 6 and 7 and there's a gorgeous colour spread of 12 photos displaying new found marine life. I was too excited to even read it for a good hour, haha. I may or may not have fished one out of the recycling to keep...

photo credit Dr. Julian Finn & The Museum of Victoria

The Census of Marine Life (CoML), a 10-year long study undertaken by over 360 scientists, was published on Monday. It estimates that there are over 230,000 species living in our oceans.

"The surveys have also highlighted major areas of concern for conservationists. "In every region, they've got the same story of a major collapse of what were usually very abundant fish stocks or crabs or crustaceans that are now only 5-10% of what they used to be," said Mark Costello of the Leigh Marine Laboratory, University of Auckland in New Zealand. "These are largely due to over-harvesting and poor management of those fisheries. That's probably the biggest and most consistent threat to marine biodiversity around the world.""

The great thing about this new abundance of information is that it will allow policy makers to make more informed decisions about where the best areas to protect will be.

"This inventory was urgently needed for two reasons," said Costello. "First, dwindling expertise in taxonomy impairs society's ability to discover and describe new species. And secondly, marine species have suffered major declines – in some cases 90% losses – because of human activities and may be heading for extinction, as happened to many species on land."

Exciting! I've been hearing about this for some time now...Glad it's finally here! I highly recommend everyone who reads this checks out these photos of some of the species discovered!!

Full article here (The Guardian)

Pictured: The Whales once dubbed the 'Devil Fish' that now want Tourists to Tickle their Tongues - The Daily Mail

photo credit Mark Carwardine & Solent

Thanks to my sister for forwarding on this gem:

"They were once referred to as 'devil fish' for the way they attacked whalers, but these enormous grey whales are now dubbed 'the friendliest in the world' as they rest their heads on boats and demand to be tickled."


I really don't know what to say about this. On the one hand I disagree with following around wild animals trying to pet them, but on the other hand this is AWESOME. Apparently they like it. According to the article and the fishermen in the area, if you don't pet them, they get upset! They swim around until they find someone who will!

"It is very much like a dog sitting at your feet near the fire...I would never normally agree with touching wildlife but these whales demand to be touched - they really enjoy it and come to you," says zoologist and television presenter Mark Carwardine.

I might have to get in on this. You know, for the whales. Not for me or anything...

Full article here (The Daily Mail)

Sharks, Blue-Fin Tuna and Overfished Oceans - The New Yorker

"The sorry state of ocean life has led to a new kind of fish story—a lament not for the one that got away but for the countless others that didn’t. In “Saved by the Sea: A Love Story with Fish,” David Helvarg notes that each year sharks kill some five to eight humans worldwide; meanwhile we kill a hundred million of them. Dean Bavington, the author of “Managed Annihilation: An Unnatural History of the Newfoundland Cod Collapse,” observes that two hundred billion pounds’ worth of cod were taken from Canada’s Grand Banks before 1992, when the cod simply ran out. In “Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food,” Paul Greenberg estimates that somewhere in the range of a hundred million salmon larvae used to hatch in the Connecticut River each year. Now the number’s a lot easier to pin down: it’s zero. “The broad, complex genetic potential of the Connecticut River salmon,” Greenberg writes, has “vanished from the face of the earth.”"

Full article here (The New Yorker)

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Fears for Galapagos' Unique Wildlife as Islands Lose Protected Status - New Zealand Herald

photo credit New Zealand Herald via Jim Eagles

"A panel of politicians has voted to remove the Galapagos Islands from the UN's list of World Heritage Sites in danger - in spite of a firm recommendation from scientists and officials who visited the islands that they should keep their status."

This is worrisome. The Galapagos Islands have been seeing a lot of changes in recent years. A growing population, increased tourism, invasive species and climate change to name a few. Scientists and conservationist strongly disagree with the panel's decision to remove the islands from the danger list.

Says Toni Darton, director of Britain's Galapagos Conservation Trust: "We are very concerned by this decision and its implications. It is premature. It suggests the islands are out of danger and they are not. They are still in danger, absolutely."

The Galapagos is special because of its unique life, isolated and evolved over many thousands of years. Many species on the islands can be found nowhere else in the world. It is also the site that got Charles Darwin's brain thinking about natural selection.

Full article here (New Zealand Herald)

Signs of Oil Spill Recovery entering New Phase - Washington Post

Did I say I liked Bo? Goddamn I should just stop giving my opinions here. Bo thinks the cleanup efforts in the Gulf need a "scaleback."

"Dudley said it's "not too soon for a scaleback" in the cleanup, and in areas where there is no oil, "you probably don't need to see people in hazmat suits on the beach.""

You're right, let's get those cleanup workers out of there because their clothes are ugly. No one wants to see that, sheesh. But honestly, why have they sent hazmat to areas with no oil? Either there really is oil, or they're fucking around with their money.

"He added, however, that there is "no pullback" in BP's commitment to clean up the spill."

Skeptical. But okay.

People have been thinking that since the oil is degrading away from the surface, the problem is ending. Sorry, wrong.

"Diluted and out of sight does not mean benign,"says NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco.

Commercial fishing in Louisiana has been re-opened, but the fishermen there are far from jumping for joy.

"Rusty Graybill, a boat captain from Yscloskey, La., who fishes for crab, oysters and shrimp, said "It's a joke. I'm pretty sure I'll go out and I'll get oil-covered shrimp. They capped this well and now they're trying to say it's OK."

Full article here (Washington Post)

Monday, 2 August 2010

Gulf Oil Spill 100 Days Later: The Most Dramatic Photos - Huffington Post

photo credit Huffington Post via AP Photo & Patrick Semansky

The Huffington Post has compiled a slideshow of 100 images that capture the devastation of the BP Gulf oil spill. Yes, they're all sad, but they're a sobering reminder of our reality, and they’re worth a look.

Full article here (Huffington Post)

Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Next Threat: Jellyfish and the State of Our Oceans - Gather

photo credit Gather

Would you believe an assemblage of cute little jellyfish could wipe out an entire city in the blink of an eye?

"The next threat to a nuclear power plant is not likely to come from a terrorist, but instead a jellyfish...The equivalent of 50 truck loads of jellyfish had been swept into the cooling portion of a major power plant, causing a total loss of power."

Overheating nuclear plants? But Squishy...I thought you loved me...

image credit Disney/Pixar (obviously)

"In the words of Abigail Tucker, writing for the Smithsonian Magazine‘s 40th Anniversary issue, “jellyfish just might be avengers from the deep, repaying all the insults we’ve heaped on the world’s oceans.”"

Full article here (Gather)

Kill The Lionfish -

photo credit NOAA

A month or so back I got a request on my Twitter account from someone who really hated lionfish. As a person who actually adores lionfish in all their beauty, I was skeptical that I would like what this person had to say. But curiosity prevailed, and I followed.

Some minorly offensive links at first, about how we should kill every lionfish we see (and eat it, which I guess makes it not as bad), but then I actually clicked, and here's what I found:

For those of you unfamiliar, the lionfish is a beautiful but venomous fish that's recently been butting in on reef habitats worldwide. They've even crept into the waters off my home in New England, though I haven't seen one there personally. They belong in the waters of the Indo-Pacific, but have been introduced in other parts of the world - most likely from careless home aquarists who were ignorant of what they'd just started. Lionfish are a problem because they gobble up juvenile reef fish before they can re-produce and re-stock the environment, putting a huge dent in normal reef fish populations.

So, KillTheLionfish has come up with a solution - "Catch, kill, eat, repeat." Interesting. I can't say that when I've come across one of these fish while snorkeling or diving I've thought to myself “Hey, that looks delicious.” But maybe this isn't such a bad idea...

Head on over to GreenJungle for an article about just this. Described as the "most disastrous marine invasion in history," the scary thing is that no one really knows the full-scale impact of this invasive species yet. They produce many offspring and those offspring are hungry. They're gonna eat whatever they find, and with those huge venomous spikes hanging off of them in every angle, they're not going to be bothered by anyone or anything in the process. That's the problem.

The solution? Dinner. The GreenJungle article has a very good point: "Conservation is most effectively driven by consumers via responsible commercial markets."

"Project Green Jungle is at the forefront with a select few individuals, organizations, and even governments in the commercial collection, preparation, and shipping of this gourmet fish. Commercial Markets in the US and abroad will be directly funding conservation of reefs throughout the Caribbean..."

Even NOAA's jumped onboard! With the catchy tagline "If we can't beat them, let's eat them!"

Honestly this is all very surprising to me, but it makes sense. A delicious overpopulated fish destroying reef habitat worldwide? Why not? Hey, I'll try anything once.

For more information, be sure to follow @KillTheLionfish on Twitter!

Full articles here:
What is a Lionfish? (GreenJungle)
What Impact does a Lionfish Have? (GreenJungle) (Cool graphic of the spread of lionfish here)
Filleting the Lion (NOAA)

Michigan Governor Warns of Oil Spill Threat - NY Times

photo credit NY Times via Andre J. Jackson/Detroit Free Press, via Associated Press

The pipeline is closed, but more than 800,000 gallons of oil have already spilled into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The pipeline belongs to Enbridge, a Canadian company.

"On the river on Wednesday, Dan Backus arrived at his favorite fishing spot and found black water and oil-soaked plants. Looking out at the damage from the spill, he mourned the loss of fish and vegetation. “It’s all destroyed,” said Mr. Backus, 64. “I’m just sick about it.”"

Environmental groups and citizens in the area are questioning Enbridge's response and clean up efforts. It took the company several hours to report the leak in the first place, and oil has traveled farther downstream than originally thought. Some residents along the river have been evacuated to hotels due to the fumes.

Workers are fighting to stop the oil before it reaches Lake Michigan, where thousands of people get their water.

Full article here (NY Times)