Saturday, 30 October 2010

New Mackerel Talks - Sheltand Marine News

photo credit Shetland Marine News
It is a really pretty fish though, isn't it?

"Politicians and fishing industry leaders will gather in London on Wednesday for a second round in the protracted mackerel fisheries talks between the EU, Norway, Iceland and Faroe."

I've mentioned the "Mackerel Wars" here before. A solution is currently being sought.

Basically both Iceland and the Faroe Islands significantly increased their catch quotas this year despite worldwide dwindling fish stocks. The EU is concerned about overfishing...Or is it that Scotland wants to continue to have the majority of the fish?

One thing's for sure:

"It is essential that any deal reached must ensure that mackerel is harvested at sustainable levels whilst at the same time protecting the rights of those who have traditionally fished for the species in the north-east Atlantic."

I totally agree. But let's please remember the sustainable part as well as the traditions!!

Full article here (Sheltand Marine News)

Thursday, 28 October 2010

First Census of Marine Life Shows Ocean Life Is Richer, More Connected, More Altered Than Expected - Science Daily

photo credit Russ Hopcroft & COML

The Census of Marine Life (COML) has been a joint effort between 2,700 scientists from 80 countries over the course of ten years. Not your Bio 101 lab report - that's for damn sure. Recently the findings of this enormous project have been published...So what did they find?

"Patricia Miloslavich of Venezuela, Co-senior Scientist: 'Before the Census, we lacked even a simple list of known marine species. Information was scattered all over the world with limited access. If we liken Earth to a firm with humankind as CEO, we must surely know the key employees and their functions.'"

Key employees aka species were entered into the Ocean Biogeographic Information System, or OBIS. This system keeps record of new and old species, where they are found and can provide a baseline to help monitor 21st century changes brought on by human activity.

Says Victor Gallardo of Chile, Vice-Chair of the Scientific Steering Committee: "A human Census is used for many practical purposes, like government allocations of seats in a legislature, or funds for education and health care. Likewise this ocean life inventory constitutes a true Census that can guide conservation."

Full article here (Science Daily)

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

World Cup Prognosticator, Paul the Octopus, Dies - The Globe and Mail

photo credit Sea Life Oberhausen

My friends, this is a sad day - and this will be the only update for today. I'm posting it immediately after I found out...Paul the psychic octopus has passed.

Paul rose to worldwide fame this year as he correctly predicted the outcome of several World Cup games. He chose the winners of all seven of his home country's games (Germany) and of the final game between Spain and the Netherlands.

After the last of the World Cup predictions, Paul retired.

“He won't give any more oracle predictions — either in football, nor in politics, lifestyle or economy,” said Tanja Munzig of the Oberhausen Sea Life Aquarium. “Paul will get back to his former job, namely making children laugh.”

Paul appeared healthy upon his check in last night, but this morning he was found to have died of natural causes. Paul was two-and-a-half years old - a long life for an octopus of his variety.

“'We had all naturally grown very fond of him and he will be sorely missed,' Sea Life manager Stefan Porwoll said in a statement."

It is still uncertain how Paul will be remembered at the aquarium, but his ledgend won't soon be forgotten. Having been hatched in England and therefore of English origin, he was appointed as an ambassador to England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

"'El Pulpo Paul' became so popular in Spain that the northwestern Spanish town of O Carballino tried to borrow him and made him an 'honorary friend.'"

Donations made in Paul's name will also help fund a sea turtle rescue facility on the Greek island of Zakynthos.

Rest in peace, Paul.

Full article here (The Globe and Mail)

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Hidden Beauty of Plankton: Incredible Microscopic Sea Creatures Caught on Camera - Daily Mail

photo credit Dr. Kirby &

In my absence from the blogosphere, something wonderful was posted on the normally trashy (but still entertaining) Daily Mail. Don't get me wrong - I love me some Daily Mail, and I've posted articles from there onto here before - but really...It's posted alongside "Natalie Portman Falls Out with Daddy over Naked Scenes" and the latest Russell Brand/Katy Perry nonsense. Not really your source for top scientific news...but still - LOOK AT THIS ARTICLE!!!

Really, it's fascinating. I love algae. Yeah, I'm one of those weird ones who enjoys watching pond scum bloom (well, ocean scum really). I held a job where I had to grow algae, and I spent a lot of time admiring the pretty colors. But this is more than just algae; we've got some little beasties too!

These amazing images are of microscopic plankton photographed by Dr. Richard Kirby for his new coffee-table book Ocean Drifters; A Secret World Beneath the Waves.

"Dr Kirby says the importance of plankton is not widely understood and he hopes his book will spread their appeal."

Take a look at these images - they are truly beautiful and give us a peek at the microscopic world in the waves.

Full article here (Daily Mail)

Flash Mob Descends on Causeway Bay Times Square - CNN

photo credit Pictures by the Wayside

Why? To raise awareness about the exploitation of sharks for shark fin soup!

Demand for the well-known Asian dish has been putting an enormous amount of pressure on sharks of all kinds - especially recently with population numbers lower than ever.

You can catch up on what exactly shark finning is here.

Recently a lot of public attention has been brought to the cruelty and wastefulness of shark finning, making the dish less and less popular in the public eye.

Check out the video from the Hong Kong flash mob in the link. It raises awareness while delivering a healthy dose of frozen people, shark costumes and butt-pinching.

Full article here (CNN)

Saturday, 23 October 2010

First Genetic Evidence for Loss of Teeth in the Common Ancestor of Baleen Whales - Science Daily

First I'd like to apologise for not being around so much. Real life has gotten hectic. Anyway.

I'm assuming all my readers know the difference between a toothed whale like an orca and a baleen whale like a humpback. If not, there's your homework assignment.

When and why did these two groups of whales form? Well, we have a glimpse of that now.

Fossils and morphological evidence has suggested that the groups diverged about 25 million years ago, but there was no genetic evidence to support this.

"Now biologists at the University of California, Riverside provide the first genetic evidence for the loss of mineralized teeth in the common ancestor of baleen whales."

What's more is that the genetic evidence lines up perfectly with the existing fossil evidence.

"We show that the genetic toolkit for enamel production was inactivated in the common ancestor of baleen whales," said Mark Springer, a professor of biology, who led the research. "The loss of teeth in baleen whales marks an important transition in the evolutionary history of mammals, with the origin of baleen laying the foundation for the evolution of the largest animals on Earth."

Baleen whales are able to grow much larger because of their feeding habits. Think of it like this: A dolphin eats fish which it has to individually capture. A massive blue whale, on the other hand, does not have enough hours in the day to spend individually capturing tiny fish. It is much more efficient for a large whale to move down the food chain to the base where more and more biomass is available. Keep in mind the amounts of animals in each tropic level: There are many many more planktonic species available because they feed all the small fish, which in turn feed all the medium-sized fish, which in turn feed all the larger fish, and so on and so on until we get up to whales. In each level upwards there are less and less animals that can rely on the food source beneath them. For example, we have far fewer sharks than minnows (ignoring for the moment the gross and tragic exploitation of sharks).

"Next, the researchers plan to piece together the complete evolutionary history of a variety of different tooth genes in baleen whales to provide an integrated record of the macroevolutionary transition from ancestral baleen whales that captured individual prey items with their teeth to present-day behemoths that entrap entire schools of minute prey with their toothless jaws."

Full article here (Science Daily)

Monday, 18 October 2010

Dentists Discover Secret of Narwhal's Tusk - CBC News

photo credit National Institute of Standards and Technology & Wikipedia

For a long time, we weren't really quite sure what the narwhal's tusk - actually a modified tooth - was for. People have guessed things from mating rituals between rival males to spearing fish for dinner, but now we could possibly be looking at the real answer.

Researchers in the US are saying the 1.5-metre-long tusk is actually a "sensory probe" filled with 10 million nerve connections that can be used to sense changes in water temperature and detect if a prey fish has recently been in the area.

"And when Narwhals display "tusking" behaviour, or rub tusks, they're likely experiencing a unique sensation, say scientists. The researchers say there is no other animal with a comparable ability in nature, and certainly no comparable tooth with that kind of functional adaptation."

Very different, very interesting!

Full article here (CBC News)

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Local False Killer Whales Particularly Vulnerable - Maui News

photo credit Dan McSweeny & The Wild Whale Research Foundation

False killer whales actually look nothing like true killer whales. They are smaller, about 15 - 20 feet, and are a plain black. A bit strange looking, but attractive nonetheless. The insular Hawaiian population is of a particular concern - at risk of going extinct within just three generations, or 75 years. Only around 150 animals remain.

Their numbers have probably been decreasing due to certain human-like habits they listen up. They prefer to eat "top predator" fish - tuna, swordfish, mahimahi...which are loaded with toxins traveling and accumulating up the food chain. That and, oh...we're eating all those fish.

Additional factors include bycatch and entanglements from fishing gear, as well as increased anthropogenic development and noise pollution.

False killer whales are social animals. Recently, researcher Dan McSweeny was honored enough to be included in their meal-sharing ritual...which I think might just be the coolest thing ever.

These animals travel and hunt in groups, and when a member of the pod makes a catch, he or she will pass it around and share with the entire group.

"Some just pass the fish on, others take a small bite first, until eventually the prey animal is returned to the hunter who killed it. McSweeney was startled to be included in the exchange. The whale, which was about six feet away, shoved "a chewed-up chunk of ahi in my chest"; then swam below and behind McSweeney, blowing bubbles that rose around his swim fins."

Seriously, how cute is that?!

Full article here (Maui News)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Dolphins Save Man from Shark - Animal Tales

A pod of dolphins kept a group of swimmers safe off the coast of New Zealand about three weeks ago. The people involved had originally decided to keep the story to themselves until they could confirm what they had seen, but have now come out with the details.

A Lifeguard training session was taking place about 100 metres offshore when a pod of dolphins began herding them into a tight circle. When some of the swimmers tried to move away they were herded right back. They had no idea why the dolphins were exhibiting such unusual behaviour, until a three metre great white shark swam by!

"Auckland University marine mammal research scientist Doctor Rochelle Constantine said dolphins were normally vigilant in the presence of sharks. The altruistic response of the dolphins was normal, she said. 'They like to help the helpless.'"

Full article here (Animal Tales)

Monday, 11 October 2010

'Jellyfish' Smoothies offer Solar Solutions - CNN

photo credit AFP & Getty Images

Throw a bunch of glow-in-the-dark jellyfish into a blender and what do you get? A mess! Well, that...and miniature fuel cells.

"Zackary Chiragwandi at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden told CNN he has developed a method of generating power at a nano-level by administration a droplet of jellyfish-type GFP onto aluminum electrodes and exposing it to ultraviolet light."

This method is a lot easier and cheaper than existing methods like Gratzel cells that try to mimic plant photosynthesis. They're also much more efficient.

This technology has the potential to be used in solar panels as well as in medicine. The small-scale power cells could actually exists and run themselves inside the body, diagnosing or treating disease.

The article also goes on to mention developments in the technology of generating power from algae.

Cool stuff!

Full article here (CNN)

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Video: 5-Foot Penguin Fossil Discovered - National Geographic

image credit University of Texas at Austin video
(National Geographic)

Scientists in Peru have discovered a five-foot-tall, 36-million-year-old penguin fossil.

Can I say again that it was five feet tall? That's just about as awesome as the giant sloth.

Upon recovering a bit of a feather, they were able to determine that these were not your typical black-and-white tuxedo penguins, but they were rusty-red and gray. And five feet tall. Did I mention that? Additional discoveries from this fossil suggest that the evolution that took place to create our modern-day penguins actually took place early-on. Except for the part about being five feet tall.

Video here (National Geographic)

U.S. Establishes New Offshore Guidelines - Calgary Herald

Change is good, but some things will not be changed - like the current moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling. And that's good too.

"There will always be risks associated with deepwater drilling, but we will only lift the suspensions when I am comfortable that we have significantly reduced those risks," U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.

Even still, the moratorium is due to end next month...and they're trying to end it even earlier. So...I guess we're not really accomplishing anything. The report on the investigation into the cause of the Deepwater Horizon disaster isn't due until December. Personally, I think they should wait to lift the moratorium until then. Doesn't that make more sense? That's probably why they aren't doing it.

Canada's watching the States. They're also working on updating their offshore drilling regulations - particularly in the arctic. A tropical blowout doesn't really apply to drilling in frozen oceans, but Canada's team will be keeping an eye on the developments.

Full article here (Calgary Herald)

Monday, 4 October 2010

Dolphin Species Attempt 'Common Language' - BBC

photo credit L. May-Collado

At first I thought this was really exciting and cute, but once I realized the dolphins were actually trying to beat each other up...not so much.

Nevertheless, two separate dolphin species in Costa Rica have been heard attempting to communicate with each other. Bottlenose and Guyana dolphins each make their own distinct sounds and could be said to have their own "languages" - though the extent of their communication abilities is not yet known. As the two dolphin populations come together in Costa Rican waters, they alter their languages and can be heard making noises halfway between one dialect and the other.

"I was surprised by these findings, as I was expecting both species to emphasise, perhaps exaggerate, their species-specific signals," Dr May-Collado told the BBC. "Instead the signals recorded during these encounters became more homogenous. "This was a very exciting discovery."

It's unclear exactly why this is happening - or even if both species are involved. It could just be one species or the other trying to alter their language in order to get a message across. Interactions are usually confrontational, so it's possible that one species is trying to frighten away the other by mimicking their dialect.

Full article here (BBC)

Mexico Expected to Sue BP Over Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico - AOL News

Good. I was wondering when this was gonna happen.

"Three Mexican states, Veracruz, Tamaulipas and Quintana Roo, have already filed claims against BP, citing a similar list of grievances as their American counterparts: damages to fishing and tourism. Now the federal government may be joining that list, at least to reclaim the $35 million that it has spent monitoring the oil, the last remnants of which could hit Mexican shores this month."

Mexico probably knows what it's doing, too. The Ixtoc 1 spill leaked oil onto American shores and caused an international lawsuit in 1979. Mexico, however, claimed sovereign immunity and refused to pay. We'll see how it goes the opposite way.

Full article here (AOL News)

Sushi Restaurant Pulls Bluefin Tuna from the Menu - News Now (I-Team 8)

photo credit News Now

"Chef Oscar Toro wants his diners to try new things, not just for their own enjoyment, but for the good of the planet. His employer, the wildly popular Sushi Samba restaurant at Palazzo, has just taken one of its most popular, and most expensive, dishes off the menu."

That would be the bluefin tuna. Beloved by those still unaware of its critically endangered status, bluefin tuna stocks are plummeting thanks in part to the popularity of its sushi.

Sushi Samba instead serves fish species that are both delicious and abundant, making it a win-win situation for people and fish. The response has been "overwhelmingly positive!"

The declining stocks have been widely attributed to stubborn Japanese fishermen profiting greatly from the bluefin's exploitation.

Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society commented "I do know one thing...If the fish disappear and the oceans die, then we die. That's a message that might sound radical but it's a truism."

A final quote from the article:
"The Japanese fishing industry has told American authorities that we have no right to tell their culture what they can or can't eat. The American view is that the oceans belong to everyone, not just to the Japanese, and that eating a species into extinction is greedy and stupid."

Full article here (News Now)

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Warning System keeps Ships, Right Whales Apart - Boston Herald

photo credit Cape Cod Times

A fancy new computer will tell you the approximate location of endangered right whales off the coast of Provincetown, Massachusetts. They congregate near Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, where unfortunately major industrial shipping lanes have cut through. Ship strikes are a problem for right whales, and with their numbers still not recovered from the days of whaling, this means trouble.

"The new warning system is the first in the world to show, in real time, the general presence of endangered whales as well as ships in one of the mammals’ most populous gathering spots."

Lanes have recently been shifted to avoid collisions, but a new threat looms. Liquid natural gas ships - among the largest and fastest vessels of all - have begun to take over the area thanks to Excelerate Energy and Suez Energy. Hopefully the new computerized warning system will prove effective in providing the needed information to slow down and avoid whale strikes.

Full article here (Boston Herald)

Dolphin ‘Massacre’ Protested - Copenhagen Post

photo credit Copenhagen Post

The Danish Faroe Islands are home to an ancient cultural ritual where pilot whales (actually dolphins) are chased from the sea and gutted on the shores. It used to be that the meat was needed to feed the small civilization, but today the bloody and disemboweled corpses lay lifeless on the beach for nothing but "cultural pride."

Friday in Paris, France in front of the Danish Embassy, dozens of protesters gathered to demonstrate their disapproval.

"The annual hunt is renowned as a bloody spectacle in which scores of whales are driven towards shallow water where they become beached and slaughtered."

Additionally, a letter is being sent to Queen Margrethe urging that the hunt be stopped.

Full article here (Copenhagen Post)

BP sees no 'Gross Negligence' in Gulf Oil Spill: New Chief - AFP


If the US Justice Department finds that BP is guilty of "gross negligence," fines the company has to pay would be dramatically increased. BP isn't worried. Now, is this because they truly believe they took all necessary precautions? Or is it because they slipped a bit of money into a few pockets when no one was looking? Just asking...

BP is currently working on changing their safety regulations.

""I wouldn't describe it as an admission of anything," Bob Dudley said in an interview posted on the newspaper's website."

Mmmkay. Whatever you say, boss.

Full article here (AFP via Google)

Kate Walsh’s Gaga-Inspired Sustainable Sushi Dress Auctioned Off For Oceana - Ecorazzi

photo credit NBC & Ecorazzi

Whut? Mmmkay, moment I wish I had a TV.

So I just heard about this sushi dress Kate Walsh wore on Leno. Inspired by Lady Gaga's disgusting-yet-creative meat dress, Kate Walsh decided to create a sushi dress. Worth pointing out - this was all fake sushi. No real fish on this dress, a wise choice if you ask me.

The dress featured only sustainable fish types and was designed to help raise awareness about choosing sustainable seafood. It is now being passed on to a fan as part of a sweepstakes for Oceana.

What do you think? Crazy idea or great way to raise awareness? Or both? Personally, I think this would make a great Halloween costume!

Full article here (Ecorazzi)
PS- Check out the latest sustainable seafood guide linked in this article! It offers sustainable suggestions based on the type of flavour and texture you already like in fish. (National Smart Seafood Guide produced by Food & Water Watch)

Friday, 1 October 2010

Brussels Doesn't Rule Out Closing Bluefin Tuna Fisheries - Fish Information & Services (FIS)

Some hope for tuna and finally some common sense from fisheries officials.

Maria Damanaki, Commissioner of Fisheries for the European Union, says if scientists advise a full closure it just might happen.

"If the report [by the specialists] says that we must reduce the quota, we will. I am ready to close the fisheries."

The CITES meeting earlier this year was a complete failure in protecting declining stocks of tuna, but the upcoming meeting in November looks hopeful.

Full article here (FIS)

Ten Things Kids Want Us to Know About Trash in the Ocean - Ocean Conservancy

image credit Isiah & Ocean Conservancy

"I was heartbroken. Pollution is ruining the beauty of beaches around the world," says Jocelyn, a fourth-grader who participated in New York City's leg of the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup.

Students headed to their local beaches to collect garbage and record the items they found. Here's a bit of what they had to say:

"Some things that are making all these things go on beaches are that people throw things into lakes, rivers and oceans, and those things travel around the world and end up on shores and on beaches." -Juliet

"On Plumb Beach I saw two cigarette liters. You might think that's not so bad but they still had oil in them." -Karin

"I don't want to sound like I'm bossing people around but you guys have got to step up and get tough about this stuff." -Jack

The children sent in their findings to the Ocean Conservancy along with a few suggestions they had about reducing the amount of trash that ends up on our beaches.

Completely adorable. If fourth-graders can go out and actually do something about the problem, why can't adults?

Full article here (Ocean Conservancy)

Panel Wants BP Fines to Pay for Gulf Restoration - NY Times

What else was it going to pay for, sheesh? Fines for environmental degradation should pay to restore the environment? What a novel idea!

"In a report to be presented Tuesday in New Orleans, Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary and a former Mississippi governor, will urge Congress to create a Gulf Coast Recovery Fund to oversee the restoration efforts."

Crap, that doesn't already exist? Because I'm pretty sure I gave them $30.

Seriously though, I'm pretty shocked this hasn't come into being sooner. I guess I just assumed that it had, I guess I just assumed that the money paid by the fines would go back into restoring the affected areas...but I guess not.

“The gulf took the risk and the gulf took the damage and the money should be dedicated to going back there,” Mabus said.

This part I thought was interesting:
"The [Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force] will begin the longer-term tasks that the recovery fund is intended to address, with a particular emphasis on public health concerns, including many cases of stress and depression brought on by one of the worst environmental disasters in American history."

Obviously I've been focusing on the environmental impact of the spill - as we should. But I hadn't given much thought to the depression the people in the Gulf states must be feeling. Honestly, I'm depressed about it over here in London, thousands of miles away. I've never even been to the affected areas. I simply can't imagine what it must be like for those people. If it were my home, I'd just fall to pieces.

Here's a dick move if I ever saw one:
"BP has pledged as much as $20 billion to compensate those who lost their property or livelihoods as a result of the spill, but has not committed to gulf restoration projects that go beyond the immediate impact of the spill. Company executives said recently that their willingness to contribute to such work would depend on their continued access to oil and gas beneath the gulf waters."

Oh, okay. They'll help out, as long as they can continue to go after the oil that caused all these problems in the first place. Obviously, they still don't give a shit. Seriously, what happened to common human decency? Why is money the driving force of all things now? Didn't cutting costs and cutting corners lead to the blowout...Twice?

Full article here (NY Times)