Anyone headed to the Italian Mediterranean for a day of surf and sun, take note: Staking a spot with a beach towel or umbrella could cost you more than your trans-Atlantic flight.
In an effort to guarantee a peaceful sea-going experience for all holidaymakers, Italian officials are now sticking so-called "beach hogs" with a 1,000 fine for illegally (and allegedly) occupying public space.
Beach hog is the Italian phrase for scouts who "bag space" on the beaches in the wee hours of the morning by implanting umbrellas and spreading towels so their parties may later stretch out along the water.
Actual humans, who come to the beach in the godly morning hours, are aced out by rainbow-colored terrycloth and nylon that beach hogs planted and abandoned.
A 1,000 fine seems a bit outlandish, but then again we likely wouldn't have this problem to begin with if we stopped building hotels and swanky developments on top of the sand.
Sea turtles need the sand to lay eggs; sea people need the sand to lay out. Hey urban developers, a little foresight and a touch of consideration would be nice.
Ah, the mysteries of the sea. I've been using this pet phrase a lot lately, what with the recent Ranger discovery of a carnivorous sponge off the coast of Spain, not to mention the carcass of a giant squid that washed up on a remote Aussie shore a few weeks back.
With oceans so vast and still so uncharted, one can never tell what will wash up next.
So somehow I wasn't surprised to hear an 8-foot-tall Lego man was pulled from the surf and placed on the sands of a Dutch beach. No one knows where he came from or where he was going, but the smiling, yellow-faced plastic man (similar to the one pictured here, but bigger) is resting easy after his big adventure on the high seas.
In an effort to coax shier sharks to mate, scientists in Germany have begun an experiment in which they pump music into the shark aquarium for two hours a day with hopes it will boost low libidos.
Music by Justin Timberlake, Salt 'n' Pepper and Britney Spears were all sampled. (As it turns out, the fallen pop-princess Spears had a reverse effect on sharks, much like she does among humans.)
Rumor has it scientists may consider introducing dimmer lighting and red wine into the equation if the initial plan doesn't work. OK so maybe that last bit isn't true at all, and apparently the music is working. Fifty eggs were discovered after the four-week trial.
Authorities will consider pursuing federal charges against the California man who allegedly stabbed a sea lion after the animal ate the bait from his fishing pole.
Good. I hope they throw the book at him.
I mean really, who stabs a sea lion in the first place? And all because the sea lion was looking for a snack and found it dangling off the end of a stick?
For those who think they can't make a change in the condition of our oceans by holding their breath, talk to world champion breath-hold diver Martin Stepanek and his teammate Niki Roderick.
The two have partnered with Oceana as they prepare for separate world record freediving attempts at the Sony Free competition going on this week in Egypt.
As divers, both have witnessed the effects of bottom trawling on coral reefs and its impact on marine wildlife, and they're hoping to use their notoriety in the dive world to show the landlubbers and ocean lovers alike that there's a whole other world below the surface that needs our help.
The ketch catamaran's remote operating vehicle recorded images of whales, sea turtles, swordfish, sunfish, eels, corals and even a little-known species called the sharpnose sevengill shark.
Thankfully, this pelagic hotspot is so coarse and rocky that it's nearly impossible for bottom trawlers to dredge up. Not completely untouched, though, Oceana crew also detected garbage and abandoned fishing tackle.
Here's a list of common shark myths and the truth behind 'em, courtesy of our marine wildlife scientist and the rest of the crew in the science department. ...
1. Myth: Sharks are hungry, man eaters looking for any chance to attack.
Fact: Sharks have no desire to eat humans. Most of the "attacks" on humans are a mistake, which is why there are so many more bites than fatalities. There are around 350 species of sharks but white, tiger and bull sharks are the species responsible for the majority of all attacks.
2. Myth: Sharks are all the same.
Fact: The reality is just the opposite. Shark species are very different in size, appearance, habitat, diet and behavior. The typical "Jaws" vision is far from the norm.
3. Myth: All sharks are voracious predators.
Fact: Whale sharks (the largest shark species), basking and megamouth sharks are all filter feeders that consume a diet primarily of phytoplankton and krill.
4. Myth: Sharks are useless and we would be better off without them.
Fact: Sharks are important to the health of ocean ecosystems. As the top predators, sharks keep the food web in balance.
5. Myth: If a shark attack has not occurred, it means they do not live in that area.
Fact: Sharks inhabit all of the world's oceans, from inshore coastal waters to the open deep-blue sea, and some can even be found in freshwater rivers and lakes.
6. Myth: Sharks have walnut-sized brains.
Fact: Shark species have big complex brains, especially the large active predatory sharks.
7. Myth: Sharks have poor vision.
Fact: A shark's vision is better than humans and their night vision is even better than cats. Their vision is designed to detect contrast and color.
8. Myth: Sharks are fast swimmers.
Fact: Sharks are capable of having bursts of speed, but most of the larger sharks cruise between 1.5 to 5 mph.
9. Myth: Sharks will eat anything.
Fact: While some sharks will eat anything, including garbage, most species are much pickier about their diet. Fish, crabs, squid, sting rays, other sharks and plankton make up the majority of a shark's diet, which also depends on the type of teeth they have.
10. Myth: Sharks have no predators.
Fact: The greatest threat to sharks is HUMANS. We are disrupting the ocean ecosystem by killing too many sharks.
And in case you didn't know, now you know: Tune into Shark Week on Discovery Channel all this week!
Unless you've lived under a rock for the last year or so, you're probably quite aware of the increasing green presence in Hollywood, and I'm not talking money.
Celebrities are rolling up to awards ceremonies in eco-friendly vehicles as opposed to the traditional stretch Hummer limousine entourages of years past. They're outfitting their sprawling estates with solar panels and opting for lifestyles that are less abusive to the environment.
At the front of the celebrity pack is actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio, who's been advocating for the environment ever since he gave his first donation to a "save the manatees" foundation as a young boy.
Leo's feature length documentary, The 11th Hour, concerning the environmental crisis caused by human actions and their impact on the planet hits theaters next month.
Being raised in Southern California, I was never exposed to hurricanes, but from what I hear (and obviously what we've all seen), they are not a force to reckon with. So who would-a thunk this oft dangerous weather phenomenon might actually benefit the oceans from time to time?
Perhaps you've heard of coral reef bleaching, the result of a loss of symbiotic algae from coral reefs due to stress often associated with warmer-than-normal water temperatures. OK, I didn't either until I read it in this New York Times article.
If a reef doesn't endure a direct hit from a hurricane, though, all the churning of the water from the hurricane can actually lower water temperatures and relieve stress on the reefs - ergo coral bleaching may be reversed at least temporarily, according to scientists.
Oceana campaigners work to protect coral through our destructive trawling campaigns. And apparently legislators are beginning to sense the importance of fragile coral reefs, not just for their beauty but for the protection and food they provide to sea creatures living on the reefs.
These aggressive predators are able to change their eating habits to suit their environment and have since been eating all the hake, a white fish often used for fish sticks. One guess as to why this squid species is showing up again in record numbers: Its natural predators are on the decline because of commercial fishing activities.