The Beacon: suzannah's blog

Jean-Michel Cousteau On Orcas

"When you take a wild cetacean (a whale or dolphin) and put it in a tank, its acoustic system is suddenly screwed up. Its sonar reverberates off of the concrete in its tank and, little by little, the animal becomes totally silenced. It’s like a person being blindfolded in a jail cell. The orcas are not used to borders or barriers, and that probably makes them very uncomfortable. Some of them don’t accept captivity and die, but others do and live like they are in prison."

That's Jean-Michael Cousteau reflecting on killer whales in the wake of last week's death of a trainer at Sea World. Cousteau is one of the world's experts on orcas and gives a fascinating, wide-ranging interview to the Santa Barbara Independent about whales and dolphins in the wild and in captivity, including a description of the enormous effort it took to rehabilitate and free Keiko, the orca that starred in "Free Willy." It's well worth a read.

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Try Catching This Wave

Words fail me when I try to describe the incredible visuals of this video showing surfers tackling monster waves at a competition in Hawaii. Suffice to say it's epic. Just watch.


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Oceana Helps 'Expose' Farmed Salmon

Offshore salmon pens in Chile.

Oceana's VP for South America, Alex Muñoz, and board member Dr. Daniel Pauly both contributed to a new documentary about the damages caused by the farmed salmon industry in the cold waters of Norway, Chile and British Columbia. Oceana has been working to forestall the expansion of Chile's troubled aquaculture industry into Patagonia as well as clean up the industry already built in other areas along Chile's coast.

Check out the trailer for "Farmed Salmon Exposed" below:



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Bluefin Tuna: A Worthy Opponent in Decline

I'm a little disappointed in this New York Times story about Dave Lamoureux, a fisherman who battles bluefin tuna from his unmotorized sea kayak. On the one hand, it reinforces the mythos around bluefin, that they are majestic creatures worthy of being considered alongside terrestrial predators like tigers or lions. On the other hand, it presents the fish as just a critter to be caught because someone can. Much like big game hunting in Africa fell out of favor as the giant cats and elephants became endangered, bluefin tuna fishing should also be pursued only with the understanding that these are critically endangered animals.

It's disappointing since Andrew Revkin has done a terrific job chronicling the massive overfishing of bluefin tuna in the very same newspaper. The population of bluefin that Lamoureux pursues from his kayak is among the most devastasted in the world, already reduced to less than 20 percent of their historic levels, and there are already strict rules in place to keep the fish from disappearing entirely.

Given that the story is floating near the top of the NYT's most-emailed list right now, I see this as a missed opportunity to both celebrate the bluefin's impressive power, fight and speed as well as warn about losing it to overfishing.

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Census of Marine Life Enlightens Again

Magnified crustacean

A magnified crustacean from the CoML survey (CoML/Büntzow/Corgosinho)

The Census of Marine Life, a comprehensive attempt to list every marine species, has released its latest findings from the depths of the seas. The group of scientists has now listed 17,650 species, with nearly 6,000 of those living in the deepest parts of the ocean.

We know less about the ocean floor than we do about the surface of the moon, so the CoML's project is very exciting. The decade-long project wraps up more than 200 expeditions in 2010 with what will be the world's first ocean census. This work is crucial because, like Oceana's Ranger expeditions, it illuminates unknown parts of the ocean and helps arm us with reasons to protect it.

"There is both a great lack of information about the 'abyss' and substantial misinformation," said Robert S. Carney, one of the project leaders, in a statement on the latest findings. "Many species live there. However, the abyss has long been viewed as a desert. Worse, it was viewed as a wasteland where few to no environmental impacts could be of any concern. 'Mine it, drill it, dispose into it, or fish it – what could possibly be impacted?' And, if there is an impact, the abyss is vast and best yet, hidden from sight."

Be sure to check out the latest photos from CoML. It's pretty cool stuff.

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The Scanner

Coelacanth model

Coelacanth model from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

This week in ocean news,

...the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas approved next year's Atlantic tuna quotas, disappointing conservationists who say that only a complete closure of the fishery will allow the great fish to avoid collapse.

...scientists recommended a lower pollock quota this year in the North Pacific fishery, the largest in the U.S., as the population still struggles to rebound. Spawning levels are at their lowest in 30 years. Japan, scientists photographed a juvenile coelacanth for the first time. Long thought to be extinct, these ancient creatures were rediscovered in the early 20th century and little is known about them.

...the U.S. Senate's Commerce, Science and Transporation Committee passed the Shark Conservation Act of 2009, which would require all sharks be landed whole in the U.S. and eliminate loopholes that allowed the transfer of fins at sea in order to get around shark finning laws. The vote brought the Act one major step closer to becoming law.

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Ted Danson, "TV's Silver Fox"

TV's silver fox, Ted Danson

Ted Danson on the Ranger

We're all big fans of Ted Danson here at Oceana, and we definitely appreciate all he's done as a dedicated Oceana board member. Still, it's pretty cool to see Ted get some outside validation - today from in its own version of People's Sexiest Man Alive.

That's right, Salon has named Ted as one of its Sexiest Men Living, calling him "TV's silver fox." Salon notes Ted's impressive turns on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Damages" and "Bored to Death," calling him "this year's Alec Baldwin."

I'd like to add suave oceans savior to Ted's list of accomplishments. Congrats Ted!

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ICCAT Disappoints Again

Bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean

Bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean ©Oceana

To the surprise of no one, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) failed again this year to adequately protect Atlantic bluefin tuna. Last week, ICCAT met in Brazil to set the 2010 quotas for the critically endangered bluefin tuna, and several of Oceana's scientists and campaigners were present.

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Shark Week and Mad Men

Since it's Shark Week, I want to take this opportunity to remind you about our new shark campaign PSAs featuring January Jones. Filmed and photographed in the Bahamas, January reminds you that humans kill tens of millions of sharks every year and that you should be scared for sharks, not of them.

Now allow me to take off my sensible conservationist cap and put on my fangirl pillbox hat and point your attention to the new, sprawling Vanity Fair feature on Mad Men, starring January and the hunky Jon Hamm. "Don and Betty's Paradise Lost" features all the kinds of behind-the-scenes chatter that fans of meticulous drama feast on, plus luscious set photography by Annie Leibovitz.

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Sharks as Serial Killers? Try Again

I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

Another summer, another season of shark hysteria in the media.

The Monday morning news cycle is all abuzz with a new study that likens great white sharks to serial killers.

"Great white sharks hunt just like Hannibal Lector," proclaims the Associated Press.


"Great whites aren't just floating around there in the water waiting for some nature documentarians to come around and record them snapping up stray seals that happen to wander by. They are sitting in dank basements, chain-smoking, watching snuff films, and making creepy, obsessive collages of pretty seal co-eds while sharpening their incisors," reports Gawker.

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