Happy Friday, everyone!
This week in ocean news,
…jellyfish are joining the winds and the ocean currents as mixers of ocean water. Scientists at the California Institute of Technology have just published a study showing how small animals such as jellyfish help to distribute heat, nutrients, and chemicals in the water. This discovery has many implications for issues like climate change and ocean acidification.
… there’s a new study out this week that analyzes overfishing and the state of global fisheries. In a collaboration of ecologists and fisheries management scientists, the study concludes that overfishing remains a serious threat to many species but that we can still take steps to turn things around. Mike Hirshfield, chief scientist at Oceana, stressed that changes still need to be made in fisheries management. “While confirming the general troubling picture of the world’s fisheries, this paper also demonstrates that if we do change our approaches, collapses are not inevitable and we can rebuild fisheries,” he said.
…we got wind of a trailer for Disney’s new movie Oceans, which comes out Earth Day 2010 as a companion to this year’s Earth. Though the trailer is more about Disney’s wildlife legacy, it still has some amazing footage of the ocean. Check out the home page to view the trailer and other spectacular videos and photos.
…a special dolphin gave a ten-year-old girl a major self-esteem boost. We last blogged about Winter because of his prosthetic tail, and McKenna McGough was equally impressed. After meeting Winter two years ago (before the prosthetic tail when Winter still had his stump), she realized that she should not be embarrassed about her impaired hearing or hearing aid. Now, she volunteers her time and birthday presents to donate to Winter and his dolphin friends at the aquarium.
Oceana recently helped out Planet Green with a blog post about how you can order sustainable seafood while still enjoying your sushi. Faced with threats such as overfishing, climate change, and ocean acidification, the oceans are in danger of collapse. Here are 10 tips from the post about how to do your part and order sustainable seafood:
1. Know your catch. Stick with wild, locally-caught fish, which is usually more eco-friendly than farmed fish that has to be transported a great distance. Also look for special-caught fish (line, poll, troll, diver-caught, and sustainably caught/harvested) instead of fish caught in huge nets on factory farming ships.
2. Say NO to “Toro.” Bluefin tuna, also known as “Toro,” is the most endangered fish you can order at a sushi restaurant. But if you have to eat tuna, we suggest US Pacific Albacore, Bigeye, and Yellowfin instead.
Here's a heartwarming story for you this WW, again featuring the playful beluga: Mila the beluga whale guided a free diver back to the surface when she was struck with wicked leg cramps during a competition. In freezing cold water without any breathing equipment, Yang Yun felt paralyzed during a free diving contest at Polar Land in Harbin, China. She and the other participants had to dive to the bottom of the aquarium’s arctic tank and stay there for as long as possible among the beluga whales. Yun began to sink, thinking she was done for, until she felt something pushing her up. It was Mila's nose guiding Yun safely back to the surface. Belugas' facial muscles allow them to smile -- and I'm sure Mila and Yun both were grinning big after this episode.
Would you like the good news or the bad news first? Personally, I’ve always been a bad-then-good-news person, so here’s the bad: scientists have found that a dead zone, a region of water with very low oxygen levels, in the Gulf of Mexico has a much deeper and thicker level of low-oxygen (hypoxic) water in some parts of the Gulf than normal. The good? That same dead zone is smaller than expected—it is about 3000 square miles instead of the predicted 8000 square miles. Essentially, this dead zone is smaller, but more concentrated in areas.
In an article published Monday in The New York Times, Henry Fountain explores the effects of this discovery. While the smaller area means less disruption for marine animals such as shrimp and crab, the organisms in the hypoxic areas were “obviously stressed.”
After Oceana requested information about the use of antibiotics in Chile’s salmon industry, Chile’s Ministry of Economy revealed for the first time ever that Chile used about 718,000 pounds of antibiotics in 2008 and 850,000 pounds in 2007. In an article titled "Chile’s Antibiotic Use on Salmon Farms Dwarfs That of a Top Rival’s" in Sunday’s The New York Times, Alex Muñoz, Oceana’s vice president for South America, was quoted criticizing Chile’s overuse of antibiotics in its salmon farms.
The world’s second biggest salmon exporter, Chile uses the antibiotics to control the spread of viruses and other fish-borne illnesses that kill millions of salmon. In addition, the report revealed that about one-third of Chile’s antibiotics are not approved for use in the US by the US Food and Drug Administration.
In 2008, Oceana submitted a plan to reduce and regulate antibiotics in salmon aquaculture to the Chilean government. Muñoz, says that "the ministry’s numbers confirm that the Chilean salmon industry has abused the use of antibiotics. They also show that the Chilean government has placed a higher priority on ensuring the profitability of a business sector than protecting consumers and the nation’s ecosystems."
This week in ocean news,
…researchers in Australia have witnessed and photographed a baby humpback whale taking its first breath. After spotting blood in the water, Michelle and Curt Jenner spied the newborn struggling to breathe and swimming in tight circles. Finally, the mother lifted the calf completely out of the water to help it take its first breath of life.
… a male sea lion in an animal park in Germany died from exhaustion during its mating season. Nineteen years old and the father of twelve from three different females, Mike started displaying signs of weariness on Monday and died from acute heart failure later that day. The vet who treated Mike notes that “mating season is a common time for fatalities when bulls often stop eating for days to devote themselves fully to mating. For sea lion bulls with a harem, this is the most exhausting time.”
…to help stop illegal fishing in the Indian Ocean, the European Union is proposing a guideline that will require seafood to be marked by a “catch certificate” from an authority. The certificate will have to include information on the area where the catch was made, the fishing method, and the trawler used.
This Friday (tomorrow), Oceana, Shark Trust Wines, and “Sherman’s Lagoon” cartoonist Jim Toomey are hosting An Evening for Shark Conservation at the National Aquarium in Washington, DC.
The free event will raise awareness about the threats sharks face today such as finning and overfishing, and promote the Shark Conservation Act which has passed in the U.S. House and awaits action in the Senate.
And yes, there will be free drinks: Great White Chardonnay, Whale Shark Chenin, and Reef Shark Red. Normally, 10% of the wines' sales go towards shark research and conservation. Toomey will also talk about his inspiration for his strip and how he creates his characters.
To RSVP for the event, e-mail [email protected] or call 202-482-2782.
We'll see you there!
How much would you pay to get spit on by a beluga whale? If the answer is $200, then head on over to Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and their new Beluga Encounter. The new 90,000 gallon tank has an area where trainers and participants can walk in the water and allow the whales to swim right up to them. Participants can rub the whales’ skin, scratch their tongues, listen to the whales’ songs, and, yes, get spit on as the beluga whales demonstrate how they hunt for fish. The program is safe for the beluga whales, who are around human trainers every day anyway. Ken Ramirez, the aquarium’s senior vice president for animal collections and training says, “the animals enjoy it, and the people enjoy it.”
Oceans have always been, and still are, the solution to many of Earth’s problems, argues Sam Waterston, an esteemed actor currently in Law & Order and also on Oceana’s board of directors, in an op-ed piece in Friday’s The Miami Herald. The oceans have been a source of food and wealth, a barrier to unwanted threats, and a sink for our waste and carbon dioxide.
But the seas are also giving us a clear warning sign that something's seriously wrong: ocean acidification.
Fortunately, Waterston argues, “the oceans are ready to be a solution.” From offshore wind power to tidal power, the oceans offer, once again, a stable answer to our problems.
"Carbon dioxide in the sea is the front line of climate change," he writes. "Reverse the trend toward ocean acidification, and we will have made a giant stride in addressing the impacts of climate change. The sea is warning us to change course and calling us to seize enormous opportunities. Now."
I’m sure that many of you have visited or crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA at some point in your life. But imagine rowing to it. From Japan. But that is what Chris Martin and Mick Dawson are attempting to do in their Golden Gate Endeavour: be the first to row across the North Pacific Ocean without assistance. The two incredibly experienced rowers set off on May 8 and are currently 70 days and just over 2300 miles into the trip.
Chris and Mick departed from Choshi, Japan with everything necessary for the journey, including all food and supplies, a water desalinator, and solar panels to power the communication and video systems. They also specifically designed and constructed their boat, christened “Bojangles,” for this trip. Twenty-three feet long and six feet wide, it is the most advanced ocean rowing vessel ever built. Which is a good thing, considering what they are facing.