When it comes to sea creatures with superhero powers, the common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) might take the cake: with jaw-dropping camouflage abilities, ink, and incomparable intelligence, the octopus is every marine biologist’s dream (and every prey species’ nightmare).
If you asked the artist Salvador Dali to dream up an ocean creature, he might have designed something very much like the leafy seadragon, one of the ocean’s most uniquely beautiful creatures. Covered in gossamer ruffled appendages, the characteristic tassels and frills that adorn the leafy seadragon’s head and body serve as spectacular camouflage, baffling both predators and prey, and make the seadragon all but invisible among seaweeds and kelp beds.
On our recent Pacific expedition, Oceana took a camera where none has gone before -- to the ocean depths off the Oregon coast. Our Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) captured rare seafloor habitat -- tiny rockfish hiding in barrel sponges, corals, and giant glass sponges up to two hundred years old. The footage surprised even the expedition crew!
"Many of these places have never been seen before; they're too deep, too far offshore...We were absolutely astonished by what we saw," explained expedition leader Ben Enticknap.
We have some encouraging news for you out of Hong Kong – the government of Hong Kong announced that it will no longer serve shark fin soup at government functions, and that it will encourage government-funded bodies to do the same.
Today is International Whale Shark Day, so what better time to celebrate these magnificent creatures? Here are 10 facts to dazzle your friends with:
1. We know you’re wondering: whale shark – whale, or shark? The whale shark is a shark, and as a shark (and thus a fish), it is the largest fish in the sea. It breathes via its gills, and has cartilage instead of bone, making it a true shark. The name “whale shark” comes from the shark’s large size, which rivals some species of whales, and also because the shark is a filter feeder, like baleen whales.
“This news is big, and we are absolutely thrilled to share it with you – India has moved to outlaw shark finning! India ranks second only to Indonesia in terms of the number of sharks caught each year, so this ban is a major victory for ever-dwindling shark populations.
The brutal practice of shark finning involves slicing off a shark’s fins, often while the shark is still alive, then tossing the shark back into the water to drown or bleed to death. Shark meat is far less valuable than their fins, which means that their bodies take up precious cargo space, creating an incentive to only keep the most valuable parts and allowing more sharks to be caught on each trip. The United States and European Union have already banned the practice of shark finning in their respective waters
In a recent interview with Coast magazine, Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless discussed his new book, The Perfect Protein. While the phrases “saving our oceans,” and “feeding the world,” may feel nebulous and, frankly, overwhelming, Andy used this interview to break these overwhelming ideas down into clear, straightforward points.
"So, if you go into McDonald's and you're choosing between a fish filet sandwich and a hamburger, you can make a decision that has a bigger impact on the world, and yourself, than people appreciate," says Sharpless. "If you eat the hamburger, you're eating enough grain to make more than 200 taco shells and you're consuming enough fresh water to fill more than 10,000 glasses. If you eat the fish filet sandwich, you're not."
Like something out of your nightmares, the fangtooth (Anoplogaster cornuta, Anoplogaster brachycera) lurks in the darkest depths of the ocean. Wielding huge, saberlike teeth, the fangtooth has the largest teeth in the ocean relative to body size. The phrase “relative to body size” is important to remember here, however: the larger of the two species of fangtooth reaches a maximum length of just 6 inches, rendering these tiny balls of ferociousness harmless to humans.
We're thrilled to report that last month, the Basque area of Jaizkibel has finally been nominated as a special area of conservation! Oceana made this recommendation back in 2010, and has been fighting for this nomination for years, making this victory all the sweeter to us.
We are excited to share some great news out of our international offices – Costa Rica has banned the use of trawl nets to catch shrimp throughout the country! Trawl nets destroy our oceans -- ripping up the seafloor, razing coral reefs, and catching huge amounts of marine creatures as bycatch – so this ruling is a major victory for our oceans. It’s estimated that 871,000 tons of bony fishes, sharks, and rays were caught in Costa Rica as incidental bycatch of shrimp trawling between 1950 and 2008.