Last night was a big one for Oceana. We set up a table at a Nellie McKay concert at the Birchmere, and even got a shout-out from Nellie on stage. We made lots of new friends and got signatures for our petition to restrict shark finning, including Nellie's.
It's a cool new step for us, and I hope we can find other artists who are interested in helping us out. Celebrities and musicians have easy access to an audience, and the help they can provide a cause like Oceana's is immeasurable.
(Not familiar with quirky jazz songstress Nellie McKay? You should check this out.)
Saving the ocean is not easy, and there's a big, fat, obvious reason why: The ocean is freakin' huge! Vast stretches of it have never been studied or visited by humans. Sure, that makes the ocean a bit harder to exploit, but it also makes it harder to defend.
Enter Dr. Beth Fulton, an Australian marine ecologist. She has created a new modeling framework for ocean ecology that's the most advanced in the world. Dubbed Atlantis, the model attempts to fully integrate the ecology of the ocean into one digestible system that can be used for fisheries management in a level of detail not possible before.
Atlantis was recently rated "the best in the world" by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation, and Dr. Fulton won a big award, too.
There could be good news for the estimated 300,000 seabirds that are killed every year by longlines used to catch fish. A former tuna fisherman in Australia is developing a "smart hook" that he believes will spare seabirds and sea turtles. The hook is set to make its debut next year, and not a moment too soon.
Longlines are indiscriminate killers of fish as well as seabirds, which is why Oceana is keeping tabs on new technology.
Next week, Christie's will host the Blue Auction, where it will sell the naming rights to newly discovered marine species in Indonesia. The proceeds, which should exceed several million dollars, will go to fund conservation of the species. You can see a cool slideshow of the fish to be auctioned here.
The commercialization of taxonomy has bothered some scientists, but really, could the purchased names be any worse than the ones Ben has posted already? Or, say, the Vampyroteuthis infernalis, translated as the vampire squid from hell, or, my personal favorite, a slime-mold beetle known as Agathidium cheneyi.
A Coney Island lifeguard shooed off 75 to 100 swimmers who surrounded a two-foot sand shark, punching and harrassing it, according to this AP story.
The lifeguard gathered the tiny shark in his arms and swam it out to sea. What a nice guy!
Says Ben Freitas, a science fellow with Oceana: "I'm guessing the 'sand shark' was actually a juvenile sand tiger shark, which is a rather fairly docile and relatively harmless species. It's also prohibited from being caught in U.S. waters because its population has decreased so precipitously."
Sharks have a fearsome reputation, but humans kill about 100 million sharks a year. Now, sharks need our help more than ever. Kudos to our lifeguard friend.
A family out fishing near Boston spied a mola mola floating near their boat earlier this week. Never heard of a mola mola? It's a large bony sunfish that looks like a mix between a shark and a pancake. Usually found in warm waters, the mola occasionally appears north of the tropics.
The family caught some video of the big guy, which you can see here.
I believe every work week should start on Tuesday, and not just because you get a three-day weekend. No, it's the Science Times, which appears faithfully each Tuesday morning, that really gets me ready to do some ocean-saving.
This week's edition is no disappointment. Read about John R. Delaney, "part oceanographer, part oracle" who says things like, "This is basically a NASA-scale mission to enter Inner Space." I like a man with confidence! Delaney's team, in conjunction with the National Science Foundation, is planning to make the Pacific Ocean internet-accessible, laying a network of fiber optic cables and cameras on the sea floor.
Oceana's Ranger uses a ROV to study the Mediterranean floor, and has come up with many astonishing finds. Imagine what secrets on the Pacific floor remain undiscovered - at least until 2009, when Delaney's project lays its first piece of equipment.
Now, we here at Oceana don't usually traffic in idle gossip, but this item from Page Six caught my eye. Apparently one Sir Harry Evans, husband of former New Yorker editor and Diana-biographer Tina Brown, is concerned about beach erosion at his summer home. You know, it really does affect the ability of sea turtles to lay eggs. How nice that a man of Evans's stature is paying attention ....
Oh, wait. He's concerned that the erosion will cause "grave damage to our considerable amenities." Well, we wouldn't want that!
It's ok, Sir Harry. You can leave saving the sea turtles to us.