The Beacon: suzannah's blog

A Visit with Gaspar

Gaspar and the ROV

The crew of the Oceana Ranger had to take an impromptu break late last week when a wild bottlenose dolphin named Gaspar befriended Ranger's ROV.

Gaspar lives among the fjords, or "rias," of Galicia, on Spain's northern coast, and he is something of a local celebrity among the people there. His newfound friendship with the ROV has interrupted the crew's work, but according to what we've heard, everyone is enjoying the distraction.

To view more photo's from the Ranger 2008 expedition, please click here. To donate on behalf of the Ranger 2008 expedition, please click here.


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Oceana on NBC Nightly News

NBC Nightly News interviewed Oceana's Santi Roberts in a segment on overfishing. The piece also includes Oceana footage of a bottom trawler in action, mowing over an innocent octopus. Check it out.


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Where Tuna Meet Oil: Economic Indicator?

In the May issue of Harper's, Jonathan Rowe argues that the Gross Domestic Product is a poor measure of an economy's health because it only tallies spending, and doesn't take into account whether the spending actually adds anything to our quality of life. According to the GDP, he writes, "a terminal-cancer patient going through a costly divorce" is "the nation's economic hero." Likewise, the GDP measures increased fossil fuel use as a positive, since it burns dollars; in actuality, the nation is poorer because its irreplaceable natural resources are diminished.

Where am I going with this? I think I've come across a real-world example of Rowe's thesis: according to an industry group, high fuel costs could take up to one-third of the world's longline tuna fleet off the oceans. This is great for the yellowfin and bigeye tuna usually targeted by these boats, but of course the industry group and the article posit that this "bad" for the economy.

Our natural resources aren't considered in the GDP, and so most talk of "stimulating" the economy doesn't paint a full picture of what's really going on. As we burn fuel, cut down trees, scoop out tuna and lop off mountaintops, we irrevocably give up parts of the planet, parts of ourselves even, for the sake of positive statistics.

As Rowe concludes, "The purpose of an economy is to meet human needs in such a way that life becomes in some respect richer and better in the process." Leaving some tuna fish in the sea, I think, moves us closer to this ideal.


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Aboard the MarViva Med

bluefin fattening

Just two weeks into its maiden voyage, Oceana's new research vessel MarViva Med has started giving up the goods: rarely-seen images of bluefin fishing in progress.

Time is running out to save these creatures, which are big, sleek fish often considered the tigers of the sea. View an exclusive slideshow of MarViva photos showing bluefin fattening cages in the Mediterranean, and stay updated with blog entries from Oceana photographer Keith Ellenbogen.

MarViva Med joins Oceana's Ranger in documenting destructive and illegal fishing techniques. Its mission this summer focuses on bluefin tuna, one of the world's most overexploited fish species. The European Union has ignored the advice of its own scientists and continued to set quotas for Atlantic bluefin well above what the dwindling population can handle.


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A marine miracle

right whale and calf

A right whale that attracted attention from a New England Aquarium researcher as it thrashed around in the water wasn't injured, as it first seemed: It was giving birth.

Now we have the first-ever photographs of a right whale calving. There are only about 400 of these critically endangered creatures left. Click here for a slideshow of this rare event.

[Photo courtesy NEAq/NMFS via Boston WCBV/TV]


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Mana-free!

Peace Pec the manatee

It's a happy day for Peace Pec, an 835-pound manatee who was released into the wild after a stint at a manatee hospital in Tampa, Fla.

Peace Pec was found tangled in crab trap line so badly that his left fin had to be amputated. Despite his injury, he is expected to thrive. Happy trails, big guy.

Maybe he'll meet up with the one-finned seal that bit off Buster's hand in Arrested Development.

[Photo credit: Chris Urso/Tampa Tribune]


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Through the looking glass

glass reef

Picture this: coldwater reefs up to six stories high, so fragile they will break if touched.

That's what researchers found off the coast of Vancouver less than three miles from a sewage treatment plant. These glass reefs, the discovery of an innovative project that lays cameras on the sea floor, were thought to have gone extinct more than 145 million years ago.

Large, slow-growing reefs like this can be shattered in an instant by destructive fishing techniques like bottom trawling. Oceana has already protected more than 620,000 square miles of Pacific Ocean floor from trawling, but the discovery of these beautiful and delicate glass corals gives us more reason to push for wider protected areas. Imagine what other underwater treasures we don't even know about that have already been lost to this wasteful practice.

[Photo courtesy REUTERS/Australian Research Council.]


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Ubiquitous Google strikes again

bathymetry map

Google has already been good to Oceana, and now the online behemoth may be cooking up something else for the oceans.

Reports have surfaced that Google is planning an underwater counterpart to its popular Google Earth maps: Google Ocean. The company is keeping mum for the moment, but a global 3-D database of seafloor terrain could be a boon to amateur oceanographers and scientists alike.

Oceans may cover 71 percent of the world's surface, but very little is known about the seafloor. Most people think it's flat and sandy like the beach, but in fact the ocean is home to diverse geographic features from volcanoes to canyons to enormous seamounts. I think an accessible database like Google Ocean could really help people understand why something like bottom trawling is so devastating.

[Photo is a screenshot of a bathymetry map, which shows estimated depth of the seafloor. Image credit: David Sandwell and Walter Smith/Scripps Institute of Oceanography]


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Go green, Emme!

Model and TV host Emme enjoyed Oceana's presentation at the NJ Go Green Expo last weekend, according to her iVillage Simply Green blog.

"I am committed to living a simpler and more sustainable life today," Emme writes. Hey, have your people call our people - we'd love to have another conscientious celebrity on our team.


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Seals for science

Weddell seal

Weddell seals may look round and ungainly on land, but these sleek creatures can swim up to 90 minutes without resurfacing for air - and this underwater longevity is helping scientists unlock the mysteries of the changing Antarctic.

The seals have the most southern range of any mammal, and they're also extremely docile, which allows scientists to glue tracking devices to their heads without stress on either party.

As the Southern Ocean warms, ice melts and the salinity and density of the water decreases. Thanks to the Weddell seals, scientists are beginning to understand what this might mean.

"They're really giving us a window into the Southern Ocean in winter in a way that we haven't been able to see before," said one scientist.


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