Monthly Archives: June 2012

SavetheArctic.org

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How fortuitous!

Just a few days after my most recent post about the oceans and threats to them – most notably in the Arctic – I came across savethearctic.org, a new effort by Greenpeace to declare the Arctic a global sanctuary!

The Arctic and the creatures that live there are already threatened by global warming. Let’s keep oil drilling, industrial fishing, and international conflict OFF the list of the Arctic’s problems.

So click and sign the petition y’all!

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The World is a Fishbowl

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The world is a fishbowl. Really.

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According to NOAA, 71% of the world’s surface is covered in ocean.  Those oceans are filled with 20,000 species of fish, 1500 species of jellyfish, 131 species of marine mammals, 7 species of marine turtles, and more species of coral than scientists can count.

Yup. The world is a fishbowl.

A threatened fishbowl. The oceans are full of animals that have adapted to challenges for millions and millions of years – and that are dying out at human hands.

Or human nets, more accurately. Vegan or no, best fishing practices is a concern across the board. Too many of current fishing practices prove harmful for the fish populations and for the other animals that live alongside them.

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Drift nets catch sea lions instead of sardines. Dredges catch octopi instead of oysters. Shrimp nets catch sea turtles.

And then there’s the environmental havoc that human habits wreak on the environment. Seahorses are threatened because wetlands are disappearing. Sharks are under attack so exotic restaurants can serve soup. The oceans are heating up because people won’t take two seconds to unplug a lamp. Hotter oceans mean dying coral, a keystone species. Hotter oceans are also a problem for polar bears, another keystone species. Don’t get me wrong, polar bears can take the heat – the San Diego zoo has already proven that the white wonders are just as happy in warm water as they are in cold. We just need to stop melting their damn ice floes. Polar ice caps, polar bears – y’all get the connection. The Coca Cola mascots migrate through the ice floes,  swimming from one to the next.

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The problem comes when suddenly there aren’t enough ice floes because so many have melted. It would be like taking a flight from the Midwest to Antarctica with a layover in South America – and suddenly South America goes missing. There’s a lot of ocean between you and the landing strip, and odds are you don’t have enough fuel to get you there.

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So. Enough doom and destruction. The good news is, whether you eat fish or not, there are things you can do help them. And the marine mammals. And the sea turtles.

Monterey Bay Aquarium has a brilliant website compiled to hook people up with whatever conservation method is their style – learn the facts, carry around a pocket guide to sustainable sea food or download the app, write letters and read literature, whatever you’re moved to do.

But please, do something. Time is melting.

Selachi: the Sharks

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I have a confession to make. I have a bit of a love affair with sharks.

They’re amazing! And eerily astounding. Sharks are ancient creatures. The first sharks date back to the Ordovician period, about 420 MILLION years ago. That’s even before land vertebrates and some plants were around. Sharks went through a few hundred millennia of evolution, but about 100 million years ago (that’s the Lower Cretaceous, when dinosaurs showed up), the shark population hit a general body plan that stuck and haven’t really changed since. Basically evolution looked at them and decided that yup, got it right there.

Let’s ogle a little more closely at sharks. I mean, besides the deadly grace of a shark gliding silently through the water, these guys have pretty awe-inspiring construction. Take, for example, their ampullae of Lorenzini – electromagnetic field detectors around the shark’s “face” that are used for sensing the fields produced by prey – by every living thing, actually, including you and I. Putting it more poetically, without even seeing you, sharks can sense your existence.

And that’s just one organ. Sharks, like all fish, also have a lateral line used to detect vibrations and movements of the water. Of course there’s sharks’ famous sense of smell, too. Sharks can smell up to one part per million of blood in sea water. Put a different way, that’s one drop of blood in a million drops of water. What’s more, sharks can smell that drop from hundreds of meters away.

Going poetic again, not only can sharks sense your existence, they can also sense your distress.

And it’s a shark’s job, as author Diane Duane puts it, to find distress and end it.

Noble, really, when you think about it. Considering that sharks, unlike humans, aren’t gratuitous about it. They’re apex predators, yes, but unlike their counterpart at the top of land’s food chain – humans – they aren’t apex wasters too.

Too bad we’re slaughtering them.

Up next – how to turn the tides on threats to the ocean.