Fishing Endgame

Note: Data for 2020 is from June 2020 through May 2021; for 2021, it is from June 2021 through May 2022.

Overfishing and potential solutions have received lots of attention in our pages over the years. It is not a new problem. And yet, we now have better metrics for how serious the problem is and who is responsible, currently, for making the problem worse. The screenshot to the left does not capture the full value of the dynamic illustration accompanying this article. Click the image to go to the source:

A Chinese ship fishing for squid off the west coast of South America in July 2021. Isaac Haslam/Sea Shepherd via Associated Press

How China Targets the Global Fish Supply

With its own coastal waters depleted, China has built a global fishing operation unmatched by any other country.

Rich and ecologically diverse, the waters around the Galápagos Islands have attracted local fishermen for centuries. Now, these waters face a much larger, more rapacious hunter: China. Continue reading

Ocean, The Book

It has been a long time since our last links to a favorite coffee table book publisher. Next month, it could be yours. And inside we see a page with homage to Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka, old favorites:

Ocean, Exploring the Marine World: (Pre-order)Phaidon Editors, with an introduction by Anne-Marie Melster

Price£44.95

About the book

Pre-order now. This title will ship from September 8th, 2022.

Experience the force, mystery, and beauty of the ocean and seas through more than 300 images – featuring underwater photography, oceanographic maps and scientific illustrations, as well as paintings, sculptures and popular films.

Oceanography and art collide in this visual celebration of humans’ relationship with the marine world. Continue reading

New (To Us) Creatures Of The Deep

A gummy squirrel – Psychropotes longicauda – is a type of sea cucumber. This specimen is 60cm long with red palps, or lips, with which it feeds on sediment on the ocean floor, 5,100m deep

Discoveries still happen, even as the earth burns. Creatures not previously known are being identified 5,000 meters below the surface of the ocean. Some do not even yet have a name:

A spiny sea creature on the ocean floor

Scientists find 30 potential new species at bottom of ocean

Natural History Museum scientists seek to unlock mysteries of deep sea but some fear activity will disturb diversity of the depths

Scientists have found more than 30 potentially new species living at the bottom of the sea. Continue reading

Sylvia Earle, Her Deepness

Sylvia Earle. Illustration by João Fazenda

Yesterday’s post got me looking back at our attention to marine science over the years, making me wonder whether we have given that topic its fair share. Yes, probably, but more is needed. I already knew this name because it has appeared in our pages a few times over the years. But just recently I heard her name from two different people who have had the chance to know her personally. One of them, when I mentioned the name, replied with Her Deepness replacing Sylvia Earle’s given name. Thanks to Dana Goodyear, who had me at puma, but who also knows a thing or two about water, now this:

Without Sylvia Earle, We’d Be Living on Google Dirt

The marine biologist and aquanaut evokes a Bond girl with a Ph.D. To save a species, she says, you have to know it.

Do you like to breathe?” This is a question that the marine biologist and deep-sea explorer Sylvia Earle asks frequently. The ocean produces half of the oxygen on Earth. If it dies, humanity can’t survive, so humans better pay attention to it. Continue reading

Lionfish Leather

A lionfish caught off Venezuela, where the authorities organise sport fishing competitions to curb the dangerous proliferation of the invasive species. Photograph: Yuri Cortéz/AFP/Getty

Lionfish came to our attention in a series of posts starting in 2014. That year we came to see that fighting this invasive species would require innovative entrepreneurial conservation methods. We published more posts and series about initiatives in the years since then, but the problem continued to grow. For some reason the stories about initiatives started fading from our attention and then stopped with a post in 2018. Now, 22 posts since the first post and four years since the last one, lionfish are back in our thoughts thanks to Inversa’s innovation:

Lionfish leather. Inversa says it is helping to solve an environmental crisis by using an invasive species that eats lots of other fish but has no predators in much of its range. Photograph: Inversa

Fish leather is here, it’s sustainable – and it’s made from invasive species to boot

An avid diver saw how lionfish have devastated populations of Florida’s native tropical fish and resolved to help solve the problem

Aarav Chavda has been diving off the coast of Florida for years. Each time he became increasingly depressed by the ever-growing void, as colourful species of fish and coral reefs continued to disappear. Continue reading

Deep Divers & Learning

Thanks to Stephanie Pain, Knowable Magazine and Smithsonian for this:

What Are Scientists Learning About the Deepest Diving Creatures in the Ocean?

Animals-turned-oceanographers are helping biologists find out what they do when they get to the cold, dark depths

Chilean devil rays swim in the Atlantic Ocean near the Azores. Reinhard Dirscherl / ullstein bild via Getty Images

There’s only one word for it: indescribable. “It’s one of those awesome experiences you can’t put into words,” says fish ecologist Simon Thorrold. Thorrold is trying to explain how it feels to dive into the ocean and attach a tag to a whale shark — the most stupendous fish in the sea. “Every single time I do it, I get this huge adrenaline rush,” he says. “That’s partly about the science and the mad race to get the tags fixed. But part of it is just being human and amazed by nature and huge animals.”

Whale sharks are one of a select group of large marine animals that scientists like Thorrold, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, have signed up as ocean-going research assistants. Continue reading

Desalination’s Discontents

The commissioner of the panel said: ‘The ocean is under attack … I cannot say in good conscience that this amount of damage is OK.’ Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

Desalination, which we celebrated multiple times over the years, might not be all as good we thought it was:

Joy for environmentalists as California blocks bid for $1.4bn desalination plant

Poseidon Water sought to turn seawater into drinking water but activists said plan would devastate ecosystem on Pacific coast

California coastal panel on Thursday rejected a longstanding proposal to build a $1.4bn seawater desalination plant to turn Pacific Ocean water into drinking water as the state grapples with persistent drought that is expected to worsen in coming years with climate change. Continue reading

Plant-based Diet Enhanced By The Sea

Seaweed ecologist Dr Sophie Steinhagen inspects the crop at the seafarm in the Koster archipelago in Sweden.

Three months into a beef-free diet, with no temptation to lapse, I am aware that other animal protein is so far a saving grace. When I switch entirely to alternative creatures such as crickets, and to plants including seaweed, I will know the transformation is complete.

Seaweed farming in Sweden could be a vital component of the shift away from eating meat for protein.

Meanwhile, thanks to the Guardian for Richard Orange’s reporting from Malmö on Sea-farmed supercrop: how seaweed could transform the way we live.

From high-protein food to plastics and fuel, Swedish scientists are attempting to tap the marine plant’s huge potential

Steinhagen inspects the tanks in her “seaweed kindergarten”.

You can just see the buoys of the seafarm,” Dr Sophie Steinhagen yells over the high whine of the boat as it approaches the small islands of Sweden’s Koster archipelago. The engine drops to a sputter, and Steinhagen heaves up a rope to reveal the harvest hanging beneath: strand after strand of sea lettuce, translucent and emerald green. Continue reading

Why We Care About Octopus

Photo: Brandon Cole

We care about octopus for many reasons and there is plenty to learn about why. This article will make you want to know more about these creatures. Sy Montgomery, writing in Orion Magazine, is the best illuminator:

Deep Intellect

Inside the mind of the octopus

ON AN UNSEASONABLY WARM day in the middle of March, I traveled from New Hampshire to the moist, dim sanctuary of the New England Aquarium, hoping to touch an alternate reality. I came to meet Athena, the aquarium’s forty-pound, five-foot-long, two-and-a-half-year-old giant Pacific octopus. Continue reading

Whales, Fishing Boats & Depredation’s Discontents

Yesterday’s dramatic photograph at sea shows an interaction between two sea creatures, and combines stark beauty with the occasional terror of pure nature. Man and nature in conflict at sea is not beautiful in any manner. This article below, authored by Nick Rahaim and published in Hakai Magazine, helps put the video above in context. Please click the title to read the story in full at its origin, or listen to it here:

Clever Whales and the Violent Fight for Fish on the Line

As a commercial fisher, I’ve watched colleagues shoot at whales looting from their lines. Here’s why everyone loses when that happens.

Whales seem to be increasingly looking to fishing boats, especially longliners (not pictured), as sources of free meals. Photo by Audun Rikardsen

As I coiled rope on the deck of a commercial fishing boat in the western Gulf of Alaska, I felt the sudden thud of a revolver reverberate in my chest. Continue reading

Container Ships Versus Whales & Whale-watchers

Whale-watching tourism is lucrative for Sri Lanka but even the small boats are at risk from the huge tankers and container ships that use the route. Photograph: IFAW/Christian Loader

It seems a minor request, asking the companies whose ships pass through Sri Lanka’s waters to be considerate of the whales who live in those waters:

‘Giant obstacle course’: call to reroute major shipping lanes to protect blue whales

Unique colony of blue whales increasingly at risk from tankers and container ships, say marine campaigners

Scientists and conservation groups are calling for one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes to be rerouted in an effort to protect the world’s largest animal. Continue reading

The Biggest Land Grab In The History Of Humankind

Illustration by João Fazenda

When she publishes an essay, or a longform reported article, it should be clear before you start that you are almost certainly not going to enjoy what you learn:

It’s rare that a tiny country like Nauru gets to determine the course of world events. But, for tangled reasons, this rare event is playing out right now. If Nauru has its way, enormous bulldozers could descend on the largest, still mostly untouched ecosystem in the world—the seafloor—sometime within the next few years. Hundreds of marine scientists have signed a statement warning that this would be an ecological disaster resulting in damage “irreversible on multi-­generational timescales.” Continue reading

Entangled In Costa Rica

If you have visited Costa Rica, or been fortunate enough to live here, you might have already become entangled with the country’s many opportunities to support conservation. For many decades foreigners have been welcomed to join in the country’s marine and terrestrial conservation initiatives. Many of those foreigners adopt the country as home after getting entangled in all kinds of good ways.

The first eight minutes of the video above are bliss: several young people are introduced, each of whom has become entangled. Along with those introductions, some stunning photography and videography showcasing Costa Rica’s nature, helping you to understand the entanglement. At 8:14 you see the dictionary definitions of entangled. The next 17 minutes are a case study in industrial fishing’s unintended consequences. Not surprisingly, this has already received lots of awards, but they ask you to share freely, so please do. And if you want to support financially, that will be appreciated as well.

Coral Reef Bright Spots

A diver examines bleached coral in French Polynesia in 2019.

A diver examines bleached coral in French Polynesia in 2019. ALEXIS ROSENFELD / GETTY IMAGES

When someone offers to point out bright spots on anything in the natural world, we are all ears. When the author is Nicola Jones, all the more:

Finding Bright Spots in the Global Coral Reef Catastrophe

The first-ever report on the world’s coral reefs presents a grim picture, as losses mount due to global warming. But there are signs of hope — some regions are having coral growth, and researchers found that corals can recover if given a decade of reprieve from hot water.

When ecological genomicist Christian Voolstra started work on corals in Saudi Arabia in 2009, one of the biggest bonuses to his job was scuba diving on the gorgeous reefs. Things have changed. “I was just back in September and I was shocked,” says Voolstra, now at the University of Konstanz in Germany. “There’s a lot of rubble. The fish are missing. The colors are missing.” Continue reading

Whales’ Future, Our Future

Whale stories have been in our pages on a regular basis over the last ten years not only because of their charisma. Because of how long they have been on the planet, their future should matter to mankind. The biggest of the species hiding in plain sight is increasingly spotted in ancestral waters, which seems like good news, but read on:

Blue whales returning to Spain’s Atlantic coast after 40-year absence

Some experts fear climate crisis is leading creatures back to area where they were hunted almost to extinction

The creatures may have returned to Galicia out of a form of homesickness, or ancestral memory. Photograph: Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute

Blue whales, the world’s largest mammals, are returning to Spain’s Atlantic coast after an absence of more than 40 years.

The first one was spotted off the coast of Galicia in north-west Spain in 2017 by Bruno Díaz, a marine biologist who is head of the Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute in O Grove, Galicia. Continue reading

Books About Below The Deepest Most Of Us Will Ever Go

Chloe Niclas

Thanks to Robert Moor for these reviews:

The Wonders That Live at the Very Bottom of the Sea

Two new books, Edith Widder’s “Below the Edge of Darkness” and Helen Scales’s “The Brilliant Abyss,” explore the darkest reaches and all that glows there.

In the deep sea, it is always night and it is always snowing. A shower of so-called marine snow — made up of pale flecks of dead flesh, plants, sand, soot, dust and excreta — sifts down from the world above. When it strikes the seafloor, or when it is disturbed, it will sometimes light up, a phenomenon known, wonderfully, as “snow shine.” Vampire squids, umbrella-shaped beings with skin the color of persimmons, float around collecting this luminous substance into tiny snowballs, which they calmly eat. They are not alone in this habit. Most deep-sea creatures eat snow, or they eat the snow eaters.

Until fairly recently, it was widely believed that the deep seas were mostly devoid of life. For centuries, fishermen hauled in deep-sea trawling nets filled with slime, not knowing that these were carcasses. Some animals, adapted to the pressure of the deep, are so delicate that in lighter waters a mere wave of your hand could reduce them to shreds. The myth of the dead deep sea, known as the Abyssus Theory, was disproved by a series of dredging and trawling expeditions in the 19th century, including a German scientific expedition in 1898 that pulled up the first known vampire squid. But the misconception nevertheless lingered. In 1977, a geologist piloting a submersible near the mouth of a hydrothermal vent, and finding it swarming with creatures, asked the research crew up above, “Isn’t the deep ocean supposed to be like a desert?” Continue reading

Bioluminescent Distractions

A deep-sea shrimp spews bioluminescent chemicals at its predator, a viperfish. EDITH WIDDER

Nothing like bioluminescence to take your mind off of other things for a while. Thanks to Yale e360 for this:

A Scientist Reveals the Bioluminescent Magic of the Deep-Sea World

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, marine biologist Edith Widder talks about her pioneering research into the world of bioluminescent organisms in the deep oceans and warns of the dangers, from trawling to oil drilling, that imperil this hidden realm.

Atolla vanhoeffeni, a bioluminescent deep-sea jellyfish. EDITH WIDDER

Until recently, the depths of the world’s oceans remained almost entirely unexplored. But advances in submersible technology are increasingly giving scientists a window into this little-known universe. One of the leaders in this exploration is marine biologist Edith Widder, who has extensively studied bioluminescent, or light-producing, organisms that use this trait to communicate, defend themselves, and hunt in darkness. Among other things, Widder has worked with engineers to develop highly sensitive deep-sea light meters and special cameras, like the remotely operated Eye-in-the-Sea, which allow for real-time monitoring of the seafloor. Continue reading

While Considering The Switch To EV

Researchers with DeepGreen Metals deploy a box core tool to capture a sample of the seafloor. THE METALS COMPANY

As more and more households and businesses and governments plan their switch to electric vehicles, considering the ripple effects is as important now as it was in the age of fossil-fueled vehicles:

The Race for EV Parts Leads to Risky Deep-Ocean Mining

The electric vehicle boom is driving a surge in demand for prized metals needed for batteries and other components. Some companies say the solution lies in mining the deep oceans, but scientists say that could irreversibly damage a vast, largely pristine ecosystem.

A polymetallic nodule containing manganese, nickel, cobalt and copper gathered from the seafloor. THE METALS COMPANY

Nauru, lying about halfway across the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean between Australia and Hawaii, is the world’s smallest island nation. But in the emerging industry of deep-sea mining, it punches far above its weight.

This June, Nauru gave notice to the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the UN agency charged with regulating mining in international waters, that it was triggering the so-called two-year rule: The agency will have to consider any application for a deep-sea mining license two years from now, under whatever regulations are on the books at the time. This effectively forces the ISA’s hand to finalize a regulatory mining code before that deadline. With this latest development, a once-fanciful idea may soon become a global industry. Continue reading

Really, Australia?

The Unesco world heritage committee’s decision on the Great Barrier Reef’s ‘in danger’ status is currently scheduled for 23 July. Photograph: James Cook University/AFP via Getty Images

It’s been a couple months since we asked anyone the fundamental question. Ok, we acknowledge our not being qualified to make the scientific judgement on whether the Great Barrier Reef is in sufficient danger to be listed as such, officially. But UNESCO has the qualified scientists, so let them do their job without undue influence. It sure seems likely to help the entire world to see how fossil-fueled climate change is impacting such natural wonders. It would raise consciousness in a way that might even be good for Australia–whose government obviously thinks otherwise. Hopefully UNESCO will stick to its principles and resist this lobbying. When oil-based economies come to lend a hand, watch out for conflict of interest:

‘Fossil fuel friends’: Saudi Arabia and Bahrain back Australia’s lobbying on Great Barrier Reef

Exclusive: oil rich nations back push against Unesco recommendation to have reef placed on world heritage ‘in danger’ list Continue reading

When Farming Is Good For Biodiversity

Mariko Wallen and Louis Godfrey tend to the seaweed on their farm in Placencia, Belize. This farm grows two species: Eucheuma (for consumption) and Gracilaria (used for skin treatments and cosmetics). The farm is part of a program sponsored by TNC to bring seaweed aquaculture to the area in cooperation with the Placencia Fishermen Cooperative.

Thanks to the Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science website for this:

Aquaculture Adds Value to Habitat

Bivalve and seaweed farming systems result in measurable increases in fish and invertebrate abundance and diversity, new research from The Nature Conservancy, University of New England, University of Melbourne, and the University of Adelaide finds. Continue reading