New York Waters Are Clean Enough For Fun Again

A pod of dolphins just outside New York harbor. Carsten Brandt/Getty

Our thanks to Oliver Milman, Mother Jones and the Climate Desk collaboration for this, and we hope the frolicking continues:

To New Yorkers’ Delight, Dolphins Return to the Bronx River

“We’ve come a long way.”

Dolphins have been spotted frolicking in New York City’s Bronx River, an encouraging sign of the improving health of a waterway that was for many years befouled as a sewer for industrial waste. Continue reading

Coral Defying The Odds

Corals in the waters of the Ras Mohammed National Park in the Red Sea near Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, home to one of the only reefs in the world that can tolerate heat. Sima Diab for The New York Times

Our thanks to Jenny Gross and Vivian Yee reporting from Egypt:

Attendees of the United Nations climate conference took breaks from negotiations to see the corals for themselves.Credit…Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As warming waters devastate coral around the world, the sea’s stunningly colorful reefs have been remarkably resilient. But pollution, mass tourism and overfishing put them at risk.

SHARM El SHEIKH, Egypt — The vast majority of the world’s coral reefs are likely to be severely damaged in the coming decades if the planet keeps warming at its current rate. Continue reading

Blue Carbon Collaboration

Scientists fixed bio-logger tags equipped with cameras on tiger sharks in the Bahamas to map the ocean’s seagrass meadows. Photograph: Diego Camejo/Beneath the Waves

We thank Laura Paddison for this underwater news, published in the Guardian, that has implication for climate change mitigation:

Scientists discover ‘world’s largest’ seagrass forest – by strapping cameras to sharks

New study, carried out using tiger sharks in the Bahamas, extends total known global seagrass coverage by more than 40%

Tiger sharks are notoriously fierce. The huge animals, which can grow to more than 16ft, are ruthless predators and scared of absolutely nothing – recent research found that while other shark species fled coastal waters during strong storms, tiger sharks “didn’t even flinch”.

But recently they have a new role that could help burnish their reputations: marine scientists. Continue reading

Animal-Free Meat & Racing The Clock

BlueNalu’s fried cell-cultured yellowtail amberjack fish taco. Photograph: Courtesy of BlueNalu

Whether the meat you eat is from land animals or from the ocean, the chances are high that you will be eating man-made versions sooner rather than later:

‘Fishless fish’: the next big trend in the seafood industry

‘Alternative seafood’ is having a moment, with the rise of companies like BlueNalu and Wildtype, which has the backing of Leonardo DiCaprio

In the middle of San Francisco, there’s a pilot production plant for Wildtype, one of a handful of cell-cultivated seafood companies in the US. Inside, it’s growing sushi-grade coho salmon in tanks similar to those found in breweries – no fishing or farming required. Continue reading

Another Surprise From The Deep

Researchers with a giant sunfish at the marina in Horta in the Azores in December. Atlantic Naturalist

We do not tire of the ocean surprises; this one is of an entirely different magnitude:

A sunfish found near the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean weighed as much as an S.U.V. Scientists say it’s a sign that the sea’s largest creatures can live if we let them.

The fish, at more than 6,000 pounds, is about the weight of a Chevrolet Suburban S.U.V. Atlantic Naturalist

It was easy for scientists to have doubts when they were told that the carcass of a colossal fish had been found floating just off the coast of Faial Island in Portugal’s Azores archipelago in the Mid-Atlantic Ocean in December 2021.

People do tend to exaggerate when it comes to the size of fish after all. However, their skepticism lifted the moment they laid eyes on the fish. It was the biggest bony fish they had ever seen. In fact, it might have been the biggest anyone had ever seen. Continue reading

Deep Sea Creatures & Deep Sea Materials

Another type of gummy squirrel found on an expedition in the CCZ called Psychropotes semperiana. DeepCCZ Project

We have linked to articles concerned about mining deep sea locations for the materials needed in electric vehicle batteries, and other articles featuring deep sea creatures we had no previous knowledge of.  Now it is time to combine the two topics more explicitly, and we thank Benji Jones at Vox for this article:

Relicanthus daphneae, an anemone-like organism in the CCZ, stuck on top of the stalk of a dead sea sponge. Its tentacles can extend several feet long. Diva Amon and Craig Smith/University of Hawaiʻi

These spectacular deep-sea creatures live in a potential mining hot spot

The world needs more metals for batteries to fight climate change. Should it come at the cost of these animals?

Metallic nodules recovered from the Clarion-Clipperton Zone. Abyssline Project

If you were to dive to the bottom of the ocean somewhere between Hawaii and Mexico, you might see a field of sunken treasure. Here, in what’s called the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), much of the seafloor is covered with fist-sized rocks that contain valuable metals like cobalt, manganese, and nickel. Continue reading

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