Posts Tagged ‘conservation’

It’s hard to talk about biodiversity without becoming a little bit depressed at the nature of things.  This month’s catch is the particularly gut-wrenching case of bluefin tuna.

Bluefin tuna can by known by many names, including Atlantic bluefin tuna, northern bluefin tuna or giant bluefin tuna.  They are capable of reaching in excess of 1000lbs with lifespans of around 30 years.  Feeding on smaller fish such as sardines or squids, bluefin tuna are also important predators in the marine food chain.  Unfortunately for them, they are considered a prize food fish in many human cultures, and fetch astronomical prices in the Japanese sushi market.

While bluefin tuna have always been fished, the relatively recent popularity of sushi in Western cultures as well as the advent of seine fishing poses an immense threat to this fish.  Indeed, bluefin populations are approaching collapse in many areas of the world and are already extinct in certain regions. Rough estimates put populations at approximately 30% of historic numbers.

Nature News recently commented on the sad state of the bluefin tuna industry, noting that under-reporting and illegal fisheries are common.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)meets this November 17th in Madrid to discuss the bluefin tuna fisheries and set quotas. But as Nature News noted, this commission has largely been ineffective and a recent report released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) highlights the many faults of this lax and under-regulated industry.

As always, the most effective avenue of change still lies with the consumer.  Eating a species into extinction is just a little bit ridiculous and completely unnecessary.  Add bluefin tuna to your list of seafood no-no’s and check out the Vancouver Aquarium’s Oceanwise program for a list of seafoods that should not be ending up on your dinner plate.

[Photo from http://www.oceanriver.org/AtlanticBluefinTuna.php, original by Chris Park]

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Woops!  Attentive readers may have  noticed that this post went “live” a little sooner than intended before being quickly nuked by yours truly.  😉

So I had a bit of a stressful week and a bit.   CALAS is harassing me again (hey, they’re finally doing stuff that doesn’t seem to waste member money!!!  lol), but it seems to be under control.   Work has been awesome though – I implemented a neat search feature which allows for dynamic search and display of data tables.

Brain candy for the week:

  1. Search for CALAS Pacific in Google and I’m one of the top hits!  HAHAHAHA.  Thanks to everyone for making that happen!  Keep it up folks – lets direct people to a site that cares about animal welfare more than it cares about self promotion and protectionism.
  2. Nature News reports that although conservation targets were not met, efforts are still making an impact on preserving biodiversity. However, up to one-fifth of vertebrate species are still at risk, particularly the “uglies” like sharks and amphibians.
  3. Some cool research being done to grow human livers in the lab from researchers at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine.  Waiting for some entrepreneurial PI to start up “Liver Labs” – Your Source for Hepatic Pharmacological Testing.

Some upcoming posts – My thoughts on “Mo-vember”, CO2 as a method of euthanasia, and any neat biodiversity tidbits I come across.

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This week’s Vancouver Sun featured a series of stories on the precarious situation of sharks. All over the world, the numbers of sharks of all species are declining at an alarming rate. Sharks have been around a long time – they are descendant from an ancient lineage of fish with cartilaginous skeletons. These bad boys of the seas have been around in some form or another since before the time of dinosaurs! But over the last century and a bit, they’ve been mislabeled as killers, ignored by biologists, and now hunted voraciously to make soup.

I made the mistake of reading the comments in the Vancouver Sun article and was soon incensed by the level of ignorance. Many comments suggested that the oceans would be better off without the presence of these “vicious” predators. Yes, sharks are predators. But removing the predator from the food chain is disastrous. Look at the UVic bunny situation – it’s a classic example of what happens when prey animals are allowed to run rampant without a natural predator to keep populations under control.

And while it is true that sharks have always been hunted for food, like many other fisheries, it has progressed to a level that is unsustainable. Humans have become better hunters and the demand for shark products has never been greater. But now, we cannot even make the claim that they are hunted for food. It is the demand for shark fins that fuels a majority of the shark hunt. The fins are so valuable and command so much money in Asian markets that many fisherman will simply cut of the fins and throw the shark back.

Luckily, sharks are starting to get more attention from both the public and academia. More and more people are rejecting the necessity of shark fin soup at Asian weddings and questioning the need to eat something that is endangered.

For more information, please consider “Sharkwater” – a documentary about one filmmaker’s experience with the plight of sharks.

[Photo from reefnews.com via Google Images]

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The oceans often don’t get enough consideration when it comes to sexy environmental efforts. Sure, there’s the dolphins and the whales, et al. but what about the water itself?

The Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium reported earlier this month of a hypoxic, or low oxygen, zone the size of New Jersey in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Much of this is due to the addition of nitrogen and phosphorus, delivered by rivers which empty into the ocean after collecting toxic amounts of chemicals from . Nitrogen and phosphorus contribute to rapid algae growth, which may be eaten by predators or may die and settle on the ocean floor. And at this point, it is the bacterial decomposition of algae and predator by-products which depletes dissolved oxygen.

This is bad news for oxygen-sensitive species which includes many types of commercial fish, shrimp and crab. As the oxygen levels decline, many species die off or leave the area in search of better habitats, resulting in a biological dead zone.

It’s not just oxygen depletion that oceans have to worry about – there’s also the incredible influx of carbon dioxide. Carl Zimmer wrote earlier this year on the effects fossil fuel consumption on ocean acidification. It’s even attracted the attention of popular media outlets such as The Economist.

In a nutshell, the oceans have become 30% more acidic since the Industrial Revolution. Scary! For animals with calcified shells, an increase in acidity can be lethal as their shells become more brittle and thin, through the process of dissolution.

Unfortunately, like many of the world’s problems, the best ways to fix the problem is to cut back on consumption and to exercise more restraint in usage. Chemical fertilizers are a big source of nitrogen and phosphate, though they can also come from industrial wastes. And fossil fuels… well. Consider it another (in a long list of) reasons to leave the car at home!

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