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Monday, December 12, 2011

Enbridge pipeline decision delayed a year? Whhaaat?

You heard correctly. As reported by the Vancouver Sun, a final decision on whether to approve or reject Enbridge’s controversial Northern Gateway Pipeline project has been delayed until late 2013 – almost a year later than anticipated.

Why you ask? Because of the unprecedented number of individuals who have signed up to have their voices heard during public hearings for the project.

The original time schedule saw public hearings lasting only a couple of months. Due to widespread public concern regarding Enbridge’s risky project, people came out in numbers to sign up to voice their concerns, and numbers speak.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tankers on our Coast: Public risk vs. Private Gain

Once in a while, a video comes along that explains, in a few minutes, everything you've been trying to say for years. Two days ago such a video was released by filmmaker Ben Gulliver: Tipping Barrels – Journey into the Great Bear Rainforest. With beautiful footage by Ben Gulliver and Ian McAllister, Tipping Barrels follows surfers Arran and Reid Jackson on a trip into the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest.

[Unfortunately, the video is no longer available online]

I love this film because it beautifully illustrates everything that we stand to lose from oil development on this coast. The film's release also coincides with that of a report (PDF copy) by the Living Oceans Society, National Resource Defense Council and Pembina Institute, which outlines the considerable risk to local communities, salmon-bearing rivers and coastal ecosystems associated with transporting bitumen along the Northern Gateway Pipeline and connecting tanker route.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Home from Work

Will Soltau is local research coordinator for our Salmon Farming Initiative

Ever since I started working at Living Oceans Society after my fishing career, I have been walking to work and home again. It's a short walk and good exercise. There isn't much vehicle traffic and I never succumb to road rage. Most days I walk along First Street enjoying a view of the ocean and the people I meet along the way. In the winter I meet the regulars, the die-hard walkers and their dogs. We usually have a short conversation in passing. In the summer I get to meet new people from all over the place who have come to enjoy a bit of what Malcolm Island has to offer. Many of them are stretching their legs having just tied up at our harbour after a few days on their boats. I get to learn about where they're from and where they are heading. I have a chance to talk about the places I have been on this coast as a fisherman and also about the work I now do at LOS. Sometimes, if the tide is out or if I'm not feeling sociable, I'll walk along the beach below the houses for a change of pace. Walking on beach gravel is a lot tougher than walking on pavement. Being able to enjoy a walk along the shore on one's way to and from work is pretty special, I suppose, but it is an everyday experience for me. Okay, this is starting to sound like an Andy Rooney piece so I'll get to the point.

The other day on my way home I could hear a boat motoring along behind me. It was late afternoon in late fall and the light was beginning to fade. The sound was no big deal and, since boats go by all the time I wasn't paying it much attention until the horn begins blasting. I turn to see that it's a local fishing boat cruising full speed outside the kelp patches just off shore. The next things I hear are children's joyful voices emerging from the house just ahead of me. A small flock of three little kids burst outside and go running down to the beach jumping, waving and shouting at the man on board; “Daddy's home! Hi Dad, hi Dad.” He is waving back to them from the wheelhouse, blowing the horn and flashing his spotlight on and off.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Black Friday and the sustainability joke

I'm an expat American. When I see the media coverage of what has come to be called "Black Friday", part of me becomes even more expat.

I don't want it to be this way, but I just don't understand that aspect of my country. I never have. Now, I'm no saint - I've wandered my share of malls, eaten my share of fast food. But I have never, ever been even remotely comfortable with America's mass consumption culture. And now, when I go back, I feel like a foreigner, like a visitor in a country run by a dictatorship.

Perhaps, if you've never been to the States, you may question the media reports. Can Americans really be that rabid about consuming stuff?

The answer is simple. Yes. Yes they are. Absolutely and without question.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Icy brinicle finger of death video and what warming oceans hold for fisheries

So it's almost the end of November. If you live in the northern half of the northern hemisphere you've probably already sealed your windows, piled a few more blankets on your bed and paid your gas bill in an attempt to keep the icy hand of winter from creeping into your house and freezing you where you sleep. No? Well maybe that's just my house. At any rate, this is occasionally the fate of sea creatures living beneath the ice of the Antarctic, as you can see for yourself in this incredible time-lapse video from the clever folks at the BBC.

The BBC assures us that this is a production of BBC Nature rather than their special effects department

In contrast to this unusual phenomenon, or rather in conjunction with it, is the ongoing warming of our seas as the result of Climate Change. With only 30 shopping days left until Christmas, warming of the world's oceans may not be at the forefront of your mind. But this gradual change in temperature poses a far greater threat to marine life around the globe than icy destruction you just witnessed above.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

ISA test results inconclusive

The BC Salmon Farmers are crowing over today’s media conference announcing the results of further testing for the ISA virus in Pacific salmon. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the salmon farming industry’s public relations division – aka DFO Aquaculture Branch – tried their best to sound neutral and unbiased but were clearly pleased to report their findings to date. But not so fast (spin) doctors.
If you listened to the first few minutes of the media conference call there was nothing but good news. According to Dr. Con Kiley, Director of National Aquatic Animal Health with CFIA, there are no confirmed cases of ISA in either wild or farmed salmon in BC, all the samples received were thoroughly tested, all tests were negative and basically, we can all relax. There is no cause for concern.

That would be great news. ISA in the Pacific ocean could have tragic and truly devastating consequences if the disease were to mutate or prove to be virulent. Today’s announcement from the CFIA, DFO and the BC government was very reassuring – up to about the 10 minute mark.

I started getting very worried again when Kiley noted that “these supplementary results must be considered inconclusive because of the poor quality of the samples.” Say what? Inconclusive?

The spin-doctoring started seriously unravelling when a reporter from the Seattle Times asked if Canadian government officials would be willing to share raw samples with US researchers if they wanted to do their own testing (audio credit: Hmmm – seems our friends to the south are as suspicious of DFO and CFIA’s cosy partnership with the fish farming industry as Canadians are.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Environment Canada lays charges against east-coast salmon farming operation

There are some things that we all know not to do. You don't tug on Superman’s cape. You don't spit into the wind. You don't reveal to the world that the Lone Ranger has poorly maintained eyebrows by pulling off his mask.

And you do not poison lobsters in the Bay of Fundy.

This should be common sense. That is the heart of lobster country, after all. Poisoning lobsters out there would be like knocking over a really long row of Harleys at a biker rally, because:

- People are going to notice, and
- There will be consequences

An east-coast salmon farming company is learning this the hard way, after allegedly releasing into the water an illegal pesticide, resulting in lobster deaths.

Environment Canada has charged Kelly Cove Salmon (a division of New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture), Cooke’s CEO, and two managers with 11 counts each of ‘depositing a substance deleterious to fish into fish-bearing water’, which is a violation of Section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act. The deleterious substance in question was a pesticide based on a substance called cypermethrin. Cypermethrin is “highly acutely toxic” to aquatic organisms, and as such cannot be applied directly to aquatic environments in Canada.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hitting close to home: Sointula, Rivers Inlet sockeye, and Infectious Salmon Anemia

Will Soltau is the Local Coordinator for Living Oceans Society's Salmon Farming campaign

Even though tonight is game six of the World Series, I’m blogging about those Rivers Inlet sockeye that tested positive for the Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus (ISAv). I’m breaking blog protocol with back to back posts on the same subject but since both Blog Brothers (Jake and John) are away, protocol shmotocol.

This news is hitting close to home.

This community - Sointula - has been sustained by fishing for over 100 years. Much of that sustenance came from Rivers and Smith Inlet sockeye.

Our staff photo for a few years back was taken under a mural painted on the wall of the Sointula Co-op. That mural illustrates the heritage of this place, this coast. Those little dories are fishing boats getting ready to be towed up to Rivers Inlet for the salmon season by a packer. They didn’t have engines. They didn’t even have cabins. A tarp was stretched across the gunwales for shelter from the weather. None of them had drums to retrieve the gear; the fishermen pulled their nets by hand. There were certainly no electronics like radar to find one’s way in the fog which is pretty much a daily occurrence during fishing season.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Deadly salmon virus found in B.C. sockeye

The highly contagious virus that wiped out seventy percent of Chile’s farmed salmon industry has now been confirmed in B.C. wild salmon.

The devastating news that Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) is definitely present in B.C. was delivered by Simon Fraser University (SFU) Professor Dr. Rick Routledge, whose research team found the infected sockeye while doing field work in Rivers Inlet on B.C.’s central coast.

This is the first time that ISA has been confirmed in the entire North Pacific.

Routledge, joined by SFU team member Nicole Gerbrandt and activist Alexandra Morton, announced the findings at a media conference in Vancouver and did not downplay the seriousness of the risk.

48 sockeye smolts that were collected by the SFU team as part of a long term study into the collapse of Rivers Inlet sockeye stocks were sent to Dr. Fred Kibenge at the Atlantic Veterinary College in P.E.I.. Kibenge confirmed ISA in two fish, confirmed it was a European strain of the virus and notified the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, as is required in the case of contagious and lethal diseases.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Breaking up is not so hard to do

Just ask Rena. She's Liberian (not to be confused with librarian), a real looker, and a bit of a mess. She also happens to be the source of New Zealand's worst marine environmental catastrophe in history.

Last week the container ship Rena ran into Astrolabe Reef off the coast of New Zealand at full speed. She's now leaning precariously, perched on the top of a rock, being battered by an onslaught of high winds and waves determined to bring her down, as a growing crack spreads up her side. Rena is breaking up, and she's not holding it together very well. So far she's lost 70 of her cargo containers (don't worry, none of the 11 containers carrying toxic chemicals have fallen overboard yet), at least 350 tonnes of bunker fuel oil, and all crew who were evacuated due to her extremely dangerous position. 1,700 tonnes of fuel remain onboard, ready and waiting for the open ocean or the tank of a salvage vessel (whichever comes first), and her beloved captain and first mate have been charged. It's looking like Rena may have found her final resting place.

The container ship Rena is reported to be breaking up after she and her crew ended up on the rocks.

It's mildly ironic that Rena sits where she does. Astrolabe Reef is indeed named for the ancient astronomical device used for maritime navigation prior to the days of the sextant and GPS. You'd think they would have seen it coming on their chart plotter or at least radar. It's clearly visible during the day for Pete's sake, regardless of modern or old-school navigation equipment (Okay. Okay. They ran into at night). Yes, the ship was two miles off course. Yes, there really isn't an answer as to how a ship with modern technology could run aground going 17 knots. Yes, the crew may have been celebrating the captain's 44th birthday. But alas, when have well-known, visible reefs stopped collision courses before? Think Pathfinder. I think the crew there was playing video games.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Red tide, biolumenescence, and just where do you find sustainable Canadian seafood?

There are some pretty cool things living in the ocean. There are some pretty cool videos of things that live in the ocean, too. For instance, this video from Science News of sea urchin larvae developing into adults is pretty amazing. And in case you haven't seen it already, check out beautifully put-together video of bioluminescence in the waves near San Diago:

The light show that you see above is the result of millions of dinoflagellates (tiny marine algae) that washed ashore after a large algae bloom along the west coast. These blooms, which usually happens after an upwelling of nutrients form the deep waters off the continental shelf, is often called red tide as the algae are actually dense enough to change the colour of the seawater over a huge area. To get an idea of exactly how large an area, have a look at this satellite image of the waters off Vancouver Island in the fall of 2004. Just as these algae can change the colour of the water by day, they can also light them up by night by producing a chemical with one most wicked names known to science: LUCIFERIN.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

PNCIMA – A Betrayal of Public Trust

Public Trust: it's the cornerstone of democratic government; the concept that power held by elected officials is entrusted to them by their constituents to use in the best interest of the people they represent. Betrayal of this trust can take the form of bribery and corruption, as these result in individuals or groups gaining special access to power that rightfully belongs to the whole electorate.

Of course, it isn't always that black and white.

Take PNCIMA for example. It's pronounced pen-SEA-ma, and stands for the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area. If you read this blog on a regular basis, you've no doubt read a post or two about this unusual term that refers to both a spectacular region of the BC coast and a process on the cutting edge of marine conservation.

Even if you don't follow the blog, you may have heard about PNCIMA in the news over the past month under headlines like Federal government scraps PNCIMA funding agreement, NDP cries foul and Ottawa threatened by oceans planning. These news headlines arose because the version of PNCIMA that we on BC's North and Central Coasts have come to know over the past half-decade is no more, and those of us who have invested time and effort into this process are now reeling, having had the rug pulled out from under us by Ottawa. Just listen to the CBC Daybreak interview with Des Nobles, who represents the Central Coast Regional District in PNCIMA, to get a sense of the disappointment this has caused.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Here's how not to promote a salmon farming event

Will Soltau is local research coordinator for our Salmon Farming Initiative

A dead and bloated Harbour Seal entangled in a net attached to unused fish farming equipment near Port Hardy.

In the lead-up to the BC Salmon Farmers Associatio
n’s first-ever Aquaculture Awareness Week a lot of media reports and even one or two clever cartoons were generated. They must be disappointed that most of the coverage was in response to our media release about predator control activities at BC salmon farms during the first quarter of 2011 being reported publicly for the first time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The People of the Broughton Helping Heal the Ocean

This is the third and final update from the Broughton Archipelago by Jodi Stark, winner of Living Oceans Society's Way I See It contest.

My trip to the Broughton Archipelago was a short but powerful one. It was rich with experiences and learning and it really crystallized some ideas and perspectives, of which I’d like to share a few.

I have long believed that our way to healthy oceans is through the people in our coastal communities. The true stewards of the ocean are those who live there and interact most intimately with the surrounding sea. This has never been more evident to me than on this trip.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Should Future Generations be represented today?

So, I had an idea for a new kind of special-interest group the other day:

Future Generations.

Sounds facetious? Maybe, maybe not. I'm not sure myself. After all, the wants and needs of future generations of humans are barely considered in our political or economic decisions today, and you have to admit that this is a bit of a shortcoming.

Plus, the flux capacitor technology required for time travel has been available since 1985, so that's not an issue.

Take politics. We have instituted electoral timelines that punish politicians for taking actions that impose short-term costs in order to yield long-term benefits. One of the most infamous examples of this comes from the United States, where all aspiring politicians live in mortal fear of being "the next Jimmy Carter" - of proposing honest and sensible and mildly inconvenient solutions to long-term problems and, as a result, being destroyed in the next election by a belligerent doofus. In U.S. political circles, this is known as the Carter/Reagan Transformation,

Jimmy Carter + fuel crisis + "Turn down the thermostat, put on a sweater" = Ronald Reagan

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ocean Exposures: Because summer isn’t over yet, dang it!

Sea lions and starfish, sculpins and seagulls, ships and surfers. You've may have seen one or more of these in your summer travels. You may even have taken pictures of some of them. You may even, like many others this summer, have shared some of those in our 2011 Ocean Exposures Photo Contest. Like this one:

Discovering Anemones - 2010 contest winner in the Ocean People Category.

Check out our Flicker page for several more fine examples.

But wait, you haven't entered any photos? Not to worry! You still have a couple weeks left to do so, as our contest doesn't close until September 30th. Now I know what you're thinking: “October's only two weeks away? C'mon! Summer just started, man!” No? Oh right, the other thing – “What's in it for me?”

Well, aside from the notoriety of having your photos featured on our website (and yes, maybe even on our blog) you stand to win a Nikon Coolpix digital camera! Just enter your photos into one of our two categories, Ocean Ecosystems and Working on the Ocean. You can't do anything about summer going away so fast, but maybe you can help us keep it alive in digital form a little while longer.

Now, here's the fine print:

No purchase necessary. Contest open to Canadians excluding Quebec residents. There are two first place prizes: two Nikon Coolpix L24 cameras, retail value $110 each, and two second place prizes: two LOS Seahugger T-shirts, retail value $25 each. Contest closes on September 30, 2011. The winner will be announced on October 18, 2011.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Deep sea species and ecosystems: worth saving?

Is the deep sea worth saving? Living Oceans Society thinks so, and we'll punch you in your glasses if you disagree.

Did you know? When confronted by danger, the roundnose grenadier's only
defense is to secrete a thick, sticky layer of pathos.

OK, we won't actually punch anyone, but we're still serious about saving the deep sea. This is why we're a part of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC). Thanks to the work of the DSCC, you and I have an opportunity to tell the United Nations that yes - the deep sea is worth saving. Read the following message from the DSCC, to learn more.


For the first time ever, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) will conduct an open review of national and regional actions to protect those deep-sea species and ecosystems that are beyond national jurisdiction from the harmful impacts of bottom fishing. This open review is scheduled to take place at UN headquarters in New York, on 15-16 September, 2011.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Deep sea may be out of sight, but the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition keeps it in our minds

"Out of sight, out of mind".

If this statement has any truth to it, then there is perhaps no part of earth that is more out of humans' minds than the deep waters of the high seas.

The high seas, of course, refers to the vast ocean expanses that are beyond any nation's jurisdiction. While the concept of the 'high seas' has long been a reliable source of inspiration for shore-bound romantics, the people who have actually been drawn to them have often had less-than-lofty aims in mind. In particular, the high seas' aura of lawlessness has drawn people and entities seeking to do things that they simply could not do in places with stricter oversight. This unfortunate tradition continues even today, in the form of high-seas bottom trawling.

Canadians on the west coast are no strangers to the perils of unregulated high-seas fishing: the words "high-seas driftnet fishing" still resonate here, nearly two decades after a moratorium on this practice that caught North American salmon on the high seas of the North Pacific. While this infamous example of destructive high-seas fishing has been stopped, the same cannot yet be said for unregulated high-seas bottom trawl fisheries.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Prisoner of Hope

The following is a post from Cath Stewart, Living Oceans Society's Salmon Farming Campaign Manager. Cath will be on the stand at the Cohen Commission September 7 and 8.

“I’m not an optimist, I’m a prisoner of hope”. Those words from Archbishop Desmond Tutu have been the signature line on my emails in recent months. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a total pessimist. I couldn’t do this work if I didn’t believe change is possible. I do have moments of optimism and opportunities to celebrate when the small steps forward by my amazing colleagues at Living Oceans help to turn the tide of harm to our oceans.

But mostly, I’m just a prisoner of eternal hope.

It’s just as well that I am, because there’s probably never been anything better designed to shatter optimism than the federal Cohen Inquiry into the missing Fraser River sockeye.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

An iPod in the whale kingdom

This is the second update from the Broughton Archipelago by Jodi Stark, winner of Living Oceans Society's Way I See It contest.

Out at sea on the Maple Leaf, we saw the iPod playing and splashing and jumping around. An iPod? What?

Each pod of resident orcas in BC waters is given a letter for easy identification. Long before the popular music player, this particular pod was dubbed the I-Pod. They surrounded us and put on quite the show- big bursting spouts through their blowholes, playful tail slaps and curious spyhops. It was another magical experience for us this week.

These whales are fish eaters and seemed to be happily feeding around these waters of the Broughton Archipelago. In fact, the wildlife here has been so abundant that, without being able to see underwater, we can only assume there is a plethora of fish, seaweed, plankton and invertebrates feeding the whole system.

It's easy to see how this region has captured the hearts of so many people who are working hard to ensure that this area continues to thrive in face of its many threats.

Last week I went to the Cohen Commission Inquiry to learn about disease affecting wild salmon. This is an important judicial inquiry and much will be learned, analyzed and hopefully concluded about the cause of the decline of the Fraser River Sockeye salmon.

Research and analysis are an important part of marine conservation. But it's these inspiring moments out at sea surrounded by orcas, humpbacks, seabirds, salmon and sea lions are where ideals, beliefs and perspectives get crystallized.

All of us onboard, young and old, are going home with a new appreciation and love for the Broughton Archipelago and a respect and admiration for the world's oceans and its wildlife.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


This is the first update from the Broughton Archipelago by Jodi Stark, winner of Living Oceans Society's Way I See It contest.

It’s only the 3rd day of our sailing trip on the Maple Leaf through the Broughton Archipelago and already there are so many stories, photos and videos that I’d like to share that I’m practically bursting at the seams.

For today, I’ll share just one from a very special place called the Ahta River Valley.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Building a case for marine protected areas

Back in January, David Shiffman of the ever insightful Southern Fried Science came out with an interesting post which begged the age-old question 'Can marine protected areas save the ocean?' Actually, the question was more like 'Can no-take areas save fish stocks?' The conclusion he reached was that yes, maybe, in some cases, if everything is done right, it would probably help. Of course, he put it much more eloquently than that and also used this wonderful cartoon, which I have shamelessly reposted (courtesy of NOAA):

Fast forward to the present (well, let's say two weeks ago), and the publication of a paper in PLoS ONE: Large Recovery of Fish Biomass in a No-Take Marine Reserve. 'A paper', you say, 'What gives?' True, I lured you in with the hot fudge sundae of marine humour only to serve you the cold goulash of peer-reviewed literature. But not to worry, I will summarize.

The study took place in Cabo Pulmo National Park, marine reserve on the south-east tip of the Baja California Sur in Mexico. The reserve includes a large 'no-take' area (or 35 % of the total area) that was closed to fishing. The park was surveyed in 1999, four years after it was established, but no significant difference was found between the biomass (the total living mass) of the fish there and and surrounding areas where fishing was permitted. However, the reserve was surveyed again ten years later and this time there was a large difference.

How large, you ask? Over those 10 years the fish biomass in the park had increased 463 %, while there was no significant change in surrounding areas. Not only that, but the biomass of top predators, such as sharks, had increased by an astounding 11 times. In fact it was the largest recovery recorded for any marine reserve in the world!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Video: Gwaii Haanas - Journey from mountain top to sea floor

Just over a month ago my manager, Kim Wright, shared some pictures of her recent trip to Gwaii Haanas. Today, I thought I'd share a video with you a video that Parks Canada put together on the marine portion of the park - Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA).

When Gwaii Haanas NMCA was established in July of last year, the area became the first area in Canada to receive some degree of protection from mountaintop to sea floor. While the park is an important step towards protecting the marine environment and wildlife of the area, covers a relatively small area of the waters on Canada's Pacific coast.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Farewell to Jack

After bucking the current through the “Blowhole” –a narrow pass at the west end of Hanson Island that leads to Blackfish Sound - and rounding Spout Islet last weekend my wife and I dropped anchor in a little nameless nook that overlooks Queen Charlotte Strait. Little fish dappled the water all around our boat, jumping high for some reason unknown to me. The sea was calm, the sky was almost clear.

After I shut off our engine and radios I could still hear the drone of a float plane overhead, the distant whines of sport fishing boats and the low rumbling of a passing cruise ship. Soon, all that white noise faded as the sun began to set and the sporties headed in to count their catches and tell stories about the ones that got away. Still, there wasn’t silence. The plops from the little fish and the faint calls of diving ducks was all that remained until the peace was punctured by a whale taking a breath. First just one whale, then more whales breathing together. It was definitely a pod nearby, maybe just around the point over by Dong Chong Bay where Springer reunited with her pod in 2002. We never did see them.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Way I Sea It" Contest: Preparing for the Journey

Next week, I have the great privilege to sail through the magical Broughton Archipelago. Your votes for my blog post about how my life veered off the highway to Whangamata and led to a career in ocean conservation helped me win the Way I Sea It contest and for that I am so grateful.

Where is the Broughton Archipelago?

The Broughton Archipelago is a group of islands and islets off the north east coast of Vancouver Island. It’s part of Great Bear Rainforest and is home to an abundant diversity of wildlife on the land, coast and sea. My trip will leave from Port McNeill on the north east coast of Vancouver Island and meander through the ocean area rich in orcas, dolphins, fish, seabirds and colourful intertidal critters.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Video - How Humpbacks hunt with Bubbles

Earlier this week, I posted a video about a remarkable human being hunting under water while holding his breath. Now here's a video (courtesy of Science Friday) that shows how humpback whales hunt by doing the exact opposite: blowing nets of bubbles to concentrate their prey (also called bubble-netting).

You may recall that I mentioned this research by NOAA's David Wiley and the paper he published in a previous post, but it's always better on video. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Threats to the ocean come from surprising places

If I were forced to name the Four Horsemen that are most likely to ride at the front of an Ocean Apocalypse - the four that have the most potential to cause disruption or destruction across a range of species and ecosystems - I would probably identify them as: Ocean Acidification, Overfishing, Climate Change, and Dead Zones. 

This is an actual photo of one of the Four Horsemen. Who knew?

One of the obvious yet striking things about that short list is that three of the four are primarily caused by our activities on land. It's for this reason that we must expand what we think about when we seek to live an ocean-friendly life.

For proof, look no further than your dinner plate. As we first discussed on this blog many months ago, a convincing case may be made that eating some kinds of meat and dairy products may, in many ways, be worse for the oceans than eating seafood. This is because the chemical inputs and emissions associated with terrestrial livestock production are substantial drivers of climate change and ocean dead zones, and likely are not-insignificant contributors to ocean acidification as well.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Video - Sea Bed Hunting on One Breath

What do you need to catch a fish at a depth of 20 meters? A boat, a rod, some tackle, maybe a beer or two? Or, if you're more adventurous, a full scuba setup and a trusty spear-gun perhaps? How about trying the spear-gun without the underwater breathing apparatus. Oh, and you can't use any weights and you must stay down (for up to five minutes) until you catch your fish.

That's crazy talk, right!?!

Well, maybe not so much. I recently watched a remarkable BBC series called the Human Planet, all of which I would highly recommend. The episode on oceans was particularly interesting to my though, particularly the segment which featured a Bajau fisherman named Sulbin who was able to accomplish the feat I just described.

Unlike the (literally) breathtaking free-diving clip that John shared with you a few months back, this is the real thing from start to finish. Enjoy, and remember: dont try this at home!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Canada Safeway takes Leadership in Ocean Advocacy

When shopping at the seafood counter of your local grocery store, it may appear that the old cliché 'plenty more fish in the sea' seems true. Reality is, two-thirds of the world's marine stocks are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted. Healthy oceans are vital to our life on Earth. The good news is that more than likely, your local Canadian grocery store is paying attention! The currents are shifting in corporate social responsibility, with most retailers in Canada committing to a sustainable seafood policy of some type.

(Photo credit: Safeway Inc.)

The latest was last month: Canada Safeway, Western Canada's largest grocery chain, announced their Sustainable Seafood Policy, created in partnership with SeaChoice, Canada's national sustainable seafood program. At the core of Safeway's sustainable seafood policy is their commitment that by 2015, all fresh and frozen seafood will be sourced from sustainable and traceable sources, or be in a credible improvement project. Read the press release here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Natters about Matters


We spend a lot of time around here thinking about PNCIMA (pronounced pen-SEA-ma).You might be wondering what it is. I can tell you that it’s not a food group or a dance move, although 'pensema' in Esperanto means 'pensive' or 'thoughtful'. This is fitting, because the PNCIMA area gives us a lot to think about…

Think about a place…

Think about Canada's left coast. Ancient, wild, mystical...and big. Everything here is big, and PNCIMA is no exception. PNCIMA is the big ocean that stretches from northern Vancouver Island around Haida Gwaii and on to B.C.'s northern border, while washing up against the Great Bear Rainforest along the way.

Think about wildlife…

All those spirit bears in the Great Bear Rainforest? What do you think they like to eat? Salmon, that’s what. And they come from PNCIMA's waters. They're not alone, of course. Many of the Pacific's most iconic and ecologically important animals call PNCIMA home.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Haida Gwaii Slideshow

Guest Blogger Kim Wright here - reporting in from the beach (seriously - there is wi-fi out here!).

In June I was lucky enough to go to a place that’s captured my imagination for years: Haida Gwaii. This island group is truly the land of legend where a sense of magic hangs in the misty air. I got to go there in my role as representative to the conservation sector to attend meetings on ocean management for the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA).

Planning can be pretty “meeting-hall” focused, as creating a vision for PNCIMA’s future requires hours of talk between all the interested parties. But in Haida Gwaii we were able to draw on the local environment and the past for inspiration. Early one morning we got into zodiac boats and circumnavigated Louise Island, stopping at Skedans, an abandoned Haida village site. Skedans was one of the larger Haida villages in the southern islands, but it was abandoned in the 1880s near the end of the smallpox epidemic that killed 90 percent of the Haida population. Now deer wander among the remains of mossy, mortuary poles that tell long forgotten stories from the once thriving community.

Our tour served as a reminder that humans have been part of the beauty and the bounty of these islands for many thousands of years, and that our place in these ecosystems can be extremely fragile. Skedans, also known as K'uuna Linagaay (Point Town), is now part of the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Scott Islands - What do they mean to you?

Of the many amazing places on the outer coast of British Columbia, there are few more spectacular this time of year than the Scott Islands. This rugged archipelago stretches out for 50 km to the northwest of Cape Scott (the northwest tip of Vancouver Island and the western terminus of the world-renown North Coast Trail), and teams with seabirds between March and September. In fact, the outer three Islands (Baresford, Sartine, and Triangle) are home to over two million auklets, murres, puffins and storm petrels.

As mentioned in the text, the land portions of these islands are already protected as provincial ecological reserves, but there is currently no protection for the surrounding waters. The Canadian Wildlife Service is currently setting up a marine National Wildlife Area in the waters around these islands to protect the rich marine environment where birds find food for themselves and for their chicks.

What the video doesn’t mention is that the rich ecosystem around the islands also supports many other bird species that don’t nest in the area, such as Marbled Murrelet (which nest in the adjacent old-growth forests), Black-footed Albatross (which have six-foot wing spans and nest in Hawaii and Japan), and Sooty Shearwater (which come from as far away as Australia and New Zealand). Many marine mammals frequent the area including Grey, Humpback, Blue and Killer, Baird’s beaked, Minke, and Sperm whales as well as Dahl’s and Harbour porpoise. The rocky islands provide a haul-out for Northern fur seal and the largest breeding colony of Steller’s sea lions in Canada (the second largest in the world).

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Elephant Seal Encounter on Hornby Island

Last week I had the unique opportunity of spending some time with a molting elephant seal. He and his kind would normally spend most of their time beneath the sea so we were lucky to see him. Able to dive to depths of 2000 metres and able to stay submerged for up to 2 hours by slowing their heart rate down, they are only rarely seen on shore. Named after the proboscis like nose of the males, elephant seals, when seen, are often mistaken for sea monsters.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ocean Exposure photo contest - does that mean it's summer?

You know how, in the summer, it's so hot you feel like you're going to melt into the sidewalk and the sun is shining so brightly that you feel like your eyeballs are going to get burnt out of your head, even when they're shut? How, no matter where you look, everything is sparkling because the sun is just that brilliant? How looking at the ocean feels more like looking like looking at a field of diamonds?

Well we don't have that up here in Sointula. Currently it's foggy and gray and rainy and it's looking like it'll stay that way for while yet. (I'm hoping you're having better luck wherever you are).

But you know the worst part?! It's too gray to take any really great ocean pictures! If I wanted gray, foggy oceany pictures I would have taken them in the winter.

So we need your help! Living Oceans Society is hosting its second annual Ocean Exposures photo contest in order to get some great ocean photos. We want to show everyone how beautiful this big ball of blue is and you know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand Tufted Puffins…or words, depending on where you're from.

Your photos can fit into one of two categories: Ocean Ecosystems or Working on the Ocean. Check out last year's winner in the Ocean Ecosystem's category below.

Pretty skookum, eh?

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Case of the Missing Marine Protection – Part 3: The Dramatic Conclusion

This is a continuation of Part 1 and Part 2 of The Case of the Missing Marine Protection.

The bay was blanketed in a thick, impenetrable fog. It was as if someone had just stepped in from the rain and flung their damp wool overcoat over the small town to dry. Inside my dimly-lit office however, the fog was finally beginning to clear in the case over which I had been puzzling for the past few months.

Things just hadn't been adding up in the watery ledger of marine protection. Of the 161 marine protected areas (MPAs) on Canada's Pacific coast, 109 were meant to be completely closed to any harvesting of marine creatures, but some amount of commercial fishing seemed to be permitted in all but one. The brass who managed the MPAs didn't seem to communicate too well with the ones who ran the fisheries. The result was that the boundaries of MPAs matched up with those of the fishery closures every bit as well as any two running shoes that might randomly wash ashore on the same beach.

I stared down at the map on my desk, which highlighted this discrepancy vividly:

Suddenly, the door to my office flew open with a bang, and a large, bearded figure with a patch over his left eye burst into the room. I jumped to my feet, involuntarily reaching for the gaff I kept beside my desk.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bubble net fever reaches a new pitch

A cool new study on bubble netting, the remarkable hunting behaviour of certain groups of humpback whales, was brought to my attention this weekend by the Marine Detective. The paper (click here for abstract) by NOAA's David Wiley describes the behaviour in detail, and breaks it down into two different classes: 'upward spiral' and the previously uncharacterized 'double loop' (no, this doesn't involve the whales doing back-flips under water).

Anyway, it makes for a very interesting description of a truly fascinating behaviour (and I'm fast running out of adjectives).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

B.C.'s corals need more protection, not more words

Not many people know about deep-sea corals. This is partly because they are in the deep sea, which is hard to visit while still remaining alive, and it's also partly because corals don't participate in televised dancing or weight-loss competitions, which if we're honest with ourselves is what you have to do to get noticed these days.

If you want that kind of information, you have to invade their privacy and film them yourself.

So, call deep-sea corals old-fashioned. They won't care. After all, it's pretty common for deep-sea coral colonies to be hundreds of years old, and the real old-timers - the black corals - can have birthday cakes with over two thousand candles on them.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Is increasingly complex management really the path to sustainability?

I was in a meeting recently. The subject: different approaches to ensuring that sediment kicked up by bottom fisheries doesn't harm the sponge reefs.

Someone said: we need to know exactly how much sediment the sponge reefs can withstand. We need more research on this, and then we can manage the fisheries so that that threshold amount of sedimentation isn't crossed.

Something in my mind gave way. I thought, Really? Really really?

Sure, such an approach may be great for managing impacts on the sponge reefs. There's no doubt that devoting substantial effort to gathering good scientific data, and developing sound management options from the data, is very effective when it comes to solving specific problems - in the oceans, and elsewhere.

But what is the net effect when we take this approach repeatedly, in countless different situations across the globe? What's the net effect when our default approach to problem-solving is to increase the data requirements, the management steps, the technological innovations, the sheer number of things that are necessary for our systems to function?

In short, are we truly developing a more sustainable human community when our preferred problem-solving approach is to increase the complexity of our enterprises? 

Well, no. I would argue that we're not. Not if you're looking at the long term.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday Mass Extinction and Coral Cams

It was bad enough that I rolled out of bed this morning to discover that it was Monday, but now we're talking about mass extinction. What gives?!?

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Case of the Missing Marine Protection – Part 2: The Facts of the Case

This is a continuation of Part 1 of The Case of the Missing Marine Protection. Click here for Part 3.

It was a quiet morning in the small coastal fishing town. The sun crept over up over the horizon, under cover of the clouds, like it had been out on the town all night and only just noticed the time. The stillness was broken only by the cry of seagulls and rumble and clanking of the ferry docking. I finished my twelfth cup of coffee of the night and stared groggily at the brown envelope bearing my name (Inspector C. Storm), the contents of which were now spilled across my desk like a purse-full of herring on the deck of a seiner.

The tinny melody of the radio echoed in my head, as I tried to piece together the facts of the case. Fact 1: there were 11 different types of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) on the BC coast, ranging from recreational areas to ecological reserves. Fact 2: many of these areas were intended to be completely closed to harvesting of marine life, including fish. Fact 3: protected areas closed to fishing in many other parts of the world helped fish stocks to recover and produced more and larger fish. Finally, fact 4, which I had scribbled on a scrap of paper in coloured pencil:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Trolling vs. trawling

Trolling. Trawling. Two very different ways of fishing, and yet they sound so, so similar.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Living Oceans' GIS team takes first place in international competition

One of Living Oceans' greatest strengths is our GIS team, aka Karin Bodtker and Carrie Robb. Everybody in the organization knows this, and anyone who works with us knows this as well.

And now, the world knows it: Karin and Carrie have taken first place in the science category of the Society for Conservation GIS/ESRI/SCB International Mapping Contest!

Here's the victorious entry, which won out over some very worthy entries from around the world:

Download this map as a PDF or JPEG here

So congratulations, Karin and Carrie - this is just small amount of the recognition that you deserve!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

And the "Way I Sea It" contest winner is...

Here it is… the moment you’ve all been waiting for, The Way I Sea It contest winner announcement… drum roll please… And the winner is…

Jodi Stark from British Columbia!

Congratulations, Jodi!

Jodi has won a Whales and Totems sailing trip of a lifetime with Maple Leaf Adventures. She’ll be sharing her experiences, as well as plenty of photos and videos, right here on this blog in September. Be sure to tune in again!

Here it is, the winning story:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Case of the Missing Marine Protection – Part 1: A Dark and Rainy Day

This is Part 1 of a three-part series. The Case of the Missing Marine Protection continues in Part 2 and Part 3.

The rain was pounding on the window hard enough to suggest that someone inside was late on paying their debt. But the only one in the office that cold, dark afternoon was me, Inspector C. Storm. That's the name on the door, anyway, but of course, it depends who's asking.

I turned up the scratchy radio to drown out the rain and turned my attention back to the contents of the thick brown envelope which a shadowy figure had stuffed through the slot in my door earlier that day. Inside were several maps, a salt-stained copy of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Commercial Fisheries Closures, and the following note:

Between the Harvest film

The following is a guest post from Scott Drucker, Director of the “Between the Harvest” team. This film documents the legal but controversial harvest of sea turtle eggs in Ostional, Costa Rica. The harvest itself is part of a larger conservation strategy by the Costa Rican Government intended to reduce poaching of the turtles and their eggs.

Between the Harvest” is the story of Ostional, a small coastal town that relies on a legal harvest of olive ridley sea turtle eggs. This short documentary delves into this controversial practice by viewing it through the eyes of these two fragile species. The aim of the film is to create a discussion about conservation and the legality of such a project, and to expose the threats that exist to the olive ridley sea turtle.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Free sailing trip. We're giving it away. Any takers? Or: sailing trips are like kittens we are giving them away.

Hey you! With the mouth full of pie! Put the fork down and listen up!

Living Oceans Society is partnering with Maple Leaf Adventures to give away a week-long tour of the Great Bear Rainforest aboard the 92-foot schooner Maple Leaf.

This is the real deal, kids - Maple Leaf Adventures is a top-notch adventure travel company and this is simply one of the most amazing places on our planet.

Monday, May 30, 2011

LOL yeah we forgot: Canada leaves tar sands emissions out of report to UN

The Canadian government has admitted that it "deliberately excluded data indicating a 20 per cent increase in pollution from Canada's oilsands" from its  greenhouse gas report to the United Nations.

I now turn the floor over to Uncle Leo for a thoughtful analysis of this news: 

Exactly, Leo. Exactly. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Study shows that ocean acidification poses threat to endangered northern abalone

Bad news for an icon of the B.C. coast: a new study shows that ocean acidification is a risk to the prized and endangered northern abalone.

In this study, researchers from the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University subjected larval abalone to seawater with varying levels of dissolved carbon dioxide and then watched, waited, and weighed. The results were not encouraging, as the larvae subjected to increased carbon dioxide displayed reduced shell growth (or, in the case of the highest dose group, sometimes didn't even grow shells at all), increased incidence of shell abnormalities, and decreased survival.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I am hopped up on allergy meds and this post is about a bottom trawler destroying expensive science equipment in British Columbia

What the title says is what this post is about.

I am overly fuzzy in the mental sense due to allergy meds. They are a cruel mistress. One minute you are certain that you are, indeed, the Lizard King. Then you go catatonic for long stretches, drool slowly advancing from the corner of your mouth like the adventurous appendage of some tube-dwelling deep-sea invertebrate new to science.

Now that I look at it, I may or may not have totally plagiarized that last line from Bill Bryson. Seriously, it's a possibility. I'm too tired to do anything about it. Google it yourself if you want to get me in legal trouble. 

So yes, I am probably not entirely "here" in the strictest legal interpretation of the word, but by golly when a bottom trawler destroys something I gots to report on it. So here goes.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Is this your idea of 'organic' farmed salmon?

I'm no expert, but every time I buy organic meat, I'm wagering that the animals were treated better than the average, they were fed organic food that itself is free from toxins, and in general, the meat was produced in the most non-environmentally damaging way possible.
Looks like I'd lose my wager if I were to bet the same on organic fish.

You may remember hearing (from us) that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is developing organic aquaculture standards - standards that would allow net-pen farmed salmon to be certified as 'organic'. Well, the second draft of Canada's proposed standards is now available (PDF copy) and it's downright shocking how much the standards contradict even the most basic organic principles.

Beachcombing meets global pollution monitoring

Those of you who've read the blog regularly over the past few months will undoubtedly have noticed that I have a thing about with plastic pollution in our oceans. It fouls the beaches, clutters the ocean, and kills a wide variety of sea life. But since it's already, well... everywhere, why not do something useful with it, Right? Such was the thinking of Dr. Hideshige Takada, who started International Pellet Watch.
Pellets (not the ones you feed rabbits, or alternately those which rabbits produce after you feed them) are tiny plastic granules which basically act as raw material for the manufacturing industry. They are also a common sight for beachcombers, as their size and buoyancy allow them to become widely distributed across the worlds oceans.
Plastic resin pellets (credit: Plastic Reef)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New short film on Ocean Acidification

Plymouth Marine Laboratories (PML) in the UK just released a new short film on ocean acidification: Ocean acidification: Connecting science, industry, policy and public. The film brings together a wide range of affected individuals, from Prince Albert of Monaco to a Plymouth fish monger, and features some beautiful shots of the amazing marine life that is at risk. See for yourself:

Many thanks to Southern Fried Science for bringing this video to my attention.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The things we can learn from Cuttlefish and Whaling

Ever wished you could blend in with your surroundings? It's incredibly useful for avoiding predators, sneaking up on unsuspecting prey and forestalling that guy who always wants to start awkward conversations (you know the one). There are many fine examples of this ability in vertebrates and invertebrates alike, but none are quite as sophisticated as the cuttlefish. Here's what I mean by that:

So sophisticated, in fact, that researchers at the Marine Biology Laboratory at Woods Hole recently received a $6 million grant from the US Navy to study these cephalopods in greater detail. The ultimate goal of this research is to emulate the system which allows the cuttlefish to mimic the colour and texture of their environment, and develop some nifty new materials for stealth suits and such.

Such forms of camouflage would also have come in handy for shareholders entering the Enbridge Pipeline offices in Calgary last week, as members of the Yinka Dene Alliance held a protest and drum ceremony in front of the building. First Nations along the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline route have consistently voiced their opposition to the project because of the substantial environmental risks it poses to their territories. How much risk? Try 5000 spills in Alberta alone between 1990 and 2005, 52 of which were greater than 100,000 liters. Not to mention the massive spills this in Northern Alberta this month, and in the Kalamazoo River last year.

And what has this to do with the ocean (being that this is a blog about marine conservation and all)? Well for one, increased tanker traffic on the coast (as a result of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline) would create the potential for an environmental disaster orders of magnitude larger than those caused by pipeline ruptures and much more difficult to clean up.

But in a more fundamental sense, many parallels can be drawn between the development (and potential fate) of the modern oil industry and that (those) of the whaling industry of the last century, according to an insightful piece by Andrew Nikiforuk in the Tyee last week. Not only are there parallels, but the oil industry basically sprung out of the demand for energy created by the whaling industry. To illustrate this transition, I'll leave you with a classic Stan Rogers tune.

Friday, May 13, 2011

PNCIMA for Dummies (like me)

At my job interview for my current position at Living Oceans Society, I was asked if I was “familiar with PNCIMA.” As my eyes furiously glanced around the room in hopes that one of the posters on the walls might give me some tiny gleam of understanding, I realized that my window of opportunity to feign knowledge had abruptly ended. I replied in the negative. Thankfully, I was forgiven.

Now for all you accountants, bus drivers, lawyers or store clerks out there, you probably wouldn’t be asked this question in a job interview. But, on the off chance that you are, it’s probably a good idea to come up with an answer, just in case.

PNCIMA (pen-SEE-ma) – not the sound you make when you sneeze, not a skin disease, not a foreign language greeting. It’s actually a place. The Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (least sexy location name ever created? Prove me wrong). For all you British Columbians out there, it makes up approximately half of our coastline.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Get inspired, write about it, sail away

You know what I find inspiring? You thought I was going to say David Suzuki, didn't you? While I certainly do, David would be a 'who', not a 'what' (ah... grammar). Other inspiring things to which I am not referring here include:
  • Sooty shearwaters which can fly over 64,000 km from the southern to the northern hemisphere and back in during their migration each year;
  • Cuvier's beaked whales which can dive to depths of up to 2000 meters (6500 feet);
  • And Spanish dancers (nudibranchs, that is) which are just dang cool!
But what I had in mind when I started writing this post is much greater and more awe inspiring. In broad terms, it's the night sky. More specifically, the Milky Way Galaxy (do we have any one from the Milky Way here tonight? Raise your hand). Very specifically, this video of the Milky Way, taken during a sandstorm on Pico del Teide:

I've always found that the stars are best viewed from the deck of a ship out at sea (though I may change my mind if I ever have the chance to visit the Canary Islands), so I'm excited to tell you about a contest currently under way that could put your feet on such a deck. Namely, the Way I Sea It contest.

Why am I excited to tell you about this? Because the prize is a seven-day Whales and Totems Tour of the Great Bear Rainforest with Maple Leaf Adventures along British Columbia’s coast from August 28 to September 3, 2011. This adventure by sail on the 95-ton schooner Maple Leaf with her gourmet chef and welcoming crew, features personal guides, whale watching, sailing, and hiking in and around the over 200 islands of the Broughton Archipelago.

But that's not the most exciting part. The lucky winner will also have the opportunity to write a few guest posts for our very own Water Blogged. That's right, you could be featured on the very blog you're currently reading! I told you it was exciting, didn't I?Of course, I would be much more excited about the awesome sailing adventure, but it turns out that I can't apply (staff ineligibility, something-or-other). So It's all up to you now. All you have to do is click here, and follow the instructions. Want to read the instructions first? Simply write an answer to the following question in 300 words or less:
What opportunities, decisions, serendipity, adventures or choices led you to your current path? The way you make a difference in the world could be anything, big or small - a hobby, a career, a volunteer activity, a way of life, a philosophy.

Then, increase your chances of winning simply by asking people to vote for you. Judges (no, I’m not one of them) will pick the winner from the top 5 contestants with the most votes. The winner also get to blog (read, brag) about their trip for Living Oceans’ blog. The sooner you get your entry up, the more time you will have to get more votes, so enter now!

There are already a number of great entries, which you can check out here. If you don't feel like entering, than you can vote for your favorite (did I mention I don't get to vote either?). So check it out, and you or someone you know could be sailing off into the sunset this summer.

I'll wave at you from my office.

Now here's the fine print (I may have added a few conditions):

No purchase necessary. Residents of Canada excluding Quebec are eligible to enter. Must be a resident of the Milky Way Galaxy to enter. The one prize is a trip for one from Vancouver to Port McNeil with Maple Leaf Adventures and worth approximately $3,875, and the opportunity to write two to five blog posts for the Living Oceans Society. LOS reserves the right to refuse to publish any material pertaining to Justin Bieber in any way shape or form. To enter, contestants must clearly write a short story and be one of the five contestants to get the most votes. Contestants who owe John money are ineligible. Judges will choose one contest winner from the five contestants with the most votes. The contest closes on June 5, 2011.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Meanwhile, in the Octopus's Garden...

Evolution can stop now. It has achieved its purpose. It is impossible to ever make anything more endearing than this.

(Image via this article in The New Yorker).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The more things change...

Well, a couple of days have passed since the 'exciting' election on Monday, and the buzz is finally wearing off. While Canada woke up Tuesday to the same government as before, we have a brand new opposition and have finally joined most other industrialized democracies in the world (with apologies here to the United States) in electing a Green Party member to Parliament. I would love to talk about what all this will mean for the environment, but others have already covered this both here in terms of climate, and here in more general terms. Heed the bottom line in both these accounts; the environment, the climate and the ocean need your help more than ever. Stay engaged, dear readers, and above all (in the words of my favorite science fiction author):

-Douglas Adams, author and environmentalist, 1952-2001

Monday, May 2, 2011

Overlooked Species Theatre presents: Hagfish

Consider the hagfish.

But do so from a distance. Or at the very least, wear gloves.

Also, don't imagine it burrowing into your chest cavity to feed on your decomposing flesh. That's what it does to the corpses of dead marine life, of course, but...just don't think about it, OK?

If you have access to medications that quell feelings of nausea and/or panic, take those too.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What Enbridge’s Oil Spill Response Plan (Doesn’t) Tell Us

With the election mere days away and oil tankers shaping up to be a major voting issue in B.C., it’s surprising that the Conservative party still supports introducing crude oil tankers to B.C.’s North Coast and Enbridge’s extremely controversial Northern Gateway project.

We found yet another reason why the Conservatives might want to rethink their position.

Well, it might not be quite that dramatic, but it's still pretty scary. Enbridge recently released their General Oil Spill Response Plan (GOSRP) for the Northern Gateway Project. Unfortunately, the plan is like an extended warranty – not worth the paper it’s written on. It’s thick on words. Thin on actions.

Witty Title Goes Here

Well, that was quite the hiatus.

Why has Water Blogged been silent these past two weeks? Well, I got a bad haircut. Obviously blogging was out of the question until it grew out.

Jake wasn't available because he heard a scary noise outside of his house one night and refused to come out of his bedroom for nearly a week afterward.

But to paraphrase James Brown: We're back. We're back. We're back. We're back. We're back. And we're here to remind you that there are things going on outside of the election and the NHL playoffs.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

U.S. Military: Climate Saviour?

I'm an American living in Canada. How'd that happen? Well, I was living in Maine, and one day I was really hungry. I smelled maple syrup, and I just kept following it.

It could happen to anyone.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Over 770 letters on behalf of sharks and turtles! Way to go!

Last week we asked you to send a letter to the CEO of Marine Stewardship Council and to Moody Marine Ltd. to express your concerns regarding potential MSC certification of the Canadian longline swordfish fishery.

Well, the public comment period ended yesterday, but they sure got an earful! Thanks to the efforts of hundreds of concerned individuals like you, over 770 letters were sent.

Thanks, friends! By the way...would you happen
to have any squid on you, perchance?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

From Japan With Love, and possibly some radiation

Those who live on the west coast of North America are no strangers to marine debris from Japan washing up on our doorstep. From barnacle-coated trash to coveted glass fishing floats, oriental flotsam gathers on our shores every spring. In 2014 though, beachcombers can likely expect a glut of debris specifically set adrift by the devastating tsunami which hit Japan on March 11th. This according to a model by researchers at the University of Hawaii (below).