Guest Writer • Conservation, fisheries, marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharks • April 2, 2014
Brendan Talwar is a graduate student at the Florida State University Coastal & Marine Lab studying Ecology and Evolution. Hispast experiences in diverse marine ecosystems have led to his current research interests in deep sea fisheries management. His thesis work will take place in the Gulf of Mexico and Exuma Sound while working closely with collaborators at the Cape Eleuthera Institute and The Island School, where he will use this project to teach an Applied Research course.
Imagine it is a crisp, sunny, warm spring day and you’re out on the flats hoping a trout rips your topwater minnow to pieces. Out of a deep pocket fringed by oyster bars, a fish erupts from the mirrored surface and engulfs your bait. You win the fight, measure and bag the yellow-mouthed speckled trout, and repeat.
An hour later, you snag an undersized mackerel near the gills and reel it in for a few photos before throwing it back under the assumption that it will survive, grow, and eventually reproduce. You keep fishing and hope for the best, but find yourself wondering if it truly survived until the end of the day. What if it didn’t? Well, you didn’t mean to catch the fish. You didn’t mean for it to experience a fight-or-flight response, for its blood pH to drop, or for its lactic acid to build up. You were targeting 15” trout, and catching the mackerel was an accident. If the fish didn’t survive, then your daily catch represents a greater impact on local fish populations than the simple number you took home for supper.
David Shiffman • Conservation, Environmentalism • March 31, 2014
Early this morning, the International Court of Justice declared that Japan’s scientific whaling program in Antarctica violates the International Whaling Commission moratorium, and ordered Japan to stop. This is big news for the marine conservation community, but like many legal policy decisions, it can be difficult to determine exactly what it means. I asked marine mammal biologists, conservation activists, and policy experts to help explain it.
What is the International Court of Justice (ICJ)? The International Court of Justice is essentially the judicial branch of the United Nations. Any of the 192 United Nations member states may submit a case against any other state.
What is the International Whaling Commission (IWC)? The International Whaling Commission is a regulatory body that was founded in 1946 as a result of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling treaty. The 88 member nations (any nation can join) regulate whaling and whale conservation issues.
What is “scientific whaling?” Scientific whaling refers to intentionally killing a whale for the purpose of scientific research. According to marine mammal researcher Jake Levenson, this is permitted by Article 8 of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. According to Levenson, “In the 1940’s [when this rule was made,] we didn’t have many of the tools we have now to study whales, so at the time it was thought to be appropriate to kill whales for scientific purposes.” Several experts I spoke to noted that this was never intended to be a large-scale program. Here is a list of some of the scientific research that resulted from the program.
Amy Freitag • Conservation, Highlighting the Rural Voice, Personal Stories, Uncategorized • March 27, 2014
Hopefully many of our faithful readers have seen the sad announcement that the NOAA lab in Beaufort, NC may be no more. The main reason cited for the potential closure is financial – the cost of maintaining an aging building. Our friends over at the fisheries blog have written a sound debunking of this reasoning, also lamenting the loss of an institution over a century old and hub of fisheries research for the mid-Atlantic. In short, the Beaufort Lab represents a strong history of productive research, recent investment into infrastructure, and a critical part of a much larger marine science community in the region. It’s fair to say that the lab is the founding member and backbone of a marine science consortium with the Rachel Carson National Estuarine Research Reserves, Duke University, NC State, the University of North Carolina, NC Division of Marine Fisheries, and Carteret Community College.
Beyond the institutions in a list, the Beaufort lab cements a broader community and economy of Carteret County, which is still largely based on fishing. While relations with the universities and state fisheries enforcement can sometimes be strained, NOAA rises above as a voice of reason and glue of collaboration around protecting our marine resources for food, economy, and society. If you believe me, there are steps you should take right now to voice your support for the lab by contacting local Congressional representation – those with the power to stop the closure: Congressman Walter Jones, Senator Kay Hagen, and Senator Richard Burr - and write a public comment to the House Committee currently reviewing the decision. For those who need a little more context and information, read on for some personal testimony demonstrating the value of the Beaufort lab I observed during my dissertation work in the area, which was focused on collaborative fisheries research. In a nutshell, I’ve observed how the Beaufort lab builds relationships between scientists and fishermen and therefore, indirectly, trust in NOAA. (more…)
David Shiffman • Blogging, Conservation, marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharks • March 26, 2014
Last month, I wrote an article for Scientific American that I shouldn’t have had to write. In it, I argued that riding, poking, prodding or otherwise harassing a free-swimming large predatory animal for fun is a bad idea. I do mean “argued;” believe it or not, there are people who strongly disagree with me. In my article, I was very general and diplomatic, and I took pains to avoid naming names.
However, my article was at least partially inspired by the disrespectful, potentially dangerous, and very public behavior of one person: the editor of Shark Diver magazine, Eli Martinez. Eli recently wrote an article for Medium, in which he stated that: “Look, I have no problem with touching sharks and I do not have any problem with other people touching sharks.” He also notes that ” I just think riding sharks is disrespectful to the animals .” He has also shared the following photos (and many, many more like them) on his Facebook page, photos showing behavior he does not seem to consider disrespectful.
Andrew David Thaler • Citizen Science, Conservation, Science • March 24, 2014
Last year, over 3,000 acres of Mount Diablo State Park were scorched by the Morgan Wildfire. The fire, likely started by target shooters, caused 75 homes to be evacuated and left the park closed to visitors for weeks. The park is now open and the massive fire scar is beginning to heal.
Nerds for Nature, URS, and the Mount Diablo Park service have teamed up to promote wildfire education and harness the enthusiasm of the park’s visitors to monitor fire recovery. Throughout the park, a series of signs will inform hikers about the Morgan Fire and direct them to a fixed bracket where they can line of their smart phone, take a picture, and tweet it to the MorganFire hashtags (#morganfire01, #morganfire02, #morganfire03, #morganfire04, depending on location). As the area recovers, those picture will be pooled to create a long-term documentation of change.
This is an incredibly innovative use of citizen scientist and I’d love to see more recovery projects adopt this model. The next time your hiking in Mount Diablo, keep an eye for the Fire Brackets. Amy and I were out there this weekend, contributing to wildfire recovery monitoring.
Guest Writer • Blogging, Conservation, marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharks • March 17, 2014
Prof Colin Simpfendorfer is the Director of the Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture at James Cook University. He has more than 25 years of experience in researching sharks, and has published extensively in the scientific literature on shark biology, ecology, fisheries and conservation. He is a graduate of James Cook University where he undertook both his undergraduate and postgraduate training. After completing his PhD he worked on shark fisheries at the Western Australian Fisheries Department before moving to Florida to work at the Center for Shark Research at Mote Marine Laboratory. He returned to JCU in 2007 to lead the Fishing and Fisheries Research Unit, where he has helped build a research group focused on improving our understanding of sharks and how best to conserve and manage their populations.
Call it a shark cull, shark control or bather protection, for decades governments have been trying to reduce the risk of humans being killed by sharks – by killing sharks. New South Wales, Queensland, KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), Hawaii, Dunedin (New Zealand), Hong Kong, Somalia (during the US military intervention) and now Western Australia have, or had, shark control programs to reduce the risk of human-shark interactions.
Western Australia’s new program has sparked huge controversy, with many calling for the government to stop and pursue alternatives.There have been a range of claims that there is no science to support shark control. Many of these have been based on the effects of removing large predatory sharks on ocean ecosystems or that there is no evidence that shark culls reduce the risk of attack.Both of these are valid scientific considerations and need to be taken into account. However, neither addresses whether there is some scientific basis to shark control programs.
So here I would like consider whether there is a scientific basis to shark control programs. To do this I’ll look first at the theory, and then if there is evidence to support it based on analysis of data from the programs in KwaZulu-Natal and Queensland.
Kersey Sturdivant • Blogging, Fun Science Friday •
I have to admit, I love this title, but cannot claim it as my own. It is the title of the research paper that forms the basis for today’s FSF, internet trolling.
They see me Trollin.
Photo Credit: NineFiveZero
Anyone who has ever spent remotely anytime reading the comments section of pretty much anywhere on the internet has likely observed a Troll (why some of you reading may even have engaged in Troll-like behavior). While these Trolls do not physically hide under bridges and/or steal sheep, their actions parallel many of the annoyances of their fairy tale counterparts. As defined by wikipedia, an Internet Troll “is a person who sows discord on the Internet… with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”