Yoda, Yoga, and the Fish of Cannery Row

Blogging, Conservation, fisheries, marine science, Natural Science, ScienceApril 6, 2015

unnamedStacy Aguilera is an Abess Fellow at the University of Miami. Her dissertation research focuses on why certain small-scale fisheries in California are relatively successful, from a social and ecological perspective. Follow her on Twitter here!

As my favorite little green guy once said, “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.” Yoda may have never shared some brewskies after work with a bunch of fishery managers, but boy would they cheers to this. Managing fisheries is a tough job, especially considering all the many factors that can quickly and drastically change a fishery. We’ve got markets bouncing here and there, climate varying in short blurps and over a long time, technology is getting better, and new regulations are proposed and passed all the time. You have to think about all the people involved while also thinking about the species and broader ecosystem as a whole. All these things happening at once means fishery managers, and especially fishermen, processors, and buyers, are dealing with an uncertain future and while some things are predictable, the future is indeed difficult to see.

So how do we manage and fish to keep our fishing industry alive, while also keeping our oceans healthy and full of life? One way is to manage for flexibility. As our recent paper published this March in PLoS ONE explains, managing fisheries adaptively is difficult, but allowing participants to fish multiple fisheries is a strategy that can help. When fishery participants can access many fisheries, they can then support themselves and the local fishery in difficult years, tapping in to multiple resources. This in turn also helps the environment, as shifting fishing effort from one species that isn’t doing so well relieves pressure when fishing then targets another species that may be doing much better at that time.

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Fish at Night: Announcing a symposium focused on nocturnal fish

Blogging, marine science, Natural Science, ScienceApril 3, 2015

AGeoffrey Shideler is the Assistant Editor at Bulletin of Marine Science, an independent peer-reviewed journal at the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami.

AStudying the ocean at night can be difficult. Yet this is precisely the time when many fish are most active. Scientists have found that many important processes occur at night, such as spawning, larval settlement, migrations, feeding, and more. Many organisms rise toward the surface, creating massive pulses of biodiversity and biomass. In nearly every aquatic environment, from open waters to coral reefs, what one observes by day can be quite different from what is happening after the sun sets. At the same time, in polar seas and at great depths, “night” can span, months, years, and beyond. Fish and fishers in these dark systems have adopted tactics and strategies that take advantage of low-light conditions and their study may offer solutions to problems in warmer, shallower habitats.

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Fun Science FRIEDay – Weaponized Insulin

biology, Fun Science Friday, marine science, Natural Science, toxicology

Most people have heard of cone snails. They are the genus of venomous marine snails that shoot a poisonous “dart” (hypodermic-like modified radula tooth attached to a venom gland) to attack and paralyze their prey before feeding on it. Smaller cone snails primarily hunt and prey on marine worms, while the larger ones hunt fish. To humans the sting of a smaller cone snail is similar to that of a bee, but contact with larger cone snails can be fatal! Basically they are the badasses of the snail world.

Cone snails are venomous! Their toxin is estimated to be 1,000 times more powerful than morphine. (Photo credit: http://www.siart.karoo.net)

Cone snails are venomous! Their toxin is estimated to be 1,000 times more powerful than morphine. (Photo credit: http://www.siart.karoo.net)

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What Conservationists Need to Know About Surveys

Science, Social ScienceApril 2, 2015

This post in the first of a new series entitled “The Basics of the Human Dimensions”, which gives the most basic tips for how to work with social scientists and social questions in marine conservation efforts. Whether you are the stakeholder, the collaborating natural scientist, or both, this series will hopefully make the journey into the human dimensions easier. 

Whether someone has emailed you a survey asking for your expert opinion on something or you would generally like to poll the audience of your research about their thoughts, the basic survey is often the first experience with social science one encounters. And yes, these surveys come in a wide variety of forms and quality, and you are right to judge and raise an eyebrow at them to a certain degree, whether that is out of sheer curiosity or justified skepticism. If you are on the side of wanting to deploy a survey, my best piece of advice would be to hire or consult with a survey writer, particularly if you’re not crystal clear on how the questions and the later statistical analysis will relate. But there’s some more subtle things you should know in dealing with surveys at all stages of the process.

When someone asks you to take a survey

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David Shiffman wears ugly sunglasses. We need to fix that. For the sharks.

#OceanOptimismApril 1, 2015

David is a legend in the online ocean conservation world, but that doesn’t mean he’s a legend of style. Everywhere, in every picture, he wears these:

Just terrible.

Just terrible.

Let’s be clear: these sunglasses, if you can even call a second pair of glasses worn over his normal glasses that, are ugly. Really ugly. Distractingly ugly. In an non-parametric, multivariate analysis of his outreach effort, David is 7% less effective* at disseminating ocean content than he should be, given his follower base and content stream. I believe that the majority of this deficit can be directly attributed to his sunglasses.

It’s time to change that.

Buy David Shiffman a less ugly pair of sunglasses.

 

David Shiffman has spent his life saving sharks. Isn’t it time he did so in style? I think so. And I hope you do too. Let’s buy him some sunglasses that reflect how cool his shark conservation work really is. Support our efforts to buy David less ugly sunglasses on Indiegogo.

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The War on Climate Change is a Guaranteed Job Creator

climate change, Natural ScienceMarch 26, 2015

Our human history is measured in a sequence of “epochs”, periods of time defined by events or advancements. Today, we are entering the epoch of climate change.  In this era, Lindsay Graham acknowledges that climate change is real and humans are causing it. Conversations finally turn away from “Do we need to do anything?” to “What are we going to do now?”

This question terrifies conservative political parties across the globe. “What are we going to do now?” cannot be answered by old techniques aging politicians are comfortable with. The beginning of the climate change epoch is the end of their political/economical relevance just as the DVR was the death of Laser Disc. We cannot save our economies and address these new challenges by using strategies developed 30+ years ago during a completely different environment.   (more…)

A request to environmentalists and journalists discussing shark fin ban legislation

Blogging, fisheries, marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharksMarch 23, 2015

Many of the U.S. state-level shark fin bans which make it illegal to buy, sell, or possess shark fins include exemptions for smooth and spiny dogfish, i.e. by far the most common species of sharks caught by U.S. fishermen. Some of these fisheries have significant conservation concerns associated with them. Much of this fishing is not currently subject to catch limits or other basic management

You would never know that most locally caught sharks are not affected at all by fin bans by reading most of the action alerts that some conservation organizations send out to encourage ocean lovers to support these laws, by following most of the media coverage of these laws, or by reading most people’s excited posts after these laws pass. Many of these inaccurately say that shark fin bans “protect all sharks.”

I have a request to make to the conservation organizations supporting these laws, journalists covering them, and the shark and ocean lovers celebrating when they pass. If you want to support laws with an exemption for dogfish sharks, that’s fine, but let’s have an open and honest discussion about why you are doing this instead of just acting like it isn’t happening.

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The disastrous feedback of what happens when fisheries funding dries up

Aquaculture in NC, Conservation, Environmentalism, fisheries, fisheries, Highlighting the Rural VoiceMarch 20, 2015

Last week I had the good fortune of attending the NC Oyster Summit, hosted  by the NC Coastal Federation in the Museum of Natural Sciences. We talked about the wonders that oyster restoration and aquaculture development can do for water quality, economic development, and taste buds. We enjoyed the demonstration of ‘merriore’, or the taste of the sea that lends a particular flavor to each oyster that captures the ecosystem it grew in. Yet, the fact that stuck with me most is that despite all of these wonderful celebrations of the oyster for the health and well-being of NC’s coastal communities, funding cuts of around 40% to the Department of Marine Fisheries mean that a large portion of the Albemarle Sound remains closed to harvest or aquaculture because there are no staff to check those oysters for public health risks.

The “Administrative Closure” of the most northern stretches of the state’s prized Albemarle-Pamlico estuary system is a worrying precedent in many ways that highlight how leadership withdrawal of support for science can trickle down to real economic, environmental, and cultural harm.

Economic flight (more…)

The place where dissertations go to die …

UncategorizedMarch 19, 2015

So you’ve just spent the last few years of your life working on your research project, and now in front of you, you have the final thesis, all smartly bound with a rather dashing cover that would not look out of place in Mr Darcy’s library, with your thesis title and your name glistening in silver or gold lettering. You have a sense of achievement. It has been a difficult labor, but finally your baby has been born, and you cradle it in your arms lovingly as you walk it to the library, and hand over your precious bundle of academic joy to the librarian. They take it from you and head back to the dusty shelves where theses of thousands of past graduate students have accumulated, the place where your dissertation will go to…to die.

Nawlins_cemetary_ECMparsons

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Dipping a Toe in the Confluence

A Renewed Sense of Wonder, oceanography, Personal StoriesMarch 17, 2015

North Carolina is well known for both its distinctive barrier islands (making Pamlico Sound the largest lagoon in the U.S.) and highly productive fisheries.  Both of these features exist in large part because North Carolina sits that the point where two of the largest ocean currents in the Atlantic meet. From the north, the Labrador Current meanders from the Arctic Circle along the Canadian, New England, and Mid-Atlantic shorelines and crashes into the Gulf Stream at Cape Hatteras, deflecting this warm current off its own shore-hugging course from the south and out across the Atlantic Ocean.  Aside from literally defining the shape of the Outer Banks, the collision zone represents the boundary between temperate waters to the north and subtropical waters to the south.  This presence of this border means that, depending on the time of year and local weather conditions, you can catch just about any marine fish native to the Northwest Atlantic Ocean off of the Outer Banks.

This satellite image of sea surface temperatures shows the Gulf Stream (warm red current coming from the south) meeting the Labrador Current (cold purple current coming from the north). Image from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (whoi.edu).

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