Alvin dives for early-career scientists, join me in the Marianas Islands, stump a scientist, embraces MPAs, and more! Tuesday (?) Morning Salvage: April 17, 2018

We’re late because Andrew doesn’t understand time zones.

Foghorn (A Call to Action!)

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

The Okeanos Marianas. Our research vessel for the day.

The Levee (A featured project that emerged from Oceandotcomm)

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Terraforming Mars on Earth, giant larvaceans, conservation jobs, and more! Monday Morning Salvage: May 8, 2017

Fog Horn (A Call to Action)

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

Seabirds on Ascension Island. Photo by Clare Fieseler.

Jetsam (what we’re enjoying from around the web)

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When I talk about Climate Change, I don’t talk about science.

Climate Change is real. It’s happening now. And the best available data points to us as the cause.

That the foundational science is settled is a point of unending frustration to scientists, science writers, and policy advocates who face continuous partisan push back, from whitewashing government websites to threatening scientists with legal repercussions for reporting the data.  During my International Marine Conservation Congress keynote last year, I argued that Climate Change denial is not a science literacy problem, but rather a product of increasing political bifurcation. Political ideology is a much stronger predictor of Climate Change understanding than science literacy.

The term “Climate Change” is now loaded with so much political baggage that it becomes almost impossible to hold a discussion across political lines. In stakeholder interviews, people generally understand and acknowledge the impacts of climate change on local and regional scales, as long as you don’t call it “Climate Change”. This has been my experience working in rural coastal communities, which tend to be strongly conservative and intimately connected to the changing ocean.

Which is why, when I talk about Climate Change, I don’t talk about science.  Read More

10 times more fish in the sea? Context matters.

Earlier this year, a research team from Spain released a surprising new estimate of mesopelagic fish biomass that is 10 times greater than previous estimates. This new study raises the total estimated biomass of mesopelagic fish from 1 billion tons to 10 billion tons, accounting for 95% of all fish biomass. The news media ran with dozens of variations on the “plenty of fish in the sea” trope, suggesting that the global fisheries may be more abundant and reversing the doom-and-gloom message of fisheries decline.

This is not correct.

The fish in question are small, mid-water species like myctophids and cyclothones, fish that are incredibly important for ocean ecosystems, but commercially non-viable. The reason they were missed in previous studies is that these small, agile fish avoid nets; This new study uses SONAR and other acoustic tools to measure biomass.  So while there is a huge, untapped fish stock in the mid-water world, it is not a commercial fishery.

Let’s put things in perspective.

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Circle Hooks Save Fish

When you work on the water long enough, you encounter some unique situations.  Whether it’s getting stranded during field work, surviving massive seasickness, having your equipment attacked by hostile sea life, or just seeing something unusual, these anecdotes are an important part of what makes marine science fun (sometimes moreso in hindsight).  That’s why I’m creating a new category for posts here called “Fish Tales,” where we can share these stories.  To start with, here is a literal fishing story.

While I was down in Morehead City for some field work (post on that coming soon), I got the chance to do a little fishing with fellow Southern Fried writers Andrew and Amy and check on potential sites for shark sampling this summer.  I’d wanted to test out a new fishing rod set up for sharks and large fish, and had rigged up a wire leader with a size 12/0 circle hook.  While casting, it became very clear that I hadn’t properly attached the leader to the swivel when I pulled back an empty swivel where the leader had been.  Frustrating, but I’m practically required to lose gear every time I fish, so I rigged up a second wire leader with a J-hook that was on hand.

Circle hooks are used by recreational and commercial hook-and-line fisheries (and many longliners) to reduce hooking mortality in large fishes, sharks, and bycatch animals like sea turtles.  The idea is that the hook more or less works by itself without being set like a J-hook.  The shape of the hook prevents swallowing and encourages hooking in the corner of the mouth, where it’s less likely to do serious damage.

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Inaugural Post: Fishermen Are Not Evil

Hi everyone.  I’m Chuck and I used to blog primarily over at Ya Like Dags?, where my main focus was on interactions between apex predators (sharks mostly, but I also occasionally dabbled in other large fish and sea mammals) and those other top marine predators, humans.  This was not in the “shark attack” sense, but in the context of fisheries management.  Writing about this subject and living it as part of my research have given me valuable perspective on marine science and conservation that I really didn’t have as a freshly-minted Bachelor of Science.

Unfortunately I see more extreme versions of my old perspective show up in countless blog comments, posts, and tweets by perfectly well-meaning people whose only issue is that they’ve fallen for a simplistic, “us vs. them” attitude towards conservation.  Consumptive uses of the ocean, such as fishing, are inherently evil and must be opposed.  This no-compromise approach sounds cool and may bring in the TV ratings, but is it truly helpful?

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