Floridian flamingos and fishing in the twilight zone: Thursday Afternoon Dredging, March 1st, 2018

Cuttings (short and sweet): 

Spoils (long reads and deep dives):

Please add your own cuttings and spoils in the comments!

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Make for the Planet with Conservation X Labs and the Earth Optimism Summit!

Invasive species, overfishing, ocean plastics, wildlife tracking, and measuring ecosystem services, are some of the most daunting challenges in conservation.While these challenges require a combination of social, commercial, and regulatory cooperation to address, they can also be tackled through technological innovation, which can bypass some of the largest hurdles to implementing practical, timely solutions.

On April 21, 2017, 18 teams of conservationists, technologists, makers, and hardware hackers will gather in Washington DC and tackle five conservation challenges selected by a panel of experts at the Make for the Planet, part of the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism Summit. Over three days, teams will work to develop prototypes, strategic frameworks, and model systems that address specific issues within the broader challenge prompt of terrestrial species invasion, overfishing, ocean plastics, wildlife tracking, and ecosystem services. Read More

Ocean Conservation Priorities for 2041

On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.


Another year, another set of ocean conservation priorities. As with the last 5 years, there will be some new ones, and some repeats. The biggest issues shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, plastics have been an issue forever and global norming is rapidly taking over the broader ocean conversation. For a refresher, check out our priorities for 2036, 2037, 2038, 2039, and 2040.

Sea Level Rise Induced Habitat Loss: This has been a big one on the docket the last few years. As the ocean rises many species are experiencing dramatic loss of habitat, especially sensitive coastal nursery grounds. Although we’ve known about this for a while, we haven’t even begun to quantify the extent of damage to marine populations. Salt inundation is also compromising coast terrestrial habitats, driving essential species further inland. Read More

Media coverage of the Yates Supreme Court case isn’t treating illegal fishing seriously

This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Yates vs. the United States. Commercial fishermen John Yates was caught with dozens of illegally caught grouper, he destroyed much of the evidence of this crime, and he was charged under a law designed to prosecute people for destruction of evidence. He is now suing the government for overreach.

The question of whether a law most commonly known for being used to deal with destruction of financial records can also be used to deal with destruction of evidence of illegal fishing is an interesting one. The Obama administration claims that the law was designed to be a generic Federal destruction of evidence ban, and it has also been used, according to a USA Today article, to “go after the destruction of cars, cash, cocaine, child pornography- even murder weapons and bodies.” It seems to me that it is an appropriate role of government to write regulations to ensure that our shared natural resources are sustainably exploited, it is an appropriate role of government to enforce violations of those laws, and it is an appropriate role of government to punish people for destroying evidence of those violations. A much bigger problem, however, is with much of the media coverage of this case.

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World’s leading experts say there’s a problem with false balance in conservation journalism; Steve disagrees

davesquare

False balance in the media occurs when a journalist  gives equal coverage, and therefore the perception of equal validity, to both sides of a story. While this sounds preferable to today’s hyper-politicized media, sometimes both sides of a story aren’t equally valid. For example, when the overwhelming consensus of the expert medical community says that vaccines do not cause autism but a famous former actress says they do,  giving both sides equal coverage can be not only frustrating, but harmful to public health. The same is true of early reporting on whether cigarettes are bad for you. Giving equal coverage of the global community of expert climate scientists and spokespeople  for the oil and gas industry who claim that climate science isn’t “settled” can also be problematic, as can coverage of other scientific topics.

Image via http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/sciencetoolkit_04

Image via http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/sciencetoolkit_04

Though it is discussed less frequently in this context,  overfishing and marine conservation issues can also feature some fairly egregious examples of false balance. Coverage of a proposal to list great hammerhead sharks under the Endangered Species Act in yesterday’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel provides a useful case study.

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Presidential Endorsement: On ocean conservation issues, the choice is clear. Obama 2012

U.S. flag on the wreck of the Speigel Grove. Photo by Scott Hughes, via Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday, after what seems like an eternity of campaigning, millions of Americans will head to the polls to vote for our next President. Voters will consider numerous important issues, such as the economy, national security, and the endorsement of Lindsay Lohan. Recent polling indicates that Americans are split, and the election is expected to be very close. On an issue near and dear to my heart, the conservation of the ocean and marine life, one candidate is by far the best choice. I endorse President Barack Obama for re-election.

After promising to “restore science to its rightful place” in his 2009 inauguration speech, there are indeed many successes in conservation and science that President Obama can boast of. He has invested unprecedented amounts of Federal money in alternative energy sources, which, despite the bankruptcy of a few companies, will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change and ocean acidification- as will increased fuel efficiency standards. Early action resulted in conservation of wilderness rivers and trails, and Federal Everglades restoration funding has increased. Restrictions on stem cell research were greatly reduced, and mercury pollution was restricted by the EPA. Race to the top programs have improved science and math education in several states.

On ocean issues, the Obama administration has  been a leader domestically and internationally. For the first time, the United States has a National Ocean Policy, which aims to reduce conflicts between different ocean stakeholders. President Obama signed both the Shark Conservation Act and the Billfish Conservation Act, which, despite being imperfect, are strong legal tools to protect charismatic and ecologically important top predators- and numerous other successes in improving the management of U.S. shark fisheries are detailed here. The Obama administration has aggressively pursued fisheries conservation internationally, at CITES, regional fisheries management organization meetings, and the Convention on Migratory Species.

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Mermaids do not exist, and five other important things people should, but do not, know about the ocean

Mermaids depicted by a Russian folk artist. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons via New York Public Library

Last week, Animal Planet aired a fictional mockumentary about mermaids. From an educational perspective, it was a disaster that was rightfully described as “the rotting carcass of science television” by Brian Switek. As Dr. M on Deep Sea News pointed out, one of the troubling results of this TV special was the discovery that some people believe that mermaids are real.

When I pointed out on Facebook and twitter that mermaids do not exist and that I hoped none of my friends believe otherwise, it inspired a long and interesting discussion. Someone asked why it matters if people believe in mermaids, as they felt that a sense of whimsy among the public is a good thing. Someone pointed out that scientists are discovering amazing new species all the time. More than a few people said “anything is possible.”

Sure, scientists discover new species all the time, but while finding a new species of monkey, orchid, or jellyfish can be interesting, it is not proof that “anything is possible” and it is not the same thing as finding a species of talking, thinking humanoids with fish tails on the lower half of their bodies.  There’s a big and important difference between enjoying fantasy novels and wishing that certain fantastical creatures exist (i.e. having a sense of whimsy) and genuinely believing that those creatures really do exist.

These people don’t believe that in the vast and unexplored ocean, there may be some bizarre undiscovered species still out there. They believe that talking, thinking humanoids with fish tails on the lower half of their bodies exist and are acknowledged as existing by the scientific community. This displays a troubling lack of awareness of reality that likely is not limited to a belief in mermaids. For the benefit of those who have paid so little attention to what’s going on in the real world that they believe mermaids exist, here are five other things that you should, but likely do not, know about the oceans.

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#SciFund Returns: Where have all the coral reef fish gone?

#SciFund, a month long initiative to raise funds for a variety of scientific research projects, is once again upon us. Project leaders post a project description and an appeal for funds, and members of the public are invited to make small donations to projects that they deem worthy. Donations come with rewards such as access to project logs, images from fieldwork, your name in the acknowledgements of publications, among other possibilities. Many of these projects are marine or conservation themed. Once again, we’re highlighting some of our favorite marine science proposals. Please take a look at these projects and, should you so desire, send some financial support their way. If you do make a donation, let them know how you found out about their project and leave a comment (anonymous if you’d like) on this post letting us know.


Where have all the coral reef fish gone?

Coral reefs are one of the most threatened ecosystems world wide. This project collects critical data for the Kenya Wildlife Service to promote effective coral reef conservation and management of marine protected areas.

Reefs protect shorelines and prevent erosion of coastal properties and  provide food and income to over 100 million people worldwide. Overfishing strongly contributes to the loss of reefs. Reef loss in turn, contributes to loss of biodiversity, economic decline, coastal destabilization, and loss of other nearshore habitats such as mangroves and seagrass beds.

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are one of the major ways by which we can protect coral reefs.  MPAs allow fished populations to recover and protect the corals that build reef structure. Kenya is one of the four African nations (and one of the few developing nations worldwide) that has established and maintained MPAs where fishing has been excluded

source

Dr. Jennifer O’Leary is tracking triggerfish in Kenyan Marine Protected Areas to assess the effect of overfishing on the recovery of coral reefs within the MPA. Head on over to Dr. O’Leary’s project page and send some rocket fuel her way!

Get marine conservation into the national political conversation with Americans Elect!

In response to the partisan gridlock in Washington DC, a group called Americans Elect hopes to “open up the political process”. This organization, founded by heavy hitters from both parties, is using the internet to allow anyone registered to vote in the United States, regardless of political affiliation, to nominate candidates for President of the United States. An online convention in June, which every registered Americans Elect user can participate in, will determine the nominee. who will be on official ballots in every state alongside Barack Obama and the Republican nominee (probably Romney but we’ll see).

Additionally, any registered Americans Elect user can propose a question. The top questions, as voted on by all other Americans Elect users, will have to be answered by any potential candidate. These top questions, and the Americans Elect candidates’ responses to them, will undoubtedly attract national media coverage. Presently, most of the top questions are about the economy and foreign policy. None focus on the oceans.

I have submitted a series of marine conservation questions, and I need your help to get them enough votes to earn them “top question” status and get marine conservation into the national political conversation! If you are registered to vote in the United States, please consider registering for Americans Elect and voting for these questions.

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