This morning, I sat down at my desk to clear out my morning emails, make my to-do list, and go about my day. Through several of these channels, I was pointed to a new article in Nature detailing the top 100 articles every ecologist should read. There were already critiques of it flowing through social media, mainly about the representativeness of the list. Depending on which kind of professional hat I’m wearing at the moment, I tend to agree with these assessments. While I recognize – and have read – most of the papers on the list in my early ecological education, I think it misses the mark on defining ecology. Read More
The 2010 Shark Conservation Act prohibits removal of fins at sea for all sharks landed in U.S. Waters, with a glaring exception for smooth dogfish, or smoothhound sharks. In an effort to ensure that fishermen aren’t performing the cruel practice of throwing a still-living but finless shark overboard, a fin:body ratio of 12% for smooth dogfish became law as part of this bill. This means that the total weight of smooth dogfish fins cannot be more than 12% of the total dressed weight of the bodies when the sharks are landed.
Some time ago I wrote a post questioning where this 12% ratio came from, especially since the best available published literature at the time suggested a ratio of only 3.5% for smooth dogfish. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Management Commission (ASMFC) responded, claiming that they had data backing up a find:body weight ratio of 7-12%. Now, thanks to the SEDAR stock assessment workshop for this species, the study conducted by the ASMFC is publicly available (albeit nearly four years after it was written into the law).
So where does this seemingly extremely high fin:body ratio come from? It depends on how you slice it.
Over the last few months, I’ve seen a few efforts proposed to better connect universities to local community research needs. While whole practices and skill sets around participatory action research, community-based research, etc., exist, these don’t quite meet the need these recent proposals attempt to address. These proposals are not talking one faculty research program implementing participatory methods, they want a fundamentally different relationship between researchers and the community surrounding them – which, in many ways, gets back to the roots of many universities in the United States: land-grant universities.
In 1862 and 1890, the Morrill Acts granted land to create universities to focus on practical education: agriculture, science, military, and engineering. Students and faculty research from these institutions, in return, would advance important industries and changing social class relations. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 later extended the mission of these schools to extend the research results to users – creating the cooperative extension system. In short, science in service of society. Read More
The Claim: 10,000 containers are lost at sea every year.
Who said it: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Slashdot, Yahoo News, NOAA, me, and many others.
10,000 is one of those numbers that’s big enough to be surprising, but not so huge to inspire immediate incredulity. The worldwide shipping industry is enormous and containers do get lost overboard. With a few recent high-profile maritime accidents, it’s not hard to believe that 10,000 containers could be sent to swim with the fishes every year.
The MOL Comfort breaks its back. Image via gCaptain.
Fortunately, it’s pretty hard to hide a missing container and the number of containers lost at sea is actually much lower than 10,000. In 2011 and 2014, the World Shipping Council surveyed it’s members to find out exactly how many containers are lost at sea each year. What they found was that not only was the number of lost containers an order of magnitude less than the 10,000 figure, but that the average was driven up by two catastrophic accidents–the sinking of the MOL Comfort and the grounding of the MV Rena.
While looking at positions that allow me to jump off the sinking ship of academia, I’ve seen plenty of rewarding, fun, and excitingly challenging job announcements out there. Most of them require two to five years of experience in the field, and I’ve looked at those, said ‘yep, I qualify’, and turned in the application. I can’t say what happens after, but here’s the type of experience I thought I could safely check off, which met with a surprisingly negative response:
- communicating complex technical issues to a diverse audience
- social media and online outreach
- project management
- volunteer coordination
- budget management
- community engagement
- mentoring and training employees
- grant management and program development
When did I learn these tasks? In graduate school. And here’s where I can feel the doors shut on interest in my application. After applying for positions doing any one of the careers listed above, I’ve met the following responses many times: Read More
After years of scaring pregnant women away from fishy nutrition, the FDA is finally updating its recommendations to encourage them to eat 8-12 ounces of low-mercury fish a week. That’s 2 or 3 meals per week in order to support fetal growth and development. Curious about what fish are low mercury? Stay away from tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, swordfish, shark, and king mackerel and limit albacore tuna to 6 ounces a week. Better options include “some of the most commonly eaten fish such as shrimp, pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish, and cod”. For locally caught fish, you should check with your local authorities. The new recommendations aren’t final – read the draft and write in if you want more information that would help you make safe and healthy seafood choices. Here’s some things you should consider. Read More
This past Tuesday, the draft bill to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act was released by the U.S. House. The Magnuson-Stevens Act is a big deal because this is the law that lays out how fisheries management works in the United States. This time, a number of changes have been proposed by Representative Doc Hastings, some of which could fundamentally change fisheries management and fisheries science in U.S. waters. The proposed changes immediately became controversial, garnering overwhelming support from witnesses to the House Natural Resources Committee hearing of the bill (witnesses included representatives from the recreational and commercial fishing industries as well as the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council) while the Pew Charitable Trust strongly opposed the bill, calling it the “Empty Oceans Act” (translated into GIFs by Upwell for your viewing pleasure).
How might the Hastings bill affect your favorite marine species (both in the water and on your dinner plate)? Read on to see the good, bad, and ugly aspects of these proposed changes, at least according to this particular fisheries scientist.
While Shark Week was raging along, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) approved a new round of shark fishery regulations for public comment. Quite a bit has happened since the last time we covered U.S. shark fisheries here, so it’s time for a bit of a recap before discussing how the latest developments affect sharks and the people who fish for them.
Spiny dogfish sharks have had a complicated history when it comes to fisheries management, going from hated pest to crashed fishery to conservation concern and now one of two certified-sustainable shark fisheries ever (the other is the Pacific species of spiny dogfish). The story didn’t end with being certified sustainable though, and recently this fishery has been in the awkward position of keeping itself sustainable while also making sure fishermen can actually sell their catch. Dogfish quotas have been leaping up annually since the Atlantic fishery was first considered for MSC certification, much to the chagrin of conservationists who would prefer the management plan pay more attention to the life history of these small but slow-growing sharks. However, these increased quotas, combined with weakening demand in Europe as a result of the economic downturn, have lead to a massive surplus of dogfish in the U.S. market and dramatically lowered the price fishermen receive at the fish house. Meanwhile, seafood chefs are attempting to get consumers to try out species they’ve previously overlooked (mainly because many of their former favorites are severely depleted), with dogfish sharks among the former “trash fish.” While this movement gains momentum, fishing industry groups and 19 Senators and House Reps from coastal fishing states are exploring a different option, one that may put spiny dogfish in your local school lunch.
A lot of debate among conservationists centers on the conflict between the desire to see a species totally protected from human exploitation and the reality that market forces will continue to exist (see the latest on shark fin bans for a very good example). Ideally, a conservation plan should strike a balance, ensuring the continued existence of the species while still allowing people to profit from it in some way. This also requires a clear idea of the limitations of conservation policies. For example, US policies (even the mighty Endangered Species Act) only directly affect populations within the territorial waters of the United States, while international agreements like CITES restrict trade of the species without telling any particular country what to do domestically. However, there are ways to track the interaction between conservation policies and the market, making it possible to make some predictions on how things like fishery management plans and CITES listings might affect trade. Then it gets interesting. Armed with this knowledge, can the market be pushed towards species conservation?