Ocean Updates - June 2008
June 30, 2008
Video Story on squid dissection at NOAA Fisheries Santa Cruz Lab.
More Info on Giant Squid
Giant squid are squid of the Architeuthidae family. They are deep-ocean dwelling animals that can grow to a tremendous size: recent estimates put the maximum size at 13 meters (43 ft) for females and 10 meters (33 ft) for males from the caudal fin to the tip of the two long tentacles.
World Ocean Day - June 8, 2008
World Ocean Day was established during the Rio De Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992 to raise awareness of the important connection between people and the ocean. In celebration of World Ocean Day, which for 2008, occurred on Sunday, June 8, the Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center's Ocean Education and Outreach Coordinator produced a series of emails highlighting one thing that park staff and visitors can do to help our coastal and marine ecosystems. These messages were based on excerpts from 50 Ways to Save the Ocean by David Helvarg (2006, Inner Ocean Publishing). This book is for a general U.S. audience, and where appropriate, some Point Reyes specific information was provided as well.
June 6, 2008
World Ocean Day is Sunday, June 8, 2008. It was established during the Rio De Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992 to raise awareness of the important connection between people and the ocean. In California, Governor Schwarzenegger proclaimed World Ocean Day to be "Thank You Ocean" Day. The Thank You Ocean campaign is designed to raise awareness of ocean issues in California.
This week, in celebration of World Ocean Day, I'm going to send out an email a day highlighting one thing that you can do to help our coastal and marine ecosystems. These will be excerpts from 50 Ways to Save the Ocean by David Helvarg (2006, Inner Ocean Publishing). This book is for a general U.S. audience, and where appropriate, I will provide some Point Reyes specific info as well.
"When considering your impact on the planet, realize that the critical concept is not that you can make a difference; it's that everything you do already does make a difference." - Phillipe Cousteau
Visit a Tide Pool
Learn what happens when the ocean and the shore are mixed by the tides.
"I was walking along the Point Loma tide pools in San Diego with my friend Charlie and his four-year-old son, Nick. Every few feet Nick would stop at the edge of a watery depression, point to a sea star, a small fish, a crab, or some waving fronds of seaweed and ask, "What's this, dude?"
The rocky intertidal zone where land and ocean meet is a window into the sea and a chance to discover some of its unique and complex life up close. During low tides, pools of trapped water form in rocky depressions. In these pools you can find flowery anemones, limpets, sea stars in many colors (orange, red, brown, pink, and purple), small blenny fish, spiky sea urchins, and sometimes an elusive octopus or other unusual creature.
Few animals in this dynamic, tidal-driven ecosystem can harm humans, but many are sensitive and can be harmed by us. The tide pools of California, for example, used to contain many large abalones clinging to the rocks along the surf zone, until they were stripped away for sale and consumption. Now, even though the taking of wild abalone is banned, it's rare to spot even a small one in these shallow waters. The same problem is occuring where people now collect mussels, sea palms, turban snails, and owl limpets for food from tide pools where this foraging is strictly prohibited.
The joy of discovery as you watch the behavior of predators and plant eaters, the chance to stroke a sea star, and the feel of a periwinkle snail crawling across your palm fascinate children and adults alike. The movement when water separates ropes of seaweed to reveal living dramas no more than a yard across and as transient as the turning of a tide can both educate and inspire. Here's how you can capture the wonder while assuring that it will remain to be discovered anew:
At Point Reyes National Seashore:
June 9, 2008
Yesterday was World Ocean Day (June 8, 2008)! I'm continuing my little week-long series of excerpts from 50 Ways to Save the Ocean. The idea behind these is this: "everything you do makes a difference, and all of your actions have consequences. Things are simple as what kind of toilet paper you buy or where you choose to get married (on the beach, for instance) have a ripple effect -- an echo that resounds from your life, and then, in unforeseen ways, comes back to enrich it or degrade it." (P. Cousteau, Foreword)
Protect the Dunes So They'll Protect Us
Sand dunes protect the beach naturally, provided they aren't damaged or removed.
Coastal sand dunes are created and shaped by wind and tide. Sands deposited by rivers and offshore currents build them into physical barriers that protect the coastline and inland areas from saltwater intrusion and erosion while also absorbing wave energy in ways that keep the soft beach from eroding away. Dunes protect coastal population from flooding during coastal storms and act as homes and shelters for a variety of plants, animals, nesting sea turtles, and shorebirds. Beaches, barrier islands, and coastal sand dunes are dynamic, changing natural systems. Like geology with the fast-forward button always on, they change with weather, tides and storms.
As developers have built homes and high-rises on our country's beaches, they've knocked down many dunes and then tried to stabilize the newly exposed sand with seawalls and jetties. Unfortunately, these constructions actually increase erosion. Jetties steal sand from the nearshore current running parallel with the land. This builds up the beach on one side of the jetty and erodes beaches farther down the shore. Not wanting to see their beaches farther down the shore. Not wanting to see their beaches turn into rock cobble, neighboring property owners begin to build more and longer jetties. Geologists call this the "New Jerseyfication" of the shore. Seawalls also concentrate wave action, which then undermines the walls and eventually turns them into rubble.
Other human constructions impairing the health of dunes are dams and water diversion structures on coastal rivers, which reduce upland sand flow to the beach.
One response has been multimillion-dollar "beach restoration" projects carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, whose contractors pump offshore sand onto degraded beaches. But this often alters the appearance and biological structure of the beach and can destroy offshore habitat for bottom fish, crabs, and other creatures. Instead, we need to work for the protection and restoration of existing sand dunes, along with wetlands and other natural storm barriers. Here's how you can help:
At Point Reyes National Seashore:
Contact the park's Plant Ecologist 415-464-5190 or the park's Vegetation Biologist at 415-464-5196 for more information on the Point Reyes National Seashore paleodune restoration project.
June 10, 2008
Continuing my five-part series related to World Ocean Day, here's a tidbit about storm drains. I know that folks in West Marin are typically very environmentally conscious, so this may not be news to you, but if you can, forward it on. This issue is tied into a slew of other issues such as plastic pollution that ends up in the ocean, toxic waste, etc., so please feel free to ask me if you have any related questions. As is the case with the previous two emails, these are excerpts from David Helvarg's 50 Ways to Save the Ocean.
Don't Use Your Storm Drain as If It Were a Toilet
What goes down the storm drain soon finds its way into the sea.
Storm drains flush excess waters from rainstorms, snowstorms, and hurricanes into nearby rivers and bays or directly into the sea. People often think that storm drains lead to their local water treatment plant, but most do not. In Los Angeles, former director of sanitation Judy Wilson calls the first rains of winter, "the first flush." She explains, "That's when all the paper, plastic, and everything else collected in the storm drains just get whooshed down to the ocean, and you get tons of trash on the beach, along with oil and grease that's collected on the freeways during the dry season, and also your dog poop, the chemicals used on your lawn, and everything else people use to wash their cars."
Storm-drain pollutants not only harm the seas but also harm beachgoers and marine life. A study in Los Angeles found that people swimming within 500 feet of storm-drain outlets had a 57 percent greater chance of getting sick than those who kept a greater distance away. One of every 25 people swimming near the outlets got sick with pollution-related illnesses or infections.
Some cities have begun to divert part of their storm water to sewage plants for treatment before releasing it into the sea. Others are installing more sophisticated filters on storm drains. Unfortunately, a number of cities, including Washington, that have combined their sewage and storm-drain systems find that their waste-treatment plants overflow during heavy rains, adding untreated sewage to the storm water released into local waters.
One obvious way to reduce storm water pollution is to make sure that nothing but rainwater goes down your storm drains in the first place. Here are some ways to do this:
Local action: Tune into the Ocean
To learn more about ocean conservation topics you can tune into KWMR once a month for Ocean Currents, a radio program hosted by Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary staff that focuses on ocean topics locally and globally. Tune in the first Monday of every month at 1:00 PM on KWMR at 90.5 FM Point Reyes Station, 89.3 Bolinas, or live on the web at www.kwmr.org. You can also subscribe to the Ocean Currents podcast or hear archived shows by going to Cordell Bank's Ocean Currents Podcast page. Learn about rockfish, artificial reefs, humpback whale research, sustainable seafood, history of the Farallon Islands, the Marine Life Protection Act, plastic in the ocean, bioluminescence and more!
June 12, 2008
This is the second to last email in this series of practical things you can do to save the oceans. Again, these are excerpts from 50 Ways to Save the Oceans by David Helvarg.
Keep Your Household Refuse Nontoxic
Chemicals tossed in the garbage find their way into streams, rivers, and eventually the sea.
Many household cleaning products contain toxic chemicals. So do some types of carpeting, insulation, maintenance materials, and construction materials. Batteries, thermostats with mercury switches, computers containing lead, and other electronic household products are particularly hazardous. Lead, mercury, and other persistent organic pollutants (POPs) can build up or "bio-accumulate" in the food chain. Small amounts of these chemicals tossed into the garbage eventually leach out of landfills and into the planet's water system. There they concentrate in plankton, which feed small baitfish, which in turn feed larger predator fish, which are consumed by humans, bears, and marine mammals. As a result, creatures such as beluga whales and polar bears have been found with extremely high concentrations of synthetic chemicals in their body fat. Certain top-of-the-food-web predator fish and may fish caught in urban harbors have become a health risk to consumers, particularly children, pregnant women, and people with medical problems.
Chemical and heavy metal wastes have been linked to increased risks of cancer, birth defects, developmental deficits, and neurological diseases. Much of this "circle of poison" could be eliminated if we'd just begin to replace the toxic chemicals around us with benign and nontoxic alternatives. Here's how you can help stop the cycle:
June 13, 2008
This is the last World Ocean Day email. You might have received these emails and wondered, what are all these World Ocean Day emails about? Well, June 8 was World Ocean Day, and over this week, I sent out a series of tips and practical things you can do to help our coastal and marine ecosystems. I drew excerpts from David Helvarg's 50 Ways to Save the Ocean, and where appropriate, I provided some local info as well. These excerpts also include some great background information that will place these practical tips in the larger context.
The idea behind this week-long series of "what can I do" emails is to translate some of the technical, often overwhelming scientific information into actual action items. Hopefully, in this age of great scientific discoveries and the availability of information like none before, we will not only learn more about the natural world, but also be able to do more for the planet. "The key is to realize that we are all responsible to act on that information in a positive and empowering way. I hope that we use our knowledge wisely and learn that we are tied to every living creature in one way or another, that none of us can live without a healthy planet." (P. Cousteau)
Keep Your Home Aquarium Ocean-Friendly
Make sure your saltwater tank reflects the ocean's wonders without depleting them.
"I gave up smoking and got addicted to aquariums," says Brian Harrison, owner of The Reef, a restaurant in Washington, DC, whose marine aquariums contain a mind-boggling assortment of neon-bright saltwater tropical fish. He's quick to explain that the fish, algae, and corals in his tanks are all captive-raised, grown by hand, either by himself or by other aquarists and dealers. None has been collected from coral reefs in the wild. Just as he wouldn't think of serving nonsustainable fish in his restaurant, he doesn't believe in keeping display fish unless they fit his ethic of marine protection.
Most people who keep saltwater or marine aquariums, including some 600,000 in the United States, do so because of their love for and fascination with these wondrous fish -- and their reef or other ocean environments. But many don't realize that their hobby also affects coral reefs. More than 1,400 species of ornamental fish are traded worldwide, more than 20 million individual fish each other. Many tropical fish are captured through the use of cyanide, which is sprayed into coral caves and crevices to stun the fish. As a result half or more can die within hours of collection. Fish that are not targeted for sale are also killed, along with many coral polyps, and the coral's intricate marine ecosystem is damaged. With the high price tropical fish often command, too many are being removed from their home waters, including oceans off Hawaii and Florida. Fewer than 10 percent of marine ornamental species are currently captive-bred.
You can create an ecofriendly saltwater aquarium, but you have to do more than simply purchase whatever fish or rock coral catches your eye at your local pet store. Here are some guidelines for a sea-friendly aquarium:
Last updated: February 28, 2015