December 18, 2010
December 11, 2010
However! Based on the comments left, at least some of the readers are not buying the gruesome picture the author is trying to paint.
December 10, 2010
December 8, 2010
A hatchery fish is easily distinguished from a native fish. (At least an experienced fisherman can distinguish them.) The fins can be underformed. The colors not as bright. The flesh is not as sweet as wild flesh. And, they are voracious. Even I, a technique-challenged fly fisherman, can catch one. The hatchery fish I've caught seem almost... dumb. They ate even the most poorly presented or built fly.
On a scientific level, this may be an important observation. From what I've read, hatchery fish do indeed 'water down' the native gene pool. Yes, they provide meat and take pressure off of wild lineages in the face of declining, healthy habitat. But problems with farm-raised fish abound: hatchery fishes are more prone to disease and parasites; the water they are raised in is Nitrogen rich, which leads to algal blooms and subsequent loss of Oxygen; the fish-meal pellets they eat may have high concentrations of toxic chemicals; they take from 6 to 3 pounds of pellets to grown one pound of flesh (not exactly good for the baitfish populations!); they are not 'wild' and therefore probably not able to migrate like wild stocks - so if they do reproduce, the subsequent fry may be inferior.
Regardless, hatcheries are here to stay. As the human population grows, so does demand for food. Wild stocks might be wiped out if not supplimented by hatcheries. The challenge is making them more environmentally friendly. On that score, there is some good news.
It was recently discovered that circular tanks yeild healtier, stronger fish that have less impact on wild fish. The tanks use less water and are easier to clean. Many problems still remain, but this is at least a step in the right direction.
SIDEBAR: "Four Fish" by Paul Greenburg explores the deep and very complicated relationships between four major foodfish and humans. I have not finished the book, but have found it to be exceptional thus far.
December 5, 2010
Seems like a flashy title for a critter so small. But to many people, including myself, fish can take on as much importance as pet dogs, cats, horses, pigs...
Our family kept fishes for well over a dozen years. The tanks were always in a bit of flux as the fishes duked it out - some surviving, most not. Neons, zebras, ghouramis, suckers, killis, you name it. We even had a Largemouth bass, and a slew of Bluegills raised from fry. When the electricity went out, the fear was not a melting icebox, but a cold fish tank! We fussed and loved over the parade of fishes. And, many a tear was shed when a particularly favorite fish passed. We gave them the same honors as our other pets: a ceremony, and a respectful burial. I'm not lying!
I had a Beta (named 'Gamma') that kept me company for three years while I completed my book. By some miracle, he lived just long enough for me to reach my deadline. That fish made me smile, in return I took very good care of him. Go ahead and laugh, that's OK. I'm not alone.
People will go to great lengths to save a furry friend. And some may do the same for pet fishes. Others may not. The stories of "flushed" goldfish abound. This goldfish was lucky. And I'm glad these folks felt this fish was just as worthy of surgery as any other beloved pet. Why not? 17 years is a long time to have a fish!
November 30, 2010
Underwater Times article
The Globe and Mail article
November 22, 2010
Photo Credit: Lexa Grutter
Very interesting. After reading this article one question came to mind... The parrotfishes have found a way to protect themselves during night-time rest. But, they still spend a lot of time at cleaning stations during the day. So, are these fishes MORE prone to attack of Gnathiids than other fishes? And thus have developed, at least during night-time hours, a way to prevent it? Hmmm.
November 9, 2010
November 4, 2010
My son and I once caught a monster bass in a friend's pond. After we were done whooping and hollering, I realized I had no camera, no camera-in-a-phone, no sharpie marker, and no other way to measure the fish. So, I held it up to my leg with the caudal fin at my heel. I took the treble hook from the fish's mouth and made several tick marks on my leg where the jaw reached. This left what looked like a snake bite on my leg. We then let the fish go, fished a while longer, then headed to our friend's house.
Don: "Did you catch anything?"
Me: "Oh yeah! Huge fish. Look..."
Don looked at my wound and said, "Did it bite you?"
I had the scar for quite some time. Folks who knew me, understood. Folks who didn't probably thought I was nuts.
What does this have to do with this post? Besides measuring that fish, I've used hooks for many other purposes...picking my teeth, removing splinters, killing ticks. But I've never DUG the hook into myself as a Public Service Announcement!
This is a doozy. Hope we never have to do this:
November 2, 2010
November 1, 2010
October 22, 2010
This is a very thorough documentary about Andros Island, it's people, culture, economy, environment and how each is inextricably intertwined. When you have about an hour, please watch. It's worth the time!
October 20, 2010
October 17, 2010
WARNING: This video contains graphic and disturbing images of sharks being killed for thier fins.
Confession: I had to hit 'pause' after the first cut into a blue shark. I don't yet have the stomach to witness such wasteful brutality. But by sharing this video here, I hope to help affect change in the ways sharks are viewed - if even in the tiniest way.
October 15, 2010
The Bay has suffered greatly as a result of decades of pollution and over-harvesting. The oysters formed large reefs that were the foundation of complex ecosystems. The reefs not only filtered pollutants out of the incoming and outgoing water, but they also provided habitat for native plants and animals. The reefs are now largely gone.
However, restoration programs have taken a firm footing, and folks are now acutely aware that restoration of the oysters is key to restoration of the Bay. And, it can recover...
Here are some links to Bay programs, and one where you can 'adopt' a reef!
October 8, 2010
October 4, 2010
Check it out: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/attacks/relarisk.htm
September 30, 2010
Facebook is a funny place. It's a place that isn't even a real place, which makes it, shall I say, a cyber funny place. A cyber funny community place. Whatever it is, it's popular. Very popular.
I was coerced by professional book promoters, authors, and marketing specialists to create a page, and get 'out there.' I was told that if I had wanted to protect my anonymity, I should not have become an author. Time to go global. So, after much reluctance, I signed up and joined the Facebook movement.
I have to say, it's been informative, functional, and down-right fun. I've made quite a few very interesting connections with new 'FB' friends, and old, long-lost real friends. If you are on Facebook, I need not explain.
OK, now back to this post...
I started out, oh, about six months ago with a handful of real friends and family. It was warm, and fuzzy. Then, I started getting 'friend requests.' This scared me, but not for long. These came from other fish geeks. Fishermen, divers, captains, snorkelers, etc. I started reaching out to other fish geeks, and suddenly, I'm now connected to over 800 fishy friends. And, boy do they have a lot to share!
Pictures, videos (see above), albums, stories, quotes, inspiration.... it goes on and on. This is an obsessive bunch (see previous post about Steve Not the Founder of Apple Wozniak). And we really could use a support group...
Epiphany! Facebook is the support group! We 'get' it, and we 'get' eachother. By 'we' I mean fish geeks. So, if you are an obsessive fisherman, you too, will 'get' the above video that someone lovingly made and shared on Facebook. If not, I can't help you!
September 29, 2010
September 23, 2010
September 22, 2010
I've known Joe Malat for - I'm only guessing - going on 15, 20 years. We go waaaayyyy back. Joe was the Exhibits Curator at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, and I was (always have been) a Marine Science Illustrator. When it came time for the state to finally renovate the facility, I landed the job to illustrate all of the graphic panels, including hundreds of IDs. It was a massive task. The blueprints alone weighed ten pounds...
Joe and I worked closely for well over two years on the project, often calling, faxing, mailing (those days were prior to email!) every day. He was detail oriented, exceptionally diplomatic and easy to work with. He is as nice as the day is long. He appreciated my dedication, and in return, I would turn cart-wheels to make him happy. We both wanted the same thing: the best exhibits we were capable of.
When the renovated aquarium opened, he invited me and my family to a personal behind-the-scenes tour. The boys were very young, but they still remember being above the big tank and watching the green sea turtle surface, breathe, dive. In the galleries, the boys ran from tank to tank, while I watched the visitors point to the fishes, then to my paintings, then back to the fishes. I knew I (we) had made an impact. On the way out, I counted the many different license plates in the parking lot.... Folks from dozens of states had come to visit, to learn, to marvel.
Joe and I stayed in touch over the years and I continued to work with him on an as-needed basis. He went on to become the aquarium director - a much deserved assignment. All the while, he honed his surf fishing skills, photographed and wrote about his passion, and ran an Outer Banks surf fishing school.
Last year, he retired, left the aquarium and moved to Florida (JEALOUS!!). Recently, he published his second edition of Surf Fishing. Last week, a signed copy of this book arrived in my mailbox. (It won't be long before a copy of my book arives in HIS mailbox!)
Anyway, for a book of 44 pages, it is chocked full of information about how to successfully catch commonly targeted surf fishes: Where, When, How, Tips, Size. From Florida pompano to Striped bass. Joe also discusses tides, currents, beach formations, gear, rigs, baits... The book is accurate, up to date, compact, and full of personal insights.
If you like to surf fish, buy this book. Joe knows his stuff.
(The below link is to his older book. The above is to his latest version. Happy reading!)
September 21, 2010
September 13, 2010
A friend of ours called on Monday. He asked us if we would like to go offshore for marlin. The boat belongs to a friend of his, and they have been fishing buddies for a long time. Come on down! Stay at the house. Let's go catch some fish.
It was a plus that we are able bodies. See, marlin fishing is a complicated sport which can require more than a few knowing fishermen to pull it off. There are outriggers, teasers, floating and sinking baits. It can be a very chaotic procedure. The sea can be very rough and not every one is cut out for a full day of getting slammed around. Those who do not know how to properly fish, lose a lot of fish. And given the expense of offshore fishing, losing fish is not a welcome option.
Anyway, we jumped on the opportunity. Put the dogs up at a kennel, packed up, and drove down to spend a day far off over the Atlantic shelf.
On Saturday morning, we were up at 4am, at the dock at 5am, and motoring out to Oregon Inlet at about 5:20am. We were running behind another charter, navigating the myriad of markers and bouys by spotlight. The tide was falling, and the swell was up. The combination makes for waves upon waves. It was, well, rocky. When we passed under Bonner Bridge, things got a wee bit tense. There were sand bars and other boats to complicate matters. Some powered through the waves, some tentatively hung back. But, once outside, it was all out to get to where the fish were. Open up the throttle and go.
On the bridge, the radio crackled with the voices of captains exchanging information. Banter back and forth. We were headed North. The sun started to rise behind low clouds on the eastern horizon. The sky turned purple, then blue. The stars faded away. Seawater washed over the bow and sprayed the bridge. Pitch, roll, slam...We hung on and swapped jokes, stories.
At about 8:45 am, the radio exchanges quieted. Then, someone, on some other boat, from somewhere else, began to sing the Star Spangled Banner. The ocean heaved. The sun cast rays between the distant clouds. We all fell silent, and then, we all sang that lovely song together...
When I try to explain to people who don't fish that there is so much more to fishing than just fishing, those are the diamond-like moments I am talking about.
September 9, 2010
August 30, 2010
August 29, 2010
August 27, 2010
I don't know if I can paint a picture in your mind as vividly as it appears in my mind. But, here goes...
Each summer we trek it down to Ocracoken (yeah!), and we go fishing with Norman. Usually twice. He and I also find other fishy things to do: seining, swapping stories, insights, experiences.. Last summer he dropped by the house to school me on cast-netting. It's fish fish fish and more fish. The boys like fishing with Norman because he never treated them like kids. He treated them like people. He answered all of their questions (ad nauseum!), until they had no more questions to ask. He had infinite patience with them. He never grumbled. He never belittled. If they'd miss a fish, lose a rig, he may rib a little, but he'd teach some more, and set up again. No biggie. Fishing with Norman is joyous. We find awe in the biggest barracuda, and awe the smallest juvie pigfish.
Anyway, Norman is great. He's lived on Ocracoke some 30-odd years. His hands are big and gnarled and brown. His neck is deeply lined and his t-shirts tout no big-name logos. He's happy, opinionated, and hardworking. Norman grew up on the Chesapeake Bay, and will tell you without hesitation, "I had the BEST childhood EVER!" He fished and hunted and ran around wild. His mother just let him loose. He decided, well, if he had to work, why not make his work his play? Gotta work anyway, right? So he became a professional charterman. Inshore, offshore, wreck, reef, inlet, day, night.
When we arrive, and I call him up, the conversation will go something like:
"Norman! We're here."
"How's the fishing been?"
"We l l l l l, a bit slow. Catching some Spanish, some drum. Some... What kind of fishing do you want to do?"
"A little bit of everything."
(Chuckle) "A little bit of everything. OK. A little bit of everything. Can you be more... specific?"
"You know. Same deal. Variety."
(Norman repeats. But I talk to myself, so, we're even.)
"Variety. OK. Well, you want to go offshore or stay in?"
"I don't care. Just want to catch fish."
"Catch fish. OK. Well, what time do you want to meet at the dock?"
"Not too early."
"Not too early!"
"Hey! I'm on vacation! And I got these kids you know."
"Yes, I know. I know. How about 7:30?"
"Sounds great. 7:30."
Tides matter, but not as much as having a good time. At least when I'm the charter...
So, the boys and I arrive at the dock at 7:30, and Norman greets me with a big big bear hug. The kind you get from your brother or sister or father after a years passing. The kind of hug that's real - not some fake tap-tap ya-ya thing. After the hellos and handshakes and my-you've-growns, he goes back to rearranging gear, and checking gear, and packing ice...and the boys go about trying to catch every manner of critter under the dock and we don't leave until 8. But when we leave it is SO happy! It's like the lights turn on and we jump right back into the conversation we left twelve months ago:
"So, you said you were having problems finding photos of some goby?"
"Yeah. But, check it out: this scientist from VIMS came through and I was able to illustrate the male."
"Ah. The male...."
And so it goes through catching bait in Teach's Hole and until we are well offshore. Bantering back and forth back and forth up above while the boys bob down on deck. Rocking and rolling our way out to the reef or wreck. Past the place where Pamlico Sound mixes with Atlantic Ocean. To the place where the water turns deep deep blue and the flyingfish zip across the surface.
This summer, we had a particularly hysterical exchange. I'll set it up for you:
We're on the reef and we're catching lots of Seabass. I've cut one finger on a gill, and another on a spine. It's "swelly" in Norman's words (read: rough and windy). My son is sea-whoosy, his friend is toughing it out, and Norman's stepson is silently fishing fishing and breaking them off. Then, his stepson catches a nice sized Atlantic Sharpnose shark. Norman grabs it around the head, takes the hook out. I snap lots of pictures. The shark is bleeding.
So, Norman, still holding the shark turns to me and says, "Did you have spaghetti for breakfast this morning?"
I pause, drink in the scene, smile wide and say, "Uh, yeah!"
(Pause) "What did you put on it?"
(Norman is laughing, bending over. Bleeding shark still in hand.)
"Butter! What else?"
"Do you really want to know?"
Norman loses it. He starts howling. Still holding the shark. I'm pinching my fingers to stop the bleeding. The blood is sticky. I run my hand under the pump water and laugh...
"Ketchup?? Ketchup!! HAAAAA!! Ketchup!"
We are both hysterical now. The boat is heaving. The boys are staring down into the water at loose lines. My fingers and the shark are bleeding. And Norman and I have just gone back to a conversation from... one year ago? 'What does Val have for breakfast?' Norman tosses the shark back in the water.
We can't stop laughing. Is it because it's so ludiacrous, so disjunct? Fish. Blood. Spaghetti. Ketchup? Or because it is somehow, for fishermen, for us, so... normal?
Later, on the way back in (the wind has built and it's more swelly), we get on butterflies:
"Butterflies make no sense."
"I know. They defy physics. They are not supposed to fly."
"No! Not supposed to fly."
I can't imagine going to Ocracoke and NOT fishing with Norman. Fishing with Norman is much more than just fishing.
August 24, 2010
Photo credit: AP
Some of you may be aware that the Snakehead, Channa argus, made headlines back in 2002 when they were discovered to have taken up residence in a pond in Crofton, MD. It was another old story: folks with captive Snakeheads let them go in the wild... This was a frightening specter (see Lionfish), and local and federal agencies moved to erradicate the animal.
But, the efforts were not swift enough. These fish are ravenous, rapid-growing, and apparently able to move across land to new territories. From the original pond, (or from other unknown, additional locations), it didn't take long for the Snakeheads to invade streams. From there they found their way into the Potomoc River. Bad news indeed. The Potomoc River empties into the Chesapeake Bay - an enormous body of water with a huge watershed. Oh, did I mention that Snakeheads breed?
It was initially believed that they would be confined to the Virginia side of the Potomoc, and that salinity and current would act as barriers to keep them there. Again, the experts were wrong. They've now been found on the Maryland side of the Potomoc. The salinity in the Bay fluctuates with the amount of rainfall in its watershed. More rainfall in the watershed means lower salinities in the major tributaries. This in turn means that the Snakehead may just jump from one river mouth to another, hop-scotching its way into other Chesapeake tributaries.
Well, if the Lionfish is the Starling of our reefs, it would appear that the Snakehead is the Starling of the Bay.
(Sidebar: this fish was not on the original list of species I was to illustrate for Fishes of Chesapeake Bay. But Jack Musick of VIMS , one of the authors on the project, has added it. So, I've illustrated it, and it will be 'in the book'. That's not a good thing...)
August 19, 2010
August 16, 2010
Ocracoke has a history dating back to the 1700's. And it is where Edward Teach (Blackbeard) met his demise. It has a rich history of fishing and trade. Accessable only by ferry, the island constitutes about 16 miles of National Seashore...sand, dunes, maritime forest, birds, fish. To the NE is Hatteras Island, to the SW, Portsmouth Island. "Dr. Beach" dubbed Ocracoke the number one beach on this 2007 list (much to the chagrin of some locals, who didn't really want anymore traffic!) There is no development on the ocean side - no 'McMansions'! The town is small, salty, and centers around Silver Lake. Many folks leave their cars at the house, and prefer to bike or walk. The speed limit is 20 mph... There is public camping on the island, foot bridges to the beach, and 4X4 accesses.
Did I mention the fishing is awesome? The fishing is awesome. The island is close to the Gulf Stream, and abutts an enormous estuarine system along Pamlico Sound. When you are on Ocracoke, you are litterally surrounded by water. Besides Ocracoke and Hatteras Inlets, there are many channels, holes, shoals and flats to fish. Offshore there are Wahoo, Dolphinfish, tunas, mackerels, grouper, barracuda, Spadefish... Inshore there are Redfish, Bluefish, Weakfish, flounders... Off the beach folks catch kingfish, pompano, drum... the list goes on and on. I'll save my seining stories for later.
Bottom line: we arrive delighted, and return with deep tans and wonderful memories. Go there!
August 3, 2010
Why does government take so long to respond to crises? The Lionfish, Pterosis volitans, is believed to have been introduced between eighteen and ten years ago, possibly off of North Carolina or Florida, either by accident or by release. Regardless of how they arrived in non-native waters, the species has since taken a firm hold with a range that extends to the Bahamas and Caribbean. They've been documented from as far north as New York, and east to Bermuda. According to MSNBC, Florida officials are concerned about the "sudden appearance" of these fishes. Sudden? Check out this map of the documented sighting in the Keys alone. So, they are enlisting the help of lobster divers to help eradicate the fishes from the area in a two-day spree. Two days? From what I know, it will take a full-out war to reverse its spread. However, each dead female Lionfish prevents up to possible 15,000 eggs from dispersal. So, go for it Florida divers!
This Just In!
Who knew Lionfish make good fare?
July 30, 2010
Well, I think I was duped. Sunday's show was mostly informational and based on valid research. But, Monday and Tuesday were more of the same: blood, gore, creepy music, retelling the past, sensationalism. Don't get me wrong...I wouldn't wish a shark bite on anyone. But, let's not forget, sharks do not prey on humans. Most cases are due to mistaken identity. And, who in their right mind attracts sharks to their feet and is surprised one takes a bite? Last year there were, 61 confirmed cases of sharks biting humans. And, last year, there were approximately 100,000,000 sharks killed by humans. Ugh. Two more nights of viewing. I'm not holding my breath.
July 28, 2010
I know this is slightly 'off topic', but then again, not really. The Sea turtles are a part of the web of life in the oceans, and connected to our beloved fishes. It is reassuring to know that these little ones have a chance.
July 23, 2010
When my husband and I go out for supper, invariably we wrestle over what he should order. The conversation goes something like this:
AM: "What are you going to have?"
VK: "The salad."
AM: "What should I have?"
VK: "The steak. Medium."
AM: "What about the shrimp?"
VK: "If the waiter knows where it's from and what happens to the bycatch."
AM: "How about the salmon?"
VK: "Is it farmed or wild? Depends on where it came from."
VK: "What kind?"
AM: "I don't want the scallops.
VK: "Don't go there."
AM: "Ha Ha! Swordfish?"
VK: "Where did you see THAT?"
AM: "What should I have?"
VK: "Is there Bluefish on the menu?"
AM: "No, and anyway, I don't want Bluefish."
AM: "No. What should I have?"
(Ten minutes later...)
Waiter: "Are you ready to order?"
AM: "My wife will have the salad, and I'll have the steak. Medium."
(This said, if we catch it, you can bet we eat it!)
July 21, 2010
July 20, 2010
Photo credit: unknown
My jury was out on this one... The message is slightly mixed, but after checking out Andy's website, it appears he means very well indeed. And, these animals need every voice available to sing for them... See above.
July 17, 2010
July 5, 2010
Photo credit: Steve (not the co-founder of Apple) Wozniak
Along the way, he's traveled the world, identified and cataloged each fish while tapping into a host of ichthyologists. He's kept a (ahem!) lively journal, and photographic library. All while avoiding a pink-slip from his day job. It's not your run-of-the-mill fishing adventure. Even ESPN has bitten onto this story. Beyond ESPN, this feat may wind up in in Ripley's Believe It Or Not. I am not kidding.
As an aside, I hope to twist his arm into writing a book about his exploits. He writes from the heart with big injections of humor and color, but without an ounce of glorification. Having a bad day? Read one of his posts at 1000fish's.
July 3, 2010
July 1, 2010
I was poking my way around the web pages of a new Deep sea exhibit at London's Natural History Museum. Although visiting the exhibit is not possible, there are some very educational videos and articles to watch and read. The message is clear: there is still so much to discover, and so much to learn about this environment.
When I began my career, one of my first clients was Monterey Bay Aquarium. We had a fabulous relationship, and I created a multitude of interesting illustrations for them over the years. One of the most intriguing, and challenging projects was illustrating deep sea fishes that had been recorded and captured by MBARI in the trenches off of Monterey. The fishes had fallen apart on their ascent to the surface. In the jars supplied to me, they appeared battered and dismembered. My job was to piece them back together. I loved this kind of work.
Recently, R.O.V.s played a role in my latest project. Without the help of two scientists conducting deep water research over the Flower Garden and Stetson Banks, I would not have been able to illustrate several fishes for our new book!
Deep sea animals are fascinating. Imagine the pressure, the cold, the darkness. And yet, they find eachother to spawn or breed, they locate food, and manage to eke out a living in one of earth's more barren environments. I've often wondered, if it's dark, why are so many of them brightly colored?
Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in my library...
June 28, 2010
The SS Central America went down in a hurricane off the coast of NC in 1857. Over four hundred lives, three tons of California gold, and massive amounts of coal sank in over 1000 meters of offshore water. Tommy Thompson, a maverick inventor and marine engineer from Ohio methodically located the wreck. In the process of recovering the gold, he fended off interlopers, set legal precident, and took deep-sea exploration to new depths.
June 24, 2010
June 22, 2010
Although I haven't written any posts about the book, it's been largely the center of my attention for a very long time. I concieved the idea about 15 years ago while visiting an aquarium gift shop. I stood in front of a book shelf lamenting the lack of guides to fishes that were 1. comprehensive; 2. in full color; 3. current; 4. accurate. I turned to the man standing next to me and said "I'm going to write the next field guide to fishes of the Atlantic." He said something like, "Yeah. Every body thinks they can write a book."
Although the pieces were not yet in place to pursue the project, his comment only served to fuel my fire. I was determined. A few months ago, my editor told me while we discussed a potential author who didn't seem as driven, "One REALLY needs to WANT to be published. It's a long, tough process." It is. But, it is not impossible to achieve. Here are the ingredients:
1. A unique idea/concept
2. An empty niche in the market
3. Expertise in your field, eg: loads of experience
6. Unrelenting determination, perserverance, resourcefulness, will, faith, trust, and vision
7. A very strong network of friends and family who are willing to support your goals no matter how late or long your days become
Then, all you do is work, work, work! The reward? A great book and more on the horizon.
June 18, 2010
June 17, 2010
When people find out that I am a Marine Science Illustrator who paints mostly fishes for a living, they often ask, "What is your favorite fish to paint?" My answer is always the same: "The weirder the better." Meaning, the more the fish doesn't look like a fish, the more fun it is to render. For example: Dories, Goosefish, Snipefish, Pipehorse...
There are a lot of very non-fishy fishes in the oceans. Among the most interesting are the bottom-dwellers. Of those, the frogfishes and batfishes are highly evolved. Not only are many incredibly variable within a species, they have turned specialization into an art form. The first dorsal-fin ray is modified into a lure consisting of a thin illicium and a fleshy esca. The esca of frogfishes is specific to each species. Pelvic and pectoral fins are used not for swimming, but for walking and clinging. The skin is cryptic, often mimicking sponges or seaweeds (in frogfishes), or the bottom (in batfishes). The gill opening is located behind the pectoral fins, and is slit-like. Frogfishes have large, upturned mouths, while the mouths of batfishes are inferior and fleshy.
The frogfishes are well documented as they usually occur above 300 m. Batfishes can survive in very deep, cold waters to about 1,000 m. A recent article on CNN.com eludes to a possible new species in the Gulf of Mexico. Here is a good website devoted to batfishes, which might possibly be 'the coolest fish'!
June 15, 2010
When humans are searching for something by sound, we turn toward the direction of sound. If our right ear hears the sound first, we turn right. Apparently, this concept explains how sharks navigate toward prey. Scientists with Mote Marine Lab, Woods Hole, and University of South Florida have found that when a shark smells blood or some other prey indicator, it turns in the direction of which nostril smelled it first! It was long believed that sharks navigated by concentrations of odors. This study sheds new light.
It could also explain why some offshore sharks are making their way to inshore waters after The Spill. If sharks can smell and move toward blood, is it possible that they can smell and move away from oil? Furthermore, all fishes are equipped with a sense of smell. If sharks can avoid the oil, would other species be able to as well? It may be wishful thinking...but again, it may not.
June 13, 2010
It is true. 'Jaws' completely changed summer movies - for the better. It also changed the way people view sharks - for the worse. Hard to believe, but June 20 marks the 35th anniversary of this blockbuster's opening.
I think I was 13 years old when this movie came out. I remember watching it on the beach, at our club on the Long Island Sound. We kids lined the beach in sleeping bags on beach loungers, while the adults gnoshed in the club house. The movie was shown via a reel projector onto a large screen that was erected each week at the edge of the beach. In the distance danced the lights of Long Island.
The movie scared me to the core. Later that summer, while on vacation on Lord's Lake (it was a true L-A-K-E!), I refused to swim in the water. I knew that White sharks did not live in lakes (duh), but I was really shaken. It was a completely illogical response to a work of fiction. And that's why, as a thriller, 'Jaws' is a very effective movie.
Spielberg had fooled me, but I soon saw through the special effects. Because I was predisposed to thinking scientifically, and because I was taught to embrace living creatures, I saw the truth about sharks. I also saw the movie for what is was: just a movie; a very good movie - but just a movie. I was lucky.
Unfortunately, many still experience the irrational fear that 'Jaws' instilled. Even now, 35 years later, the movie is referenced by reporters in articles about shark encounters. This one is about a Basking shark - a filter-feeder - swimming near shore. What is so intersting is that the reporter doesn't seem to separate the shark in 'Jaws' from a real shark. The 'Jaws' shark was not a "man-eater" - it was a mechanical creation - a character in a cast of characters. This is the movie's legacy: it still warps people's sensibilities.
As an aside, Peter Benchley moved on to become an advocate for shark conservation. I wonder if this was due to any regret he had for vilifying White sharks? He eludes to this in at least one interview. But, could he possibly have foreseen the impact this movie would have on sharks in general? Could any one?
June 10, 2010
What struck me about this was that Suttles came off like a seasoned politician: he did not answer the questions! When John Roberts asked him how he felt about being the "most hated man in Louisiana", he paused and said something like, "Well, there is a lot of work to do..." He then went on to talk about something completely unrelated to the question. He did not give a direct answer to any of Robert's questions. No wonder the prevailing feeling is that BP is witholding the truth, and denying the truth. In my opinion, BP is responsible for this disaster, but the company continues to gloss over the magnitude of it.
The other news item I found interesting is that Kevin Costner has been investing in a centrifuge that is capable of separating oil from water. He's been trying to get the government and the oil industry to pay attention to this device for some time, but has been met with apathy. Well, they are paying attention now! According to the article, BP has now ordered 32 of the machines. Only 32? Hello! They should be ordering 320,000 of them!
June 7, 2010
Photo credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images.
As the bad news and grim photographs continue to stream out of the Gulf of Mexico, I find myself fighting tears. The above photo of Patrick Shay's memorial on Grand Isle is one the more poignant I've seen. And, as I click my way through even more photographs, the tears are winning...
June 6, 2010
The Whale sharks have apparently transformed Donsol, Philippines, from a struggling fishing community to one that thrives on ecotourism centered around the fishes. It has been called the "Whale shark capital of the World". According to CNN, the fishermen of Donsol once viewed the sharks as pests. Now, they actively protect the animals, and throw festivals to honor them. Here's a great page about the Whale shark's natural history.
Whale sharks have been, and continue to grow as an attraction. I think it is because they are 'easy to love'. Not surprisingly, people flock to the few aquariums that keep them in captivity. I have mixed emotions about keeping Whale sharks in captivity. Yes, they inspire, yes they educate. But it is a controversial topic as they do not fair well, and the IUCN lists them as Vulnerable. Taking a Whale shark from the ocean and putting it in a tank seems sad to me. And, some experts believe that swimming with captive Whale sharks only stresses them more. But, if the history is correct, and two of the sharks at the Georgia Aquarium were saved from slaughter, then captivity is the lesser of the two evils. Still, what is keeping the aquarium from setting the vulnerable sharks free? (Hint: ticket sales) If they were to, who knows how many offspring might come from it?
June 4, 2010
June 3, 2010
Photo credit: Kosterhavet Marine National Park
This is wonderful. Another marine park! A reader suggested I post thoughts, and spread the news about this new marine park, and I am more than happy to do so. The more marine preserves, the better! This area looks astonishingly pristine. And, I do not doubt that sealife flourishes here - the biologists have cataloged about 6000 marine species. Here is a link to the park's website. It is full of information. Here also is a link to a blog post with an interview about the park. If you read this, please pass it along. If you are in Sweden, visit!
–verb (used with object), verb (used without object),-phized, -phiz·ing.
to ascribe human form or attributes to (an animal, plant, material object, etc.)
This is unjust. Although the video is interesting, the author does nothing to assuage the fear people have for sharks by superimposing human attributes and assigning misnomers to them. It is all too common and all too sad a practice. Sharks do not look at the world they way we do, they do not share our emotions, so it is unfair to anthropomorphize them. They are not 'mean' or 'angry'. Also, although in some places the egg cases may be called 'devils purses', I find the term denigrating, and they are no more 'menacing' than chicken eggs. This kind of article only serves to spread misinformation. I've written to the editor of Treehugger.com and asked that they remove this article from their web site, pointing out that as a 'conservation-minded' company, they should not be spreading misinformation. We'll see what happens...
June 2, 2010
I don't usually share views with Spike Lee. But, I agree with much of what he says here. I do believe that President Obama SHOULD 'go off'. In a situation like this, people are suffering, the environment is suffering. I think folks want their leadership to share in their anger, and express that anger, and ally with them. I also agree that the parallels between Hurricane Katrina and this catastrophe end in the location, and the slow response. I realize that BP is operating in mile-deep water, but shouldn't they have had plans in place to deal with just such an outcome?
I just found this comprehensive seafood guide by fish2fork. It allows you to search by country, state, restaurant, or by species. It also allows to you give a nod to restaurants that serve sustainable seafood, AND, rat on restaurants that do not.
Last weekend, we were having family dinner out. There was tuna on the menu. To the chagrin of my kids, I asked the waiter what kind of tuna was being served. (I object to eating certain seafood and make no secret of this.) He told us it was "Ahi" tuna. I grilled him some more, as there is no such thing as "Ahi" tuna. He left, did some research, and upon returning told me that "Ahi" is the description of how the tuna is prepared, but he could not tell me the species of tuna. No pun inteneded, it all sounded fishy to me. So, instead of getting uppity at dinner, I'll inquire at an upper level. If they will not practice full disclosure, I'll direct them to this website. Bad publicity.
June 1, 2010
The news that such a large shipping company like Maersk would review its policies and possibly refuse to ship Chilean sea bass (Patagonian toothfish), Orange roughy, shark products (YEAH!), and any whale meat, is nothing short of spectacular. Although Greenpeace says they have new policy in place, other sources say the company is reveiwing its policies. There is no statement on the Maersk website.
Regardless, I feel the tide is slowly, slowly, turning. If the groundswell of grass-roots and sophisticated organizations can sway large companies, there is surely light at the end of the tunnel.
May 30, 2010
Photo credit: Cheryl Gerber
This is one of those "a picture says a thousand words". Imagine all of the animals that are awash in oil, but are not imortalized in the New York Times. Thousands, maybe millions. I pray this oil does not reach the Keys...
The worry keeps me up at night.
May 28, 2010
I've found myself so remorseful over the oil spill lately, I decided to take a break! So, something delightful: sunrise over the Florida Keys. On this day, I caught 5 for 6 Tarpon. We had three to the boat by 8am. Six, by noon. Then went for a bit of flats fishing with snappers and Bonnetheads. Captain Pat was not only a great guide, but great company. Fish people speak the same language and love sharing information and insights. Ten hours of fishing is more than just fishing. It's a treasure trove of experiences and future memories.
May 27, 2010
May 26, 2010
Although this PBS ticker is an educated estimation by NOAA and BP, it is corroborated by other news outlets.
Having just returned from the Keys on an amazing fishing trip (more later...) I can attest to the worry folks down there have about this disaster. I've also spoken with folks on the Outer Banks. They, too, are very concerned. Businesses, if still in operation after such a poor economy, may collapse if this thing makes it to the shores of the Atlantic. Many businesses on the Gulf Coast have already closed. Coastal fishermen fish for a living. What kind of back-up plan can they expect to follow? Their entire life style would have to change! This would be the equivalent of some one taking away my paint and paint brushes. I'd be crushed.
So, we all wait with bated breath. Fingers crossed, this spill stays at sea. And that the current administration takes it to heart, ceases future exploration, and installs stricter oversight.
May 25, 2010
May 18, 2010
May 12, 2010
I came across a short article about the Skomer Marine Reserve located off the coast of Wales. It punctuates the fact that marine reserves are not only popular tourist attractions, but host an amazing diverstiy of marine life. When I think of coldwater fishes, I think of cryptic bottom-dwellers. The animals of this preserve are amazingly colorful, and opened my eyes! Take a look.
May 10, 2010
May 8, 2010
May 5, 2010
I came across this photo by accident. It made me realize that the day may come when animals like this will no longer exist. They will only be a distant memory, an old photo. Why save the sharks? Dr. John McCosker gives the simplest explanation, without added emotion. His website says:
"In his decades-long career, McCosker has interviewed dozens of people attacked by sharks. Now he sees the tables turned. Sharks are under unprecedented attack by man. Tens of millions of sharks are being killed each year for the Asian sharkfin soup market. Their fins are hacked off and the sharks are dumped back into the ocean to die.
“It's tragic for sharks, and tragic for the ecosystem,” McCosker says. “Sharks are top-level predators for the ocean ecosystem. And the oceans are collapsing. When the sharks go, there are no controls,” says McCosker. “If there are no sharks, there are no safety checks.”
These safety checks protect the survival of the entire ecosystem. Once a top line predator disappears, the next species down the food chain expands in abundance and eats most everything that's below it in the food chain, and then their population crashes. The cascading effect can be seen today. As great whites disappear, sea lions have helped to decimate the salmon population.
“Eventually,” McCosker predicts, “we'll have nothing left in the oceans until we get to jellyfish.” If the sharks disappear, seals will soon have nothing to eat. As counterintuitive as it seems, that's why even seals need white sharks."
May 4, 2010
Photo credit: Lyle Gremillion
Apparently, this is the first recording of predation of the Lionfish by native grouper. This is indeed good news - for both the ecology of the reefs, and for the Nassau grouper: Lionfish populations are exploding, as numbers of Nassau grouper dwindle. The IUCN lists the Nassau as endangered. Click here to read about the natural history of the Lionfish. It's interesting that the grouper is swallowing the lionfish tail-first. This is not an unusual form of feeding, but it is curious here because the lionfish spines are highly venomous...
April 27, 2010
April 24, 2010
photo credit: foxnews
Given recent events in the Gulf of Mexico (read a CNN report here), it is frightening to think about oil rigs off the coast of North and South Carolina. I personally do not think the potential for oil is worth the risk of oil spills. If you care to contact your senator in opposition, please visit the Oceana.org website here.
April 22, 2010
April 21, 2010
April 17, 2010
April 14, 2010
Click here to visit The River Project.