Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In the Shark's Eye

The first catch and release shark tournament in Montauk, NY last year was a great success. No sharks killed, people happy, prizes awarded, and a number of big sharks tagged and named by schoolkids.

I asked one of the organizers how the 2nd annual Shark's Eye Tournament went this year. He was less enthusiastic. I could almost feel the deflation and helpless anger coming through the email. Many of the sharks caught, released, and tagged last year had been killed, finned by fishermen.

"Of the 4 fitted with satellite-tags last year, the first, Princess, stopped signaling a few months after it was tagged, while the last stopped pinging in June 17. It was out in the Hudson Canyon. It had traveled 11,000 miles. Named April, by the angler Joe Gaviola, after two April’s, one important to him and one important to the event, it either perished, has remained submerged (the tags only transmit when they break the surface), or the battery died. We don’t know.

What we do know is this. Our mako shark Rizzilient was caught and killed by a Portuguese long-liner in the middle of the Atlantic last winter.  And the blue shark Beamer, named by the Montauk School 6th grade class, was caught 3 times by commercial fishermen after last year’s tournament — once off Portland, Maine, once off Norfolk, Virginia (US commercial fishermen immediately released the shark), and finally on a 60-mile fishing line off Costa Rica.

Beamer had traveled 9000 miles. Not edible, the fins on this 200 lb. fish were removed for the Asian market,"  Rav Friedel of Montauk wrote in an email.

They were tracked thousands of miles only to be pulled from the water and all their fins sliced off for someone's -- most likely in Asia -- shark fin soup. It takes about a minute to do it. Inglorious to the point of criminal.

A magnificent fish that lives on the top of the food web and travels great distances, and a species that has survived hundreds of millions of years placed on the brink by mindless human consumption. Tens of millions of sharks are killed each year this way.

Although these handful caught and named and released off beautiful Montauk were closer to my heart -- I wanted them to survive -- I mourn less for one fish and more for a whole planet at the will of a species unaccustomed to thinking about anything but itself.  I'm talking about us. Humans. We create beauty, sure, but often we destroy it.

Many thanks to all the people that worked hard to make the Shark's Eye Tournament happen including Carl Darenberg and Rav Friedel, and to sponsors Dan's Papers, Guy Harvey Foundation, and LandShark. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Drill Baby Drill Punctures Alaska's Seafood Market

Red areas are most intensely impacted. 

Ocean acidification from climate change could take five billion dollars in seafood away from Alaska annually.

The ocean absorbs carbon naturally but there's so much carbon pollution in the air that it's changing ocean chemistry. This makes the ocean more acidic, which is bad, very bad, for most creatures in the sea including the ones we love to eat like salmon, haddock, clams, and crabs.

Dismal as this is, this research is a welcome red flag because many people don't start to care until they see how much money is at stake. The frightening economics around ocean acidification might inspire action.

"The fishing industry in Alaska supports over 100,000 jobs, and generates more than $5 billion in annual revenue. Beyond commercial fishing, around 120,000 Alaskans, roughly 17 percent of the state's population, rely on subsistence fishing to feed their families, according to the report.

The analysis found that communities most reliant on fishery harvests, with relatively lower income and fewer alternative job options, face the highest risk of ocean acidification," according to scientists in Newsweek.

What to do? Support clean energy and a phase out of fossil fuels. Alaska itself will have to re-think its "drill baby drill" mentality, or continue to shoot itself in the proverbial foot.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Renewable Energy Continues to Thrive

More people are working in the renewable energy industry globally according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

"With 6.5 million people directly or indirectly employed in renewable energy, the sector is proving that it is no longer a niche – it has become a significant employer worldwide," said agency director Adnan Z Amin in The Guardian.

The 14% growth in the clean energy industry is led by solar as more and more businesses and people are tapping into the sun's clean power. Read the full renewables report here.

Meanwhile in Germany, the perennial leader in renewable power not just World Cups, the offshore wind power industry enjoys over 100K employees and over $10 billion invested, according to Bloomberg.

With the need to support clean energy breathing down our necks and climate change flooding our feet, nice to see some good news. Thanks to Neighborhood Energy for pointing it out.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Leaving Sea Shells by the Sea Shore

I see people with buckets full of shells on Florida beaches as if prospecting for gold. What can they possibly be using them for? Aren't they just going to be thrown away in a year or ten, or left to collect dust in some box in a garage or attic?

Collecting seashells by the seashore seemed harmless enough until now. Researchers have found that collecting seashells is not good for the beach ecosystem. Shells support the beach structure, provide homes for all kinds of critters, and grow algae, which is lunch for many.

Nature has a purpose for everything.

The old wilderness mantra -- leave only footprints take only photographs -- certainly applies to the beach.

Does the damage compare to other ocean harms like ocean acidification and overfishing? Nope, but it's still a negative impact.

I did it. I had a large collection. I still hang onto a nice looking shell once in awhile, but I leave it on the sand when I depart. Fair enough.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Thank the EPA on Coal

Show your support for clean air today.  Here's an opportunity to write to the head of the EPA, Regina 'Gina' McCarthy, and the EPA staff.

Tell them you support their new restrictions on coal burning plants.

You can send Natural Resource Defense Council's pre-made note, or you can send your own words, which will have more oomph.

Maybe what I wrote will get the juices flowing:

Dear Regina 'Gina' McCarthy & EPA Staff,

You've already heard a ton of crazy rhetoric from the coal industry on your awesome new restrictions.

It's the voice of a tired, old industry trying to preserve a business model that simply costs all of us way too much.

Just know: we are with you as you take this flak. Please stand strong.

This is the right thing to do on so many levels. I come from the "ocean world," and climate change seriously threatens the health of the world's oceans. The oceans that feed billions everyday.

The time is now to turn this around and your restrictions on coal ring that bell.

It's our responsibility to protect our children and future generations from the effects of climate change.

This is a message of solidarity and urgency, and thanks -- thank you for putting people before polluters.

Link to letter. 

(Those last two lines were paraphrased from NRDC's note.) 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Clean Energy Running in Place

Don't despair but despite many positive things happening -- tighter restrictions on coal plants, growing use of wind and solar, greater awareness by the general public -- clean energy is not gaining ground on fossil fuels.

"All told, coal, oil, and gas made up 87 percent of the world's energy consumption in 2013. By contrast, low-carbon sources — including nuclear, hydropower, wind, solar, and biomass — made up just 13 percent.

That ratio hasn't changed since 1999, as the University of Colorado's Roger Pielke Jr. has long pointed out. Fossil fuels have provided 87 percent of the world's energy for more than a decade — even as overall energy use grows," according to a story on Vox by Brad Plumer.

How is that possible? Hello off the charts booming Asian economy.

Renewable energy cannot keep up with demand for energy from fossil fuels in Asia. This means more coal is being used than ever and that carbon continues to pour into the atmosphere at ever faster rates. Asia alone accounted for over half of global carbon emissions last year.

There's work to be done.

Find solace in the fact that more and more people are aware, painfully aware, of the terrible costs of fossil fuels. Costs we all pay for. Think asthma, mercury in our food, extreme weather, drought, a more acidic ocean (bad for all living things), and sea level rise to name a few that are not relegated to the margins anymore. They are real and people understand what's happening.

This can only help us accelerate the pace of our adoption of clean energy.  Can we survive the pace of such adoption? Jury's out on that one. Depends on who you ask kind of thing.

Can you imagine a world where solar, wind, and tidal (or some untapped source) make up 87% of the world's energy consumption?

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Wandering Soul of Katharine the Great...White Shark

From Cape Cod to Miami, Katharine's travel log rivets me, especially since Katharine's a great white shark hugging the coast.

The awesome crew of Ocearch researchers tagged her with a radio transmitter in the cold waters off Massachusetts.

At fourteen feet, she took up most of the bay of their special vessel.  Her skin shimmered like something beautiful from another world.  On her face shaped like a bullet, her eyes seemed to reflect the darkest ocean depths, callous and cold.

The tag is attached to her dorsal fin and when she surfaces, it sends out a signal.  And Katharine surfaces a lot.  That gives researchers good data and a clear path of Katharine all the way down the Atlantic seaboard.

I tend to romanticize travel, and of the school that considers all travel good for the soul.  That's probably why my imagination soars with thoughts of Katharine's journey.

Did she hear the sounds of the squealing teenagers near the boardwalks of the Jersey Shore?  Did she smell the southern cooking along the Carolinas?  Did she run into the crowds -- surfers, paddlers, boaters -- enjoying the ocean every way possible along the Florida stretch?

The researchers say she is looking for food in almost everything she does.  She is a feeding machine, a top predator.  They call her species "the lion of the sea".

At several points along the way, she ventured very close to inlets and places where rivers meet the ocean with names like Ponce Inlet or Biscayne Bay.  This is where fish -- her food -- congregate as nutrients pour off the land.

We all know that sharks don't like to eat humans.  They usually bite them in a case of mistaken identity.  Still hard to get over "the bite" part of that scenario, however.

I wonder how many people, maybe swimming at dusk after a nice afternoon laying on the sand or out for a brisk morning kayak up the beach, never realized how close Katharine came to them.

Or perhaps a few did see her.  They spotted Katharine and watched wide eyed and breathless as her unmistakable silhouette silently glided past them.  Back on land, they found themselves unable to stop talking about her.

The pings show that Katharine moved past Key West and through the Dry Tortugas into the Gulf.  No one is sure where she'll go next.  I hope she finds what she's looking for but never stops swimming.

Orange line is Katharine's path. 

Osearch has a cool app.
News about Katharine.