Friday, May 31, 2013

Rehab for Horse Shoe Crab Poachers

I did not know it was horse crab week, but apparently it is.  Let's make it official --happy Horse Shoe Crab Week.

Last weekend, the NY/NJ Bayshore Watershed Council's volunteer horse shoe crab monitoring group reported a dismal evening.  These awesome folks went out there along the northern New Jersey coast in the cold rain and found cold facts.  Many dead crabs and very few live ones. 

A few days later, there was my urban safari in Jamaica Bay complete with mating crabs and angry birders (they were angry because people involved in a Hindu ceremony nearby were accidentally stepping on the crabs).

The next day, I learned that poachers were plucking crabs out of the bay uncomfortably close to where we had just seen them.  Talk about angry.

I wish we'd had seen the poachers on our urban safari.  I envision a throng of nature-lover types trying to throw rocks at them or sick a raptor on them.

All kidding aside, horse shoe crabs need protections and taking too many is just plain bad.  Plus, taking large females laden with eggs is the best way to undercut an entire species, a species that has been fine for over 300 million years old.     

The poachers don't care.  They come in the middle of the night and steal the crabs.  They sell the ancient creatures as whelk bait.  There's a big appetite for whelk in -- you guessed it -- Asia.

Only one poaching boat was caught, another got away, and probably ten times that are even ever spotted.

In Africa, elephant poachers can be shot on sight.  Here, a fine of $500 is far too lenient for horse shoe crab poachers.  They should face bigger fines and maybe some time in jail.

While we're at it, throw in a required lesson about ecosystem services and biodiversity -- the value of a healthy natural world to people. Hint:  It's priceless.

Show them how important the crabs are to migrating red knots and other birds, and to predators that eat them like sea turtles and sharks, and to the colonies of critters that live on and around the crabs.  Let them know that horse shoe crab blood taken from live crabs has saved people's lives.

Then put them in those orange jumpsuits and make them stand in the water and count and tag the prehistoric crabs.  Call it poacher's community service.  

It's a little funny but I'm not laughing.  If you see a poacher, call the police, the mayor, the wildlife service, and the Marines.

The next day -- it is Horse Shoe Crab Week don't forget -- I read the good news that Delaware scientists have developed an artificial whelk bait, which could decrease the demand for horse shoe crabs as bait.

My fingers are crossed on that one.  Then again, New York, like New Jersey has already done, could ban horse shoe crab harvesting altogether.  This might not stop the poachers but it would likely slow them down,  deflate their markets.

Take action and contact the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which sets horse shoe crab fishing limits.  Let them know you value horse crabs as something more than bait.  Avoid eating whelk and tell people why.  Also, write your representative and senators.

Happy Horse Shoe Crab Week! 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

City Ain't Got Nothin on 300 Million Years

Recently, I went to Jamaica Bay to see horse shoe crabs in their annual mating rite.  See photos below.  Nature in the city can be an uplifting experience and sometimes it can be just what it is: wild animals trying to find a little bit of space like every urbanite.   

The beach was narrow and scattered with the asphalt remnants of a broken road.  Horse shoe crab people crowded it like a busy subway platform.  We had to be very careful not to step on the crabs, some almost completely buried in the sand. 

Note:  I snapped no photographs of a small group of people honoring their dead through a Hindu ceremony on the same small beach while one of the nature lovers yelled at them for accidentally stepping on the crabs.  Only in New York?

Their habitat.
One coming ashore to find a mate.

Prehistoric close up.

Fruits of their labor.

One was tagged elsewhere.
Art shot.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Rare and Rarer Still

First of all, I didn't even know there were pink dolphins until I had the privilege of seeing them in the Orinoco River in Venezuela. 

I remember blinking my eyes at telltale dorsals and breaching backs that were all pink.  I wondered if some aquatic graffiti artist was playing tricks.  Nope.  Natural and very real.  To add to the intrigue, science is not sure how they get that rosy hue.

Second, I am amazed that they have survived in such a heavily urbanized place as Hong Kong harbor. 

Surviving is the operative word, perhaps with a "barely" in front of it, according to conservationists.  The numbers have steadily declined due to loss of habitat -- filling in the water to make new land, what they call reclamation.  Water pollution is also a big factor. 

It is getting dicey in Hong Kong for the unique dolphins.  They need help.

Samantha Lee, senior marine conservation officer for the World Wildlife Fund, called on the government to abandon reclamation work in the western waters of Hong Kong, where she said the dolphins were being driven away.

"There are too many reclamation works and we are worried the threat will increase and the dolphins will one day disappear from our waters," Lee said in the South China Morning Post.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged that the government will "take more vigorous efforts to clean up such pollution" but did not specify exactly what the Chinese government intends to do.  Li's most recent remarks echo his earlier sentiments from January, when he said the resolution to China's pollution problem will "require a long-term process," according to the Huffington Post.  Seems like the pink dolphin can't wait that long.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hope Floats at Blue Vision Summit

It's hard to go to Blue Vision Summit and come away melancholy despite the myriad bad things happening to the oceans.

That's because by the time you leave the event, you have met interesting, smart, and passionate people who are doing very real things to help the oceans.  Also, there's Capitol Hill Day, a great dose of democracy in action, a bit of hope that the system does work and that you are a part of it.

On Hill Day, ocean people from across the country descend on the marble halls of US Congress in teams determined by state and region.  The New York team visited eight offices.  We sat down.   We smiled.  We talked about relevant issues like the LNG pipeline off the Rockaways, seismic testing in the Atlantic, and the EPA budget that zeroes out funds for water quality testing at beaches (I don't know about you, but I don't want to swim in sewage).

The legislative aides listened.  They took notes.  They asked questions.  Who knows?  I do know that despite Congress's dysfunctional, asinine behavior and the weight of money bending our democracy, things do happen.  If even one person we spoke with learned something, or was even marginally inspired, than it was worth it.

Much thanks to Clean Ocean Action who organized the New York and New Jersey teams and articulated the issues beautifully.  Also, Ocean Champions not only taught us how to talk to our officials but also brought in a winning squad of senators and representatives -- ocean champions -- to rally us.

Prior to Hill Day, there were solid sessions about pitching to the media and fundraising as well as panels on making climate a blue issue and a status report on coastal recovery from storms and oil spills.  It's about time the blue conversation headlined climate because too much carbon pollution is damaging the seas.

The conversation needs to continue and expand.  Hats off to Mike Tidwell of Chesapeake Climate Action Network who has done great things to fight climate change and speaks with an inspiring ferocity, and humor.  He called himself  "obnoxiously green" but also said about building a climate coalition:  "Never, ever, ever, give up."

If anyone deserves moral, financial, or any other support we can muster, it's Cynthia Sarthou and the Gulf Restoration Network.  They are on the proverbial front lines of the BP oil disaster and the battle and the destruction is far from over.

The news cycle has moved on but Cynthia is still there, still dealing with the deadly impact of chemical dispersants sprayed all over the water and still chasing elusive restoration funds.  Her battle fatigue can be heard in her voice.    

A highlight for me was the lanky gentleman in a dark suit who arrived for the Peter Benchley Awards. His head rose easily half a foot above the others.  His driver stood outside next to a sleek and shiny car with diplomatic plates.  Not your average ocean lover at first blush.

Turns out he was the ambassador from Senegal on scene to accept the award for Excellence in National Stewardship of the Ocean on behalf of his boss.

The president of Senegal kicked international fishing conglomerates out of his waters because his people connected to the sea told him there were fewer fish.  He also noted that he wanted to be sure to have plenty of Thi√©boudienne, Senegal's national dish of local fish.

Blue Frontier should be loudly praised for bringing all these great people together and providing an engaging agenda in a friendly atmosphere.  Check out founder David Helvarg's overview of the summit and support the seaweed rebellion.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Ask Obama for Action

Ask Obama for action on climate.  Sign this petition.  There is no time to stall.  Whether its frequent and violent storms or a more acidic ocean, climate change causes problems that need action from the Executive Branch.  

Ask Obama: How much longer for climate action?

Thanks to NRDC, who continue to do great things in very smart ways. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

They're Back, Baby

More horseshoe crabs than you can shake a stick at.

Great news from Bayshore Regional Watershed Council's first of the year horse shoe crab count.  An astounding 1600 mating crabs were counted last Friday.  That's just something to cheer especially given that in some parts of the world horse shoe crab populations are being decimated.

Leader and scientist Joe Reynolds provided an interesting and colorful post about the evening on his Nature on the Edge of New York City blog.  It's titled Horse Shoe Crabs Are Back in Sandy Hook Bay.   As he says "the need to breed was strong."

Thanks Joe and thanks to all the volunteers who went out there and counted.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Not Too Late to Avoid Climate Change's Worst

Here's a good round up of challenges we all face because of climate change. 

Everything from US taxpayers carrying farmers to what it means to lose the Arctic heat shield.  The good news:  It's not too late.

The smart people at MIT say it's still up to us.  We can avoid the full negative impact of climate change but we need to get on it sooner rather than later.  Let's build a prosperous, job-creating, secure, clean energy future rather than fiddle while our world burns.

image: MIT

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Celebrate the Seas with Friends at BVS4

Only 6 days to Blue Vision Summit 4.  Be there or be square.   It's not too late to join the fun.

Here's what you can do at BVS4:
  • Feel your citizenship come alive and be inspired by democracy in action.
  • Learn new things about the world's oceans and new ways to help save them.
  • Meet like-minded people who are doing real things -- everyday -- to help the oceans.
  • Finally not be that oddball who's always blathering on about the oceans. 
  • See adults dressed as fish and polar bears.
I attended the previous summit and had a blast.  Hope to see you there.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Republican Goes 100% Renewable

A small city in California is going for 100% solar power, according to the New York Times.  Great news comes with a funny quote from the town's mayor:

"'Is global warming indeed a threat? 'Absolutely, I may be a Republican. I’m not an idiot.”

So it's not a truism.