CREATURE FEATURE – BATTLE OF THE TITANS
March 8, 2007
By David Helvarg
In the eons old battle between giant squid and whales you can now score one for the whales and one less for the squid. When I was down in Antarctica a few years ago driving a Zodiac with a couple of scientists off Marr Glacier, we were bumped hard by a Minke whale. It was a real Melville moment, watching its huge brown back roll out from under us. When shrimp like krill swarmed into the area around Palmer Station other whale species including humpbacks, sei and fin would congregate and come around to check out our rubber boats. Only the Minke were nervous and flighty, taking off at the sound of marine engines. I couldn’t help but think it was because they knew they were still being hunted by Japanese whalers. Only this year the hunt ended early. The Japanese government called off their ‘scientific whaling’ on the southern ocean after their factory ship, the Nisshin Maru (processing ‘scientific’ meat for the retail market) caught fire last month. One crewman was killed and the ship drifted for ten days, risking a potential diesel spill, before repairs could be made. The Nisshin Maru is now leading the whaling fleet home after killing 505 Minke whales and 3 fin whales in its foreshortened season.
Offered a tow and lecture by Greenpeace and a Raspberry and finger by Sea Shepherd, both of which had ships down there to disrupt the hunt, the Japanese refused to say if the loss of their mother ship will mean an end to their annual, um (what’s a neutral sounding word for slaughter?), oh yeah, cull.
Meanwhile at least one giant squid wishes he’d followed the advice of the National Environmental Trusts’ ‘Take a Pass on Chilean Sea Bass’ campaign. The largest Colossal Squid ever encountered, over 30 feet long and 990 pounds was eating a hooked Patagonian Toothfish (black-marketed as Chilean Sea Bass) when it got entangled and landed — well decked actually — following a two hour struggle with some astonished fishermen. Sadly neither the toothfish nor the deep-sea monster survived. For more on the Toothfish fishery I’d recommend the book, ‘Hooked — Pirates, Poaching and the Perfect Fish’ by G. Bruce Knecht.
BUT IS IT GOOD FOR BABY FISH?
There has been extensive work done in recent years to promote sustainable seafood consumption among the general public – from self-guiding pocket cards to Marine Stewardship Labeling to a fully integrated fisherman/processor/retailer/consumer approach by the Aquarium of the Pacific. Still, the only traceable shifts in consumption patterns in the U.S. (as opposed to the more eco-aware EU) have been linked to warnings about health risks from mercury and other toxins contained in fish such as Tuna and farmed Salmon.
Then in February a large new study reported in the British medical journal Lancet found that children of women who ate little fish during pregnancy had lower IQs and more behavioral problems than those who ate lots of seafood, presumably including fish & chips, which used to contain tasty cod but – since they were wiped out – is now full of large female dogfish (shark). While the FDA and EPA recommend women limit their intake of seafood while pregnant, a Harvard professor of nutrition told the Washington Post that what really makes sense is that they limit their intake of (large predator) fish with high mercury levels such as shark, king mackerel, swordfish and tilefish. If you’re confused yet maybe your mother didn’t eat enough seafood. Either way read Chapter 13 ‘Eat Seafood That’s Healthy and Sustainable,’ in our book ’50 Ways to Save the Ocean,’ then go out for some nice Tilapia or ‘Ocean Boy’ guilt-free shrimp.
PAPAH DON’T PREACH
In her will Anna Nichole Smith committed her entire fortune to the protection of the beautiful coral reefs of the Bahamas where she finally found peace and tranquility in her short but troubled….OK, so that’s not true but First Lady Laura Bush did fly out to Midway in early March at the far end of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument where she admired the Gooney Birds and preached the value of marine ecological stewardship (See Blue Notes # 27). Earlier she, Governor Linda Lingle, and a group of Native Hawaiians announced the Monuments new name — the Papah naumoku kea Marine National Monument (it translates as something to do with the formation of the island chain, even the White House wasn’t too clear on that one). The administration is committing almost $11 million to the monument in its next budget, including $590,000 for debris removal. Unfortunately, since the monument sits in the Pacific gyre that entrates plastic, its otherwise pristine atolls are piled up with old bic pens, water bottles, lighters, fishing nets and other non-biodegradable polymer crap. And with the world producing 200 million tons of new plastic a year, that’s a problem not going away soon.
Another problem is that, while supportive of the Monument, the White House and Congress have cut the rest of NOAA’s Marine Sanctuary program by 25 percent, from $51 million to $36 million a year, since 2005. We need to keep educating people that, like our two and a half billion dollar a year National Parks, one of the glories of America could be great wilderness parks in the sea.
MARK TRAIL — PR FLAK
“NOAA and partners search out medicines from the sea, warn against tornadoes, and as environmental stewards, create protected ocean areas, including America’s 13 Marine Sanctuaries,” a tall dark haired stranger who bares a striking resemblance to NOAA chief Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher tells fellow cartoon character Mark Trail in the Sunday Feb.11 Mark Trail Comic Strip. Sure, NOAA may also grant permission to the Navy to kill 12 percent of all marine mammals or suppress its scientists when they try and talk about the links between climate change and hurricanes (Blue Notes # 29), but Mark Trail is all about the good news – celebrating the organization’s claim that its 200 years old because one of its legacy agencies, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, is. Got to admit that story sounds better than Richard Nixon created you in 1970 and gave you to his future Watergate bagman Maurice Stans at the Department of Commerce rather than to Interior ’cause he was pissed off at Interior Secretary Walter Hickle for criticizing his invasion of Cambodia and the killing of those students at Kent and Jackson State.
DOES THAT INCLUDE TIME-SHARES?
In yet another scary climate study, this one by the U.N. Foundation and research society Sigma Xi, scientists say we can stave off the worst consequences of Global Warming if we take immediate actions including a worldwide ban on all new beachfront construction. If nothing else this report strengthens the theory of alternative universes (occupied by research scientists). Personally, I’m calling for a 65 percent reduction in human greed and avarice by 2015 to be followed by an immediate tripling of long-term sustainable thinking.
BLUE VISION UPDATE
Because we remain optimistic that we can still turn the tide we continue to plan for the 2008 Blue Vision Summit of 1,000 in Washington D.C. Anyone interested in working on the two pre-summit planning meetings in Washington DC and San Francisco this summer please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
FROM A LONELY DOLPHIN
We’d also like to make a solo cetacean (ouch). If you enjoy reading Blue Notes then we’re urchin you to pass it on or post it on your site, blog, or listserv. And if you’re still feeling shellfish or eel at ease for not contributing, coral your friends and get them to donate a clams at www.bluefront.org.