Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sorry to be Absent!

Hi everyone,
I'm sorry that I've been away from blogging for so long! My only excuse is that life took over and overwhelmed me for awhile... Grad school apps, GRE studying, moving, getting settled and organized, and a new job. I'm having a blast...working for the Missouri Department of Conservation doing fisheries management assistance...but it keeps me pretty darn tired.

My good news is that I'll be moving to North Carolina in August to start a MS in Biology at East Carolina University! I'll be doing elasmobranch research... I'm so excited to start my new adventure and move to NC!

I'll be back at it very soon, I promise!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Seafood Survey

Please join me in helping Cathy Preston, who is a graduate student doing her master's project on sustainable seafood, by taking her short survey here on your seafood choices.

I've already taken it, and it's a very straightforward survey. Cathy asked me to help spread the word and pass on this invitation to all of you. Please take the survey, add to Cathy's data set for her master's, and contribute to better seafood management and improved sustainability practices!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


"In the end, we conserve what we love. We love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught." --Baba Dioum, Senegalese poet.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Seafood Choices

A lot has been written and talked about consumer choice and activism, but we shouldn't underestimate its impact. When it comes to the health of our oceans, consumer activism can have an enormous impact.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead

Most of our seafood is not farmed. Unless the label specifically states that the seafood was farmed, you can assume it was wild-caught. There are pros and cons to both wild and farmed seafood. I think the jury is still out on the sustainability of farmed seafood. Now, wild-caught might sound good, and the oceans might seem like an unending supply of food. But they are not. There are billions of us humans. Seafood is the only source of food that is wild and harvested in the wild. Imagine how many "wild" cows it would take to supply one McDonald's alone...never mind all the other fast-food joints around the world. And there are a LOT of unsustainable harvesting/fishing practices occurring as we speak. But that's a post for another day!

There are some fisheries that are better choices than others, and that's where consumer activism comes in. When using the term fisheries, I am referring to one particular species of seafood (fish, shellfish, other invertebrates) that is fished/harvested in a general geographic area. Some fisheries are in better "health" than others. The fishery is managed better, the population is larger, there are limits on how many organisms can be taken at one time, and the ocean waters are in good condition in that area.

Sometimes fisheries have to close because of water pollution that affects the organisms in that area. Some fish species you shouldn't eat because the level of mercury that is in the fish's tissue (bioaccumulation) is so high that it can gradually poison us. And in some cases, some species of fish are so vital to the marine ecosystem, and/or the population numbers are so low, that they shouldn't be harvested at all. In my opinion, sharks are a good example of species who are too important to the ocean's health to be removed!

If we make responsible decisions about the seafood we buy, then there is less economic benefit for companies to continue to fish in unsafe ways (unsustainable). There are a couple of good sources for this information:

Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch publishes very handy seafood pocket guides each season specific to your region. They even have a Sushi guide now!
SeaWeb is an ocean conservation organization. They have a number of on-going conservation and policy projects, including KidSafe Seafood. KidSafe Seafood suggests the best choices at the grocery store, specific to childrens' nutritional needs. (At a recent science conference, I picked up a magnet for my sister-in-law.)

Happy Shopping!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Shark Products Boycott

The San Francisco Chinatown shark finning protest is being held today. I haven't heard news from the protesters, but we can help in making our cities Shark Safe. There are a number of things we can do to help increase awareness about shark finning and boycott the consumption of shark products.

From the Shark Safe Project:

What you can do to help

  • Refuse to buy any shark products.
  • Refuse to patronize any restaurant that serves shark.
  • Whenever you see shark fin soup or other shark products on the menus of restaurants or fish stores, complain politely to the proprietor before leaving.
  • When spending your vacation near the ocean, avoid going on fishing excursions aimed at also catching sharks.
  • Call up your TV station and complain every time sensationalize a shark related incident.
  • If you read articles or see TV transmissions which portray sharks as being bloodthirsty monsters, write to the authors or those responsible. Explain that such sensation reports are extremely damaging to the worldwide shark populations.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Anti-Finning Protest

Tomorrow is the anti-finning protest in San Francisco's Chinatown! If you happen to read this and you're in the Bay area, please join them. I plan on monitoring the Shark Safe project blogsite for details throughout the day. I will relay them to you.

See my previous post for information about the protest as well as previous posts for information about the destructiveness of shark finning.

The Chinatown protests tomorrow are taking a different form than the standard marching and chanting that is so common, especially in San Francisco. They're dividing in small groups, thereby spreading throughout the whole area, and targeting restaurants that serve shark fin soup. Shark Safe project is trying to educate and inform restauranteurs and patrons of the health risks of consuming shark products (high mercury levels) as well as the dangers to our oceans. Please see their latest blog for more information. It's an excellent approach, and I'm excited to hear how it goes tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

shark fin protest & boycott

I'm copying an email that I received about a shark fin protest in San Francisco. I actually received this email through my local dive club, Gateway Hammerheads, and Gary & Brenda Adkinson of the Shark Foundation.

If you're in San Francisco on January 25, 2009, please come out and help the Shark Safe project. Many shark species are endangered, some close to extinction. Sharks are under increasing threat from destruction of habitat, world-wide overfishing, and from the direct and enormous impact of shark finning. Shark finning is the distinctly inhumane and completely unnecessary practice of removing the fins of the shark for use in soup or as trophies. After finning, the sharks are dumped in the ocean, while still alive, and drown.

Please see the Shark Safe project blog site for more details about their efforts. I hope the protest is very successful, and I wish everyone the best. I'll be thinking of you!

Greetings Nor Cal UW Photographic Society Directors

The Shark Safe project is a new grass roots shark conservation group. As divers I am sure you are very aware that shark populations are threatened globally. I am also sure that you are aware that the main source of this threat is over fishing for shark fins used in shark fin soup. I am not here to preach to the choir! I am not asking you to sign another petition!

I am asking you to join us and take real action to help save sharks!

We are organizing a shark finning protest demonstration in San Francisco's Chinatown on Sunday January 25th 2009.
for more info:

There are over 100 restaurants in San Francisco's Chinatown that offer shark fin soup on their menus.

We are only asking them to remove one item from their menus.

That simple act can save thousands of sharks.

There are other groups taking up the cause all over the country. Please, as concerned divers join us and help us save sharks today.

Please forward this message to your customers and friends.

Yours in sharks,

Lawrence Groth

Shark Safe

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Great White Sharks

Let's just start the year off right with Carcharodon carcharias!

White Sharks (Great Whites) are large, with long spindle-shaped bodies and a large dorsal fin. The top of the body is a dark grey colour and the underside is white; there is a sharp colour change. The colouring allows for camouflage from prey or predators that may view the shark above or below it.

At birth, they are 110-160 cm long (3-5 ft). Females are generally larger at 450-500 cm (11-13 ft) and males average a 350-400 cm (14-16 ft) total length. Maximum length is approximately 600 cm (20 ft).

Distribution & Habitat:
White Sharks have a wide-ranging distribution throughout most of the world's oceans. They inhabit a wide variety of habitats: from shallow waters to open ocean (depths up to 1300 m) to rocky reefs and oceanic islands. They are a highly migratory species, easily crossing oceans. Satellite studies are starting to reveal their migratory paths (similar to migratory fly-over paths of birds).

Behavioural studies are also revealing complex social behaviours, intelligence, and curiosity. They are well known for breaching the water while hunting for prey, particularly seals, in South Africa and Australia.

White sharks have the ability to maintain an internal body temperature higher than the surrounding water, which effectively makes them endothermic. Endothermic means animals generate heat in order to maintain a stable internal body temperature. This adaptation allows White Sharks to swim quickly and hunt in cold water. Prey sources include small fishes when juvenile to large marine mammals.

Internal fertilization. Gestation period is approximately 12 months; litters of 2-10 pups is common. Birthing cycles are in 2-3 year intervals, so they do not have litters every year. White sharks are live-bearers, which means that the pups are birthed. The pups are fully formed at birth and do not require care from the mother (parental care). They swim off right after birth to search for prey.

Conservation Status & Issues:
Listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Populations are depleted through commercial fishing bycatch, finning, and declining prey sources. Most shark species are depleted. Protected by the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Also protected from international trade through CITES.

Please see the Monterey Bay Aquarium for their extensive research on juvenile White Sharks!

Compagno, Leonard, Marc Dando, and Sarah Fowler. Sharks of the World. Princeton Field Guides. Princeton University Press: Princeton, New Jersey. 2005.