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Species: Pygmy killer whale (Feresa attenuata)

Physical appearance: An average sized dolphin with very active, lively tendencies, with dark gray to black coloring and a long, pointed dorsal fin. Flippers are also pointed, and they have a distinct white coloring around their lips. It bears some resemblance to the killer whale Orcinus orca, hence the name, though it’s not closely related.

Habitat: Generally found in tropical and sub-tropical oceans, usually staying in deep, open waters.

Conservation status: Data Deficient

Threats: This species is sometimes killed in driftnets and occasionally drive hunts, though not in as large numbers as other small cetacean species. They are likely threatened by overfishing and marine pollution.

Socialization: They are typically seen in groups of 10 or more. Because this species is poorly studied, not much is known about their interactions. They are often described as being aggressive to other dolphin species, indeed, many feel that they deserve the “killer whale” name more than the orca does. A couple of pygmy killer whales taken into captivity even killed other dolphins that shared a tank with them, and behaved aggressively toward trainers.

Predators and prey: The pygmy killer whale feeds on squid, octopus, and large fish. It’s been speculated that they may eat other dolphins that they attack. Due to their aggressive nature, they may not have many predators, though great white sharks and orcas could prey on them.

Relationships with humans: This species generally avoids humans, though will occasionally bowride. A few are sometimes intentionally killed for food, though they’ve never been hunted on a large scale.


Image 1 source

Image 2 source

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OVERFISHING-

Many marine ecologists think that the biggest single threat to marine ecosystems today is overfishing. Our appetite for fish is exceeding the oceans’ ecological limits with devastating impacts on marine ecosystems. Scientists are warning that overfishing results in profound changes in our oceans, perhaps changing them forever. Not to mention our dinner plates, which in future may only feature fish and chips as a rare and expensive delicacy.

The fish don’t stand a chance

More often than not, the fishing industry is given access to fish stocks before the impact of their fishing can be assessed, and regulation of the fishing industry is, in any case, woefully inadequate.

The reality of modern fishing is that the industry is dominated by fishing vessels that far out-match nature’s ability to replenish fish. Giant ships using state-of-the-art fish-finding sonar can pinpoint schools of fish quickly and accurately. The ships are fitted out like giant floating factories - containing fish processing and packing plants, huge freezing systems, and powerful engines to drag enormous fishing gear through the ocean. Put simply: the fish don’t stand a chance.

Ocean life health check

Populations of top predators, a key indicator of ecosystem health, are disappearing at a frightening rate, and 90 percent of the large fish that many of us love to eat, such as tuna, swordfish, marlin, cod, halibut, skate, and flounder - have been fished out since large scale industrial fishing began in the 1950s. The depletion of these top predator species can cause a shift in entire oceans ecosystems where commercially valuable fish are replaced by smaller, plankton-feeding fish. This century may even see bumper crops of jellyfish replacing the fish consumed by humans.

These changes endanger the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems, and hence threaten the livelihoods of  those dependent on the oceans, both now and in the future.

Fisheries collapse

The over-exploitation and mismanagement of fisheries has already led to some spectacular fisheries collapses. The cod fishery off Newfoundland, Canada collapsed in 1992, leading to the loss of some 40,000 jobs in the industry. The cod stocks in the North Sea and Baltic Sea are now heading the same way and are close to complete collapse.

Instead of trying to find a long-term solution to these problems, the fishing industry’s eyes are turning towards the Pacific - but this is not the answer. Politicians continue to ignore the advice of scientists about how these fisheries should be managed and the need to fish these threatened species in a sustainable way.

(via Greenpeace)

Help save our oceans by being smart about what types of fish you eat and how often you consume them. Here is a great pocket guide that informs people what fish are sustainably fished and which to avoid. Just print it out, put it in your wallet and you’re good to go! I also recommend watching End of The Line.  It’s a great documentary that portrays and discusses this issue very clearly. REMEMBER EVERY SMALL CHANGE MADE TO HELP THE PLANET COUNTS! 

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Overfishing Remains Biggest Threat to Mediterranean, Study Confirms

Posted by David Braun of National Geographic in Ocean Views on April 19, 2014        Overfishing is still the most important threat to Mediterranean underwater ecosystems, “more than pollution, invasive species, or climate change”, says Enric Sala, one of the authors of the most comprehensive study made of the sea, published this week in the science journal PLoS ONE. The assessment, presented in a paper entitled Large-Scale Assessment of Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas Effects on Fish Assemblages, drew on the work of a dozen researchers. A marine ecologist and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, Sala is actively engaged in exploration, research and communications to advance ocean policy and conservation. “Without these radical changes, we’re just going to reduce the Mediterranean Sea to a soup of microbes and jellyfish.”        In an interview for Ocean Views, Sala said the new study confirms the prognosis that the Mediterranean is on a trajectory to become a sea dominated by small tropical species that no one likes to eat. “Fishes will not be abundant, and the native species that the Greeks and Romans started to fish commercially will be rare — and most fisheries and the jobs they support will collapse,” he predicted. But this could change “if we stop all the irrational overfishing, including both legal and illegal fishing, and protect a large chunk of the Mediterranean,” Sala added. “Without these radical changes, we’re just going to reduce the Mediterranean Sea to a soup of microbes and jellyfish.”        The solution is to create more marine sanctuaries that successfully prevent fishing, Sala said. “Paper Parks”, or sanctuaries that exist in name only, are a futile effort, he added. This newest research reinforces a study published in PLoS ONE in February, 2012, in which Sala and others reported that the healthiest places in the Mediterranean were in well-enforced marine reserves. “Fish biomass there had recovered from overfishing to levels five to 10 times greater than that of fished areas. However, marine ‘protected’ areas where some types of fishing are allowed did not do better than sites that were completely unprotected. This suggests that full recovery of Mediterranean marine life requires fully protected reserves,” said a National Geographic news release about that study. (Overfishing Leaves Much of Mediterranean a Dead Sea, Study Finds)  read more from Nat Geo
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The Atlantic bluefin tuna is one of the largest, fastest, and most gorgeously colored of all the world’s fishes. The average size is a whopping 6.5 feet (2 meters) in length and 550 pounds (250 kilograms), although much larger specimens are not uncommon.

Unfortunately for the species however, bluefin meat also happens to be regarded as surpassingly delicious, particularly among sashimi eaters, and overfishing throughout their range has driven their numbers to critically low levels.

Just three days after a single Pacific bluefin tuna fetched a jaw-dropping $1.76 million at a fish auction in Tokyo, Japan, scientists released a new stock assessment for this species—and the findings are shocking. According to the report, the Pacific bluefin population has dropped 96.4 percent from unfished levels due to decades of overfishing. 90% of the population left are caught before they can reproduce.

I was shocked by what I saw in the seas, and by what I didn’t see.

I saw no sharks, no whales, no dolphins. I saw no fish longer than 11 inches. The larger ones had all been fished out.

When I swam in the Aegean, the sea floor was covered with litter; I saw tires and plastic bags, bottles, cans, shoes and clothing.

—  “Swimming Through Garbage" - NYTimes op-ed by lawyer and world-class competitive swimmer, Lewis Pugh.

Ocean in Crisis (Fen Montaigne)

No more magnificent fish swims the world’s oceans than the giant bluefin tuna, which can grow to 12 feet (3.7 meters) in length, weigh 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms), and live for 30 years. Once, giant bluefin migrated by the millions throughout the Atlantic Basin and the Mediterranean Sea, their flesh so important to the people of the ancient world that they painted the tuna’s likeness on cave walls and minted its image on coins.

The giant, or Atlantic, bluefin possesses another extraordinary attribute, one that may prove to be its undoing: Its buttery belly meat, liberally layered with fat, is considered the finest sushi in the world. Over the past decade, a high-tech armada, often guided by spotter planes, has pursued giant bluefin from one end of the Mediterranean to the other, annually netting tens of thousands of fish, many of them illegally. The bluefin are fattened offshore in sea cages before being shot and butchered for the sushi and steak markets in Japan, America, and Europe. So many giant bluefin have been hauled out of the Mediterranean that the population is in danger of collapse. Meanwhile, European and North African officials have done little to stop the slaughter.

The world’s oceans are a shadow of what they once were. With a few notable exceptions, such as well-managed fisheries in Alaska, Iceland, and New Zealand, the number of fish swimming the seas is a fraction of what it was a century ago. Marine biologists differ on the extent of the decline. Some argue that stocks of many large oceangoing fish have fallen by 80 to 90 percent, while others say the declines have been less steep. But all agree that, in most places, too many boats are chasing too few fish.

"There is no way for the fish to escape—everything is high-tech," Domaniewicz said. Speaking of the French purse-seine fishermen he worked for in Libya, he said, "I am an environmentalist, and I couldn’t stand the way they fished with no care for the quotas. I saw these people taking everything. They catch whatever they want. They just see money on the sea. They don’t think what will be there in ten years."

 ”The oceans are suffering from a lot of things, but the one that overshadows everything else is fishing,” said Joshua S. Reichert of the Pew Charitable Trusts. “And unless we get a handle on the extraction of fish and marine resources, we will lose much of the list that remains in the seas.

Read more

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Green sea turtle

The green turtle is one of the largest sea turtles and the only herbivore among the different species. Green turtles are in fact named for the greenish color of their cartilage and fat, not their shells. In the Eastern Pacific, a group of green turtles that have darker shells are called black turtles by the local community. Green turtles are found mainly in tropical and subtropical waters. Like other sea turtles, they migrate long distances between feeding grounds and the beaches from where they hatched. Classified as endangered, green turtles are threatened by overharvesting of their eggs, hunting of adults, being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites.

Why they matter

 Green turtles graze on seagrasses and algae, which maintains the seagrass beds and makes them more productive (much like mowing the lawn to keep it healthy). Seagrass consumed by green turtles is quickly digested and becomes available as recycled nutrients to the many species of plants and animals that live in the sea grass ecosystem. Seagrass beds also function as nurseries for several species of invertebrates and fish, many of which are of considerable value to commercial fisheries and therefore important to human food security.

 

Threats 

FISHERIES BYCATCH

Worldwide, hundreds of thousands of sea turtles a year are accidentally caught in shrimp trawl nets, on longline hooks and in fishing gillnets. Sea turtles need to reach the surface to breathe, and therefore many drown once caught. Known as bycatch, it is a serious hazard for green turtles. As fishing activity expands, this threat is more of a problem.

HABITAT LOSS

Green Turtle Sea turtles are dependent on beaches for nesting. Uncontrolled coastal development, vehicle traffic on beaches, and other human activities have directly destroyed or disturbed marine turtle nesting beaches around the world. Green turtle feeding grounds such as seagrass beds are also at risk from coastal development onshore, which leads to pollution and sedimentation in the nearby waters.

 

OVERHARVESTING AND ILLEGAL TRADE

Worldwide, the green turtle continues to be hunted and its eggs harvested. Much of that is for human consumption, but trade of turtle parts remains a profitable business. Tens of thousands of green turtles are harvested every year, particularly in parts of Asia and the Western Pacific. Along the Eastern Pacific coast of Mexico, despite complete protection, green turtles are still at risk from exploitation. In West Africa, sea turtles are killed for use in medicine and some traditional ceremonies.

learn more about how you can help and what organizations like WWF do to help!

It’s hard to imagine the damage overfishing is wrecking on the oceans. The effects are literally invisible, hidden deep in the ocean. But there is data out there. And when you visualize it, the results are shocking.

This image shows the biomass of popularly-eaten fish in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1900 and in 2000. Popularly eaten fish include: bluefin tuna, cod, haddock, hake, halibut, herring, mackerel, pollock, salmon, sea trout, striped bass, sturgeon and turbot—many of which are now vulnerable or endangered.

Dr. Villy Christensen and his colleagues at the University Of British Columbia used ecosystem models, underwater terrain maps, fish catch records and statistical analysis to render the biomass of Atlantic fish at various points this century (see the study).

To read more, click here.

To all the white people jumping down my throat about traditional hunting,

Do NOT come to my inbox debating on whether or not traditional hunting is needed anymore because there are apparently “alternative” ways to eat such as a vegan diet, that WE are somehow the problem here, that our ways are “cruel” or some other nonsense reason.

I’m not interested in your whitesplaining or your white opinions. Understand that conservation isn’t just about keeping animals from becoming extinct. If conservation intersects with culture, then it’s about making sure that conservation methods don’t hurt or damage culture as well. Don’t you think? It isn’t about you and what you think or feel, to be honest. Don’t come to me with your two dimensional view of the world where white people still think they know best. 

Show me that you’re just as worked up about issues like global warming, something that damages habitats and food sources for animals, pollution and over-fishing which (obviously) severely lowers marine life populations.

Until then, don’t message this blog.

Thanks.

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Re-naming unpopular fish gets them to your plate. 

By Gwen Sharp, PhD

In an NPR segment, Professor Daniel Pauly discussed overfishing of the world’s oceans. In particular, populations of popular fish such as cod and bluefin tuna have dropped significantly (the increased global desire for sushi having a major impact on tuna).

So what’s a fishing industry to do as it becomes harder to find fish? Of course, they can go farther out into the ocean, or fish deeper into it, looking for populations of popular fish that haven’t been overharvested yet, and they did that. The other option? Switch to species of fish that haven’t been heavily fished yet, usually because they weren’t popular.

As a result, Pauly points out that in the past decade we’ve seen a number of formerly unpopular fish rebranded in an effort to make them seem more palatable. So, for instance, the “slimehead” becomes the “orange roughy.” And the “Patagonian toothfish” is now the “Chilean sea bass” (which was subsequently depleted).

It’s a great example of rebranding; what’s especially interesting to me is that the reason for it is the collapse of so many popular fish populations. The fishing industry has to convince people to eat fish that were previously unappealing because it has largely destroyed the basis of its own existence.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

In 2005, I swam in the Southern Ocean, just off Antarctica. It was cold — very cold — when I swam over a graveyard of whale bones near an old whaling factory. As far as I could see, there were bleached white bones piled up on the seafloor. Man hunted whales almost to the point of extinction, not seeming to care that we could lose one of the wonders of the sea forever. It is the coldness of the water that preserves the bones and makes it look as if they were left there yesterday, but I like to think they are there as a reminder of man’s potential for folly.

Fortunately, in 1986 most countries ceased commercial whaling, and some whale populations have made a spectacular recovery. Whales like the Southern right were brought back from the brink of extinction. Their numbers are now increasing 7 percent year after year. If we can do it with one species, surely we can do it for entire ecosystems. We just need to give them the space to recover.

Marine protected areas, which are like national parks for the seas, are the best way to make that happen. In the Red Sea, I saw no coral and no fish. It looked like an underwater desert. But then, a little more than a mile later, I swam into a protected area, where fishing had been restricted. It was a sea as it was meant to be: rich and colorful and teeming with abundant life.

We need far more of these protected areas. They allow the habitat to recover from overfishing and pollution, which helps fish stocks recover. When we create them, we protect the coral, which protects the shoreline and provides shelter for fish. They become places people want to visit for ecotourism. They are good for the world economy, for the health of the oceans, for every person living on this planet.

This year in the Aegean I swam over tires and trash. In a few years, I hope to return, and swim over thriving coral reefs.

Swimming Through Garbage" - Lewis Pugh

vimeo

LOSING NEMO

A short 3D animation about the perils of over-fishing today by The Black Fish

Some of us know this information, many of us don’t…either way it’s a fantastic visual representation of a major threat to ocean biodiversity. 

Do you know how your seafood gets on your plate?