There’s stuff going on in the deep blue sea

December 13, 2010

Today is a lame. 1. it is raining on my day off 2. my external hard drive is corrupted and I am waiting to see if any data is salvageable and 3. it is raining on my day off. However, even today I am supremely happy that I am not a clownfish in a coral reef.

Here is why.

Humans have been exploiting the oceans since Mr. and Mrs. Caveman first discovered that the icky slimy things on the beach actually could be tasty and filling. The best part is that we can’t see the damage we’ve done so we can go along in our happy-go-lucky piscivorous ways. The last blue-fin tuna? That’ll go well in a sushi roll with avocado. Case in point: the Grand Banks of the Maritime provinces. Rewind a thousand years and Basque fishermen traveled all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to bring back ‘bacalao’ for their families. At present there are apparently barely enough Atlantic cod to fill a couple fishing boats.

Now we have another pressure to add to overfishing, maelstroms of garbage and dead zones. According to a new report by the UN, the acidity of oceans has increased by 30% in the last 150 years. Acid eats away at things like coral, which is the structural support of many of the most diverse areas in the world, and the shells of many sea creatures, like mussels and conchs. Increased acidity also can inhibit bone growth in juvenile fish, including otoliths. Otoliths are the small bone fragments in our and fish’s inner ears that allow us to know up from down and left from right. The variable growth in the otoliths apparently can cause confused movements and changes in behavior that threaten the survivability of Nemo’s brethren.

Life under the ocean is hard to see, hard to get to and hard to study. We understand relatively little about the complexities and connections within the ocean ecosystem, but we still rely on the ocean for food, transport and stable weather patterns. The abundance and diversity of life in the ocean has been declining for thousands of years. We don’t know when the ocean if is going to call ‘uncle’ and give up or somehow fight back with a vengeance. Both sound scary to me.

Sockeye salmon from when I fished a summer in Alaska - A midwesterner's introduction to the freaking coolness of the ocean


2 Responses to “There’s stuff going on in the deep blue sea”

  1. emo said

    amen, sister! some philanthropic lagniappe: can you believe marine conservation receives less than a penny of conservation funding in the u.s.? nevermind that oceans make up 71% of our blue planet. condolences on your computer, hope you can rescue the gems.

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