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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Merry Christmas, and Happy Birding

Well, it's that time of year again. It's a time of orchestrated chaos for those living in the city, when you begin to feel like everyone around you has lost their wits (and that you may soon join them). For those living in small coastal communities, it's a time when the weather is slightly worse, the days are slightly shorter, and some people simply decide to hibernate until conditions improve. At Living Oceans, it's a time when we wind down for a couple of weeks, so this will be the final blog post for the year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

How we go to meetings

Living Oceans Society's head office is in the small island community of Sointula, B.C. (we also have a satellite office outpost in the wilds of Vancouver). Life in Sointula is pretty easy. Your morning commute, for example, is only a few minutes long and of the few interruptions that do occur, many are due to various hoofed mammals who are intent on doing their commute first.

C'mon buddy, keep it mooooooving

Monday, December 13, 2010

Victories in the context of centuries

Last week was a good week for groups working on oceans issues in B.C. The House of Commons voted in support of a legislative ban on tankers on B.C.'s North Coast, Justice Bruce Cohen ordered the release of 10 years' worth of salmon health records for 120 salmon farms, and a Federal Court judge ruled that DFO has failed to meet its responsibility, under the Species At Risk Act, to protect the critical habitat of B.C.'s resident killer whales.

So, good news, right? High-fives all around! 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Victory on Tanker Ban Motion, Victory for the Coast

In case you haven't been following Water Blogged over the past few days, you may have missed our urgent appeals to phone/write your MP and urge him/her to vote in favour of a motion in support of a legislated tanker ban on Canada’s Pacific North Coast. Well, those phone calls and emails paid off: the motion was carried tonight in the House of Commons!

One more reason to tell your MP to vote for the tanker ban tonight

The CBC reports that Canada is not prepared to deal with a major oil spill.

In entirely related news, your MP has the chance to vote for a ban on tanker traffic on B.C.'s North Coast. The vote is this evening, at approximately 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

So, if you haven't already, get in touch with your MP and remind them to vote for the ban. The Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois have indicated that they support the ban. The key thing is getting them to show up.

Remember, the vote is at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time tonight. In the words of Johnny Cash: you've got 25 minutes to go. (Figuratively, at least).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ask your MP to vote for a legislated tanker ban on B.C.’s North Coast

URGENT: Ask your MP to vote for a legislated tanker ban on Canada’s Pacific North Coast!  
Dear friend,
We need your help TODAY. We’ve reached a decisive point in the battle to keep B.C.’s coast oil free. On Tuesday evening, December 7, your Member of Parliament will vote on a motion to ban oil tankers on the North Coast. Please take a moment to send the action alert below because it’s CRITICAL that MPs vote to approve the motion.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tanker Bans and Tasty Tar Sands

As discussions on the fate of the climate stutter into their second day in Cancún, an unconventional delegation met in Ottawa today to demand stronger protection of the marine environment. The group of First Nations, fishermen, tourism operators, and environmental advocates called on the federal government to ban oil tankers from Canada's Pacific North Coast. The delegation was brought together by shared concerns over Enbridge Inc's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would see 500,000 barrels per day of toxic bitumen flowing from Alberta's Tar Sands through Kitimat and onto Asia-bound oil tankers (click here for a map of the proposed tanker route).

Monday, November 29, 2010

Edmonton to Cancún: No matter how you look at it, things are getting warmer

Today is a sobering day!

It's Monday, nearly the end of November, and 26 days until Christmas. It is also the day when die-hard Saskatchewan Roughrider fans (who are the true winners of the Grey Cup, regardless of which team triumphed on the field in yesterday's game) return to their burrows to hibernate for the winter after their final frenzied gathering of the season.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Good Vibes Friday

Before you sail into the weekend, here are a few things to see you on your way in style:

- A cautionary tale for anyone considering a career in marine biology
- Water Blogged has learned that this Thursday was America's version of Canadian Thanksgiving, and good on ya for that. We're still a bit mystified by the traditions, though - turkeys we can understand, but why do you ritualistically slaughter Lions every year? Anyway, to honor our southern friends, we present you Pilgrims with evidence that a historically accurate Thanksgiving meal would likely include loads o' eels.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Marine Not-So-Protected Areas

This past week saw the long-awaited release of a peer-reviewed paper by several members of our staff, Commercial fisheries closures in marine protected areas on Canada’s Pacific coast: The exception, not the rule. As the title suggests, this paper examines fisheries closures (or lack thereof) in 161 marine protected areas (MPAs) in Canada's Pacific waters. Alarmingly, 160 of these areas are open to some amount of commercial harvesting. This begs the question: what are these areas protected from?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Study finds people are confused about climate change, but want to learn

Yesterday`s post was a wallow in the dank recesses of tar sands politics. To make up for how depressing it was, I promised some cautiously optimistic news on the climate change front, in the form of hopeful news from the U.S. Since I am nothing if not a man of my word when it is convenient and when it suits my purposes, here`s that cautiously optimistic news:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Confederacy of Dunces: the influence of Canadian oil interests on U.S. politics

The next few posts are going to focus on greenhouse gas emissions, because their effects - climate change and ocean acidification - are projected to have substantial consequences for marine ecosystems. And because the fixes required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are largely political, these next few posts are going to delve into politics. Today, we'll briefly touch on the relationship between the Alberta tar sands and U.S. politics.

There will be no cute images to distract us.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Afternoon Rant: Bill C-311

Well, it's just over one week until the start of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun. So what has Canada's ruling party done to prepare for this high profile international discussion on greenhouse gas emissions?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Linkday Thursday: Bluefin tuna and brawling academics

Good evening everyone. The blog has been neglected for over a week, and I apologize for that. I feel bad. I imagine you all, sitting at home, in the dark, waiting for a new post, desperately straining wobbly necks to hold translucent faces towards the light of the screen like so many baby grackles.

Hang in there, readership.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Well, your wait has not been in vain, because I rassled some links from the internet. Some of these are a few days old, reflecting the length of my negligence. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sea lice treatment kills adult lobsters on east coast

High-profile drama seems to always surround B.C. open net-pen salmon aquaculture, so it's easy for West Coasters to sometimes forget that there are open net-pen salmon aquaculture operations in Atlantic Canada as well. We should definitely be paying attention to what's been going on out there in the past few days, though, where an outbreak of sea lice has precipitated a flurry of activity.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Startling coral discovery, Newfoundland beats B.C., and more

Hola amigos. It's been a few days. You've likely been wondering "What's happened to John? Has the law finally caught up with him?" And the answer to that is no, it hasn't: thanks to convenient loopholes in Canada's extradition agreements, the government of Guatemala can't touch me.

Actually, I've been traveling a bit for work lately and I feel a bit out of the loop when it comes to the latest oceans-related developments. So grab an oil-black coffee - it should almost have a slick on top, but not quite - put some tunes on, and let's take a spin.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Carbon Dioxide – 3, Water – 0

It has been a pretty exciting couple of weeks for carbon dioxide. The infamous gas celebrated a stunning victory last week against its long time rival, water vapor, for control of the Earth's climate. According to a study published at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which examined the role that various gases play in the greenhouse effect, the planet's temperature ultimately depends on the atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide. Better luck next time, water! Water vapor and clouds still play a major role in global warming, but without non-condensing gases like CO2 and methane, they cannot uphold the Earth's greenhouse effect. This leaves water in distant second place, a loss as crushing as that suffered by Carolina in Sunday's 5-1 Vancouver game.

Friday, October 15, 2010

How I became an Environmentalist

Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Jake, I have been working for Living Oceans Society for about a month, and I am an environmentalist. This last point might not be such a surprise, considering the context in which you're reading it, but it isn't a word with which I have always been that comfortable. For many, environmentalism conjures up images of people who have long hair, live in trees, and listen to whale music. And while I admit that these may all have been accurate descriptions at various times in my life (especially during university), they are not the basis I use for applying the term to myself.
Let me back up a bit. To start with, my parents are lighthouse keepers, and I spent most of my childhood here:

Okay, so perhaps I was doomed to be an environmentalist from the start. But let me explain...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Coho, sea lice, and massive pieces of styrofoam litter

I don't know how to preface what you're about to see. My knowledge of the English language, or any of the other 12 languages I can speak fluently, doesn't allow me to express the vastness of the piece of styrofoam that my colleagues and I cleaned up from a local beach the other day. The only unit of measurement I can think of is based on this photo: it is approximately 1.9 Marias x 0.8 Marias x 0.3 Marias. That's...what, 0.456 cubic Marias. That's a HUGE piece of styrofoam.

Styrofoam and reference Maria
On to the seriousness.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wednesday links: threats of hatchery salmon edition

Today, Water Blogged is kicking back at LOS World Headquarters, sippin' coffee and takin' a spin around the world wide net for oceans-related links.

LOS World Headquarters is somewhere in there. Pretty cool, eh?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Demon pigs and ocean acidification

I had a terrifying experience last week! It involved a pig.

See, I was traveling for work, and I stayed in a hostel to save some money. By the time I got to bed I'd been awake for more than 36 hours, so the second I hit the pillow I dropped into one of those abyss-like slumbers. At some point in the night something woke me up - some kind of commotion. I woke up, but I was severely confused - I had no idea where I was or what was going on. I couldn't see much in the darkness - just a mass moving around across the room. The whole thing quickly took on a nightmarish feel. I thought that I was in a cabin, looking through a window into a misty night, watching a large pig trying to break in. At this point my survival instinct kicked in. Obviously I needed to scare the pig away! I tried yelling, but found I couldn't make a noise (thank goodness, in retrospect). So I did the next best thing: I started wildly flapping my arms at the demon pig, beating them against the mattress as loud as I could. Then I fell back asleep. The whole thing took maybe 15 seconds.

Anyway, turns out that what I thought/dreamed was a pig - it was just somebody tossing in their sleep in another bunk. So long story short: if you would have walked into that hostel room at that particular time, you would have seen one guy tossing and turning in his sleep, and another guy staring at him wild-eyed, madly flapping his arms.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Finding honest signals in the midst of the noise

Apologies to professional biologists if I muck this up, but there are things known to biologists as 'honest signals' - cues that the receiver understands to reliably correlate with some aspect of the sender. Large male elephant seals can bellow louder than small ones, for example, so in their competitions for females, the bellow is an honest signal of the size and therefore fighting ability of the male. In this way, potential disputes between males can be avoided if one recognizes that the other is the superior fighter through its bellowing. (And then the larger one gets all the females, even though he's probably a jerk and the smaller one is probably a really nice guy with a good sense of humor). it out first.
So I set out this morning to think of some honest signals - not from huge males, which as a 5'9" guy myself I am inclined to think are overrated. No, I set out to try to think of information that just might be sending a direct, unmistakable message about the status of our current social and environmental conditions. And so, without having exerted myself too much because I'm kind of jet-lagged, here are some that struck me (note - the term 'signal' may technically not be the correct word to use here, but I'm using the term anyway).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thus spake some dude: we should get rid of all predators

OK, this is a bit of a detour, but sometimes a man just runs across something that is so crazy that he has to address it on his organization's blog. 

Over at the New York Times, a professional philosopher has written a piece so ridiculous - nay, ridonculous - that it pretty much defies explanation or analysis. The gist of it:  "Suffering is bad and we should prevent it whenever we can.  Predators cause pain, which equals suffering.  Hence, we should make predators go extinct."

I jape you not.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pity the idiotfish. Someone has to.

There's a fish out there that's not doing too well. I'mma let you get some tissues, because you're going to be using them. Take a good look at this guy, and then commence sobbing.

My life is so hard.
Image: NOAA via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Which is worse for the oceans - eating meat or eating fish?

It's a commonly-encountered sentiment amongst people who care about oceans: many marine ecosystems are in trouble; fisheries are a primary cause for much of this trouble; ergo, to help the ocean a person should stop eating fish.

This seems like a fairly straightforward argument. However, it gets murky very quickly if the person replaces seafood with meat from terrestrial production systems. Consider this: the UN FAO estimates that 18% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are attributable to livestock production. Read that again - 18% of all anthropogenic GHG emissions are associated with livestock production. This is more than the share attributable to transportation. (Read the FAO brief here).

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fisheries heavyweights pound MSC

Today, Marine Stewardship Council finds itself where it doesn't want to be: in the spotlight taking a public whuppin' from some smart people in the journal Nature.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Heads-up: rally against tankers and Enbridge on Tuesday

Quick heads up: if you're in the region on Tuesday August 31, head over to one of these two rallies being held to protest Enbridge's Northern Gateway Project and its tanker traffic.

No Tankers Rally (VANCOUVER)
Date and time: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 12 Noon
Where: Burrard and Pender (Meet across street from Enbridge HQ and march to Art Gallery)
For more information, contact 

Pipe Up Against Enbridge rally (KITIMAT)
Date and time: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 starting at 11:00 am
Where: Kitimat, B.C.
For more information, contact
Details: Come out to this family-friendly gathering outside the Riverlodge Recreation Centre. Listen to speakers from across the Northwest and hear live music from the incredible Rachelle van Zanten.

Check out Dogwood Initiative's information on the rally here.

You can still make some noise if you can't make the rally: send an Action Alert to the Prime Minister to ask for a permanent ban on oil tanker traffic off of the B.C. coast.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Don't be like this guy - educate yourself about sushi.

The other day on the Face-Book one of my brothers was all "Hey man, I ate some tuna, hope it was OK LOL LOL."

Mistake. There's no "LOL" involved when it comes to tuna. I immediately disowned him and wrote him out of my will, which, since his name is Will, was a bit confusing grammatically. Luckily it's no skin off my teeth as he was one of the minor brothers. He played no major role.
And good riddance to you, sir.

Don't let this happen to you! Educate yourself before your next trip to the sushi restaurant.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Challenging our basic assumptions is healthy

If you ever realize that you are not as bright as you thought you were and you want to keep the world from finding out, the best things to do are:
  1. Keep quiet most of the time, unless you've really thought your stuff through
  2. Grow a beard, unless you are a lady in which case you will be forced to go into the carnival  business
  3. Pay attention on the rare occasions in which bright people give a glimpse into the mechanism of how they think, and try to copy to the best of your ability
I largely succeed on the first two. The third...not so much. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Oil, plastics, and oceans: news from around the webs

Oceans-related internet news, sliced thin and served raw with dried seaweed, rice and avacado:

From the Tyee : when American cruise ships on the Seattle-to-Alaska beat are in Washington and Alaskan waters, they are subject to waste-disposal regulations with real teeth. So what do they do? They cross their legs until they hit Canada: American cruise ships are using British Columbia's waters as one huge outhouse. I'm going to lean out the window and give the finger to the next one that goes by. That'll show 'em.

Monday, August 16, 2010

King Rat: the spotted ratfish will outlive us all

Behold the glory of Puget Sound: the spotted ratfish. 

"I'm the glory of the what now?"
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
I've been planning on doing a blog post on these guys, but the Seattle Times beat me to it with an article that puts the little-known spotted ratfish into the limelight. And rightfully so: ratfish are the dominant vertebrate life form in Puget Sound, and one of the most dominant in the state of Washington: the article mentions that Puget Sound holds an estimated 30 ratfish for every single human in the state!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Knee-jerk hypothesis Monday

Happy Monday all ya'll.

Today, I would like to share a haiku about coffee that I am making up on the spot:

Black coffee tastes great,
Makes me cheerful, and keeps me
 From killing people 

FYI - while I was only innocently counting the syllables on my fingers, I have found that if you mutter "" while staring at your moving fingers, your co-workers will leave you alone.

Lots of interesting news has accumulated over the past few days.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bright Side Wednesday delayed: Suddenly all oil spills are really easy to clean up

What happens to a Bright Side Wednesday deferred? In order of occurrence, it:
     1. Dries up like a raisin in the sun
     2. Festers like a sore and then runs
     3. Stinks like rotten  meat
     4. Crusts over like a syrupy sweet
     5. Sags like a heavy load
     6. Explodes

Obviously, it's an unpleasant experience for me and for onlookers.

So yes, it's not Wednesday and therefore I shouldn't  be looking on the Bright Side. But there's awesome news out there: oil spills are apparently really, really easy to clean up! Yep, while just one week ago it seemed like every man-made Earth pore was spewing the stuff all over the place, this week authorities are falling over themselves to report that not only are the leaks all stopped, but they're all practically cleaned up already! Let's do a rundown of the success stories:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Obama administration repeatedly warned Enbridge prior to spill

Heading out on a paddle towards Robson Bight (which recently had its own brush with spilled hydrocarbons) in just a few moments, but before I leave I want to share a new bit of information about Enbridge's most recent oil spill: the Detroit Free Press reports that the Obama administration "repeatedly warned" Enbridge about the pipeline in question, and even summoned its officials to Washington earlier in the year to a meeting on "a series of major failures." The Free Press goes on to quote a federal official as saying that Enbridge was warned "in no uncertain terms that it needed to get its act together".

So there you have it. Make what you will of it, but methinks that if the U.S. federal government can't get Enbridge to fly straight, the "little people" (in BP-speak) in B.C. won't stand much of a chance of having their voices heard if Enbridge's Northern Gateway project is ever put in place.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer breeze

Back where I grew up (rural Ohio), on still summer days, you get this certain kind of breeze. It arrives by itself, usually sometime in the afternoon, out of the clear blue sky as it were, and does little more than shake a few leaves before leaving as quietly as it came. It's very easy to  miss. However, to people who live in the country, these breezes carry a lot of meaning - they often foreshadow big storms.

Does the same hold true for human storms?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ecological and Political Fallout from Enbridge Oil Spill

A ruptured 30-inch pipeline owned by Enbridge has released as much as one million gallons (3.7 million litres) of oil into the Kalamazoo river in southern Michigan. Dozens of residents have been evacuated along the river, and local officials have called for the evacuation of several dozen homes (to prevent residents from inhaling benzene) and for other residents to avoid drinking or cooking with well water. Containment efforts have been focused on keeping the oil from entering Lake Michigan, which the governor of Michigan warned would be a 'tragedy of historic proportions'. At the moment, federal EPA officials are declaring that the spill has been contained, well short of reaching Lake Michigan - an account challenged by at least one emergency response official

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bright Side Wednesday: Oil Spills

I'd like to introduce you to a new feature on this here blog: Bright Side Wednesdays.

Most days start off the same. You lie in bed and think about your failures, the lifetime's worth of burned and never-built-in-the-first-place bridges, and the evil in the world, and the dwindling number of days separating you and the moment when you're pulled from the game by the Pale Gym Teacher and told to hand in your earthly gym clothes and hit the eternal locker room, and so on. At about 11:00 am you pull yourself together enough to finally get up and make scrambled eggs, but you don't do a very good job at that either.

But not on Wednesdays, brother. Wednesdays, we wake up early and hit the coffee hard. Wednesdays, we look on the Bright Side.

Pictured: the bright side of things
(note: Photo taken in May. Flowers are now wilted and dead. Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday morning coming down

Well, another weekend comes and goes and Water Blogged can only look back fondly, recalling late-night homemade pizza, a great and greasy Sunday morning breakfast, and a rocky paddling trip that nearly made us Water Logged, yet became very much worth it when it yielded an enchanting encounter with a juvenile gray whale.

You have to have money to make pizza and greasy breakfasts on weekends, however, so WB returns to the working world on Monday to find that scientific progress has not stopped. For example, it now demonstrates what should be starkly obvious: virtually all climate scientists agree on the basic concepts of anthropogenic climate change, and those who dispute anthropogenic climate change tend to have "substantially" less expertise and profile than their counterparts.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Draft standards for organic aquaculture contain a lot of bull sediment

When faced with managing serious impacts of important oceans industries, the Canadian government sometimes pulls out their weaksaurus. Unlike a normal thesaurus, the weaksaurus doesn't give you synonyms. Instead, it kind of gives you words that vaguely convey a weaker version of the original word. We'll call them weakonyms. For example: if you look up the word "prevent" in a normal thesaurus, you get responses like "prohibit" and "stop". You know - synonyms. Government's weaksaurus, however, gives you the weakonym "mitigate", which kind of changes the meaning of the thing that you're doing but whatever. That's just an example that I've seen first-hand.

The recently released draft standards for organic aquaculture, put out by the government of Canada (the Canadian General Standards Board and DFO), have some great weakonyms, most of which serve to weaken the language in the standards for fish aquaculture. For example: while it says that invertebrate aquaculture has "waste" that must be collected and disposed of properly, it says that open net pen finfish aquaculture apparently only has "sediment", the buildup of which on the seafloor must only be "minimized". Excellent use of the weaksaurus!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

While I was gone

Well, we here at Water Blogged are back from a great low-cost west coast vacation and have only an unpacked backpack of dirty clothes, a memory card with hundreds of photos, and a car of declining health to show for it. Also, I have a hard-earned FYI: you may think it would be faster and easier to cross the border late at night due to a lack of crowds, but brother, let me tell you: you do not want to be the only source of entertainment for a group of border agents working the graveyard shift.

"And here's where I told him that importing more than 1 kg of cantaloupe
put him in violation of Subsection 31.1a of the 'Enemies of the State" Act!'"

And now WB returns to face a week's accumulation of ocean-related developments:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

More evidence that we barely know anything

Just like your uncle Jerry, the ocean smells salty, has a thing for driftwood, and overall is a pretty reliable source for bizarreness. For instance: who would have thought that coral larvae - which the LA Times memorably described as "tiny hair-covered sacs of cells" - show a very strong attraction to the sounds of coral reefs when they are choosing a place to settle. Let me repeat that: these little things, which are tiny larvae in the Phylum Cni-freaking-DARIA, pretty much choose their home based on the quality of the neighborhood jams. Maybe not the most mature way to choose a home, but then again...they are larvae.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Maiden Voyage

So this here is Living Oceans Society's new blog. My name is John, and I'm honored to be the guy tasked with not mucking this up.

You're busy, I'm busy, so I'll get to the point: oceans are amazing things. They are where things like this guy  live, where this guy used to live, where Kevin Costner's career went to die:

And, incredibly, where it also may be reborn.

Bizarre! And the mystery of the oceans extends even beyond its yin-yang relationship with Kevin Costner's fortunes. We know so little about oceans that virtually every day brings some new insight or discovery into their workings - or about how we are thoroughly fouling them up. One of the best parts of my job is that I get to keep up on these new developments, and that is what we will share on this blog - the latest oceans news and discoveries, whether they be fascinating, heartbreaking, frustrating, encouraging, or just really, really cool.