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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. 

-  Academic Rumble Alert; Leather Elbow Patches Likely to be Bloodied: Back in 1998, a group of researchers led by Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia introduced the world to the concept of 'fishing down food chains'. They offered evidence that fisheries had removed larger fish and then moved on to smaller ones, sequentially reducing stocks on down towards the base of the food web.  Now, a high profile study in Nature is calling into question the utility of Mean Trophic Level as an indicator of marine ecosystem health. The authors don't seem to be saying that everything is good - they're saying that the indicator may not accurately reflect the state of the ecosystem. Still, the response has been swift: Dr. Pauly's gloves are most certainly off. 

- Do they leave tuna heads in peoples' beds? The vast and dank underbelly of the bluefin tuna trade is exposed for all to see. This is a must-read. One of the stunning insights: between 1998 and 2007, the black market accounted for more than 1 of every 3 bluefin caught. 

- Water Blogged is getting tired of providing all of the cool new ideas: Ray Hilborn, the fisheries scientist last seen on these pages discussing the power of the portfolio effect, is now discussing environmental impacts that might occur if people shift diets from seafood to land-based animal proteins. While the author of this piece found the idea to be a paradigm-shifter, here at Water Blogged our paradigm stayed nice and stationary because this idea is like sooooo September 11, 2010 for us. 

- Gird your loins, for basic chemistry awaits. Behold: a great summary of ocean acidification and its potential effects on pteropods. Pteropods are very important links in the North Pacific food web, helping to sustain everything from salmon to whales, so any threat to them is a threat to the system as a whole.

Lastly: I just returned from a conference in Seattle on the subject of fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions of commercial fisheries. This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart, because it was a central part of my master's thesis work. Still, the two talks that made the most impression on me had to do with one of the results of carbon dioxide emissions: ocean acidification. Dr. Andrew Dickson from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography summarized the science with a presentation that was eloquent yet blunt, and Bill Dewey of Taylor Seafoods - one of the west coast oyster growing operations that has seen a 70% to 80% reduction in productivity during recent years - gave a first-person account of the effects that low-pH water is having on his business and industry. Both were eminently sobering talks, and I hope to be able to present some of their work in greater detail on this blog. So, stay tuned.

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