Endangered Ocean Creatures Beyond the Cute and Cuddly
by Emily Frost
Our oceans are taking a beating from overfishing, pollution, acidification and warming, putting at risk the many creatures who make their home in seawater. But when most people think of struggling ocean species, the first animals that come to mind are probably whales, seals or sea turtles.
Sure, many of these large (and adorable) animals play an important part in the marine ecosystem and are threatened with extinction due to human activities, but in fact, of the 94 marine species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), only 45 are marine mammals and sea turtles. As such, these don’t paint the whole picture of what happens under the sea. What about the remaining 49 that form a myriad of other important parts of the underwater web?
These less charismatic members of the list include corals, sea birds, mollusks and, of course, fish. They fall under two categories: endangered or threatened. According to NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (pdf), one of the groups responsible for implementing the ESA, a species is considered endangered if it faces imminent extinction, and and a species is considered threatened if it is likely to become endangered in the future. A cross section of these less-known members of the ESA’s list are described in detail here…
Demolition dam: Why dismantle a huge river barrier?
A year ago today the Elwha Dam in Washington state came down, after blocking salmon access to approximately 70 miles of pristine habitat and bull trout migratory corridors in the Elwha River for nearly 100 years.
The dam’s removal will help revive a threatened salmon run on the river and enable the restoration of sacred tribal sites flooded decades ago.
The Elwha dam was built in 1913 in what is now the Olympic National Park. A second hydro-electric dam a few miles away - the Glines Canyon dam, built in 1927—has already been demolished as part of the biggest project of its kind in US history…
The park is home to the Klallam tribe, whose identity is strongly connected with the river and with salmon fishing. The failure to build fish ladders when the dams were originally built had decimated what was once one of the richest salmon runs outside Alaska.
Adding new ladders would have proved prohibitively expensive. And the dams also needed major upgrades because they no longer met modern environmental standards or produced energy at an efficient price.
The BBC went to see the drilling and explosions in action and to find out how the salmon will be reintroduced to the river.
Mystery Solved: Salmon Navigate Using Magnetic Field
by Carrie Arnold
Whoever said you can’t go home again has never met a sockeye salmon, which navigates more than 2,485 mi (4,000 km) to spawn in the same stream in which it hatched.
Now, scientists have finally solved how the species accomplishes its navigational feat—the fish uses Earth’s magnetic field to steer itself home.
“To find their way back home across thousands of kilometers of ocean, salmon imprint on [i.e. learn and remember] the magnetic field that exists where they first enter the sea as juveniles,” study leader Nathan Putman, of Oregon State University, said in a statement.
“Upon reaching maturity, they seek the coastal location with the same magnetic field.”
Like several other species of salmon, sockeye hatch in many of the streams and tributaries of the U.S. Pacific Northwest. After hatching, they live and mature in the gravel beds of these freshwater streams for one to three years. Then, the salmon make their way from their freshwater nurseries to the open waters of the Pacific Ocean, where they spend another several years feeding. Eventually the fish make their way back to the streams in which they were born to spawn and begin the cycle anew…
GIANT STRIP MINE THREATENS ALASKA’S ICONIC BRISTOL BAY
PICK THE WORST PLACE ON THE PLANET FOR A GIANT STRIP MINE, IN THE HEART OF AMERICA’S WILDEST AND MOST PRODUCTIVE ECOSYSTEM. THAT’S EXACTLY WHERE ONE IS PLANNED.
by Ted Williams
What possibly could unite these diverse and in some cases adversarial players in outrage and action: 700 businesses; 700 hunting and angling groups; 77 commercial fishing groups; 200 chefs and restaurant owners; the National Council of Churches, representing 45 million people; major newspapers; leading jewelry retailers; and ultra-conservative legislators?
It would be a plan to gouge and hack the Bristol Bay watershed of southwest Alaska with the continent’s biggest strip mine.
A vestige of what America used to be survives here. The region is the size of Ohio, with a population of 7,500. It is changeless and timeless, laced by pristine rivers that rush and dawdle through forests never logged and un-scarred tundra that alternately blazes with wildflowers and glistens with snow. There are no access roads. You enter by plane or helicopter, threading between jagged, ice-clad peaks. The vastness and wildness start to sink in after you’ve flown for, say, two hours and seen no hint of human defilement.
Everything about Bristol Bay takes someone’s breath away. For me it’s the beauty, the fishing, and especially the wildlife. For folks like John Shively, CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership, it’s the $500 billion worth of copper, gold, and molybdenum in the “Pebble Deposit” under the headwaters of the world’s two most productive salmon rivers—the Kvichak and the Nushagak…
Salmon are able to jump as high as 3.65m (12ft) as they travel up cascades to reach spawning grounds. This exceptional feat is attributed to physiological changes when approaching mating season.
The salmon develop specialized muscles that provide the energy needed for the tiresome journey upstream. Salmon also rely on hydraulic jumps, upwellings of water created by currents, that provide the vital extra boost.
… also called the Stringfish, Japanese huchen, or Ito, is a species of fish in the salmonfamily (family Salmonidae) of orderSalmoniformes. Sakhalin taimen is one of largest, most ancient salmon species and primarily inhabitats the lower to middle reaches of lakes and rivers.
Fishes over 30 cm long are almost exclusively piscivores, while the young feed mostly on aquatic insects. Females typically lay between 2,000-10,000 eggs in the spring on the sandy or gravelly river bottom. The average specimen caught have weighed around 5 kg (11 lb).
The global population of Sakhalin taimen has dwindled in recent years for a variety of reasons. The loss of more than 50% of their original habitat due to agriculture, urbanization, and more recently oil and gas development, is a major factor. Other considerable pressures include bycatch in the commercial salmon fisheries of Russia and Japan, as well as illegal fishing practices in Russia. The fish are also prized as trophies by Japanese recreational anglers…
The dam had blocked off more than 70 miles of formerly prime Elwha River habitat for the fish, which had been an important part of the local ecosystem and a key food source for local indigenous people. As National Geographic previously reported, the Klallam Tribe still say that the Elwha River had been so full of salmon that a person could cross from one bank to the other by walking atop the thrashing bodies of fish struggling to move upstream to spawn.
According to the Park Service, Chinook were seen this week about two miles upstream from the park border by Phil Kennedy, the park’s lead fisheries technician.
Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) are the largest of the Pacific salmon, and historically entered rivers from California to Alaska, as well as in parts of Asia. Adult fish tend to range in length from 33 to 36 inches (840 to 910 mm) but may be up to 58 inches (1,500 mm). They average 10 to 50 pounds (4.5 to 23 kg), but may reach 130 pounds (59 kg). Their numbers have dropped due to loss of spawning grounds, and nine local populations are listed as threatened or endangered in the U.S…
Gyotaku is a traditional form of Japanese fish printing or rubbing, dating from the mid-19th century, a form of nature printing used by fishermen to record their catches. In order to make a gyotaku print, one places the subject on a wooden bench and paints one side with sumi ink. Next a piece of paper or other material is laid over the ink-covered fish. Finally, one rubs the material until there is the image of the fish on it.
Every year, millions of adult salmon return from the ocean to their home streams, where they lay eggs and produce the next generation of fish. But far fewer sockeye salmon are making it back to their freshwater mating grounds compared to a few decades ago, and that’s seriously affecting population sizes of the species throughout the Northwest, from Alaska to Washington State.
The discovery suggests that changing ocean conditions may be making life harder for some groups of wild salmon — possibly by reducing their food supply or increasing populations of predators.
By zeroing in on what, exactly, is causing the widespread decline, researchers hope to help managers figure out what to do about the problem.
“We found that substantial reductions in productivity of over 50 percent have occurred in the last two decades in a wide geographical area,” said Randall Peterman, a fisheries scientist at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada. “We were quite stunned to see these results.”…
Five Pacific salmon and two trout—inhabit the rivers and streams of the Pacific Northwest. (Their North American ranges are indicated.) Although these fish share certain fundamental characteristics, the differences among them are numerous, both in behavioral traits and in appearance, as is evident from this rendition of spawning males. As the authors explain, conservation efforts aimed at protecting salmon often overlook the importance of preserving this biodiversity and focus instead on boosting the total numbers of fish.