Why Did The Robot Swim Like A Fish?

Thanks to for this story about how a Robotic Fish Moves Like The Real Thing — So It Can Observe The Real Thing:


SoFi, the robotic fish, swims in for its close-up. MIT computer scientists hope SoFi will help marine biologists get a closer (and less obtrusive) look at their subjects than ever before. MIT CSAIL

Scientific advancement: It’s all in the wiggle.

OK, it’s a lot more complicated than that. But when a team of researchers at MIT unveiled their robotic fish Wednesday, one of the keys they emphasized was the graceful undulation of the prototype’s tail — which, besides being rather eye-catching, serves a crucial role in the robot’s ultimate mission: giving scientists the ability to unobtrusively observe marine wildlife remotely.

robot-fish.gif“Because the fish moves through undulating movement rather than thrusters, the impact it has on how the water moves around it is much more like what is expected of physical fish,” Daniela Rus, director of the school’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, tells NPR. Continue reading

New Twist in the Invasive Lionfish Saga

I’ve posted previously about the lionfish invasion that is threatening coral reef and other marine ecosystems throughout the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and Southern Atlantic Seaboard of the United States.

Much has been made of the spectacular invasive success of the two species of Indo-Pacific lionfish that have established themselves throughout the Wider Caribbean.  Not only are the invaders being found at population densities more than ten times those typical in their native range, but they also have been found to grow more rapidly, reaching sexual maturity more quickly, and growing to greater size than do their Indo-Pacific cousins.

Several studies have looked at the genetic make-up of invasive lionfish and have concluded that the populations found in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and Southeastern seaboard of the United States are all closely related, stemming back to fewer than ten females. Continue reading

Caviar’s Alternative Harvesting Methods


Acadian Sturgeon and Caviar markets three types of caviar, one from the wild Acadian sturgeon, and two types — green and gold — from its farmed shortnose sturgeon. Nancy Matsumoto for NPR

Thanks to Nancy Matsumoto and the folks at the salt, over at National Public Radio (USA):

To Help Keep Sturgeon Sustainable, Farm And Fishery Work Together

It’s the end of only the first week of the official Atlantic sturgeon fishing season on the St. John River in New Brunswick, Canada. But the two fishermen who supply Cornel Ceapa’s Acadian Sturgeon and Caviar company have already landed close to half of the season’s catch. Continue reading

Cod Recovery Is A Redemption Story



David Milne, skipper of the MSC-certified trawler Adorn, holds a cod in Peterhead fish market. Photograph: Eleanor Church/Marine Stewardship Council

Cod seems as good as any other creature to feature in a redemption story. The editor of the Environment section at the Guardian shares good news on one lucky population of cod that got the attention they needed, seemingly just in time:

Sustainable British cod on the menu after stocks recover

A recovery from near total collapse has led North Sea cod stocks to be labelled as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council for the first time in 20 years Continue reading

Snorkeling in Cabo Pulmo

We’ve mentioned Cabo Pulmo here several times in the context of marine conservation, as well as from a personal visit. Although I still haven’t had a chance to go out on a scuba diving expedition here, a couple weeks ago Jocelyn and I were able to accompany some Villa del Faro guests on a snorkeling trip outfitted by Cabo Pulmo Sport Center, which is run by members of the Castro family mentioned in the posts linked above. The tour took two hours, but I’ve condensed the experience into almost fifteen minutes of video that I took on a rented GoPro:

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Community, Collaboration & Conservation in Mozambique

Thanks to contributor Phil Karp for sharing this great example of how peer-peer knowledge exchange can help to replicate and scale up innovative solutions.

For communities, by communities

Experience from around the world shows that managing fisheries and marine resources works best when responsibility is placed in the hands of local communities. This is particularly true in low-income countries, where there is often limited capacity and infrastructure for fisheries management and conservation.

Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) are areas of ocean managed by coastal communities to help protect fisheries and safeguard marine biodiversity. Found throughout the world’s tropical and subtropical seas, and encompassing diverse approaches to management and governance, their sizes and contexts vary widely, but all share the common theme of placing local communities at the heart of management.

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One Possible Future of Fish

Open-ocean aquaculture could reduce environmental concerns associated with aquaculture in coastal waters. Photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries.

We’re always looking for well-balanced discussions on innovative but occasionally controversial forms of food production.  Open ocean aquaculture is an example, and we appreciate the Food & Environment Reporting Network for offering just that, suggesting that many of the environmental concerns with aquaculture are mitigated by using deep water locations.

President of the New Orleans–based Gulf Seafood Institute, Harlon Pearce knows better than anyone that wild fisheries alone can’t supply U.S. consumers’ growing demand for fish. Which is why he’s doing his best to bring everyone to the table to achieve one goal: farming the Gulf of Mexico. Continue reading

Surf Spawning Spree


Female grunions twist their bodies tail first into the sand and lay 2,000 to 3,000 eggs, which males then fertilize. Credit Doug Martin

Thanks to Joanna Klein and the Science section of the New York Times for this explanation of a full moon mating phenomenon:

Silver Fish Surf the Waves to Spawn on California Beaches

Every year, thousands of little fish ride waves onto Southern California’s beaches at night to lay and fertilize eggs. High up in the sand, they squirm, wriggle and wrap around one another. As they dance beneath the moonlight, the beach transforms into a twinkling tapestry of spawning silver bodies. It’s known as the grunion run, and within a few hours, the show is over. Continue reading

Salmon On Northeastern USA Rivers


American shad in fishlift in Holyoke Dam on Connecticut River in Holyoke, MA. Courtesy of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

Of all North America’s Atlantic salmon rivers none compared in size or productivity with the 407-mile-long Connecticut River that drains Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. But early in the 19th century all strains of salmon uniquely adapted to this sprawling system (at least 25) had been rendered extinct by dams. Continue reading

Clean Water Should Not Be Politicized, But When It Is We Love Trout Unlimited More Than Ever


Leigh Guldig

Please take a few minutes to read what follows to the end, and share it as far and wide as you can. Our thanks to Chris Wood–president and chief executive of Trout Unlimited, which needs and deserves our support for exactly the reason stated below–for writing, and the New York Times for publishing this clear statement:

THE eastern brook trout, whose native haunts in the Appalachians are a short drive from my home in Washington, is a fragile species. It requires the coldest and cleanest water to survive, and over the past two centuries, its ranks have been decimated by all that modern society could throw at it. Today it lives in a fraction of its historic range.

One reason? Thousands of miles of prime brook trout streams have been polluted by poorly regulated historic coal mining, and what has been lost is difficult to bring back. Groups like Trout Unlimited have worked with partners to restore more than 60 miles of wild trout streams damaged by acid mine drainage in Appalachia. But it is hard, painstaking work — it has taken the better part of two decades and millions of dollars, and the fact is that it would take many lifetimes to revive all the streams in need of resuscitation. Continue reading

Better Nets, Better Fishing


Portland’s Gulf of Maine Research Institute has designed a trawl net that aims to target species that can still be profitable while avoiding cod. Courtesy of Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Thanks to the salt folks at National Public Radio (USA):

Fishermen Team Up With Scientists To Make A More Selective Net


Some New England fishermen are pinning their hopes on a new kind of trawl net being used in the Gulf of Maine, one that scoops up abundant flatfish such as flounder and sole while avoiding species such as cod, which are in severe decline.

For centuries, cod were plentiful and a prime target for the Gulf of Maine fleet. But in recent years, catch quotas have been drastically reduced as the number of cod of reproductive age have dropped perilously low. Continue reading

Freshwater Fish, Forgotten Food



Anthropocene has a good summary of this recent scientific study on freshwater fish as a potentially robust, sustainable food supply that has been neglected:

We’re overlooking a giant piece in the global food security puzzle

When we think of sustainable fisheries, we tend to focus on oceans and even aquaculture. But there’s an important source of fish protein that’s often overlooked: freshwater fish. An expansive new study finds that fishing pressure and other threats to freshwater fish is greatest precisely where biodiversity is greatest. It also reveals that a very high proportion of the world’s population—particularly the poor and malnourished—depend heavily on this resource for food security. Continue reading

Bass, Harbinger Of Hope


Its numbers fluctuate, but the striped bass is far more common than it was just a few decades ago. Credit Getty Images

Thanks to Mr. Taft and the New York Times for this note of reversed fortunes for the fish, and for the anglers who champion them most vocally:

Striped Bass of the Hudson


With the jutting jaw of a mob kingpin and the pinstripes of a Wall Street executive, striped bass swim through the brackish waters of New York Harbor like old-school New Yorkers — as if they own the place. Continue reading

Get Jolted By Understanding Fish Better

9780374288211_custom-a8005fb568cedbbcdfa556084e27717de66bba19-s400-c85The morning walk’s provided a different sensation from the learning component of the morning walk a few days back, giving me a jolt of new appreciation for all that I have no clue about related to life underwater; the jolter was an ethologist, of all things:

…The knifefishes of South America and the elephant-nose fishes … [are] both electric-producing, so they have EODs, which are electric organ discharges, and they use those as communication signals, and they communicate in some pretty cool ways. They will change their own frequency if they’re swimming by another fish with a similar frequency, so they don’t jam and confuse each other. They also show deference by shutting off their EODs when they’re passing by a territory holder…

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Protecting Your Skin but Damaging the Reefs


Image via scidev.net

Sunscreen helps protect us from harmful sun rays, especially during the summer months when we habitually frequent the beach and enjoy the undulating caress of rolling waves. What we don’t usually take into account, however, is the impact that our “protective” sunscreen has on marine life, specifically coral reefs. Studies have shown that ingredients in sunscreen, such as oxybenzone for example,  leach the coral of its nutrients and bleach it white. This not only kills the coral but also disrupts the development of fish and other wildlife.

Chemical compounds in sunscreen lotions cause irreparable damage to reefs, which are crucial to the livelihoods of 500 million people in the tropics, scientist and policymakers said at the IUCN World Conservation Congress on 3 September. Hawaii is leading a legislative effort to ban the use of sunscreen that contains oxybenzone or similar harmful agents at its beaches. Continue reading

Mislabeling Fish Products


Source: New York Times

Mislabeling fish products, as well as others food products, is a global issue that researchers have struggled to accurately gauge the severity of. It has also been tough to ascertain if efforts to control the fraudulent practice are making progress. According to a report on seafood fraud released on Wednesday, 1 in 5 seafood samples tested worldwide turn out to be completely different from what the menu or packaging says. The ocean conservation group that created the report, Oceana, tested 25,000 seafood samples, and of those, 20 percent were incorrectly labeled.

“It is likely that the average consumer has eaten mislabeled fish for sure,” said Beth Lowell, the senior campaign director for Oceana and an author of the paper. “You’re getting ripped off, while you enjoyed your meal you’re paying a high price for a low fish.”

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Joining the Sustainable Fishing Soupbowl


Illegally harvested shark fins. Source: shareamerica.com

Given the critical decline of fish populations worldwide, it’s reassuring to hear that high-profile U.S. corporations, and ones in the hotel industry at that, are taking a stand against unsustainable fishing practices. Here’s the story as told on Share America:

Rogue vessels use banned equipment, damage breeding grounds and destroy tons and tons of by-catch, marine life that is caught in nets but not desirable in the markets.

Thirty percent of world fisheries are tapped beyond their limits, while another 60 percent are being fished at maximum capacity.

Major U.S. hotel chains, restaurants and supermarkets have responded by requiring that fish they serve be harvested sustainably.

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Feeding Fish with Methane?

Our last post on farmed fish revolved around grubs – dried black soldier fly larvae – as an alternative and more sustainable feed in aquaculture. Today I learned about yet another method for feeding fish that doesn’t involve catching wild fish or using petroleum-reliant grains, and actually helps control a problematic greenhouse gas, methane. Kristine Wong writes for Civil Eats, a website that acts as a “daily news source for critical thought about the American food system”:

Wild seafood is disappearing rapidly and many consumers have turned to farmed fish as a way to help reverse the trend. But finding a sustainable source of food for carnivorous fish such as salmon and tuna—which rank as the second and third most popular types of seafood in America—has been a persistent challenge for aquaculture producers.

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A Fishy Excursion


Thirty minutes north from Villa del Faro is a place called Los Arbolitos, which translates to “the little trees,” and is part of Cabo Pulmo National Park. I will just state from the beginning that this area does not have any trees, or small trees for that matter, only a sturdy watchtower on top of a sandbank that from a distance could perhaps look like the outline of a tree, and some scrubby bushes. Los Arbolitos is a small, secluded bay with crisp white sand and smooth crystalline waters, making it an ideal spot for snorkeling. Continue reading

Rethinking Fish


More than 40% of popular species such as tuna are being caught unsustainably, UN FAO says. Photograph: Alamy

Articles like this have me thinking about the meal I had last night, which had not one bit of animal protein in it, and wondering whether I could happily resist adding my own weight to the immensity of the food problem, especially with regard to fish:

Global fish production approaching sustainable limit, UN warns

Around 90% of the world’s stocks are now fully or overfished and production is set to increase further by 2025, according to report from UN’s food body

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