MarineBio Newsletter 3
Featured Species: Caribbean Reef Squid
Issues in Marine Conservation
Current Research: The State of the World’s Oceans
The Sea Below ~ Expedition :: Bonaire
MarineBio is pleased to bring you the 3rd edition of the MarineBio Newsletter! We welcome your feedback on the content of this newsletter and would love to hear what you're interested in reading! Send your comments to: Joni@marinebio.org
- To find out what's new on MarineBio check our new What's New? page.
Latest species on MarineBio:
» Baird's Beaked Whale
» Caribbean Reef Squid
» Gervais Beaked Whale
» Giant Squid
» Green Moray
» Hawksbill Turtle
» Horse-eye Jack
» Leatherback Sea Turtle
» Leopard Seal
» Long-spine Porcupinefish
» Marine Iguana
» Polar Bear
» Saltwater Crocodile
- MarineBio sincerely thanks those of you who have donated to the site using the new Paypal and Amazon donation mechanisms available on our donations page. Your generosity is what will keep this site going and growing! Per your request, we’ve also added a donation mechanism for monthly versus one-time donations. We think this is a great idea and even contributions of $1 a month would help tremendously with site maintenance and updating. Because of the volume of material we’re adding to MarineBio.org every day, the site is becoming increasingly expensive to maintain. The only way we can continue to develop the site is with the help of donations, so please consider supporting our work – and ultimately the health of the oceans – by visiting our donations page and making a contribution.
- To thank those of you who donate to MarineBio, we have developed 2 screensavers featuring wonderful images of the sea life from our recent Bonaire Expedition, and access to a special page with exclusive photos and short films featuring sea life from Galapagos, the Red Sea, and Cozumel. For a preview of the screensavers and 7 new desktop wallpapers of Bonaire marine life, visit MarineBio Downloads.
- MarineBio.org is expanding to include a great deal of information on conservation issues because we feel that, in addition to bringing you fascinating information on the seas and ocean life, developing an in-depth understanding of the issues facing our oceans is critical to ensuring that they are addressed now. A tremendous amount of damage has been done to the oceans – millions of years of evolution are being wasted as species are eliminated and habitats destroyed. Unless damaging trends are not only stopped, but reversed – the ocean and its resources, at least those that are left, will be lost. The oceans cannot sustain existing fishing practices, coastal development processes, excessive pollution, and widespread exploitation.
Visit our latest article, Is the world ready to accept responsibility and take the action needed to protect our marine resources? to read what we think it just might take to protect ocean life.
- One of the most important documents on this topic that we’ve encountered is Dr. Carl Safina’s “Launching a Sea Ethic” – a document that embodies the philosophy of MarineBio.org and one that should be read by everyone regardless of whether they are interested in the sea and marine life. Launching a Sea Ethic calls for a stronger sense of right and wrong when it comes to the way we treat the oceans and marine life. It is a proposition for all to treat the ocean and its creatures with at least the same conservation ethic as many have for land and its creatures. It simply means that everyone should manage the sea's resources sustainably and for our own good, that it is now time we should take strong measures to halt the destruction of habitats, species loss, pollution, and other threats faced by the oceans that often go unnoticed because the scars are not as evident as they are on land. The following is an excerpt:
"Extending a sea ethic would mean recognizing the ocean’s importance to the continued existence of life on our planet and to human futures. From this recognition would flow an appropriate sense of moral imperative, commitment, and urgency—urgency toward ending overfishing and wasteful bycatch and aggressively rebuilding depleted ocean wildlife populations, stabilizing human effects on world climate, slowing habitat destruction, stemming global transport and accidental introduction of “alien” species, curbing the flow of contaminants and trash, developing sustainable seafood farming, cultivating an informed approach to the seafood marketplace, and implementing networks of protected areas in the sea."
- We have also added an extensive section called “Essays on Wildlife Conservation” that consists of a series of essays written and edited by Dr. Peter Moyle, et al. for an introductory course on wildlife conservation taught at the University of California, Davis. These essays provide a fascinating introduction to the history of wildlife in North America, biodiversity, natural selection, conservation biology, ecology, conservation legislation, alien species, wildlife and pollution, and things we can all do to save wildlife. We think you will find that they are not only enjoyable to read but also very useful toward understanding the myriad of issues concerning conservation efforts today.
A new “Partners and Sponsors” page has been added to MarineBio.org to provide potential partners with information on what we have to offer and what kinds of partnerships we’re interested in. We are also actively seeking sponsors for the website so that we can continue to expand the site and make it a comprehensive source of information for all things related to marine life from species data to conservation issues to news and research. If you’re interested in joining MarineBio.org as a partner or sponsor, please complete the associated short form and we will contact you. We believe that harnessing collective wisdom and effort is the way to bring about the changes needed to protect our oceans, and we are looking to collaborate with others who share our vision to make it so.
- “Suggest a Site” – we encourage you to visit our new “Suggest a Site” page to provide us with the url(s) related to marine biology or ocean conservation that may be of interest to your fellow readers. We will gladly add a link and include the site in our resources database.
Featured Species: Caribbean Reef Squid
Squid are abundant in all oceans of the world. Approximately 40 species are known to live along the west coast of North America alone. A few live in shallow water close to shore, but most live in the open ocean far from land, often at great depths.
Squids are molluscs: they are closely related to the cuttlefish and octopus and more distantly to the snails, clams, oysters and sea slugs.
Reef squid, with Sepioteuthis sepioidea called the Caribbean reef squid, are members of the 10 arm cephalopods (decabrachia) with torpedo-shaped bodies (with the hood-like part above the head called the mantle which contains the stomach, gills, ink sac, pen, reproductive organs, and digestive organs), two large complex eyes, 8 short arms near the mouth and 2 longer tentacles, tucked inside, armed with suckers to capture prey. Their fins extend nearly the entire length of the body and undulate rapidly as they swim. All ten appendages of the squid are "fixed to its head", and are arranged in a circle around the mouth. Imagine if your arms and legs grew out of your face!
The Caribbean reef squid is one our favorite cephalopods. It is often encountered among shallow reefs and is usually unafraid of divers, if not curious about them. The mantles of newly hatched squid are about 8-9 mm in length and the mantles in adult males and females reach 12-20 cm in length. Adult reef squid closely resemble their cousins, the cuttlefish, in that their bodies are broad and less streamlined than many other squids. Reef squid can also move using jet propulsion by pressing water from the pallial cavity (in the mantle) through their funnel to move through the water.
The basic coloring of a Caribbean reef squid is a mottled medium green to brown on the dorsal side with lighter coloring on the ventral side for camouflage from predators swimming below. These animals are social creatures often found in small groups that communicate through a variety of complex signals. Both cuttlefish and squid communicate by controlling the pigment in their skin. Messages such as readiness to mate, sexual identification, and alarm are flashed through various colorful spots, blotches, and background color. To signal slight alarm, their brow ridges turn bright gold and the central arms turn white. The entire body will pale if the squid retreats from its potential predator and in open water when faced with an extremely aggressive predator, reef squid will obstruct themselves and confuse the predator by ejecting a cloud of black ink. Retreating squid near the protection of the reef will often turn dark brown or reddish in color to match their surroundings.
In addition to their colorful signaling behavior, S. sepioidea display unique behaviors such as pointing their bodies upward prior to striking a fish or prey, curling upward during territorial disputes and in hostile situations, and pointing head-down when approached by a predator in open water. The main adult squid predators include the Yellowfin grouper as well as other large predatory fishes.
Compared to the overall body, squid's eyes are strikingly large. The have the largest eye to body ratio in the entire animal kingdom...
Issues in Marine Conservation
Our issue in this newsletter is the overall topic of Marine Conservation. There are a number of specific issues that fall under this category that we will be covering in greater detail both on the site and in future newsletters including:
Coral reef preservation
Appearances can be deceiving...
We enjoy bringing you interesting information and beautiful photography about marine life. And appreciating this aspect of MarineBio.org alone along with other media about marine life, such as documentaries on television, may lead to the false belief that our oceans are healthy and that marine life is thriving. In a few areas the oceans are still rather healthy and life does appear to be thriving, but conditions worldwide are decreasing rapidly. The grim reality, which is rarely depicted in media photographs and film (including our own), is that our oceans are in danger of becoming barren wastelands of water. It’s because of this grim reality that MarineBio wishes to expand its educational content to include details on the serious threats confronting our oceans, on the recommendations being made, and on actions being taken to address them.
But for this issue we wanted to discuss the overall issue of marine conservation and its importance to the objective of MarineBio. We have a number of questions:
- What organizations and initiatives are really making a difference?
- Will the US Commission on Ocean Policy recommendations be implemented by the new administration? President Bush only has a few more weeks to respond to the report.
- Is the United Nations fulfilling its role in providing governance for the monitoring of our oceans through its widely adopted United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)?
- Is the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission fulfilling its role as the mechanism for global co-operation in marine research and the mechanism for governments to address individual and collective ocean and coastal problems?
- How effective is the United Nations Environmental Program’s initiatives such as the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities?
- What role is the private sector, such as the fishing industry, playing in the preservation of its own livelihood? Are groups such as the Marine Fish Conservation Network, with members from the fishing industry combined with members from conservation initiatives, making a difference on the impact that commercial fishing has on marine biodiversity?
- What progress is being made toward the sustainability of ocean health and marine life?
- Are special interests and corporate economics interfering with that progress?
- Why are acts such as the US Sustainable Fisheries Act passed in 1996 seemingly ineffective against the depletion of US fish stocks?
- Why are the National Marine Fisheries Service and fishery managers apparently so ineffective?
MarineBio wants answers to these questions and intends to find solutions if the answers are insufficient. Based on what we’ve learned thus far, we already suspect that any progress currently being made is insufficient to address the problems our oceans are facing. To initiate a dialogue with and among our readers, we have proposed our own idealistic solutions to some of the problems such as overfishing and ocean pollution in order to determine what is feasible, what is necessary, and what is possible. We encourage you to give us your thoughts on the issues.
We must work together to ensure that ocean policy reform is supported not only by the US government for its own waters, but also, and perhaps more importantly, by global authorities.
Stay tuned to MarineBio’s conservation pages for detailed summaries of the most up-to-date information on the state of the world’s oceans, what’s being done to protect them, and what else needs to be done to ensure the long-term sustainability of healthy oceans worldwide.
Current Research: The State of the World’s Oceans
In keeping with the theme of this newsletter, global marine conservation and ocean health, we looked at comprehensive studies of ocean health and examined ways in which they are being monitored.
The state of US ocean waters has been evaluated for the first time in 30 years by two separate initiatives:
- In May 2003, the Pew Oceans Commission issued a report on calling for reform of US ocean policies “ America’s Living Oceans: Charting a Course for Sea Change”. This report was a joint effort between scientists and policymakers to initiate a national dialogue on the state of US oceans and the need for policies to restore and protect living marine resources in US waters. A 3-year study of US ocean waters – the first of its kind in 30 years – was conducted based on the best available scientific research and on dialogue among a wide variety of stakeholders in ocean policy. The Commission’s recommendations include:
- US ocean policy reform: A US national ocean policy act to protect, maintain, and restore the health, integrity, resilience, and productivity of our oceans.
- Coordinated management by all stakeholders: The creation of an independent oceans agency to streamline federal management and the creation of regional ecosystem councils consisting of fishermen, scientists, citizens, and government to establish management plans.
- Coastal habitats: Management and protection of coastal habitats and smart land use that protects marine and terrestrial coastal ecosystems.
- Overfishing: the adoption of ecosystem-based management restricting destructive fishing gear, bycatch, and other harmful practices. Separate conservation (how many fish to catch) and allocation decisions (who gets to catch them) within the fishery management process.
- Pollution: national standards that set pollution limits, and reduction in toxic pollution using watershed-based approaches. Stricter measures to reduce pollution from animal feeding operations and cruise ships, and to control invasive species.
- Increased funding in the federal ocean research budget.
- Improved ocean literacy and education to foster increased understanding and appreciation.
- In September 2004, the US Commission on Ocean Policy presented its final report “An Ocean Blueprint for the 21 st Century” to the President and Congress. As mandated by the Oceans Act of 2000, the president has 90 days to implement or respond to the recommendations in the report.
Like the Pew Oceans Commission report, the recommendations made were based on scientific expertise and site visits to every coastal region in the US and Great Lakes. The Commission heard testimony from 445 experts, including: ocean scientists and researchers, environmental organizations, industry, citizens, and government officials. Written testimony was also reviewed.
The Final Report makes 212 recommendations and includes an analysis of the total funding required to implement the recommendations, which was estimated at $1.5 billion for the first year increasing to $3.9 billion in the following years. Currently, the US spends $14 billion a year on space exploration which has little immediate impact on the lives of Americans.
Among the 212 recommendations were:
- The establishment of a National Ocean Council in the Executive Office of the President composed of cabinet secretaries and agency directors with ocean-related responsibilities, and a Presidential Council of Advisors on Ocean Policy consisting of nonfederal representatives from state, territorial, tribal, local governmental and nongovernmental agencies, and academic institutions.
- National ocean policy should be supported by quality ocean education at all levels and across all disciplines, and that ocean-related federal agencies take responsibility for outreach and education of the public as part of their mission.
- Internal collaboration among federal agencies responsible for coastal management to maintain economic growth, but with greater capacity to guide growth in a way that will not damage sensitive coastal ecosystems.
- Coordinated offshore management of offshore industry activities such as aquaculture, wind energy development, fisheries, and oil and gas to safeguard against damage to offshore waters.
- Establish measurable ocean pollution reduction goals along with coordination and cooperation among agencies, programs, and individuals to implement effective management tools for these issues.
What documentation exists reporting on the state of the world’s oceans? Very little according to our research thus far. Although given the magnitude of the world ocean, this is not surprising. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, whose mission is to defeat hunger worldwide, produced a document titled “The State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture” in 1996, 1998, 2000, and 2002, which provides a global view of the status of fishery resources and aquaculture, utilization and trade, and the associated policy implications. The report includes summaries of the concerns of the fishing industry, such as “sustainable exploitation” and what’s being done to address them.
The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network and Australian Institute of Marine Science published a report titled “Status of the World’s Coral Reefs” in 1998, 2000, and 2002. This report summarizes the status of coral reefs and tracks their decline. In 2000 it was reported that 27% of the world’s reefs have been lost primarily due to the massive climate-related coral bleaching event of 1998, which destroyed about 16% of the world’s coral reefs over 9 months during the largest El Niño and La Niña climate changes ever recorded. They also report on other threats to coral reefs including sediment and nutrient pollution caused by human activity and coastal development. The 2002 report gave predictions on gains in coral reef health at specific sites within the next 20 years and that work on reducing the damaging human impacts on coral reefs and establishing protected areas have been successful. However, to address those areas that are still unprotected, effort and political will are required in order to globally replicate the small-scale successes at the national and regional levels. More work needs to be done to educate and inform countries lacking national coral reef programs and monitoring plans on the extent of damage to their reefs.
The Ocean Yearbook Volumes 1-19 have been published since 1978 by the International Ocean Institute and the Marine and Environmental Law Programme at Dalhousie University Law School. Each 900+ page volume provides peer-reviewed articles and reference materials for students and practitioners of international law, ocean development, coastal zone management, foreign policy, and strategic studies. Coverage includes the global management of marine resources, international law, and environmental policy. The yearbook is probably the best resource for understanding the issues facing the oceans and an excellent research tool for both scientists and policy makers alike.
We will be conducting further research to find out how the health of the world’s oceans are being monitored and documented. MarineBio.org strongly feels that efforts to protect the oceans are needed on a global scale and that citizens and nations need to work together in order to ensure their sustainability for years to come.
The Sea Below ~ Expedition :: Bonaire
MarineBio staff visited the island of Bonaire in the Netherlands Antilles for a 2-week expedition consisting of non-stop diving and underwater photography. We enjoyed great weather and were spoiled by the freedom of shore diving.
Bonaire is a small island located in the southern Caribbean about 50 miles north of the coast of Venezuela, and is well known to be a diver’s paradise because it’s surrounded by a fringing reef system designated as an official marine park. The climate on Bonaire is perfect – the average temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit and there is very little rainfall. The average water temperature ranges between 74-84 degrees Fahrenheit and visibility averages 100 feet making it an ideal location for photographers.
Bonaire is known for being environmentally proactive and for its dedication to protecting its own marine environment. In 1975, long before other areas with large coral reef systems, the government of Bonaire made it illegal to take coral from the water. The Bonaire Marine Park was established in 1979 with the support of the World Wildlife Fund and the Netherlands to protect the marine resources of the island - the magnificent coral reefs, sea grass beds, and mangroves. The Marine Park extends from the high water mark to the 60m (~200 feet)-depth contour all the way around Bonaire and Klein Bonaire, a small uninhabited island next to Bonaire, encompassing an area of approximately 270 hectares. The Marine Park is managed by STINAPA (Stichting National Parken Nederlandse Antillen), a nature conservancy organization run by a board of dedicated local volunteer professionals. In addition to the Marine Park, Bonaire’s topside natural resources including the Washington Slagbaai National Park, Barcadera cave system and the Karpata Ecological Centre are also managed by STINAPA.
We averaged 3 dives per day plus a night dive using NITROX tanks for extended bottom time. The average length of each dive was over an hour and the average depth was about 60 feet. There is much to see in the shallows before swimming out to the reefs, so we enjoyed photographing the abundant sea life at about 10 meters, which afforded us the luxury of long dives. The reefs appeared quite healthy and we saw a wide variety of species including: hawksbill turtles, tarpon, Queen angelfish, French angelfish, Caribbean reef squid, parrotfish, Stoplight parrotfish, trumpet fish, trunk fish, puffer and porcupinefish, file fish, Peacock flounder, Great barracuda, damsel fishes, sea horses, green moray eels, sharp tail and garden eels, sergeant majors, scorpion fish, and frogfish among many others. The hard and soft corals were also abundant and quite healthy on the reefs and included lots of staghorn, elkhorn, orange cup, and brain corals and the sponges were also widespread including tube, finger, huge barrel, and delicate vase sponges. We were able to return with more than 1,700 raw photos resulting in 700 finished underwater images to share with our readers.
At the dive site known as The Lakes the reef formations were outstanding. At the end of this dive we hovered around 5 meters for a safety stop in the shallows and were privileged to witness the graceful mating dance of the Caribbean reef squid. It was fascinating to witness. During a dive at the Salt Pier we swam among large tarpon and several large schools of “bait fish” and the pilings were covered in healthy corals and sponges making the eerie waters come alive with life.
During a day of diving on the east side of the island, we were able to see some larger species that don’t often frequent the calmer waters of the leeward side of the island, including southern stingrays, spotted eagle rays, blacktip sharks, hawksbill turtles, large tarpon, and very large green moray eels.
We also witnessed the destruction of the northern reefs caused by a rare hurricane that hit the island from its normally protected side back in 1999. Where healthy prolific reefs once thrived, we saw only rubble for what seemed like miles. Reefs are tough but even natural causes can sometimes wreak havoc on them. We also noted signs of white-band disease and minor bleaching on a few corals but hopefully this was natural and not due to increase. Lastly, we noticed a lack of larger fish, especially schooling fishes, sharks and groupers though the season may have been a factor.
MarineBio highly recommends Bonaire as an excellent spot for shore diving and underwater photography enthusiasts. Be prepared to undergo a dive briefing and check out dive when you arrive on the island to ensure that you understand the rules of the marine park, such as diving gloves are prohibited to discourage divers from touching the reefs. You’ll pay US$10.00 for a tag to attach to your BC so that patrolling park officials can verify that you are aware of the rules.
The essays on Wildlife Conservation on MB
These essays, compiled by Dr. Peter Moyle of the University of California, Davis provide a brief and fascinating education in wildlife conservation and ecology. These chapters provide an introduction to the history of wildlife in North America, biodiversity, natural selection, conservation biology, ecology, conservation legislation, alien species, wildlife and pollution. They also provide some ethical and practical lessons to arm the reader with tools to improve wildlife conservation.
This highly readable and comprehensive overview of oceanography captures the essentials to understanding ocean science. The book is very accessible to the general reader and through its education it also raises significant questions about the future of the oceans. Co-written by Ellen Prager and Sylvia Earle, the book begins with a fascinating description of the beginnings of life in the ocean between 4.5 and 1 billion years ago and, therefore, of life on earth. They also examine the physical and chemical properties of the ocean, the effects of oceans on climate, coastal upwellings, deep-sea circulation, rip currents and rogue waves. They describe in vivid detail the beauty and mystery of the sea life and its tremendous diversity. They urge governments to place higher priority on the study of oceans simply because "to preserve the sea is to preserve life on Earth." And we couldn’t have said it better ourselves. This book provides an excellent resource and interesting read for everyone interested in the oceans and marine life.
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