November 30, 2004

11/30 - They're FINished: 63 countries agree to stop shark finning in Atlantic

Sixty-three countries have agreed to ban the killing of sharks for their fins in the Atlantic Ocean, a move that conservationists said could help bolster the predators' declining population.

Welcome to Finland: shark fins confiscated in Palau.

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:17 AM | Comments (2)

11/30 - Trashing Captain Moore: Why is he so plastic?

One of our favorite ocean heros, here in SB-land, is Captain Charles Moore, who with his research vessel The Alguita, has brought moore attention to the plastics crisis in the oceans than anyone else. Here's his excellent essay on the subject from

Captain Charles Moore: Taking on the ocean plastics issue, one nurdle
at a time.

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:12 AM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2004

11/29 - Not Done Counting: A good year for the Census of Marine Life

Quoting one of the all-time great marine biologists, Fred Grassle of Rutgers University, this article tells about the enormous task of trying to record all the species in the oceans. The Census of Marine Life is in its 4th year out of 10. Last year they discovered 178 new species of fish alone. Lots remaining.

Census of Marine Life: Recording the infinite diversity of life in the oceans.

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:36 AM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2004

11/28 - On Tap for 2005: ACID OCEANS

What's going to be big in the oceans for 2005? You can count on the topic of "Ocean Acidification" to start rising up as a major issue. How bad is it? Which organisms will suffer? Lots and lots of unanswered questions, which is why scientists have scrambled to organize a major conference in the spring to get some answers.

Is there anything in the ocean cooler than Coccolithophores? And yet,
in an acid ocean, they may bloom no more.

Posted by Randy Olson at 08:56 PM | Comments (0)

11/28 - Shifting Baselines Gets Around

The term shifting baselines has expanded its horizons.

In an interview with MPA News, Tim McClanahan of the Wildlife Conservation Society uses the term in reference to major changes in thinking about conservation and poverty reduction. Much the way our personal baselines versus historical baselines ask us to re-think our definition of conservation, we are now asked to re-think conservation as strictly science based. Poverty plays a key role, but just what and how much is debatable. No one said this would be easy.

Check it out: November 2004 MPA News lead story, quote below is on page 2...

McClanahan says there is a shifting baseline not only for the state of nature but also for what we consider to be conservation.  "This will trouble those of us who would like to see the maintenance of indigenous biodiversity and self-organizing ecosystems," he says.  "We like to imagine that by assisting both the poor and nature that we will ultimately triumph.  But this is naive.  We need to work beyond the good feelings and dissect the relationship to develop a long-term functional relationship that does not compromise biodiversity.  Ultimately an objective measure of success is needed, which is the state of indigenous biodiversity and ecological processes."

-- Mike Misner

Posted by Randy Olson at 08:48 PM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2004

11/24 - Coral Reef Chaos: Exactly what is the correct headline, and can we have just one?

"Nobody seems to be listening to us," is the standard ocean conservation complaint. But is it possible that some of this is due to the lack of single clear messages? In the case of coral reefs, there are countless percentages thrown around about how many are dying, declining, threatened, at risk, etc.

And so here's yet another coral reef percentage -- IUCN says that...FIFTY EIGHT percent of coral reefs are "endangered." Are we sure it's 58? Sure its not 59? What about 57? How in the world do you get such a precise number for the term "endangered" which almost certainly has a vague definition to start with?

More importantly, how about ONE SINGLE POWERFUL NUMBER, namely "The Percent of Coral Reefs Worldwide that have DIED." The point is that a single widely agreed upon number is needed to bring the coral reef crisis into focus. Myers and Worm did this for over-fishing last year with their "less than 10% of big fish remain." A paper in Science did it last year for Caribbean coral reefs with, "over 80% have died." But no one has come out with this single powerful number for coral reefs worldwide. And in the meanwhile you see numbers ranging from 10% to "a third" for statements on what percentage of coral reefs have died.

That's called ineffective mass communications.

Coral reefs in crisis: Name your percentage.

Posted by Randy Olson at 10:13 PM | Comments (2)

11/23 - The 9/11 Commission Report: Putting ocean conservation into the bigger context of American politics

For anyone hoping that the state of protection of Americas oceans might be greatly improved by the two recent reports (Pew Oceans and U.S. Ocean Commission), it is important to be aware of how incredibly difficult politics in Washington D.C. have become. The 9/11 Commission created an excellent model example of how to spend equal amounts of effort on a study and on publicizing it. AND YET ... after doing such an amazing job of communicating its findings and pushing Congress to act on its recommendations ... even with all that mammoth effort and pushing and hustling ... it still looks like Congress is not going to do anything significant to address the problems identified.

If its this difficult for an issue as red hot as terrorism, you can only imagine what the odds are of getting Congress behind ocean conservation in a big way. Not saying its impossible, only that everyone needs to know it is a very difficult time which calls for extra effort.

Get it? Capitol building and ...

Posted by Randy Olson at 11:09 AM | Comments (0)

11/23 - Maintaining the Baseline: Indigenous people's observations mesh with scientific data in the Arctic

"We found that scientific observations and those of indigenous people over many generations are meshing," Hassol said from her Denver office. "Sea ice is retreating, glaciers are reducing in size, permafrost is thawing, all [these indicators] provide strong evidence that it has been warming rapidly in the Arctic in recent decades."

Posted by Jon Rusho at 10:57 AM | Comments (0)

11/23 - "The Triumph of the Wild Alaskan Salmon Fishery": An excellent slide show

People are always whining to me, "why don't you guys tell more success stories that make us feel better?" Well, the answer to that one is complex, but in the meanwhile, everyone should check out this excellent slide show on The Ocean Channel's website. It is excellent because its not just a piece of feel good propaganda, it gives a good picture of the Wild Alaskan salmon fishery, then tells the truth about what salmon farming is doing, the potential destruction associated with it, and the need for everyone to support wild Alaskan salmon rather than farmed Atlantic salmon (yuck).

A nice slide show with beautiful images.

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:01 AM | Comments (0)

November 22, 2004

11/22 - Bush to USCOP: Great recommendations! Where's the trash can?

Here's an excerpt from an article assessing the odds that President Bush will act on the more than 200 recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.

"The response is tentatively scheduled to be unveiled on Dec. 20, but commission members and oceans experts who have been closely following the interagency effort said it appears the White House will not propose the key reforms or seek the significant increases in funding recommended by the commission.

Instead, the White House appears to be leaning toward "giving us a menu of all the wonderful things they are doing right now and saying they believe they can handle it within the current (government) structure and so forth," said retired Adm. James Watkins, a former secretary of Energy who chaired the oceans commission."

Deposit ocean recommendations here.

Posted by Randy Olson at 07:27 AM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2004

11/18 - The Oceanator is for real

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger continues to get very favorable job reviews with his environmental accomplishments being front and center, and the oceans being a major part of that.

Telling the oceans, "We'll be back." (and meaning it)

Posted by Randy Olson at 09:21 PM | Comments (1)

November 16, 2004

11/17 - Florida Beaches: Help a turtle, kill a reef?

Beach renourishment is big in Florida. Nesting sea turtles are in favor of it and have signed petitions, however coral reefs oppose it and are making their opposition known quietly.

Nesting sea turtles need sand, but beach renourishment covers coral
reefs in Florida.

Posted by Randy Olson at 09:31 PM | Comments (0)

11/17 - McCain; Another Republican who understands the environment

Wasting no time distancing himself from President Bush on an issue that has long divided them, Senator John McCain yesterday called the White House stance on climate change "terribly disappointing" and said inaction in the face of mounting scientific data was unjustified.

Senator John McCain: Still angry at Bush's scientific cluelessness.

Posted by Randy Olson at 09:12 PM | Comments (0)

11/16 - Adios Key West: Sea level rise is coming on strong

Sounds like nobody's been giving much thought to the fact that as water warms it expands. So not only do we have melting glaciers, we have expanding water. Prepare to see some baselines shift like you couldn't imagine.

Sea level rise could case problems for the makers of Gayopoly.

Posted by Randy Olson at 07:56 AM | Comments (0)

11/16 - Krill Krash? Pretty krazy if true

Nature reports this week that Antarctic krill have declined by 80% in the past twenty five years, however ...

"Some scientists are skeptical of the study's conclusions. Krill expert Steve Nicol of the Australian Antarctic Division questioned whether Antarctic krill, with a biomass once estimated topping one billion tons, were really down by such enormous numbers. "Could we really have lost 900 million tons of krill without anyone noticing? I don't think so," he said. "You would expect to see most of the predators in decline, and that doesn't appear to be happening." He said the krill could be vastly underestimated because of the difficulty in tracking the creatures as they migrate and are tossed about through the vast seas."

Krill: an increasingly less common sight in Antarctica.

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:37 AM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2004

11/15 - Time to Speak Up About the Presidential Election Outcome

I've held off saying anything on this blog about the elections, but its time to offer a few SB-relevant words in response to the sad aftermath that has now prompted Democrats to point their fingers at each other. Arianna Huffington weighs in on "the message" that the Democrats chose to go with, saying it should have been Iraq over the economy. Here's what I know (and the relevance to our Shifting Baselines project). My friends in Kansas, where I'm from, say, "It doesn't matter what they say, we just don't like these people who are running the Democratic party."

The party, like too many major organizations, has morphed into an advertising agency, spending ALL of its efforts on trying to figure how out to manipulate the public rather than creating something for the public to believe in. That is what advertising agencies do. And who wants to believe in an advertising agency? In a similar manner, if environmental organizations want to develop a following, it is essential that they devote plenty of their time to developing ideas that the public can believe in, rather than studying the public in hopes of figuring out how to manipulate them into joining the cause.

I think.

Arianna Huffington joins the Post-Election Blame Game.

Posted by Randy Olson at 08:26 AM | Comments (0)

11/15 - Catch a fish, kill a gazelle: The fisheries/bush meat link in Africa

Dr Justin Brashares and colleagues tell Science magazine that consumption of bushmeat in Ghana rises whenever the supply of fish in the country falls. The region is blighted by overfishing, much of it by EU-subsidised trawlers.

Did they really think stealing all the African's fish would have no
affect on local populations?

Posted by Randy Olson at 08:01 AM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2004

11/11 - Greenpeace joins Shifting Baselines

They're the guys who first figured out the importance of mass media. They taught the world how to unfold banners on smokestacks and dodge whaling ships. So it's only logical that they would grasp the importance of our partnership between ocean conservation and Hollywood. And after 33 years of world class environmental activism, you can bet people at Greenpeace know the meaning of the term, "shifting baselines."

Here are a few details from John Hocevar about what they are currently doing in the oceans.

Greenpeace is working to defend deep sea biodiversity, calling for an immediate halt to deep sea bottom trawling. If allowed to continue, the bottom trawlers of the high seas will destroy deep sea species, before we have even discovered much of what is out there. Think of it as driving a huge bulldozer through a lush and richly populated forest and being left with a flat, featureless desert. Think of it as beef farming by dragging a net across entire fields, cities and forests to catch a few cows. It's like blowing up Mars before we get there.

There's a fun entry into the deep sea stuff at:

On Tuesday the 16th (or possibly the 17th, if the agenda at the UN gets pushed back), Greenpeace will be addressing the UN General Assembly.  It's the tenth anniversary of the creation of the Law of the Sea, and we will be calling on the UN to take up the challenge of saving the oceans.  We'll be speaking on behalf of a few other organizations from the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition as well, but I'm not sure yet which ones have asked to be represented.

Posted by Randy Olson at 05:01 PM | Comments (0)

11/11 - BUSTED! California fishing company nailed on "hide-the-fish" scheme

The charges are the culmination of a three-year investigation by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the FBI and the U.S attorney's office in San Francisco. Authorities said they were coming down hard on hide-the-fish schemes that threaten to further undermine the devastated West Coast groundfish industry, which federal authorities declared a disaster in 2000. Check it out.



A sample of catch decline in California fishery for cowcod. Notice the recent plot doesn't even include the largest unit of catch.

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:51 AM | Comments (0)

November 09, 2004

11/9 - One of the Outstanding Fisherman: Zeke Grader talks to Sierra Magazine

Offering Cialis with overnight delivery. Also, If your looking for generic cialis this is a good site to visit.

11/9 - Ocean Champions go 11 for 14 in the Elections

Ocean Champions, the new/first/only political action committee for the oceans, created by Dave Wilmot and Jack Sterne, went 11 for 14 in the congressional candidates they backed (wish I did that well on my football bets in Vegas last weekend).

THE WINNNERS: In da House, Rep. Sam Farr (D-17th Calif.), Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-1st Md.), Rep. Edward Markey (D-7th Mass.), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th N.J.), Rep. Jim Saxton (R-3rd N.J.), Rep. Hilda Solis (D-32nd Calif.), and Rep. Curt Weldon (R-7th Penn.). In the Senate, both Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) won their re-election bids. Also, John Barrow (D-Georgia) and Connie Mack IV (R-FL) were both newly elected to the house.

NOT SO FORTUNATE were Tony Knowles (D-AK), Betty Castor (D-FL), and Inez Tanenbaum (D-SC).

And of course what is most interesting to note is that some of their candidates were Democrats ... and some of them weren't. That's what's called playing politics, which is what the ocean conservation movement has traditionally been not so good at. Ocean Champions is fixing that.


Posted by Randy Olson at 09:22 PM | Comments (0)

11/9 - Northern Seabirds: Having the guts to eat plastic

Poking through a clear plastic bag full of objects removed from northern fulmars, seabird biologist Mark Mallory said: "I've got a BandAid, there's a liner from a bottle top, several piece of white garbage that looks like the lid of a coffee cup and bits of hard plastic like you might see in a toy."

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:28 AM | Comments (0)

11/9 - Greenpeace adds voice to the India-Sri Lanka coral reef holocaust

Remember that crazy idea of blasting a channel through the coral reefs that connect India and Sri-Lanka so ships could save some fossil fuel by not having to go all the way around Sri Lanka? Greenpeace, speaking on behalf of the silent coral reef, has added their voice to the protest.

India and Sri Lanka: wishing they had a giant piece of dental floss to
clear the coral reefs stuck in that gap between them.

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:25 AM | Comments (0)

November 08, 2004

11/8 - Rockin' San Diego: SB Roundtable Participant Donna Frye is shaking up "Enron by the Sea" (San Diego)

Last year we held a Shifting Baselines Roundtable Evening at the Scripps Birch Aquarium. One of the members of the "roundtable" was San Diego City Councilwoman Donna Frye, who offered up a series of very savvy comments about the changes she and her famous surfer husband, Skip Frye, have seen in the coastal environment over the years. Now she is on the front page of USA Today because, having gotten fed up with the scandals of the current mayor, she is a write-in candidate for mayor who is caught up in a three way tie so close that the counting won't be finished until the end of the month, and it is seriously looking like she could win (even though she only started the effort a month ago when the level of local disgust reached a threshhold).

Donna Frye: On her way to being the coolest San Diego Mayor ever?

Posted by Randy Olson at 09:11 AM | Comments (1)

11/8 - Dugongs dugone?

Indigenous Australians are harvesting over 1000 dugongs a year. Can this be sustained?

Where the Indigenous Australians hunt dugongs

Posted by Randy Olson at 05:43 AM | Comments (0)

11/8 - Shifting Baselines in Salmonland: An excellent essay on the politics of salmon recovery

We used it as the prime example of shifting baselines in our slide show. The story for salmon and the Columbia River is complex, but here's a really good essay in the Denver Post that clarifies it a bit. And check out this "shifting baseline" inference:

The 2004 Salmon Recovery Plan simply declares that the dams pose "no
jeopardy" to salmon, as if they have been natural features of the river
environment since the last Ice Age. Conversely, native fishing on these
rivers is now listed as an "impact."

The fate of Columbia River salmon: swimming upstream.

Posted by Randy Olson at 05:39 AM | Comments (0)

November 06, 2004

11/6 - LOST: Law Of the Sea Treaty UPDATE

From the International Herald Tribune:

"This week as the world tensely watches the American presidential election, the last thing that most people are thinking about are the seas and oceans. Yet both George W. Bush and John Kerry have been unanimous on one important point of foreign policy, although neither spoke a word about it. They agreed, if elected, that they would move to have the UN's Law of the Sea ratified. It could happen before the month is out. "

And now for the major leagues of bureaucracy...

Posted by Randy Olson at 05:58 AM | Comments (1)

November 04, 2004

11/4 - Newfoundland: Now that cod is dead, how about ... "Jellyfish, Chicken, n' Cukes"?

Here's a press release from the government of Newfoundland and Labrador extolling their accomplishments of the past year including, "Investments in fisheries diversification projects in rural areas, such as jellyfish development, research on shrimp and sea cucumber, and technology."

Catch of the Day? Believe it or not, its, "Jelllyfish, Chicken, and
Cucumbers" served in China

Posted by Randy Olson at 05:46 PM | Comments (1)

11/4 - The Oceanator: Respectable marks for his first year.

The Oceanator, California Governor Ahnold Schwarzenegger, received a respectable score from the League of Conservation Voters for his first year in office. He scored lower than all the Democrats in the state, but substantially higher than previous Republicans. Certainly his actions on the protecting the ocean appear to be the real deal.

The Oceanator, reporting for duty.

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:09 AM | Comments (0)

11/4 - Rhode Island Real World: ocean warming reduces fish populations?

This is a good article on the possible changes occurring in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island due to warming of the seas over the past 30 years. MAYBE. What is good about the article is how clearly it explains the difficulty of drawing conclusions. What's also nice is that it tells about how in recent times the populations of JELLYFISH have been increasing (just like our song, "Jellyfish and bacteria, that's what you get when the ocean is in-fear-eee-yah").

Hot times in Rhode Island.

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:04 AM | Comments (0)

November 02, 2004

11/2 - Shoot a Dolphin, Win $10,000!

Um, sorry, by "shoot" we mean with a camera. Seashepherd, in a very clever ploy, is offering $10,000 to the best footage documenting the dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan.

No, that's not the work of Photoshop making the water red.

Posted by Randy Olson at 08:58 PM | Comments (0)

November 01, 2004

11/1 -Too Many Blowhards: It's true, and I'm guilty

In a talk at the Kennedy School of Government, David Westin, president of ABC News complained of our society getting overrun by editorializing at the expense of real news. It's true. And I'm guilty with this blog. The problem is its just more fun to editorialize, which is why blogs have become so popular. And yet, these days, I find that the only news talk show that I can stand to watch is Meet the Press with Tim Russert because it consists mostly of him quietly, objectively reading quotes to the guests and having them respond. Much better than the "You shut up, no you shut up!" shows that Jon Stewart was talking about when he carved circles on Crossfire.

David Westin says we write too many editorials. He should write an
editorial about that.

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:13 PM | Comments (0)

11/1 - Wyland Weighs in on the Oceans

Long known for his murals, artist Wyland co-authored an editorial in a San Diego newspaper about the sad state of the oceans. Here's the opening:

Living in Southern California grants us the glory of the shores of the Pacific Ocean, a place where we can swim, surf, kayak, fish and often times walk for miles just to reflect. Unfortunately, our grand Pacific is being taken for granted. Clearly, that attitude is catching up with us. While the Pacific Ocean is a resource rich beyond imagination, it is now a place in peril.

Wyland: A man and his murals.

Posted by Randy Olson at 04:06 PM | Comments (0)