July 20, 2018
What Shall We Do About
Asian Carp?
By Tyler J. Kelley/Undark
Photo by Jason Jenkins/flickr
Rebekah Anderson, a biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, had just dropped her phone in the water. There was no real chance of recovering it, but she and Ronnie Brown were peering down, wondering if it could be salvaged, when Brown saw a fish laying in their net close to the surface.

“Is that an Asian carp?” Anderson remembers him asking. Her mind raced in response. “Oh my gosh — that’s   an Asian carp,” she recalls thinking. “Where are we? This is a really big deal.”

They hauled the fish aboard and put it on ice.

It was a variety of Asian carp known as Hypophthalmichthys molitrix, or the silver carp, and both Anderson and Brown, a commercial fisherman, knew that the species was not supposed to be there in the Little Calumet River, nine miles from Lake Michigan. An electric barrier system downstream was supposed to be impassable, arresting any carp swimming north.

Anderson was frantic, but there is a rigid protocol for finding Asian carp in these waters, and she followed it: Stay with the fish, take pictures, get coordinates, make phone calls. It was 9:44 am, Thursday, June 22, 2017.
As Salmon Populations Dwindle, So Do Orcas
By Jim Robbins/The New York Times
Photo by Tyler Ingram/flickr
For the last three years, not one calf has been born to the dwindling pods of black-and-white killer whales spouting geysers of mist off the coast in the Pacific Northwest.

Normally four or five calves would be born each year among this fairly unique urban population of whales — pods named J, K and L. But most recently, the number of orcas here has dwindled to just 75, a 30-year-low in what seems to be an inexorable, perplexing decline.

Listed as endangered since 2005, the orcas are essentially starving, as their primary prey, the Chinook, or king salmon, are dying off.

In March, Gov. Jay Inslee issued an executive order directing state agencies to do more to protect the whales, and in May he convened the Southern Resident Orca Task Force, a group of state, tribal, provincial and federal officials, to devise ways to stem the loss of the beloved regional creature. “I believe we have orcas in our soul in this state,” he said. At another point, he wrote of the whales and Chinook salmon that “the impacts of letting these two species disappear would be felt for generations.”
Raising Fish
May Affect
Some Wild Ones
By Emma Bryce/Anthropocene
Photo by Artur Rydzewski/flickr
Eating fish instead of red meat is often touted as the better choice for the environment. But is this benefit as clear cut as we like to think?

Consider this: More than half the fish we eat is now farmed, and one way to nourish those animals is to catch much littler fish like anchovies, sardines, and herrings far out at sea, bring them back to land, and grind them up for feed–essentially mimicking a natural process, but at industrial scales. Now, for the first time, a  Nature Sustainability  study  reflects on how humanity’s growing appetite for farmed fish could, through this process, exhaust certain populations of wild ocean fish by 2050–unless we take steps to improve the way we farm.

The University of California, Santa Barbara-led study found that on the one hand, if we focus single-mindedly on producing more and more farmed fish, the oceans could feasibly support a 30% increase in fisheries for anchovies, herring, and sardine. But on the other hand, this intensified fishing would be short-lived: by 2037 those forage fish populations would be heading towards a collapse, the researcher’s models showed.
Crows Have a Mob Mentality Toward Ravens
By Pat Leonard/Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Photo by Stephen Dann/flickr
When species come into conflict, as birds so often do, we learn a lot about the way the world works by studying where, when, and how these interactions play out in nature’s arena.

“In nature, when you look at aggressive interactions between species, usually the big guys beat up on the smaller guys,” notes Ben Freeman, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and a former Cornell University graduate student. “But I’ve personally witnessed 17 encounters between crows and ravens and in every case I saw multiple crows harassing a single raven, even though a raven is two to three times heavier than a crow.”

Freeman wondered if the flip-flop he witnessed in the crow-raven dynamic would hold true at a much larger geographical scale and if he could determine what motivated crows to take on the bigger bird. Freeman turned to a surprising source of untapped behavioral information—the voluntary species comments entered on checklists submitted to the Cornell  eBird  program. The results from this analysis were published in  The Auk: Ornithological Advances .
Chesapeake Bay Is Cleanest It’s Been in Years
By Darrell Fears/The Washington Post
Photo by sabreguy29/flickr
For the first time in the 33 years that scientists have assessed the health of the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary showed improvement in every region, a likely sign that a massive federal cleanup plan is working.

The bay’s most important species — blue crabs and striped bass, which support commercial and recreational fisheries, and anchovies, the foundation of its food chain — earned top scores in a report card released Friday. Bright green underwater grasses — which help protect young fish before they venture into the Atlantic Ocean — are now thriving, even in some places where such vegetation had disappeared.

In sharp contrast to the days when the bay was so beleaguered that every meaningful species experienced sharp population declines, officials and scientists from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia announced that it is in the midst of a full and remarkable recovery. As if to underscore the progress, their backdrop along the District’s southwest waterfront was a brilliantly sunny morning and a picturesque view of the Anacostia River, which feeds into the Chesapeake.
"The secret places are the soul of fishing"

- John Gierach

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