Plastic Bits are Food? An Anchovy’s Perspective…

anchovy, anchovies, anchovies and plastic

Anchovies:Photo credit: Erik Sorenson via Visual hunt / CC BY


Anchovies can smell plastic pieces in the ocean and mistake them for food.

Plastic bits or food-they all smell the same to me. Hi, I’m Annie, and I’m an anchovy. You may have seen my colleagues in a tin can (may they RIP), or in the ocean in a large shimmery school that’s hopefully not being eaten by large predators such as sharks and dolphins, eek!

You might also wonder how we can smell in the first place, as we live underwater. Chemicals travel through the water and into my nostrils, just like they do in the air for terrestrial animals. Sharks can smell blood from very far away or in low quantities. Salmon use their sense of smell to navigate back to their birthplace spawning ground upstream.

Back to the plastic bits-humans have found that over 50 kinds of fish mistakenly eat plastic, thinking that it’s food. That includes my friends and I. A neat study by humans using an anchovy school in an aquarium (Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco, California) found that by measuring our schooling behavior (how tight we schooled and our body position relative to water flow) that we:

1. Use odors to locate food

2. Plastic pieces are confusing to us due to their similarity to food in appearance and smell

So what can you do to help? Avoid single use plastics (SUP) whenever possible and recycle if you do buy them! Less than 7 percent of plastic in the U.S. gets recycled. Thanks for recycling, every little bit helps! Fortunately I won’t be around in 2050 when there is more plastic in the ocean than fish…

I used information from these articles:
Bait and Switch: Anchovies Eat Plastic Because it Smells Like Prey

The Numbers on Plastics

Posted in Fish, People and the Ocean | Tagged | 1 Comment

10 Fabulous Facts About the Blue Footed Booby

Blue Footed Booby:Photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/brj_bringin_the_shit_up_in_here_bitches/7303186922/">BRJ INC.</a> via <a href="https://visualhunt.com/re/569bd2">Visual Hunt</a> / <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/"> CC BY-NC-ND</a>

Blue Footed Booby:Photo credit: BRJ INC. via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

The blue footed what? The blue-footed booby is a marine bird.

Don’t miss the blue footed booby mating dance video link below!

Here are 10 Fabulous Facts About the Blue Footed Booby:

1. The male shows off his blue feet to the female when courting her. The bluer the feet, the more attractive he is to his potential mate.

2. The courtship dance by the male is very elaborate. Word don’t do it justice so here’s a a video on blue-footed booby mating dance

3. The blue-footed booby is 32-34 inches (81-86cm) high with a wingspan of 5 feet (1.5m). It weighs 3.25 pounds (1.5kg).

4. Blue-footed boobies are expert hunters at sea. They will often dive from 80 feet high to catch fish underwater. They can also dive from a sitting position.

5. Both parents care for their chicks. They usually have 1-3 chicks at a time. A parent will cover their chick with their webbed feet to keep them warm.

6. Nestlings that are bullied go on to live happy and productive lives (they are easy to study because they have no natural predators and humans have never hunted them).

7. Blue-footed boobies live off the west coasts of Central and South America, with half the breeding pairs living in the Galapagos Islands.

8. Young blue-footed boobies have darker blue feet.

9. Their name is thought to come from the Spanish word “bobo” which means “stupid” or “clown.” They may look clumsy on land, but they far from stupid (maybe a bit bird-brained though).

10. Most blue-footed boobies will live and breed within dozens of feet of where they were born.

Facts from National Geographic page on Blue Footed Boobies

Good article on Blue-Footed Boobies by the New York Times

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10 Amazing Facts About Great White Sharks

Great White Shark: Photo credit: Elias Levy via Visualhunt / CC BY

Great White Shark: Photo credit: Elias Levy via Visualhunt / CC BY


1. Great white sharks are the largest predatory fish in the oceans.

2. Their scientific name Carcharodon carcharias means ragged tooth.

3. The largest great white sharks recorded were over 20 feet long (6.1 m) and weighed over 5,000 pounds (2,268 kg).

4. Like all sharks, great white sharks have a “sixth sense” that detects electrical impulses such as your heart beating.

5. Adult great white sharks eat sea lions, seals, small toothed whales, sea turtles and carrion (meat from already dead animals). Young great white sharks eat mainly fish and rays.

6. Great white shark pups are 50-60 pounds at birth (22.7-27 kg), and 47-59 inches (120-150 cm) long.

7. Great white sharks are considered warm-blooded (like mammals) or endothermic. Their body temperature is warmer than the water surrounding them.

8. The only enemies of great white sharks are killer whales, larger sharks, and humans (who kill up to 100 million sharks of all species per year).

9. Recent studies suggest great white sharks use their excellent eyesight to spot their prey.

10. The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) considers great white sharks “vulnerable” to extinction (and not endangered-yet).

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Children’s Book Review: If Sharks Disappeared by Lily Williams

Book: "If Sharks Disappeared" by Lily Williams

Book: “If Sharks Disappeared” by Lily Williams

If Sharks Disappeared, is written and illustrated by Lily Williams, and published by Roaring Brook Press. It is a much needed book about sharks. There are numerous children’s books about sharks, but not many show sharks in a positive light.

Instead of painting sharks as blood-thirsty human eaters, Williams shows how important sharks are to the ocean ecosystem. There is one “scary” picture of a great white shark, but it is cartoon-like enough not to be really scary. Otherwise Williams’ charming artwork depicts sharks as not scary and almost friendly (which most are!).

My favorite page shows a couple dozen sharks of different sizes and shapes. As a marine biologist it was a puzzle to try and figure them all out as they are not labeled. I also liked how there was dark-skinned girl as our guide throughout the book as showing diversity is becoming important in children’s books.

The “if sharks disappeared” portion of the book is not alarmist, but rational showing literally an ecosystem without sharks. The backmatter consists of a glossary and more information about how sharks are in trouble and what you can do to save them.

All in all, not just shark-loving kids will like this book. Most readers will be delighted with Williams’ shark artwork and will learn more about sharks at the same time. I highly recommend that you check out If Sharks Disappeared! (link to order)

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10 Interesting Facts About the Mola Mola, or Ocean Sunfish

By OpenCage - [1], CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39330708

Mola mola, or Ocean Sunfish picture from Wikimedia Commons


The fish so nice they named it twice!
1. Mola mola are known because of their unusual shape: an upright flattened disk, tapered top and bottom fins between body and tail, and small black eyes halfway between its small pectoral (side) fins and round mouth.
2. Sunfish got their name because they like to lay down on their sides and sun themselves at the surface. They do this to stay warm and to get rid of parasites (seabirds eat those).
3. Mola are related to pufferfish, porcupinefish, and filefish (same Order Tetradontiformes).
4. Mola lack a swim bladder so they swim constantly (or move fins side-to-side to hover).
5. Average length 5.9 ft (1.8m), 8.2 ft (2.5m) fin-to-fin
Max length 10.8 ft (3.3m), 14 ft (4.2m) fin-to-fin
Weight range 545 lbs (247kg) to 5,100 lbs (2,300kg)
6. A single mola can host up to 40 species of parasites. It gets rid of them by sunning at the surface and having seabirds eat the parasites, or by cleaner fish and other fish eating the parasites at cleaning stations, or by breaching up to 10 ft (3m) out of the water.
7. Sunfish eat mainly jellies, but also eat salps, squid, crustaceans, small fish, fish larvae and eel grass.
8. Mola can swim to depths down to 2,000 ft (600m).
From Wikipedia http://www.amonline.net.au/fishes/fishfacts/fish/molalav.htm

Mola fry: notice the spikes all around it: photo by G. David Johnson


9. Sunfish can grow to 60 million times their birth size (0.1 in, 2.5mm), a record for vertebrates! As fry (babies that are part of the plankton), sunfish have spines all around their body that they outgrow.
10. Enemies as young include bluefin tuna and mahi mahi, as adults sea lions (who often bite off their fins and play with them), killer whales, sharks and humans (caught to eat or as by-catch).

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Coral Reef Bleaching—Why the Great Barrier Reef is in Trouble


Why are the corals on the Great Barrier Reef off of Australia bleaching? Why is coral bleaching important? First a little background on corals.

Hi, I’m Polly, a coral polyp. The animal you think of as “coral” is actually made up of lots of little coral polyps. We use calcium carbonate to make our skeleton and many of us together make the base of a coral reef.

We’re only millimeters wide (0.1 inch) and centimeters deep (1.2 inches) with tentacles sticking out. We use our tentacles to find food floating in the water.

But our main source of food is made for us by our friends inside us, the zooanthellae. These are our photosynthetic symbionts. In other words, the plants inside of us use sunlight to make the food that we eat. These zooanthellae are important to us, but when exposed to stressors like increased heat or acidity, they often expel themselves from us. This causes coral bleaching.

Coral bleaching can be caused by the ocean warming due to climate change. The ocean absorbs 90 percent of the heat in the atmosphere caused by human activities. Coral bleaching can also be affected by ocean acidification. The ocean becomes more acidic (like soda or stomach acid) when it absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. There is also pollution of all sorts, including plastic, chemical, and sediments that can also cause the coral reef to bleach.

A recent scientific study found that “huge portions” of the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef died last year due to warming seawater. Just an increase of two or three degrees Fahrenheit (1.2-1.6 degrees Celsius) can cause bleaching. The southern end of the Great Barrier Reef is bleaching as we speak.

So why do we need coral reefs? Coral reefs house twenty-five percent of all marine life in the oceans.
One billion people rely on the ocean for their primary source of protein
, and many of those in developing countries rely upon coral reefs for it.

So what can you do? Here are some excerpts from the Nature Conservancy’s 10 Easy Steps to Protect Coral Reefs

1. Support businesses such as fishing, boating, hotel, aquarium, dive or snorkeling operators that protect coral reefs.
2. Practice safe snorkeling and diving practices such as not touching the coral and not anchoring on coral.
3. Volunteer on vacation to clean-up a coral reef or help plant one.
4. Plant a tree to reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
5. Dispose of your trash (or recycle!) properly, especially near the ocean. Better yet, join a beach clean-up.

Posted in Other Marine Animals, People and the Ocean | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Journey of One Drop of Water

Water Drop-Picture by: David R. Newman

One Drop of Water-Picture by: David R. Newman


This blog post won first place in the 2017 San Mateo County Fair Literary Contest for best blog entry!

Hi, I am one drop of water. I am made of many molecules that contain two hydrogen atoms connected to an oxygen atom. At room temperature I am a liquid, above boiling temperature I am steam or vapor, and at or below freezing I am ice. Do you know of any other substance as cool as me? Those facts alone should make you respect me, but alas, that is not enough.

I have been around longer than the dinosaurs. I appeared billions of years ago when water first condensed on Earth. Through the water cycle, I have journeyed all around the Earth. I once met a water molecule that claimed he came to Earth on a comet. He says he saw the whole universe, but nothing compared to being hydrogen bonded with trillions of other water molecules in a pool of water.

I prefer mountain lakes myself. There I get to slow down and enjoy life as well as the beautiful scenery. It is not as hectic as flowing down a river, nor as monotonous as being in the ocean. That is unless you’re near a coral reef or kelp forest, as those are happening places.

Let’s start one of my journeys through the water cycle. I’m in a drinking glass sitting on your kitchen counter. How do I get there? After a human fills the glass with water from the faucet, he then drinks the water. After being in the human’s fascinating body for a few hours, I am deposited into a toilet. The flush took me on an underground trip through many pipes until I reached the sewage treatment plant.

That journey is quite boring because it is not as scenic as above ground. I always feel like I am living in a nightmare when I am being sloshed around a smelly sewage treatment plant. Yet it is well worth being discharged clean into a river, lake or ocean.

From open water, I evaporate and rise straight up into the clear blue sky. Along with trillions of other water molecules I helped form a cloud. I crystallize, and snow down onto a mountain. I sit in a snow pack and patiently wait until springtime when I melt into a river. Whee, down the river I flow until I reached a reservoir.
An aqueduct diverts me to a drinking water treatment plant where I am filtered and have chemicals like chlorine and fluoride added to me. I flow down some pipes until I reach your house, and voila, here I am sitting in a glass of water again.

That’s the ideal story, but actually my journey is fraught with many perils. My buddies and I actually contain dozens of chemical pollutants even though I get filtered and chemically cleaned at the water treatment plant. What are these chemicals and how did they dissolve or stick to me? Well, it is your fault. The fault of humans, I mean. I can contain medicines, industrial waste, human waste, acid, and agricultural pollutants just to name a few. Did you know that human babies are born with up to 300 dangerous chemicals already in their bodies from the water their Mom drank while pregnant? Thanks a lot, Mom.

That is just my journey through the developed world. When I am in a developing country, people urinate, defecate, bathe, wash clothes and drink water from the same river I journey down. Yuck. Not only is the water muddy, but the water carries diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, protozoa and parasites. As a human, I would hate to be living downstream from all of that. But in a sense, all people live downstream from some water source. No drop of water on Earth is without the fingerprint of man.

The ocean off of Cancun, Mexcio-Photo by: Cherilyn Jose

The ocean off of Cancun, Mexcio-Photo by: Cherilyn Jose


The precious water humans drink is the exact same water the dinosaurs drank, only much more polluted now.

Ah, pollution. An icky subject, but one I face on a daily basis. Take carbon dioxide for instance. It readily dissolves in me and makes me acidic, like soda. Carbon dioxide itself is not that harmful, as humans breathe it out all the time. In large quantities carbon dioxide becomes toxic and helps cause global warming. Carbon dioxide also ends up dissolving in the ocean or in water droplets in clouds. I hate being acidic in the ocean because I cause the beautiful coral reefs to bleach out and die. When the fragile coral dies, all the marine life around the corals also suffer, and I feel awful for causing that mess. Coral reefs are important, as twenty-five percent of marine life living in the oceans are found only there.

I hope you have enjoyed learning about my journeys through the water cycle and around the Earth. Please use water wisely as my buddies and I would much appreciate it!

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Book Preview of “If Sharks Disappeared” and Interview with Author Lily Williams

Book: "If Sharks Disappeared" by Lily Williams

Book: “If Sharks Disappeared” by Lily Williams

I was excited to come across this four minute long animated documentary, FINconceivable, about what happens if sharks disappear from the oceans. It is by Lily Williams and I would like to share it with you. link to FINconceivable I love her artwork and I even bought a her print of a whale shark! Lily’s online shop

I also had Lily answer a few questions, and I am thrilled to announce that her book, “If Sharks Disappear,” (Roaring Brook Press) will be in bookstores on May 23, 2017! (link to order)

1.Tell me how you came up with the idea of FINconceivable.

I came up with the idea for FINconceivable after posting my “What Happens When Sharks Disappear?” infographics online. I realized people wanted more information beyond the 3 infographics, so I decided to make FINconceivable my thesis film.

2. How long did it take to make?

It took a school year to make. I created FINconceivable as my 4th year thesis film at California College of the Arts.

3.Sharks are often portrayed as dangerous and an animal we should be fearful of. Why do you love sharks?

I love sharks because they are evolution perfected: older than dinosaurs and have lived through major extinction events. I always root for the underdog though, and with all the over fishing, shark finning, and trophy hunting, sharks are the sort of the underdog right now. They are indeed fierce apex predators that we should respect, but we also need to protect them. Without sharks, we won’t have an ocean to love.

4. Congratulations on the upcoming publication of “If Sharks Disappeared”on May 16, 2017. I am a writer that is trying to get traditionally published-can you give my readers a sneak peek on your journey to publication?

Thank you! My editor from Roaring Brook Press came across my “What Happens When Sharks Disappear?” infographics online and emailed me asking if I would write a book. After that phone call, I found an agent. A lot of things really fell into place seemingly easily… but, from that first phone call to publishing date, 4 years passed and a lot of hard work, research, and dedication went into making that final product. I am really excited for If Sharks Disappeared to be published!

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Book Review: Manatee Rescue by Nicola Davies

Manatee Rescue by Nicola Davies

Manatee Rescue by Nicola Davies

“Manatee Rescue” by Nicola Davies (Candlewick Press, 2015) is a middle grade (grades 4-8) children’s book about a rescued baby manatee in the Amazon. In the backmatter, we find out that this book is based on a true-life story.

There are three types of manatees, the West Indian, African and Amazonian. This book is about the ones that live along the Amazon River in South America.

The protagonist is Manuela. She grows up in a culture where killing manatees is a status symbol. She looks forward to the day when she can kill one alongside her father Silvio. Manuela and Silvio succeed in killing a mother manatee, but nothing prepares Manuela for the instant bond she feels for the manatee calf. She secretly vows to raise the calf and return it to the wild.

Manuela and her father take the two-month-old calf home, and Silvio sells the calf as a pet despite Manuela’s protests. Later that night, Manuela and her friend Libia steal the calf and bring it to Granny Raffy’s. Raffy often rehabilitates wild animals.

At Raffy’s, the two girls learn to take care of the calf, from nursing him to cleaning out his pond. Manuela bonds with the calf, who prefers her feeding him his bottle full of milk.

The two girls make a list of things to do, the most important ones (and seemingly impossible) being getting the villagers to care about and never hunt manatees again.

Without giving away the rest of the story away, I will say this book has a happy ending, both fictionally and in real-life.
The backmatter is informative not only about the manatees themselves, but also about the relationship between the natives and the manatees.

Although meant for kids, I think conservation-minded and animal-loving adults will enjoy this quick read (105 pages). It’s a perfect introduction to manatees and community-based conservation for all ages.

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10 Fascinating Facts About Manatees

Manatee underwater with algae photo courtesy VisualHunt.com

Manatee photo courtesy VisualHunt.com

10 Fascinating Facts About Manatees

1. Manatees, despite being called “sea cows” are related to elephants!

2. Besides weighing a lot (1000 pounds or 454 kilograms, more or less), both elephants and manatees have fingernails.

3. Manatees like warm water (like off Florida, USA) and will migrate up river to warm springs and the outfall of power plants in winter.

4. Manatee calves nurse under their mother’s flippers and will stay with them for 1-2 years.

5. Manatees can grow up to 12 feet (3.7 meters).

6. Manatees are herbivores and eat sea grass and other water plants.

7. Manatees continually grow teeth throughout life since they wear them down chewing on plants.

8. There are 3 types of manatees-Amazonian, West Indian, and West African.

9. Manatees have prehensile (can grasp) upper lips which they use to get food and to eat.

10. Manatees can graze for up to 7 hours a day because adults eat 10-15% of their body weight a day!

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Book Review: Tilikum’s Dream by Tracey Lynn Coryell

Tilikum's Dream by Tracey Lynn Coryell

Tilikum’s Dream by Tracey Lynn Coryell


Tilikum’s Dream (Eifrig Publishing, 2015) is a rhyming children’s book about Tilikum, a killer whale, who recently died (January 6, 2017) in his concrete pool of 21 years at Sea World. It is written by Tracey Lynn Coryell and illustrated by Shelley Marie Overton. I liked Tilikum’s Dream because it is beautifully illustrated and the sparse rhyming prose lends well to the music recording that can be downloaded. It has a strong anti-captivity message not just for killer whales, but for all marine mammals chained for life in captivity. It has a happy ending, unlike the real Tilikum who died never tasting the ocean from which he was born. The short text lends this book towards young school-age children who probably have visited a zoo or aquarium and can imagine Tilikum’s predicament. Proceeds of this book will benefit Blue Freedom, an international non-profit founded by a teenager concerned with Tilikum’s and captive killer whales’ welfare. They have created a film titled “Voiceless,” which is available free on YouTube.

Background on Tilikum:
Tilikum was taken from the icy waters off of Iceland when he was approximately 2 years old. Ever since then he has been in captivity, first at Sealand of the Pacific in British Columbia, Canada. It was there that he killed his first human with the help of two female killer whales. In 1991 Tilikum was sold to Sea World, where he has been ever since. He killed two more people there, including his trainer, Dawn Brancheau. He then became primarily a sperm donor, his genes in 56% of the killer whales in captivity at Sea World. He was the largest orca in captivity at 22 feet long and 12,500 pounds. May he RIP.

To read Tilikum’s Dream for free (one book a month for free!) click here

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Moana Movie Review-Is it Appropriate for Young Children?

Moana and Maui photo by Disney

Moana and Maui photo by Disney

“Moana” is a coming-of-age story of a girl from a South Pacific island called Motunui. She is the daughter of her village’s chief. She is chosen by the ocean (and guided by her grandmother) to return the green stone heart of Te Fiti, an island goddess. One thousand years ago the demi-god Maui stole the heart, which gives birth to life itself, for his people but instead spread darkness. The island goddess becomes a lava monster. It is up to the modern-day Maui and Moana to return the stone heart after the fish disappear from her island, and coconuts are found spoiled.

My 7-year-old daughter and I both enjoyed “Moana,” though she didn’t like the scenes with the lava monster, which looks like it belongs in Middle Earth (the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings world). As a marine biologist I was disappointed that there were not more marine animals depicted in the movie. I was very happy that one of my favorite animals, the manta ray, has a prominent role.

Moana’s sidekicks are decidedly terrestrial, a piglet and a dumb but comical rooster. It’s true that the open ocean is often called a “biological desert,” but it would have been nice if Disney could have celebrated the diverse life that does live in the ocean. I was hopeful after the scene with a toddler Moana in which she helps a baby sea turtle make it to the ocean, and she looks into the ocean, which parts like an aquarium for her. I was happy though to see South Pacific culture celebrated with song and homages to their wayfaring ancestors. And there is no prince in the movie for Moana to chase after, a first for a Disney “princess” movie.

Disney does show the power of the ocean, from thunderstorms creating big waves that overwhelm Moana’s boat, to Moana being thrown into the ocean deliberately and by accident. A good portion of the movie (at least half?) is just Maui, Moana and the rooster Heihei on Moana’s boat. I would not recommend this movie to toddlers, as during solo songs and other dialogue-driven scenes, the toddler behind me would kick more and his younger brother would cry. There aren’t any unnecessary scenes, it’s just that there is a lull at times.

I was surprised that the relationship between Maui and Moana isn’t more cordial initially, but the story grows in intensity as their relationship becomes stronger and friendly.

I didn’t especially like the scene in which Moana and Maui go to the realm of (unrealistic at least) monsters and steal back Maui’s magical fish hook. The fish hook is pivotal to the story, as it allows Maui to transform into different animals to fight the lava monster. The hermit crab is strange, and I didn’t really hear the lyrics as I was worried about our heroes getting the fish hook. The monsters aren’t realistic with their neon colors and fantastical design, but could still scare young children.

In short, I enjoyed “Moana” and would recommend it to any Disney movie fan. Ocean lovers will appreciate the reverence shown to the ocean. Just don’t expect “The Little Mermaid” when it comes to animals. Almost all of the action occurs on the water, not below.

What did you think of Moana?

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Hammerhead Sharks at Cocos Island

Hammerhead Sharks, Cocos Island Photo by Edwar Herreno, Undersea Hunter

School of Hammerhead Sharks, Cocos Island Photo by Edwar Herreno, Undersea Hunter

Ah, it feels great to swim around in a school of Hammerhead Sharks. My name is Sam. Here at Cocos Island, off of the shore of Costa Rica, I can roam free with hundreds of other hammerhead sharks. I used to swim in schools of thousands of hammerhead sharks before the humans came. In other areas of the oceans, populations of all types of sharks have been decimated.

Unfortunately, fishermen target sharks for their fins. Ouch, I need my fins to steer and swim, thank you very much. The shark fins are used in a soup served in many Asian countries, mainly China.

Fortunately, there are shark fin bans around the globe. The United States for instance, has 11 states and 3 territories that ban the sale, trade and possession of shark fins. Recently, on June 23, 2016 a bill called the Shark Fin Elimination Act of 2016 (S.3095/H.R. 5584) began its call to action in the United States Congress. This bill would ban the selling of shark fins across the entire United States. Stay tuned for updates!

Another reason for hope is Marine Protected Areas or MPA’s. There are over 6,500 MPA’s around the globe that fully or partially protect the flora and fauna that live there. These MPA’s make up less than 2 percent of all the world’s oceans though. Humans can do better than that! In contrast, up to 15 percent of land is protected.

Animals such as giant manta rays and whale sharks sometimes come to Cocos Island. They are protected while here, but once they swim into international waters, they are fair game for fishermen. That’s why it’s so important that scientists tag these migrant animals and see where they go. For instance, it isn’t known where female whale sharks give birth. Once humans find out, it will be important to protect the whale sharks’ pupping grounds.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my lesson today-please come visit me and my friends someday! Cocos Island is one of the best SCUBA diving sites in the world!

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Finding Dory Movie Review by a Marine Biologist

Dory from Finding Dory picture by: Disney/Pixar

Dory from Finding Dory picture by: Disney/Pixar

Finding Dory was an immensely enjoyable movie, exactly what I expected from a Pixar/Disney movie. The short animated film shown before the movie, “Piper,” (about a baby shorebird) is worth the price of admission alone! Don’t miss it!

I genuinely laughed and I went through a full range of emotions, from sadness all the way to I’m so happy that I’m crying! The movie takes place at the fictional Marine Life Institute in the not-so-fictional Morro Bay, California.

My only scientific beef with the movie is that the waters of California are a frigid 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Dory, Nemo and Marlin live in a tropical coral reef where the seawater is a warm 70’s-80’s degrees Fahrenheit. The gang couldn’t survive the cold waters off of California. Bailey the Beluga Whale is from the Arctic Ocean so he could survive, but Destiny the Whale Shark needs warmer waters (up to 30 degrees North and South for you geography buffs).

The movie starts with Dory as a youngster, doe-eyed and voiced by a child (not Ellen DeGeneres yet). Dory’s parents treat her short-term memory loss as a disability, a parallel that many human parents will identify with. It isn’t until later flashbacks (yes, Dory will remember some events!) that we see how she and her parents were separated.

The whole movie rests on one memory of Dory’s of “The Jewel of Morro Bay,” which turns out to be the Marine Life Institute. MLI rehabilitates marine animals for eventual release. We have the documentary “Blackfish” to thank for that, as originally the MLI was just an aquarium (that doesn’t release animals).

Ellen DeGeneres does a fabulous job of keeping the audience entertained while keeping you involved in the story. One note if taking young children, my 6 year old was frightened by the squid chase when Dory, Marlin and Nemo first arrive in Morro Bay. She enjoyed the rest of the movie though.

Hank the cranky octopus was animated amazingly, even if his camouflaging abilities were a bit exaggerated for the real world (not out of place in their animation world though).

My new favorite character is Destiny. I didn’t like how she had poor eyesight (anyone who has snorkeled with whale sharks knows that they can turn on a dime in order to avoid swimming into you!) But she won me over anyways with her warm personality.

They didn’t say Bailey’s, the beluga whale, name enough so moviegoers may forget it. The ending is far fetched, but should satisfy most audiences, especially those into animal rights.

I highly recommend Finding Dory. It was well worth the wait, and it will delight fans of Finding Nemo. It can stand alone for those who have not seen Finding Nemo, like young children.

Last note, stay until the very end of the credits for a treat. Hint, we’ve seen them before, somewhere…

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Humpback Whales Exhibit Altruistic Behavior Towards Other Animal Species

Hunter the Humpback Whale photo by: NOAA Dr. Louis M. Herman

Hunter the Humpback Whale photo by: NOAA Dr. Louis M. Herman


My name is Hunter, and I’m a Humpback Whale. One day I was feeding on krill in Antarctica. I noticed a pod of Orcas on the hunt. They had a poor Weddell Seal trapped on an ice floe. All they had to do was tip the ice floe over and they would have dinner. I felt sorry for the seal, and decided follow my heart and intervene. I am almost 50 feet long and weigh almost 80,000 pounds so I have a distinct size advantage over the orcas. Orcas rarely get over 30 feet long.

The orcas splashed around the ice floe and got it moving back and forth like a teeter-totter. The moment the seal was about to hit the water, I came up underneath him, my belly up. I lifted the grateful seal out of the water. He was a slippery fellow, and I used my long pectoral fins to push the seal back onto my belly every time he slid down. Sure enough, the orcas lost interest and I released the seal into the ocean. He swam off to the safety of another ice floe.

Humans have witnessed and documented over a 100 times around the globe us humpback whales exhibiting this altruistic behavior. We have saved gray whale calves, California sea lions, harbor seals, and Mola mola (sunfish).

It’s just a few moments out of our lives to save an otherwise hapless animal from certain death. As an adult, my safety isn’t at stake. So I help when I can!

This blog post was inspired by this article “Humpback Whales Around the Globe Are Mysteriously Rescuing Animals From Orcas”

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