Ocean of Hope

Meet Bolt, a Humboldt or Jumbo Squid

”Humboldt
Bolt the Humboldt or Jumbo Squid (photo by Brian Skerry)

In honor of October 10, Squid and Cuttlefish Day during Cephalopod Awareness Days, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Bolt. I am a Humboldt squid, or jumbo squid. It always amuses me that humans are so frightened of sharks, when any SCUBA diver who has dove with us at night during a feeding frenzy knows that we are among the most dangerous animals in the ocean!

Just like sharks once they smell blood in the water, I also revert to my baser instincts when I am feeding. First I grab my prey with my two longest tentacles, and then I pierce it with the sharp teeth that are all over my suction cups. I use my suckers like an assembly line to bring the prey to my beak, and then chomp! I bite with my beak and chew with my radula. Like sharks, we will release you if you’re not tasty, but we can’t guarantee that the bite won’t cause damage! I like to eat animals smaller than me, including fish, crustaceans, other cephalopods (including other squid), and copepods. Other squids in large shoals, of up to 1,200 individuals, can take down larger prey (including humans…)

So we Humboldt squid are not nasty all the time, and it is just our mouth and sharp suckers that humans are afraid of. Or maybe our size, as we can grow up to 6 feet long (2m), and weigh over 100 pounds (45kg). Otherwise, come visit us when we are not in a feeding frenzy, as we are very curious about our surroundings, and that includes human intruders, I mean divers…

Did you know that I can dart through the ocean at speeds up to 15 miles per hour (24 km/hr)? I can do that thanks to my handy dandy multi-tasking siphon. It can shoot out water for propulsion, get rid of waste from my body, help me breathe, and squirt ink when I feel threatened.

Humans are becoming concerned that Humboldt squid are beginning to take over the oceans. ‘Tis not our fault, but humans’ for altering the ocean environment in our favor. Humans are fishing out too many large predators like tuna, swordfish, and sharks. We are eating what those overfished animals used to eat, and have been able to expand our territory to ask far south as Chile, and as far north as Alaska in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. So I hope humans continue to like calamari (just don’t eat me, thanks), as we squid may soon take over all the oceans…

You can help by eating only sustainably caught fish. Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch App today!

Ollie the Octopus on International Cephalopod Awareness Days and the State of the Oceans

Ollie the Octopus
Ollie the Octopus (photo by Cherilyn Chin)

Wow, it’s already International Cephalopod Awareness Days again! (see my post from last year’s Octopus Day about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Here are the Cephalopod Awareness Days we are celebrating: October 8 is Octopus Day (my favorite!), October 9 is (Chambered) Nautilus Day, October 10 is Squid and Cuttlefish Day, October 11 is Myths and Legends, and October 12 is Fossils and Extinct Species (Vampire Squid fit here as “living fossils”, they have been in the news lately, perhaps you have heard that they eat feces and corpses in the deep sea?)

In honor of Octopus Day, I thought I would go over the “State of the Oceans.” Since I’m no orator (I have no vocal cords), you’ll have to settle for my thoughts.

Right now there are 3 major issues facing the ocean today:

1. Global Warming
2. Pollution
3. Overfishing

Whether or not you believe global warming is currently happening, or that it is humans that are causing it, the effects of global warming have been shown over geologic time (i.e. longer than humans have inhabited the earth). Global warming causes seawater temperatures to rise, which can have devastating effects on all wildlife, especially on corals. For more on coral bleaching see my last post.

Due to global warming, sea level rises faster than usual due to the melting of the polar ice caps. Ocean acidification occurs because of all the extra carbon dioxide that the ocean absorbs, and it causes seawater to become more acidic (like soda or orange juice). It mainly affects those animals that have calcium carbonate skeletons, especially the plankton at the bottom of the food chain. For more on that read Terry the Pteropod’s post on ocean acidification.

Pollution comes in many forms, including chemical (like fertilizer runoff and industrial waste), and physical (like garbage or silt). Garbage is the most insidious form of pollution in the oceans. It consists mainly of plastic in all shapes and forms. Plastic never biodegrades, and all the plastic that has ever been produced is still around today (unless it was incinerated). For more, read my previous post on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Overfishing is happening all around the world in all the world’s oceans. Every single country that fishes is catching more fish than can be replaced by the birth rate of new fish. This means that most marine animals eaten as seafood are being fished unsustainably! For more information on overfishing, please watch the documentary The End of the Line.

Once again, I’m out of time. I’ll be back soon to discuss more pressing ocean issues. Please hug a cephalopod today! Or at least abstain from eating us or buying our shells (see Shelley the chambered nautilus’ post), thank you!!

Ollie the Octopus on Coral Bleaching & the Great Barrier Reef

Octopus
Ollie the Octopus (photo by Cherilyn Chin)

Ollie the octopus here. I’m back to talk about more pressing problems that our oceans are facing. I previously covered ocean acidification and the
Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Today I wanted to discuss a recent study I was told about (I’m may be smart, but I still can’t read!). This scientific study concluded that in past 30 years, half of the Great Barrier Reef (off of Australia) is gone. While I live on the same small patch of coral reef inside my cozy den, I still need live coral reefs to house and attract the food I eat!

Why did the Great Barrier Reef die? There are many reasons why, including:

1. Tropical cyclones
2. Crown-of-thorn starfish
3. Pollution
4. Coral bleaching

Coral bleaching is when the symbiotic photosynthetic zooanthellae living in corals expel themselves. They essentially commit suicide. These zooanthellae are very important to the corals, as in return for shelter, they produce food (like plants on land) for the coral. Without the zooanthellae, the corals are more likely to starve to death and die (bleach).

What causes the zooanthellae to die? The most likely culprit is a rise in seawater temperature due to global warming. So what can be done to keep the coral from bleaching? The most important thing humans can do is reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming.

The good news is that some scientists are trying to revive bleached coral reefs by implanting live coral fragments onto them. Scientists have also attracted new coral growth to many bleached areas by running low-voltage electricity through a metal grid.

Why are coral reefs important? They are one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on earth. In fact, 1 in 4 fish found in the ocean lives on a coral reef! And coral reefs only cover 0.1 percent of the earth’s surface!

I’m out of time, so I will cover the other culprits of coral bleaching another day. Ollie the octopus, signing off.

Articles to read:
Half of Great Barrier Reef Lost in Past 3 Decades
Low-Voltage Electricity Reviving Sick Coral Reef

Meet Shelley the Chambered Nautilus

Chambered Nautilus
Chambered Nautilus (photo by John White)

Sigh, I get no respect unless I am dead and my shell is mounted on a human’s wall. My name is Shelley, and I am a chambered nautilus. I am so unlike my sexy and charismatic cephalopod cousins. You have probably heard of them because you eat them! There is the intelligent and camouflage master called the octopus, the swiftly darting and flashing squid (also known as calamari), and the hovering aliens known as cuttlefish. Well, maybe you have not heard of a cuttlefish, but any bird owner is familiar with their cuttlebone, which is used by birds to sharpen their beaks. Once you learn about their puppy-like behavior and the lightning quick manner in which they use their two front tentacles to nab prey, I am sure you will fall in love with them!

Unfortunately I fall into the category of “things that go bump in the night.” I emerge like a vampire from the pitch black depth of 2000 feet (610 meters) to the slightly less pitch dark depth of 328 feet (100 meters) at night to feed.

I look like an upside down snail (another creature that does not get much respect unless it is cooked on a plate in front of a human!) with thin tentacles waving every which way. My shell, which is highly sought after by human collectors, makes me the evolutionary link between the other shell-less cephalopods and the rest of the animal kingdom. As a chambered nautilus I should be flattered by that, but it just makes me feel like a freak in comparison!

But I do love my shell! My many internal shell chambers (hence the “chamber” in my name) are lined with this beautiful pearlescent sheen, and they are what make me so appealing to humans when my shell is sliced in half and used as a decoration. I grow more chambers as I get older and grow larger. These chambers are essential to my well being as I force air in and out of them so I can rise and fall in the water column. I am like a miniature submarine that controls its buoyancy by capturing and releasing water.

I would love to dazzle you with the chambered nautilus’ population numbers across all the oceans, but not only do I not know, but humans have no idea either! They do not even have an estimate. Humans can count imported shells, but like many species that go extinct because of human causes, no one knows that they are killing the last member of a species. So please stop buying chambered nautilus shells before we go extinct! Thank you!

Update: In the United States, the Chambered Nautilus is listed under the Endangered Species Act. Trade of its shell is not being regulated 🙁 so the Chambered Nautilus is vulnerable to overfishing.

Also see 10 Awesome Cuttlefish Facts
and
Giant Squid Myths-True or False?

Ollie the Octopus on Octopus Day and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Ollie the Octopus
Ollie the Octopus (photo by Cherilyn Chin)

Hi, my name is Ollie and I’m an octopus.  I am excited to hear that October 8 is Octopus Day during International Cephalopod Awareness Days (October 8-10).  I’m glad we’re getting the recognition we deserve, as we’re usually portrayed as villains (or villainesses) or as cute baby toys with our mouths underneath our eyes. Our mouth is actually underneath our head, and in the center of our circle of 8 arms.

I wish I could have compassion (like humans!) for the other life forms in the sea, but in order to survive I only think about myself.  I need avoid being eaten, find enough food to eat every day, and defend my den.  Since I don’t know my birthday and a calendar doesn’t fit inside my modest sized lair, I think Octopus Day is a good time for me to reflect on my life, or rather the state of the oceans.

It’s looking pretty bleak out there because due to global warming there is a rise in seawater temperature, rising sea levels, ocean acidification (see previous post from me and Terry the Pteropod), and coral bleaching.  There is pollution from land runoff, overfishing (see post Great White Shark’s Adventure), oil spills, and growing garbage patches in all the world’s oceans.

The most well known is called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” which is a fancy name for a whole lot of crap thrown into the ocean by humans. Most of this garbage is plastic, which will never biodegrade. In fact, all the plastic ever manufactured is still around today, unless it was incinerated. I do know an octopus who lives in a glass beer bottle, but plastic isn’t useful to any denizen of the ocean I know of.  In fact, most sea life ingest tiny bits of plastic, as well as plastic chemical by-products, which bioaccumulate on up the food chain until you (or the 10% of sharks, large predatory fish or marine mammals left in the oceans) eat us.  Yuck!  Sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellies, and albatrosses and other sea birds become entangled in plastic when they try to dive for fish.

So my wish this Octopus Day is that you reduce the amount of plastic you buy, recycle what you do buy, and use a reusable water bottle.  Unless you’re one of the one billion persons on this planet who do not have access to clean drinking water (my guess you wouldn’t be reading this if you are), tap water or filtered tap water is fine!!  I wish I could filter the water I live in…

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