How Seals are Affected By Climate Change

seals climate change
Ringed seals are affected by climate change photo by Brendan Kelly/NSF

Ah, polar bears get all the attention because of the ice caps melting due to climate change! But there wouldn’t be any polar bears if us ice seals weren’t around to feed them! Not that I want to be polar bear lunch anytime soon! I hope us ringed seals will get more attention soon.

That may come true as the United States has listed 6 species of ice seals (2 bearded seals and 4 ringed seals) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This is good news because it is happening before any of those species are critically endangered. It also lends support to those who believe in climate change.

My life and the sea ice

I use the sea ice to breed, molt, give birth, and nurse my pup. Climate change will bring shorter ice seasons. That means that the ice cave that I build to keep my newborn pup safe and warm will be gone before my pup is ready to explore outside our den! Although increased snowfall is predicted during the rest of this century, much of it will before the seasonal ice forms. The snow will end of falling into the ocean instead of piling up on the ice! Also, increased rainfall will melt my snow den early.

So where does that leave me? Well, I will continue to do what I do so well, which is eat, swim, and reproduce, but the odds that my pup (or myself!) will survive is greatly reduced. Life in extremely cold environments is challenging in itself, but our food supply is dwindling because of overfishing and pollution. Sigh, I’d better get back to looking for food…and remember that seals are affected by climate change, and not just polar bears!

Also see how How Sea Otters Fight Climate Change
This post is based on this article at Scientific American

Endangered Animals of Finding Nemo: Marlin the Clownfish

”Marlin
Nemo the clownfish from Finding Nemo

Did you know that 1 in 6 animals featured in Finding Nemo is endangered? Marlin the clownfish and Nemo the clownfish may soon be listed as endangered:

Hi, I’m Nemo, and I’m a clownfish! In school today Mr. Ray told us that clownfish might become an endangered species. Unfortunately, humans have no idea how many of us there are in the ocean! Many divers have seen less clownfish in areas where there used to be a lot of us. This may be because humans are collecting us for pets, or because our coral reefs are sick. Marlin the clownfish told me that other clownfish pairs used to have to share anemones! But now where I live, there are plenty of anemones to go around.

Officially, the Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned to list clownfish under the Endangered Species Act. Surprisingly, that doesn’t mean that there are so few of us that we are endangered. What it does mean is that where we live, the coral reef, needs protection. The Endangered Species Act protects the places that endangered animals live.

Global warming warms the ocean and causes coral bleaching (see Ollie the Octopus’ post on coral bleaching). Global warming also causes the ocean to become more acidic (see Terry the Pteropod’s post on ocean acidification) . All ocean habitats are affected by pollution, especially from garbage like plastic (see Ollie the Octopus’ post on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch). Marlin the clownfish, my dad, says plastic is everywhere now sadly.

You can help me and my friends by not buying clownfish for your home aquarium. If you do, please get help from an expert and only buy captive born and bred clownfish. Please just enjoy seeing us in the ocean, in public aquariums or in Finding Nemo!

Also see The Real Fish of Finding Nemo

Polar Bears and Climate Change: Hear from a Polar Bear!

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I’m the poster animal for climate change!

How Climate Change Affects Polar Bears

Hello, my name is Ursula. I am a polar bear. While it is flattering to be the poster “animal” for climate change, it just plain sucks to be a polar bear in this day and age. Don’t get me wrong, as I am very grateful to be alive. But life has gotten so much harder than when I was a cub. I was one of three triplets for goodness sakes! Food and mom’s milk was plentiful, and we cubs had plenty of time to play wrestle. When I give birth now, I am lucky if even one of my cubs survives.

The smell of change is in the air. There used to be a clean and cool scent that permeated the Arctic air. I especially liked it when that smell included the faint whiff of newborn seals! Now I sense restlessness, and the air smells foul, which hampers the scent of my prey.

How can humans doubt that climate change is happening right under their noses…oh wait, humans have a poor sense of smell compared to me, that must be why they don’t get it! In any case, climate change affects my every waking moment when the ice is around. Sea ice melts seasonally, but the ice season is much shorter now due to the environment warming. Sometimes the ice is gone before the newborn seal pups are born. Not good for them, and especially not for my tummy!

I love to swim, which is why I am a marine mammal. While I can swim for hours (up to 61 miles/100km), I would prefer not to! It would be nice to have the ice platforms closer together. Then I can conserve my precious energy hunting the fewer seals left! There are fewer seals not just because the ice is melting earlier in the season, but also because humans are overfishing many of the fish the seals eat.

Also see How Seals are Affected by Climate Change
and How Sea Otters Fight Climate Change

For more on climate change and polar bears, visit National Wildlife Federation

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!!