• Sometimes a perfect day…

    Posted on July 20th, 2015 Dick Norris No comments

    It is always good to be reminded why I like being a professor, and this was one of those days. Every summer we have lead a CMBC cruise to the offshore waters of San Diego. This year we  made two amazing net hauls next to the Coronado Bank. The first was from ~200 m and was full of some 170,000 tuna crabs–the harbingers of el Nino–who have been mass stranding on the beaches of late. Well, now we know where they come from! I felt like I was on a trawler from the days-of-yore before industrial fishing. This haul also had a neat octopus, urchins, fish and spider crabs.

    Then came the mid water tow at 550 m, and it was loaded with wonders too–the kind that Hollywood film makers should love and are the stuff of nightmares as you toss and turn in the dawn hours. We caught three kinds of Dragonfish, two species of Hatchet Fish, an angler, a Snipe eel with a whiplike tail, and the most wild of all–a Loose Jaw, that looks like it was mangled, but really has almost nothing holding its jaw in place!  These fish reside in a world that is physically not that far from ours (it probably takes 5 minutes to walk 500 m!) but is almost totally different anyway!  Majesty! Wonder! Thrills! And Fascination!

    What gets me is how alien their world is. These are fish attract their prey with lighted lures, sense their prey by pressure, and make sure they don’t lose their prey by attacking with huge nasty teeth.  The hatchet fish have eyes that permanently look upward to spot the faint shadow of prey above them.  And most everybody has rows of photophores on their bellies to keep from casting a shadow on some larger fish below them. The photophores are like miniature flood lights, complete with a black case and a crystalline lens. The world is full of things more bizarre and exciting than most people know. Beat’s landing on the moon any day…It really was one of the great adventures in my life….

    Best is to have a crowd of students to share the adventure.

    A Loose Jaw (Malacosteus) from the mid water off San Diego. Note the red and silver light organs under the eye.  The fish has a jaw that can be swung forward to engulf prey bigger than it....Check out the hooks on the teeth--I've seen those before in the fossil record!

    A Loose Jaw (Malacosteus) from the mid water off San Diego. Note the red and silver light organs under the eye. The fish has a jaw that can be swung forward to engulf prey bigger than it….Check out the hooks on the teeth–I’ve seen those before in the fossil record!

    Greg Rouse on the hunt for monoplacophorans. We got lots of neat sponges, starfish, limpets and bryozoans, but no monoplacs for the 5th year running....

    Greg Rouse on the hunt for monoplacophorans. We got lots of neat sponges, starfish, limpets and bryozoans, but no monoplacs for the 5th year running….

    Another strategy in the deep is to be transparent... Evolution somehow managed to make the compound eyes of these amphipods almost completely transparent.  The eyes, by the way are the whole front end (!!)...vision must be pretty important even at 550 m in the ocean....But what can you see if your photo-sensing pigment is transparent?

    Another strategy in the deep is to be transparent… Evolution somehow managed to make the compound eyes of these amphipods almost completely transparent. The eyes, by the way are the whole front end (!!)…vision must be pretty important even at 550 m in the ocean….But what can you see if your photo-sensing pigment is transparent?

    Tuna crabs sure are cute....They swim by pumping their tails backwards trailing their long claws behind them.....

    Tuna crabs sure are cute….They swim by pumping their tails backwards trailing their long claws behind them…..

    The crab-pile, along with a few urchins and fish...There is still is a bounty in the sea...  We put this bounty back in the ocean and I was amazed to see that quite a few, perhaps the majority, swam away  kicking their tails...back to the ocean depths. But we did observe a blue whale lurking nearby, so perhaps this is whale food....

    The crab-pile, along with a few urchins and fish…There is still is a bounty in the sea… We put this bounty back in the ocean and I was amazed to see that quite a few, perhaps the majority, swam away kicking their tails…back to the ocean depths. But we did observe a blue whale lurking nearby, so perhaps this is whale food….

    Too many tuna crabs--a Otter-trawl load with more crabs than I have ever seen. Greg Rouse estimated 170,000.  We shoveled them back into the sea and I imagine a fair number survived since they were wriggling all over the deck. But both amazing and a bit distressing to catch so many.  The trawl filled up almost immediately upon reaching the bottom. We either went through a swarm  of them, or there are a Sh*t-load of crabs out there at 200 m!  Phil Zeroski for scale....

    Kate Masury (MAS-MBC-2015) with some of our load of tuna crabs…

    Too many tuna crabs--a Otter-trawl load with more crabs than I have ever seen. Greg Rouse estimated 170,000.  We shoveled them back into the sea and I imagine a fair number survived since they were wriggling all over the deck. But both amazing and a bit distressing to catch so many.  The trawl filled up almost immediately upon reaching the bottom. We either went through a swarm  of them, or there are a Sh*t-load of crabs out there at 200 m!  Phil Zeroski for scale....

    Too many tuna crabs–a Otter-trawl load with more crabs than I have ever seen. Greg Rouse estimated 170,000. We shoveled them back into the sea and I imagine a fair number survived since they were wriggling all over the deck. But both amazing and a bit distressing to catch so many. The trawl filled up almost immediately upon reaching the bottom. We either went through a swarm of them, or there are a Sh*t-load of crabs out there at 200 m! Phil Zeroski for scale….

    The world really is stranger than we can know...This thing is a 'Snipe eel" (Nemichthys)--a true eel that has this amazing jaw whose upper mandible curves upwards away from the lower jaw!  The jaws are lined with dinky teeth that point backward into the gullet--a veritable Chinese finger trap in the fish world. Even more remarkable is the tail.... About half the body length is a tail about the thickness of thread, but the vertebrae apparently run to the end.  What is that 'whip' used for?  A lure? Pressure sensing? Feeling the prey before a strike? "Feeling" up its sweetie before some other kind of behavior?

    The world really is stranger than we can know…This thing is a ‘Snipe eel” (Nemichthys)–a true eel that has this amazing jaw whose upper mandible curves upwards away from the lower jaw! The jaws are lined with dinky teeth that point backward into the gullet–a veritable Chinese finger trap in the fish world. Even more remarkable is the tail…. About half the body length is a tail about the thickness of thread, but the vertebrae apparently run to the end. What is that ‘whip’ used for? A lure? Pressure sensing? Feeling the prey before a strike? “Feeling” up its sweetie before some other kind of behavior?

    Hatchet fish from the mid water in the Coronado Trough off San Diego.  Its eyes look up to search the overlying water for the shadows of prey and its belly is lined with light organs to avoid casting a shadow that could make the fish somebody else's lunch!  It would pay to be a vampire in the deep!

    Hatchet fish from the mid water in the Coronado Trough off San Diego. Its eyes look up to search the overlying water for the shadows of prey and its belly is lined with light organs to avoid casting a shadow that could make the fish somebody else’s lunch! It would pay to be a vampire in the deep!

    This octopus was delighted, no doubt to be released back to the sea  after making a home in my glass basin...

    This octopus was delighted, no doubt to be released back to the sea after making a home in my glass basin…

    Dragonfish type 2 (the Viperfish, Chauliodus).  These guys have more massive teeth than the other two species. ...Perhaps they go for really big game...The lure under the jaw is actually a modified dorsal fin!  ...deeply amazing, if you ask me!

    Dragonfish type 2 (the Viperfish, Chauliodus). These guys have more massive teeth than the other two species. …Perhaps they go for really big game…The lure under the jaw is actually a modified dorsal fin! …deeply amazing, if you ask me!

  • Welcome to CMBC Summer Class 2014 Blog Series

    Posted on June 23rd, 2014 kmengerink No comments
    What steps can communities take to improve resilience to coastal disasters?

    What steps can communities take to improve resilience to coastal disasters?

    We are happy to announce that the CMBC Summer Class 2014 will be sharing its ideas about ocean and coastal resilience through a series of blogs.  You can visit the blog to learn about biodiversity and resilience, economic vulnerability and resilience, and how human impacts may affect the resilience of an ecosystem and a community.

    Kathryn Mengerink, SIO Summer Course Coordinator 

  • Talking About Banning Off-Shore Oil Drilling

    Posted on January 26th, 2011 Chris Knight No comments

    The recent rise in gasoline prices has got a lot of lawmakers looking for ways to bring the prices down for their constituents and it seems the solutions always  come back to drilling offshore here in California. Despite a pledge from President Obama to not allow any new drilling off the West Coast, there still remains a uneasy feeling among Pacific range lawmakers. This has led Senators from California, Oregon, and Washington to propose new legislation formalizing the Presidents un-codified pledge. Though it’s not expected to gain much traction in the Republican-controlled house, it’s a shot across the bow that shows West Coasters are serious about there being no new drilling in our local waters. Enjoy a more in-depth article from the LA Times below:

    LA Times ARTICLE

  • If You Can’t Beat Them, Eat ’em

    Posted on January 23rd, 2011 Chris Knight No comments

    In less than a decades time, Indo-Pacific lionfish have established what appear to be permanent populations along the southeast U.S. coast and into the Caribbean. With population densities in some spots ranging to 1000 fish per acre, these veracious eaters are quickly decimating local fish populations as they start to range towards the Gulf of Mexico and South America. Efforts so far to reign in this dangerous invasive have met with little  success but now scientists at NOAA, along with numerous non-profits and local island governments, have come up with a new plan…eat them.

    Using a variety of marketing strategies that include cash prizes for most lionfish caught in one year on Grenada, the hope is to turn lionfish into a desirable food-fish with no limits catches being the goal.

    The supporters of the effort say that lionfish tastes like grouper or snapper, two highly sought after species. That sounds like good eats to me. If that’s the case, then hopefully this is the recipe that turns the tables on this tropical invasion. I think the effort bears watching and all puns intended, it’s an interesting and unorthodox piece in invasive species puzzle that up until now has challenged fisheries managers.  We’ll see.

    NOAA "Eat Lionfish" pullcard

  • Sea Level Rising. California’s Beaches Going. Communities Reacting.

    Posted on January 19th, 2011 Chris Knight No comments

    Recently the LA Times ran an article about  the city of Ventura reacting to sea level rise as a result of climate change. With the encroachment of Pacific waters on the local shoreline such as at Surfers Point, Ventura officials have been forced to react by taking out crumbling bike paths  and eroding parking lots while offsetting diminishing beaches by laying down sand. In moves that were foreshadowed by the city of San Diego in their 2050 report, California’s coastal communities are being forced to take a serious look at the implications of a potential 2 meter rise of our local waters. To get a more detailed look at some of the serious problems facing our state, I’ve attached below an interview with one of the authors of the 2050 report, Scripps Oceanographer and Meteorologist Dan Cayan.  He offers a detailed look at the state-wide scale of the problem and some of the possible ways to overt the most catastrophic impacts.

    Dan Cayan Video Interview

  • Exploring Deep Water Coral

    Posted on January 12th, 2011 Chris Knight No comments

    It’s easy to think about the ocean as the easily explorable areas that we as humans can readily venture into. Researchers from UNC-Wilmington and Woods Hole are giving us something more in-depth to take in these days…deep water coral.  Using an ROV off the NOAA vessel Ronald H. Brown, scientists have explored and mapped extensive sections of 23,000 sq miles of protected deep water off the Atlantic coast. What they are finding is that these coral formations, in waters ranging from 1300 to 3200 feet below the surface, serve much like shallow water reefs, supporting a variety of life similar in composition to their near-shore counterparts. Existing in total blackness, these deep water colonies are adding another chapter to our knowledge of our oceans.

    Enjoy the Los Angeles Times article:

    Link to Los Angeles Times Article

  • The End to Overfishing in the US?

    Posted on January 9th, 2011 Chris Knight No comments

    In an interview  this week, retired NOAA Chief Scientist Steve Murawski announced some good news for US fisheries. On the record with the Associated Press, Dr. Murawski was confident in saying that for the first time in recorded history, no fish stocks were being over-fished by US fishers.

    The major changes in fisheries management brought about through the 2007 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens called for a more responsive, ecosystem-based approach to fisheries regulation that had been previously seen with the ultimate 4-year goal of ending all overfishing in the US by 2011. In a March, 2007 interview, Dr. Murawski talked about the road ahead when he said:

    “The recent reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act finally gives us the tools we need to end overfishing and rebuild stocks. It also establishes a timeframe to end overfishing on all stocks by 2010. Currently, there are about four dozen fish stocks that are being overfished and these will be difficult challenges from an economic, cultural and political standpoint. The reauthorization gives us the tools, now NOAA must step up to the plate and make it happen”

    Now after a long and at-times painful process, fisheries managers and many fishermen feel that they finally have the tools in place to help rebuild damaged stocks and develop stronger and more valuable fisheries in the future. Here’s hoping they’re right.

    Enjoy the article below:

    AP Interview with Dr. Steven Murawski


  • Catch-Shares for West Coast Fisheries

    Posted on January 5th, 2011 Chris Knight No comments

    With the new year, comes news of big changes for fish on the Pacific Coast. In an attempt to make  fisheries more sustainable, National Fisheries Service officials are taking the steps to better manage a variety of species through the implementation of a catch-share system. Starting this January, local fishermen will for the first time own shares of respective fisheries based on predetermined annual limits. These shares will be transferable  and should give the fishers more flexibility and reduce the incidence of by-catch dramatically. Currently used in managing multiple fisheries in Alaska, fishermen there have seen the value of their catches go up as these better management practices took hold. The plan is not without controversy however as there are predictions by some fishers of contraction within the industry as well as fears of market place manipulation. The first lawsuits have already been filed. That being said, scientists/managers and many fishermen are looking at this as a chance to truly make fisheries on the West Coast sustainable.

    Here is a radio interview from NPR with interviews from a variety of participants:

    NPR Interview

  • New Marine Protected Areas for Southern California

    Posted on December 17th, 2010 Chris Knight No comments

    On Wednesday of this week, the California Fish and Game Commission voted 3-2 to ban or restrict fishing in 49 newly created reserves on the Southern California coast. As part of the ongoing Marine Life Protection act, final approval was given to sanctuaries that will amount to roughly 15% of local waters in the attempt to replenish damaged stocks while protecting the unique kelp ecosystems for future generations to enjoy and benefit from. This delicate balance between conservation and utilization of the resource has led to a statewide network of reserves that is expected to go fully online by 2012.

    To say it’s been a contentious process is a bit of an understatement. Below are links to both the LA Time and Sand Diego Union-Tribune. Make sure to read the comments after the pieces to get an idea just how deep the emotions run. That being said, the hard work of all those involved has once again shown the commitment of Californians trying to protect our state’s marine resources. It’s not just a good day to be a fish in California. It’s also a proud day for all Californian’s to be a part of unique and important process.

    LA Times Article

    San Diego U-T Article

  • The Oceans’ SOS

    Posted on December 13th, 2010 Chris Knight No comments

    In today’s Los Angeles Times, an environmental warning shot was fired across the bows of L.A. readers by  Scripps’ own Tony Haymet and Andrew Dickson. In the editorial section, the 2 esteemed Dr’s took time to discuss the need to pay more attention to damage caused to the world’s oceans by increased acidification due to more and more man-made carbon dioxide being absorbed by them.

    This is one of those issues that is readily discussed by those in the field of science but that is being neglected by both policy makers and the general public. Please take a moment to read about why” it’s time we paid respect to our great communal resource and stopped using it as a dump.”

    The Oceans’ SOS at the Los Angeles Times