Showing posts tagged as "monterey bay aquarium"
A Sad Anniversary—and a Cautionary Tale for Our Oceans
By Jim Covel, Director of Guest Experience
September 1 marked the 100th anniversary of the death of the last passenger pigeon. Named “Martha,” this bird has the dubious distinction of being an “endling,” meaning she was the very last of her species. Martha spent most of her estimated 29 years at the Cincinnati Zoo in one of the first captive breeding programs, which was ultimately unsuccessful.
What makes Martha’s story so remarkable—and regrettable—is that a century earlier the number of passenger pigeons in North America was estimated as high as 3-5 billion birds! The flocks depended on large tracts of hardwood forest for food, nesting and roosting areas. One nesting area in Wisconsin was estimated at 850 square miles hosting over 130,000,000 passenger pigeons. Migrating flocks would darken the skies for hours or days at a time.
Despite those unimaginable numbers, in less than 100 years only Martha remained—and then there were none. Unregulated commercial hunting wiped out one flock after another. The bird’s habit of consistently returning to the same areas facilitated the slaughter. Removing vast tracts of forest that were essential habitat for the passenger pigeon put the final nail in the species coffin.
In retrospect, Martha and her kind provided an awful awakening that we humans had the power to drive nearly any species over the precipice into extinction. Martha inspired a new round of conservation measures that limited and eventually eliminated many forms of commercial hunting. It would be nice to know that we learned that lesson well. But have we?
Passenger Pigeons of the Ocean?
If we look to the sea rather than the sky, there are fishes that might be considered the passenger pigeons of the ocean—species once so abundant their numbers were considered both inestimable and inexhaustible. The great runs of salmon on our Pacific Coast might be one example. Most major rivers along this coast supported runs of salmon ranging from the hundreds of thousands to over 10 million in the Columbia River. These fish were concentrated into defined spawning runs, much like the passenger pigeons occupied specific nesting and roosting areas. Early fishers could row from shore placing large seine nets around the salmon and then using teams of horses to drag the laden nets up onto shore.
Yet today many salmon runs are considered endangered. Commercial salmon fishing is highly regulated as is sport fishing, so why are salmon numbers still in trouble? The quality of salmon habitat—particularly spawning streams and rivers—continues to decline. Just as farmland replaced the extensive hardwood forests the passenger pigeons relied upon, human demands for fresh water leave less and less available in streams for the fish. A universal truth in nature is that any species is only as healthy as the habitat it depends upon.
So if we work toward healthy oceans and healthy streams, perhaps we can enjoy healthy populations of many important fishes well into the future. The very thought that someday there could be an “endling” coho salmon, or bluefin tuna is too terrible to contemplate. Remember Martha, and as we acknowledge her regrettable anniversary we can renew our commitment to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Learn more about conservation at the Aquarium
(Image from Smithsonian Institution Archives)
Love sea otters? They’re cute, furry and among the most charismatic creatures in the wild. We’re working hard to help save them! They’re also in the spotlight as we celebrate Otter Days Saturday and Sunday, September 20 and 21.
From Collapse to Recovery: A Seafood Success Story!
Just 14 years after the groundfish fishery on the U.S. west coast was declared a commercial failure and an economic disaster, our Seafood Watch program just upgraded 21 species that are recovering in the wild and are now sustainable choices for seafood lovers.
It’s a dramatic turnaround — the most dramatic in the 15-year history of Seafood Watch — and reflects significant improvements in federal fishery management to restore these economically important fisheries in California, Oregon and Washington. It also underscores the important roles that fishermen and our colleagues in the sustainable seafood movement play in bringing the oceans back to health.
The new Seafood Watch rankings mean that species like rockfishes (often sold commercially as “snapper”), as well as spiny dogfish, lingcod and a number of flatfishes, including Dover sole, sand dabs and starry flounder are back on the menu.
"This is one of the great success stories about ecological and economic recovery of a commercially important fishery,” says Margaret Spring, vice president of conservation and science, and chief conservation officer for the Aquarium.
“Not long ago many of these species were in collapse,” says Tim Fitzgerald, who manages the sustainable seafood program for the Environmental Defense Fund – one of the organizations that worked with fishermen and fisheries managers on the turnaround. “Thanks to smarter fishing regulations and fishermen’s commitment to conservation, consumers and seafood businesses can now add West Coast groundfish to their list of sustainable choices.”
Fluorescent fireworks or otherworldly hovercraft? Flower hat jellies defy definition. This nocturnal species drifts in the dark and attaches to the seafloor as the sun shines. Their dazzling bells attract curious fish, while curly tentacles ensnare prey. Thanks to Instagrammer @sandman617 for this vivid video!
You otter been there for Gidget’s sixth birthday party! We celebrated with—what else? An ice cake! Gidget was found stranded on Morro Strand State Beach in San Luis Obispo in 2008 as a 10-week-old, and was reared behind the scenes.
Learn how we’re helping save sea otters
And happy #LaborDay!
Going somewhere? Juvenile cancer crabs hitch rides on sea nettles, dropping off as jellies get closer to shore. It’s the beach or bust for these travelers! Thanks to Instagrammer @reesies87 for this fun video!
Mola memories? Sea anemone selfies? We love to see your favorite Aquarium photos! Use the hashtags #MontereyBayAquarium and #FanFriday on Instagram—we’ll highlight some of the best each week.
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It’s a sea otter celebration! Thanks to you, the California State Sea Otter Fund met its target this year, and will be on tax forms again in 2015. Kudos for checking the box in support of sea otter research on your California State tax form!
Caution: orca crossing! We’ve been seeing a lot of whales and dolphins in the bay this summer, but this #ThrowbackThursday photo from 1984 features the only orca ever seen on Cannery Row! This full-size model now greets guests in our main entrance.
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How do you grow a jelly? Our clever aquarists have figured it out. We were the first ones ever to display these surreal South American sea nettles after growing them behind the scenes from tiny ephyrae (babies), received from a lab in Argentina. On exhibit in the Jellies Experience!
Learn more about the Jellies Experience