Sep 9, 2010

Farewell Blogger and new Asian carp "Czar"

Easy! I'm just moving websites. I made some friends over at Southern Fried Science, and they've recently created a network (called the Gam) made up of ocean bloggers from all over. Its like a Carnival of the Blue, except its everyday....instead of once a month. They decided that Spawning is Imminent is worthy and they'd like us to join (haha, I have them fooled).

My new website will be It hasn't officially launched yet, but I'm launching it to you guys. I know, I know, you have to change the website in your favorites tab. Take your finger out of your nose and do it. Right now. I'll wait. Here's some music to listen to while you do your business.

"I'll wait" by Van Halen
The reason for the switch is that this will expose my blog to a much larger audience. Don't call me a sell out! I'm that hip indie band that you got used to seeing at your favorite bar. And I just got signed onto a new label. But it's the same music. You guys are my people! My homies. You'll always be my favorites. The site will generally have the same look and feel, but it will be a wordpress blog instead of blogger. I've had to learn a new blogging platform, so it may take me a while to get the hang of it. I'll send a last last post, when it officially launches. Because of importing issues, I'll keep this site up. But nothing new will be posted here.

I need something fish related. I'll keep it short. Asian carp are taking over our country. Instead of explaining, I'll show you. Watch this.

In Soviet Russia, carp catch you!

It's a huge problem, and they're making their way up to the Great Lakes. If you read this article, it explains that the White House has named our new Asian Carp Czar. His main job is keep the carp from coming further north. Good luck pal.

You and the other Czars should become the Super Friends.

They've been considered invasive since 2007, and they've made their way up the Mississippi River and are headed for Lake Erie. These fish are pretty dangerous, they'll jump out of the water and punch you right in the face. One of our attempts to lower their numbers is to market them for consumption. Mmmm....carp, yum. I don't see that working, and that's probably why we're exporting them to other countries that have a better taste for carpyness. Unfortunately, invasions tend to be the game becomes controlling rather than eliminating.

Asian carp, snakeheads, and lionfish everyone. Eat up.

Sep 8, 2010

Carnival of the Blue 40

Hello, my favorite peoples.

The Carnival of the Blue is turning 40 months old. The Saipan Blog is hosting it again this september, bringing us the best of ocean blogging from last month. All in one place. It's bloody brilliant. Some hot topics this month: Lots o sharks, dogfish, sea otters, the smallest and rarest cetacean (its the whale version of a chihuahua), jellyfish!, oil spills, climate change, and poop. I'm serious. And like the prize at the bottom of the cereal box, is my man-o-war post. If you haven't read it're dead to me.

read about me. and poop.

Be sure to check it out. peace.

Aug 28, 2010

Shiny happy people holding hands

What's been going on in my world the past couple of weeks.

I decided to tag along with a couple of co-workers over at the commercial docks. These guys work the docks during the week, interviewing captains and sampling catch to obtain crucial information about what is pulled out of the ocean. Commercial fishing docks are a different place. A place not too many people think about or get to see up close. A place that to most people...would smell like a fish thats been baking in the sun for a week. To fishermen, it's the smell of money. Tempers flare, ice is flying, and fish are being thrown around. If you're standing in the way, you'll get pelted by a grouper and then get yelled at.

Men with grisly beards and leathery skin, all wearing fishing bibs and rubber boots. Some of them still have most of their teeth. But all of them look about 15 years older than they actually are, and the women...lets not talk about them. They can be the most intimidating bunch you'll come across, or the most friendly. Sometimes, it just depends on the day. The mood can be pretty unpredictable. Tempers will explode one minute...yelling, kicking tubs around, cursing. The next minute, everyone can't stop laughing.

I've also noticed that no two fish houses are the same. Some are decent establishments. Others have been the most shady corners I've ever stepped foot in. Places where you keep an eye on your back. Places where pirates live.

We pulled up to our first stop of the day. It was a clean place that looked to be well kept. The dock was in a touristy part of town and right across the street from the beachfront condominiums and tanning out-of-towners. We unloaded some equipment and set up before the fish started flying. A bottom longliner had pulled up with a catch of reef fish: Red grouper, black grouper, yellowedge grouper, kitty mitchell, scamp, amberjack, porgies, mutton snapper, and blackfin snapper.

We got to work, weighing and measuring, pulling otoliths, and keeping things timely as to not piss anyone off for holding up the line. There's a guy packing fish and slinging ice. You'd think he'd stay the coolest standing above an enormous vat of ice on a 90 degree day, but he's sweating the most. Some restaurant buyers were hanging in the periphery, probably looking to pull a few fish to cook up for the night's dining vacationers at 30 bucks a plate. After 12,000 pounds of catch, we decided to move on to the next fish house.

Our next stop was a little less clean, a little more smelly, and a lot less friendly. As we walked up to a beat up rusty fish house, I figured out where the smell was coming from. A shark boat was unloading, and we saw several fisherman cleaning some sharks. They all glared at us with a "What the hell are you doing here?" sorta look. They were finning the sharks, probably to ship off to Asia for shark fin soup. Most of them were wearing bloody smocks and elbow length rubber gloves. The butchers were all holding some sort of weapon: large fillet knives, gaffs, and hand hooks...and they all looked like they wanted to hurt me. I decided that my job was to stand there, not make any sudden moves and refrain from making eye contact. While my colleague was failing to make conversation, one guy was hacking away at a sandbar shark dorsal fin. He proceeded to slice off every fin on the shark (even the smallest ones), then cut up the body in large pieces...all while smoking a cig with about an inch of ash hanging off the end. We asked them if they had any bycatch that we could sample. They told us they didn't (I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have told us anyway), and I was glad to peace out of there.

Interesting morning. So, what do you typically do before lunch?

On the weekend, I decided to poke around a huge annual spearfishing tournament they creatively call the St. Pete Open. If you've been to a saltwater fishing tournament before,
you've been to them all. It's crazy crowded, especially towards the end of weigh-in time. Most people are chugging down Budweisers and are about 6 or 7 deep at this point.

"Damn man, that fish is huuuuuuuuge!

The fishers come in sun-burned, exhausted, but excited to see where they show up on the board. And when they're in the money, grown men will hug each other on stage.*

I came to take pictures. I have this new camera, so I'm trying to shoot more. Plus, there's a photo contest I'm thinking of entering. I thought I'd share a few pictures with you. I was playing a little bit with aperture, with mixed results. I like to get creative with depth of field. Here are some of the better shots of the day.

While I was walking around, I witnessed a rare bird. Something you may only see once in a lifetime....if you're lucky. It was the most glorious mullet I've ever seen. Behold.

*not that there is anything wrong with that

Aug 15, 2010

War on man

Hola mis amigos.
Anyone keeping up with Spain's news? article

Spain's beaches are swarming with jellyfish. Hundreds of swimmers have been stung along both northern and southern coasts in the past few weeks. This large aggregation of jelly is puzzling the locals, because they've never seen this before. To the north, the coastal waters are filled with Portuguese man-o-war.

For a quick rundown, the Portuguese man-o-war isn't really a jellyfish, it's a hydrozoan colony made up of individual highly specialized polyps that integrate to make up a larger animal. On the business end, the loooooong tentacles are outfitted with nematocysts. Imagine triggering thousands of tiny, toxin filled harpoons that shoot out to burrow into your skin. The man-o-war, I believe, is also the only animal on the planet that can produce carbon monoxide...which is the gas within the air sac. If I'm wrong about this, I'm blaming my invertebrate professor from college. A guy, that if you got him drinking enough, would stand up on a table and entertain you with a drunken, animated, amazing story of how he was attacked by an octopus.

I remember last summer on Pensacola Beach, more times than not I saw a purple flag flying over the guard stands. I've only been brushed by a broken tentacle of a man-o-war, and that was painful enough. To me, it felt like a burn. Like pushing your arm up against a hot oven rack. One of my good friends got it pretty bad a few years ago.

Gather round children, I have a little story about man-o-war stings:

A few years ago when I was still a graduate student, we were sent down to Key West to conduct some fish research. We'd go for a few weeks every January to sample King Mackerel from the commercial and recreational fisheries down there. I know, right? Somebody had to do it.

On this particular trip, I was working alongside my lab mates Kate and Mike. Since the charter boats would typically come in in the late afternoon, we pretty much had the days to ourselves. So on this particular day we decided to go snorkeling for a few hours over at Bahia Honda state park on Big Pine Key. The water there usually has decent visibility, and you can snorkel right off of the beach to some nearby patch reefs. I've seen some cool stuff out there, and on two occasions I swam right next to sea turtles. The water was nice, at least for everyone else but me. I wore my wetsuit, because I become an eight year old girl when it comes to swimming in cold water. To me, all water is cold water.

So, we started off of the beach and we noticed that there were alot of floating, blue, jellyfish looking things everywhere in the water. We looked at a few of them up close and Mike, without much doubt, had decided that they were these:

By-the-wind sailor, or sail jellyfish. Harmless.

they were actually these:

Portuguese man-o-war. Here comes the pain train.

which is not to be confused with him:

Man O' War, the top U.S. racehorse of our time.

We snorkeled around for awhile, dodging the blue floaties for fear that Mike might have been mistaken about his species identification. Wrong we were. so, so wrong. The current was flowing pretty good, and one of them floated right over Kate's hand.

I've never heard a woman scream like that. The sound shot fear up my spine. Honestly, I was looking for blood in the water. But when I saw Kate holding her hand, I knew what had happened.

We had to guide her back to the beach, because it seemed like she didn't know which way was up from the blinding pain. We rushed over to the dive shop, where the dive guide gave us some vinegar to pour on her hand. According to Kate, it didn't even faze the pain and it only made her hand smell funny. We were then looking for another option...

"Kate, do you uh.. want us to umm....?"

"Nobody is peeing on me."

Kate decided that as far as she was concerned the snorkeling was over for the day and she wanted to go home to nurse her wounds. Mike and I grabbed all of our gear and we all headed back to the van. When we reached the van (no joke), Mike and I became a little distracted by some topless, European sunbathers splashing each other in the water just off of the beach. The frolicking ladies were apparently unaware that they were in a Florida state park and not on a beach in the south of France. The entire scene took us a little by surprise. It also seemed to give Mike and I some sort of temporary deafness to Kate's pleads for us to leave.


The tone in Kate's voice snapped us out of our trance, and apparently foiled Mike's plan of going over to introduce himself and to welcome them to America.

So, if your friend is stung by a man-o-war and is freaking out:

First, remove any remaining tentacles (given). Then place tentacle on upper lip and call yourself Tom Selleck. I kid, I kid.

But, certainly try not to urinate on your friend...which they may even beg you to, midst their pain. Urine doesn't help, on any level, unless your friend really deserves it. Vinegar, Ammonia, Meat tenderizer...the typical arsenal of jellyfish sting remedies are all useless.

Use hot water. It denatures the proteins in the toxin, and eases the pain. Kate's pain immediately dissipated after she took a hot shower. I did some research, and there was a study done in Newcastle, Australia (Loten et. al 2006) using hot water to relieve pain from man-o-war stings.

But remember, certain remedies only work for certain species.

This is her hand after it happened. She still bears the scars from the contact 3 years later.

This certainly isn't the first time jellyfish have been a problem in the world's beaches and oceans. There have been reports over recent years about large increases in jellyfish populations off of China and Japan, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Mediterranean. In these areas, commercial fisherman trying to catch fish, end up catching tons of jellys along with it only to ruin their catch. Some companies are even developing new fishing nets to try to separate the catch.

Scientists and researchers say that we may have to get used to this because the factors contributing to the jellyness are pretty major. Increasing sea temperature from global warming, overfishing of the jellyfish's natural predators, and the increased pollution that provides nutrients to bloom jellyfish food...plankton. We're doing this to ourselves. The swimming pool is looking better and better isn't it?

I know what you're thinking. "Why is he talking about jellyfish? This is a fish blog."

Well, stop thinking.


Jul 28, 2010


The other day we set out from the ramps just before dusk. The sun was going down as we motored across the calm waters. The temperature was just right, there was light breeze that aroused and the sky was full of the brilliant hues of sunset. Ahhh, it was a perfect evening for romance.

Spawning was imminent. (Cue up the Barry White)

I tagged along with some other fish researchers on an excursion for spawning spotted seatrout. They've been sampling and studying the bawdy little guys for several years now. As we rode out, they informed me that in the summer during certain moon phases, the seatrout will aggregate at night to get it on. I gazed up and sure enough, there was a full moon low in the sky. The ride wasn't long, and we reached an inconspicuous beach and came to a halt. We turned on an audio receiver to listen for the drumming of the males. Yep, they're calling in the ladies. Contrary to their name, spotted seatrout aren't in the trout family...they're members of the drum family. The males make a drumming sound by beating their abdominal muscles to their swim bladders. Apparently the females think this is pretty sexy, so they come a runnin for some lovin.

once you go don't holdout.

I jumped out of the boat into knee deep water while holding one side of a long seine net. The boat sped away to make a wide arch coming back into the beach. We brought the two ends of the net together and pulled in the slack. As the catch had become more and more concentrated, I could feel fish banging against my ankles. shut up.

We ended up catching around 40 large seatrout in a single net. According to my colleagues, this was a small catch...sometimes they catch up to 100 per tow. The bulging fish were loaded into the back of the mullet skiff for processing.

I was kind of bummed because it was too wet to bring my camera.

We took lengths, DNA samples, and checked for sex. This was the interesting part. To check for male or female, you have to put a little pressure on the stomach of the fish to check for hydrated eggs. And I found out that the more pressure, the more furiously the eggs spray out of the animal. As I'm wiping off eggs from my shirt, someone called out to the person recording data that the first fish of the night was "a female, running ripe". I've decided that most people would have been disturbed by this.

Jul 20, 2010

Fort Knox of Fish

Hey friends. It's been awhile.

I apologize for my disappearance from the land of blogging. While you were desperately holding your breath in my absence, I had some big life changes. I switched jobs and cities, so to my defense I’ve been a little busy with the adjustment. Ok, it was a long adjustment. I even missed the one year anniversary of my blog. Wow. It's growing up so fast....talking, walking, and still not potty trained.
I guess what sparked me to pick it back up again was a number of angry, bewildered people who confronted me. While backing me into a corner and with tear soaked eyes, they would ask:

“What Happened?”

“You stopped?”

“Why have you forsaken meeeeee!?

Ok, no tears… But more with a tone of confused disbelief. It was a little flattering. I thought only my mom read this. She's always been a fan of my work, and thanks for the potty training mom.

Another spark to continue my second-rate writing for you was a recent NY times article (link) which is a well written synopsis of an infuriating subject I’ve been following for some time now. The disappearance of the bluefin Tuna. The bluefin is critically endangered. The Atlantic and Mediterranean stocks have dwindled 72% in the past 40 years. So endangered in fact, it has joined the list of the ‘rarest of the rare’, its name is written alongside the charismatic notables: Polar Bear, Tiger, and Giant Panda.

Have you guys ever eaten Giant Panda before? You haven't?! Ohh my gosh, it’s delicious. I know a GREAT place up the road. It’s really expensive, and they only give you like, two pieces of it. We should totally order some teriyaki California Condor wings too. Two orders of the Black Rhino please.

It’s an oh so common occurrence to find a species to be endangered from pollution or habitat loss, but it’s another thing to drive an animal to extinction because it tastes like candy. Fish candy.

Ok, that doesn’t sound good.

Bluefin tuna is the pinnacle of sushi, and the world has been in a reckless love affair with the species for decades. The texture and taste of bluefin sashimi is supposedly unmatched. The biggest proponents of the tuna are of course, the Japanese.

typical day in happy Japan
Google always delivers. I'm sure you've read this here already, but I’m a huge fan of Japan. The culture is so unique. The ancient traditions, Tokyo lifestyle, the bizarre social norms. Not to mention the people are completely bat@#$% crazy. Japan is like an amusement park filled with Asian people. They’re full of contradictions, unfortunately, even down to their food.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the tuna auctions that take place in the enormous Japanese fish markets. But have you ever heard about the stockpiling of bluefin tuna? The Japanese, knowing that they’re partaking in a dwindling resource, have been rumored to stockpiling bluefin in massive warehouse sub-zero (-60 C) freezers. 50,000-60,000 tonnes of bluefin tuna are stocked every year in warehouses for use when supply runs low or out. That much bluefin could be worth 100’s of millions, if not billions of dollars. How long would it last the country's diet? Probably a year and a half. I bet they'd have armed security detail around that frozen compound. Call it the Fort Knox of Fish.

The Japanese buy and consume 80% of the world’s bluefin tuna catch every year. If a typical sport fisherman off of the Atlantic coast would catch one, it’s immediately packed into a sarcophagus full of dry ice and on a plane to Tokyo. Spotter aircraft find fast moving schools of juvenile bluefin so tuna ranchers can corral them into floating pens out on the high seas and “grow” the fish back into port. Hook and line fisherman use electric harpoons to dispatch them instantly to avoid the fish tainting it's own meat with lactic acid.

Unfortunately, the less there are, the more valuable they become. This encourages increased illegal harvest. The risk vs. reward is more and more worth it, resulting in billions of dollars of illegal bluefin sales occuring every year. The failure of bluefin management is due to the fish's enormous range, wherein unregulated international fishing is taking place. The tuna crosses into many borders where people may not follow the regulations set by ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas).

The high seas: where the laws are more like suggestions.

for shame...stop eating

Jan 13, 2010


So, I slacked off over the holidays. Were you expecting more? You should know me by now.

Score! I got my new camera. It's been a long time since I had that giddy feeling while opening a present. I think the last time that happened at Christmas, I was opening up my G.I. Joe, Sgt. Slaughter battle tank when I was 8.

with kung fu grip. recognize.

Since I can't take a picture of my camera....with my camera. Here's a picture someone else took of it.


I bought the Canon T1i and the "nifty fifty", 50mm f/1.8 mark II lens. I didn't buy the kit lens because I was only going to upgrade anyway. The 50mm is really sharp. The build quality is a little eh, but the image quality for the price is fantastic. I'm ready to buy a zoom lens now. So after lots of homework, I'm thinking either the new Sigma 17-70 OS or the fairly new Canon 15-85 mm. I like to have the wide end for macro pictures (so I can take uber close ups of my belly button) and a little bit of zoom for some decent far off shots. I'd just like a sharp, fairly fast, walkabout lens. So any suggestions are appreciated, ah thank you.

I think I'll carry the camera along to Cocoa Beach next week. A few of us are going to the Artificial Reef Summit meeting. We'll be presenting some of our artificial reef research as well as getting to see some other talks. Should be a good time. I'll snap off some shots.

I guess I should talk about fish now.

You guys know about Fugu, right? Fugu is the Japanese word for puffer fish, and it's a very popular and notorious dish in Japanese cuisine.

But eating it is like playing Russian roulette. Fugu chefs are rigorously trained to cut the fish while avoiding certain organs (liver, ovaries) that contain tetrodotoxin. This neurotoxin is VERY lethal to humans. It's more potent than cyanide, and there isn't any antidote. It paralyzes all of your muscles, and while you are completely conscious you die of asphyxiation. What's even more crazy is if a customer dies from the Fugu... the chef must commit suicide with his own fillet knife.

This is why I love the Japanese culture. They're completely cracked.

If you're interested in dieing trying it in the states, New York would be your best bet. I've read that they're are only 17 fugu restaurants in the U.S. and 12 of them are in the big apple.

It's a very tasty fish, so people have been looking for ways to avoid the whole "stop breathing" situation. Recently, they've found it with a new farming method to produce non-lethal puffer fish for consumption. A Japanese aquaculture company developed methods to separate the fugu from tetrodoxin laden bacteria that it ingests. Article here.

Introducing, diet fugu light...

I think most of us would agree that taking the bullets out of the gun makes the whole thing less fun. There would be less enjoyment in eating it while knowing there is no risk involved. Plus you have the cultural significance of the dish. They've been eating this stuff for over 2,000 years!

And if I was an elite fugu chef after years of tedious training, I'd be coming after those scientists with my giant fugu knife.

Go Joe.