I Don’t Think You’re Ready, For This Jelly

In Sweden, jellyfish populations overwhelmed and clogged a nuclear power plant’s pipes. These pipes turned out to be extremely important as they cool the plant’s turbines, and the nuclear power plant had to shut down. A year before, the same thing happened in California. In less extreme cases, yet still costly, large amounts of jellyfish have clogged fishing nets and damaged fishing gear. All of these jellyfish problems have raised eyebrows, and when scientists looked into jellyfish populations, they found that jellyfish are blooming more often, earlier, more intensely, and staying longer.

Around the world, jellyfish populations are booming. While this may not seem like such a big deal, it is yet another sign of climate change and environmental degradation, one that is costing various industries millions of dollars. In addition, the jellyfish feed on plankton, crustaceans, small fish, and fish eggs, which are all food resources of which larger mammals such as whales rely on. Jellyfish are thriving in places the don’t usually thrive, and this is seen as a sign that oceans around the world are stressed or unhealthy.

Map of population trends of native and invasive species of jellyfish

***Jellyfish population trends. Red indicates an increase with a high degree of certainty, while orange indicates an increase with a low degree of certainty. Blue indicates a decrease. Green represents a stable or variable population. Grey indicates no data.***

In areas where jellyfish populations have boomed causing nuclear power plants to shutdown, scientists have found that the species is causing the damage is the common moon jellyfish. This species of jellyfish thrives in areas of the ocean that have been “overfished or have bad conditions.” Bad conditions refers to anything from toxic chemicals, fertilizers, and too much trash in the oceans. Overfishing leaves lots of open space for the jellyfish to thrive, and when the fish are gone, jellyfish have the chance to dominate the ecosystem. It seems as though we have another case where humans have exploited the environment and caused detrimental effects.

What You Can Do To Help

One of the biggest problems with the booming jellyfish populations is that no monitoring exists to track the jellyfish populations. Data gained from the monitoring is needed for scientists to figure out how to address the issue. Luckily, a website and apps for iPhones and Androids have been created where the public is able to report where jellyfish are blooming. The scientists will use this data to figure out where jellyfish are, how often the blooms are occurring, and for how long. Without the help of the public, this research would be too expensive. With more research occurring, scientists will be able to find and implement ways to curb the jellyfish explosion. If you see jellyfish, report it!

Photo Cred: cbc.ca

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

A Familiar Face: A follow up to Game Over

She’s back.

Thanks to a reply from Simon and Tomm, and a mention by Josh, I have decided to do a follow up blog post on Kendall Jones, trophy hunting, and this article.

As mentioned by Simon, the article describes how trophy hunting can help conservation efforts in Africa. The study states that trophy hunting has received a bad name in from many different people and countries, due in part to reckless hunting resulting in species extinction. However, the study then goes on to state that hunting has facilitated the recovery of struggling species by giving ranchers incentives to reintroduce animals into environments in order to have more opportunities to hunt them. Specifically, it gives the example of the white rhinoceros who grew from a population of 50  one century ago, to 11,000 population members today.

While this example of how hunting (even trophy hunting) can aid in the conservation of species exist, much controversy remains. Tomm mentioned this controversy in a reply to my original Game Over blog post.

“…people think that paying $40,000 for a tag to go kill a rhino is going to help ‘conserve’ the population. While it does raise awareness, it’s also a bit of an irony that endangered or the ‘big five’ have to die to make a point about wildlife conservation. Wildlife conversation has never taken on that trademark of a dark side until recently.

It is also somewhat of an unfortunate instance that African countries have to rely on this type of tourism to add to their economy, and might speak to the perils of the order of the state in some of these cases that this is looked upon as a last resort rather than promoting other forms of smaller (terms of $$) tourism.”

I agree with Tomm. How is it that killing is the best way to conserve?

Per Josh, sport hunting brings in an astounding $200 million a year from tourists in Africa. This figure is a large one for many African nations, and as such, they are unwilling to stop an activity that brings in a large amount of money. In fact, the bans which I described in my earlier post (where Australia banned certain animal part importations) are being fought by Zimbabwe in an attempt to keep the money flowing.

The situation we find ourselves in is one of weighing ecological values against economical values. Which are more important? The answer most likely depends on who you ask and what situation you find them in. I for one value conservation, and at this point, it seems as though one of the only ways to find funding for conservation is through hunting and permits. This is a balance between inhumane activities and species conservation.

If this is truly the case, a search for a more humane way of funding conservation is needed. In addition, hunting permits need to be regulated. Kendall Jones attempted to defend trophy hunting as conservation by stating that “permit money goes back to local communities who use it to fund schools and water wells.” Now i’m not an expert, but that does not sound like ecological conservation to me.

Photo Cred: cbc.ca

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

Game Over

 

Does this picture look familiar? Well this picture was taken by ‘big game hunter’ and ‘conservationist’ Kendall Jones. The picture is part of a news and social media story that has recently gone viral. Jones hunts big game animals and posts the pictures of her kills on her social media pages. She is looking to start a TV show in 2015 which follows her exploits, and has recently become the subject of much (justified) outrage. The viral news story can be found here

“In 2008, (age 13) I took my second trip to Africa to start my Big 5 experience”.

**The ‘big 5’ is referencing to the 5 most coveted big game animals to hunt, the lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo, and rhinoceros.**

“The first animal I ever shot was a White Rhino with a .416 Remington!”

“On this trip I also took some plains game, such as impala, kudu and mountain reedbuck home.”

Do Kendall’s actions appall you?

Well you are not alone. Thousands of people have joined her social media sites to criticize her actions.People from South Africa demand that she ‘leave their animals alone’ because what right does she have to ‘kill off another countries’ animals’. Others shame and threaten her, and have set up petitions to shut down her social media sites and stop her hunting exploits.

However, Kendall and her supporters continue to pursue the big 5 claiming that big game hunting is necessary to control populations, and to protect livestock, noting that permits sold for hunting animals gives all of the money raised back to fund schools and water wells. As a result, right now Kendall is hunting “leopards, elephants, hippos, crocodiles, zebras and impalas with bows and guns” in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Personally, I am against trophy hunting. In Kendall’s news story, she describes a type of trophy hunting called canned hunting. This is a legal practice where animals such as the big 5 are bred and farmed in order to later be hunted in captivity.This practice is inhumane. The animals are contained within a compound and are not given a fair chance to run and hide. Sometimes they are even baited within the compound to make the hunting even easier. In Australia, Jason Wood organized a campaign to ban trophy hunting. He has illustrated how inhumane canned hunting is:

“I don’t even call it hunting, most of the time they have bait there. There’s this very graphic video I’ve seen where you have a lion just lying under its food and it just gets shot. And the very distressing thing is the lion is perplexed as to what is going on – why, because it is used to interaction with humans.”

The Good News

As a result of Wood’s campaigning, Australia has banned trophy hunters from bringing home all rhino body parts they collect from overseas. While this may seem like a small step, it is a significant one. If a hunter cannot bring home their ‘trophy’ for their mantle and prove that they were ‘skilled’ enough to kill a rhino, there is a lot less incentive to pay $40000 to go and kill it. In addition, hopefully this will be an example that will persuade other nations into doing the same. 

While Kendall is still able to go trophy hunting in foreign countries, it is essential for nations around the world to not only ban trophy hunting, but also to follow in Australia’s footsteps and ban the importation of the body parts they gain abroad. 

Sign petitions and find additional information here:

https://www.change.org/

https://www.change.org/search?q=trophy+hunting

http://www.change.org/petitions/republic-of-south-africa-government-ban-trophy-hunting

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Facebook_CEOMark_Zuckerberg_Remove_the_page_of_Kendal_Jones_that_promotes_animal_cruelty/?wNPCMhb

Kendall’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/_kendalljones_

Kendall’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kendalltakeswild/info

Photo Cred: cbc.ca

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

An Oppor-TUNA-ty To Get Involved

Tuna fish are amazing. They are huge (up to 1500 pounds huge!), extremely fast swimmers (up to 70 mph fast!), they have an impressive amount of stamina (annual travelling of 4000+ miles!), and they are worth A LOT of money (one bluefin Tuna sold for $1.76 million dollars in 2013). Unfortunately, like many fish in the sea, Tuna have been overexploited using environmentally degrading practices.

Besides unsustainable practices such as sport fishing, Tuna are fished by ranching, and corraling. Now both of these practices are bad in their own ways.

1. Ranching is when entire schools of Tuna are caught in nets, and then towed to nearby the shore. Here, the Tuna are raised for a few months and then harvest and exported. Ranching itself does not count towards legal catch quotas, and as a result, does not fall under aquatic regulations and remains unregulated. In addition to a lack of regulations, this form of Tuna fishing negatively affects the age structures of wild populations. Juvenile Tuna are removed from the wild; juvenile Tuna being the type of Tuna in charge of replenishing wild populations.

2. Tuna are found swimming below dolphins in the ocean. As a result, corraling the dolphons is the method used to catch Tuna, The dolphins are corraled into a small area, and then a net is dropped around the dolphins, simultaneously catching the Tuna below. All species caught in this area (mainly dolphins) are then hauled on board the ship.  Consequently, all dolphins caught while trying to catch Tuna are dead before they can be freed.

The problem with Tuna is that they are valuable, yet undeniably finite. There is a large demand for Tuna, and a large profit to be reaped from selling Tuna. The question is whether or not the world is able to reach an agreement that preserves wild tuna stocks.

This post is not about finding a better way to catch Tuna. I am be no means an expert fisherman with the ingenuity to create a revolutionary technique or net that only catches exactly what you are looking for. That in itself is its own problem. I am, however, calling for you to get educated on the issue, and to get involved in pushing for more regulations. There still only exists a few regulations for fishing Tuna, and many areas around the ocean have no catch limits. Tuna populations would also benefit from restrictions on catching juvenile Tuna, but this would require countries to take a hit economically speaking in the short term.

Photo Cred: http://learn.uvm.edu/foodsystemsblog/2013/09/19/species-on-the-edge-of-a-knife-can-bluefin-tuna-survive-the-sushi-craze/

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

Apex Predators

One species of animal can greatly influence an entire ecosystem. This cascading effect that can occur can even change the geography of an area, showing the extent of influence an animal can hold in an ecosystem.

A video has recently gone viral which shows how the introduction of wolves into an ecosystem actually changed a river’s path. This video is entitled How Wolves Change Rivers. In this video a man describes how wolves were introduced into Yellowstone National Park in the United States, and, through this reintroduction of a species into an ecosystem, how the wolves led to an increase in vegetation, and the eventual change in course of a river. Although many people are aware that wolves kill other animals, most are unaware that they can give life. Yellowstone Park was overpopulated with deer and these deer had grazed all of the vegetation, leaving bare flat lands. In this case study the wolves ate the dear in the park, which led to less deer, and made the remaining deer avoid the wolf populated areas. These avoided areas then experienced a rapid increase in vegetation growth, creating forests in places which once only held grass. Due to the increase in trees there was an increase in beavers because, well, beavers like trees. These beavers are ecosystem engineers and they in turn built dams which provided shelter for countless other species. The wolves also killed coyotes and this meant that there was an increase in mice, rabbits, hawks, weasels, foxes, badgers, ravens, and bald eagles. Now not only was there a massive increase in species throughout the park, but the river running through the park experienced less erosion, the channels narrowed, and pools formed due to the increase in vegetation and the stabilization of the river banks that this vegetation provided. The river itself changed. This process is known as a tropic cascade.

The concerning issue about this case study is the fact that wolves are only one apex predator in the world: lions in Africa, tigers in Asia. Sharks, bears, and wild dogs are example of species at the top of their particular food chains, stabilizing the ecosystem and species they live and prey on, and influencing the health of plants and animals all the way to the bottom of the tropic ladder.

The truly disturbing part is that a majority of these apex predators are facing a decline in population numbers, potentially endangering the ecosystems where they reside.

This calls for change. It’s time for us, as humans, to change our overall perception of predators. We cannot condone the mass culling of sharks as has recently been approved in Western Australia. Stop the poaching of Tigers in Asia. No more habitat destruction in Sub Saharan Africa that decimates lion populations.

Human/wildlife conflict is going to occur as population growth happens around the world. Humans need to change and start living with wildlife if we want to protect the beautiful, useful, and essential ecosystems around the world.

FYI: The picture is of a river that runs through my cottage a.k.a. The Farm, in Elphin, Ontario

Photo Cred: Anton Holland

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!