As a biology undergraduate student at the University of Victoria, I had many animal behavior labs and research papers to read through about the voracious sea-floor predator Pycnopodia helianthoides, the sunflower star. The mere presence of one of these guys will send scallops swimming for their lives or anemones shriveling up for protection.
The latest news about this pervasive species (and other related sea star species) is not good. Sea Star Wasting Syndrome is causing them to melt into goo, and we're not sure of the cause. Scientists are testing several theories, including viral infection and a rise in sea water temperature. Whatever the cause, Sea Star Wasting Syndrome is hitting hard and fast with widespread devastation.
This interesting article from www.themarinedetective.com sheds some light on this emerging phenomenon.
Link: Wasted. What is happening to the sea stars of the NE Pacific Ocean?
Photo and descriptor – Neil McDaniel; http://www.seastarsofthepacificnorthwest.info
This month in BC Business Magazine there was a fascinating article by Andrew Findlay entitled "Trawlers Get Their Sea Legs". The article describes the collaboration of environmentalists and fishermen to save a "fishery that was destroying its own livelihood". In essence the article describes how pressure from environmental NGO's resulted in seafood retailers adopting the FishWise, OceanWise and SeaChoice programs of seafood audits was threatening to stop the BC rockfish industry in its' tracks. As a result, an amazing strategy was implemented; among other restrictions " Fishermen agreed to a 20 per cent reduction in their total fishing area—some 9,000 square kilometres of coastal B.C. waters."
"The Suzuki Foundation’s Scott Wallace won’t go so far as to say that it’s a “sustainable” fishery, yet. He admits even the foundation’s godfather, David Suzuki, remains uneasy about putting the foundation’s stamp of approval on the trawlers. However, Wallace says the fleet has made significant steps to crawl out of the gutter of the red, “don’t touch,” and into the yellow category of the foundation’s SeaChoice rating system."
Photo: Boomer Jerritt, BC Business Magazine
Atlantic Explorer, a marine research vessel with the capability of launching deep-sea submersibles and ROV's sets sail from St. George, Bermuda. Photo: Andrew Murgatroyd
On November 6th, the Times Colonist's Sarah Petrescu examines a report with some intriguing, yet maybe not surprising results.
"The report, Ocean Science in Canada: Meeting the challenge, seizing the opportunity asses the state of ocean science in Canada…" and finds "a lack of national vision for ocean science and a lack of co-ordination among (research organizations)" noting that the research fleet is all but finished (Petrescu). The report itself admits "maintaining research vessel capacity, including the age of the fleet and access for non-DFO researchers, is a key challenge for ocean science infrastructure in Canada."
The difficulty of finding the funding for research vessels is not terribly surprising since traditional research vessel can cost upwards of $30,000 per day for a large scale ocean going diesel devouring rust bucket. Perhaps what the future of marine research lies within the elegant, slow but steady sailboat. Pangaea Exploration's sailing vessel Sea Dragon operates for a fraction of that cost due to its unique long-range sailing ability. The savings, however, come at a cost; although Sea Dragon is a relatively cheap research platform, it is mainly used for collecting samples which are then processed back in the lab of the participating university or government body. It also can't launch submarines off it's deck. That being said, a lot can be learned from a well planned study with simple objectives and a dedicated crew.
Link: Canada’s ocean-research leadership at risk: study
Link: Ocean Science in Canada: Meeting the challenge, seizing the opportunity