See the salmon in Surf’s mouth? Surf is A66, a mature male Orca belonging to the inshore fish-eating (clearly) population of threatened Northern Residents. He was born to Sonora (A42) in 1996. While “Resident” populations of Orca also eat other fish species, their well-being is correlated to availability of salmon (especially Chinook Salmon).
Whales do not randomly blunder about looking for food. Nor are salmon flailing about arbitrarily. The fabric is so much finer than that.
For thousands of years, generation-upon-generation, families of Orca have depended on the same lineages of salmon. In these dark waters, the fish-eating Orca can literally sound out location, size and species of their prey with biosonar / echolocation. Females almost always share the catch with their family (Wright et al).
Salmon fight to return to the exact rivers of their birth by some pull we human have yet to fully understand. This flow is predictable and essential. This predictability provides ease of hunting for the many who depend on the silver flow – from fish-feasting Orca to human fisherfolk. Less energy is needed because the prey SHOULD be easy to find.
The salmon are guided to spawn so that, in death, they deliver nutrients from the Ocean back to the freshwater where they were born, even hundreds of kilometres inland. That is, if transit is not impeded by drought, siltation and slides, parasites and/or disease, or by lack of cold refuges.
The rich bodies of salmon will nourish the ecosystem so that enough of their young may survive to hold the fabric together. Their bodies feed trees, bears, eagles, song birds, insects, deer, wolves, and so much more.
By spawning and dying, the salmon also ensure their diseases and parasites die with them. Nutrients remain.
This web is made of a fabric of exquisite beauty and perfection, shaped by vast expanses of time. Weathered, refined, and adapted by slow change.
But, now, change comes far too fast through the actions, and insufficient reactions, of those who do blunder and act arbitrarily. We, the humans without sufficient understanding of the intricacy of it all, nor how we are attached to the threads.
Know that what helps salmon, herring, whales – is the fabric that holds we clumsy bipeds together too.
Not disparate problems. But the same life-enhancing solutions.
These photos are from today. The baby Bull Kelp is growing toward the sun. With these images, I have tried to capture the aching beauty of the light “dancing” over the flowing fronds, creating rippling spectrums.
I cannot express in the way I want how watching this interplay filled me with a sense of comfort, continuance, exaltation and even relief.
While humans collide, love and lose, and may not even know what winning is, this continues despite it all (at least for now).
Life begins anew . . . the marvel of another spring . Phenology.
“Our” part of the planet is now tilted closer to the sun. Tomorrow, March 20th, coincidentally is spring equinox when the sun’s rays directly grace the equator in the earth’s journey around the sun. As we spin, the northern regions of the earth will progressively get more sun. It’s the first day of spring for we in the northern half of the planet.
There is more light to fuel the kelp’s growth and leads to food, oxygen, refuge, reduced carbon dioxide and whatever this heady, healing, emotional cocktail is that I am feeling right now.
I hope some of that transmits to you, through the photos and my effusiveness. ☺️
More about this version of Bull Kelp and it’s growth rate:
Kelp species and seaweeds are not plants. They are algae.
What you see in these photos is the “sporophyte” stage of Bull Kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana). It results from the reproduction of a completely different looking version of the same species, the “gametophye”. Yes, it’s alternation of generations and I have a blog about it here.
The stipe (stem-like structure) of Bull Kelp can grow to be up to 36 m long. The stipe would have to grow an average of 17 cm a day to reach this length in the 210-day growing period (source: Druel). It has to grow so quickly to reach the sun and be able to photosynthesize and help support life on earth.
If you include both the rate of growth of the stipe and the fronds (leaf-like structures), Bull Kelp can grow 25 cm per day on average to reach the surface (source: Duncan).
I have relayed my observations to marine worm researchers but want to share with you too. It’s just too fascinating not to do so. These finds emphasize yet again how little we know even about marine species that are just below the surface. I also hope that by sharing my observations here, it may lead to other divers being on the lookout for these interactions and potentially adding to the knowledge about interactions between necklace-worms and anemones.
My observations involve what I believe are two species of necklace-worm. Each is interacting with a different species of anemone. In both cases, the species of necklace-worm is unconfirmed. The polychaete* researchers I have been in contact with have asked for samples of the worms to allow for microscopic examination and potential DNA analysis.
*Polychaetes are the “many-bristled” worms. They are worms that have a pair of paddle-like appendages / bristles on each segment. Most species of worm in this class are found in the ocean or in brackish water and there are about 15,000 known species globally. Polychaetes “are ubiquitous in the ocean, burrowing and hunting in the sand, crawling on algal covered rocks, living in self-made tubes, or swimming in the water” (Encyclopedia of Biodiversity, 2013).
Note that observations and photos here are from the Pearse Islands and Plumper Islands on northeast Vancouver Island in the territory of the Kwakwaka’wakw in depths less than 17 metres / 50 feet.
Necklace-Worm Species #1 and Proliferating Anemones: I have written about this previously but include the observations here again so that the information about these necklace-worm / anemone interactions is bundled in one place. It involves a species of necklace worm appearing to bite into Proliferating Anemones (Epiactis prolifera to 8 cm wide).
My first observation of this interaction goes back all the way to 2008 when I documented the following thanks to the keen eye of my dive buddy Natasha Dickinson.
I do not know if the necklace-worm dislodged the anemone of if the anemone let go in an attempt to get away. We came upon this scene when the anemone was already upside down.
I have only noted this interaction twice since then. See photos below.
For those who have Lamb and Hanby’s Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest, you may note that this species of necklace-worm looks like AN22 which is referenced as a “mystery necklace-worm”. But again, collection of a sample would be needed to confirm species ID.
Necklace-Worm Species #2 and Short Plumose Anemones:
On February 12, 2022 I saw THIS.
There are necklace-worms in those slime tubes! Where you see the circles is where other Short Plumose Anemones once were (Metridium senile to 10 cm tall and 4 cm across).
Were they always at this site? I have done a quick review of past photos and see a few of them in photos back to 2013. Variables in why I may not have noticed them before are that: (1) they were much more apparent as a result of the dislodged anemones; (2) there may be more of them now; and (3) we usually don’t focus on the spot where the concentration of these worms were (we usually dive deeper).
So TODAY’S mission was to return to this dive site and focus on the interaction between this species of necklace-worm and Short Plumose Anemones. How abundant are they? Are they biting the anemones?Are the worms anywhere other than around Short Plumose Anemones? Are the anemones using their acontia as a defense against the worms? Acontia are defensive strands filled with stinging cells (nematocysts) that are ejected when an anemone is irritated / threatened / stressed. The acontia can extend far beyond the anemone, providing longer distance defense than the stinging cells in an anemones tentacles.
To answer those questions: – I found the slime tubes almost everywhere there were Short Plumose Anemones at this site. I did not find them anywhere else i.e. this species of necklace-worm’s slime tubes were only around Short Plumose Anemones. – I only found a few Short Plumose Anemones using their acontia but it seems more likely that they were being used against other anemones. I cannot know if the anemones dislodge themselves as a defense. There were only a few places where there were the circles of slime tubes where an anemone had once been. There were far more places where the slime tubes were in amongst Short Plumose Anemones. – YES I do believe this species of necklace-worm is biting into the Short Plumose Anemones. See below for abundant photos from today.
I will of course provide updates as I learn more via the researchers and other divers / underwater photographers. As always, I hope it is a source of wonder for you to learn more about these species, their adaptations and interactions, AND how much we humans still have to learn about the natural world around us. 🙂
All photos below are from March 6, 2022.
Below, you can contrast the same spot after 22 days. There has been a lot of change but again, I do not know how much the anemones would move around and/or dislodge in the absence of the worms. Oh no, is this now going to be my life? In addition to trying to document individual Humpback Wales and Tiger Rockfish, now I am going to try to document individual Short Plumose Anemones?! Probably.
Today, December 30th, the Canadian Government announced the comment period for proposed Regulations on single use plastics. Canadians have an opportunity to comment to March 5, 2022.
At the end of this blog, I include the email from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) that announced the proposed Regulations. I have bundled all the content here because it is not easy to access all the detail via that email. Below I also include a sample letter of possible feedback on these proposed Regulations.
In having read the documents referenced in the email from ECCC , even though I believe I am well aware of the problem of plastic pollution, I was stunned at some of the numbers. As an indicator of our plastic use / addiction in Canada, in 2019 alone an estimated 15,593 MILLION single-use checkout bags were used. The cost of those bags was estimated at $410 million.
Not reflected in that number are the further costs of “convenience” and disconnect from understanding the impacts of our consumer behaviour on our own well-being. These include:
Energy and raw materials to manufacture, transport and dispose of plastics;
Resulting climate changing emissions;
Impacts to the food web when plastics slowly break down and attract toxins;
Further impacts to animals from ingestion and entanglement; and
Additional ecosystem changes resulting from the transport of organisms on drifting plastics i.e. invasive species and transport of potential pathogens.
I believe we may need this jolt of awareness. It appears many of us have not recovered from the early stages of the pandemic to realize that, with the exception of masks, further equipment used by first responders and possibly cleaning wipes, we do not need to revert to the use of so many disposables. We can use our to-go mugs, shopping bags, etc.
We are all empowered to reduce demand for single-use plastics and impact the systemic change that is so necessary.
Resources to aid feedback on the proposed Regulations:
The proposed Regulations would prohibit the manufacture, import and sale of six categories of single-use plastic items (checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware made from or containing problematic plastics, ring carriers [think six-pack holders], stir sticks, and straws), with certain exceptions for straws.
The draft Guidance for Selecting Alternatives to the Single-Use Plastics in the Proposed Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations has been developed to help businesses and other organizations make decisions on alternative products or systems that prevent pollution and help Canada transition to a circular economy.
e.g., 5(1)(a)(i) of the regulatory text; “Select Canadian Market Characteristics” section of the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement;“Considerations for Alternative Single-use Plastics” section of the draft Guidance for Selecting Alternatives;
2. the comment itself; and
3. any supporting information or rationale.
All written feedback received during the comment period will be considered in the development of the final Regulations and Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, which will be published in the Canada Gazette, Part II. Feedback will also inform the finalization of the Guidance for Selecting Alternatives.
Environment and Climate Change Canada is available to provide further information and clarification on the requirements of the proposed Regulations to affected businesses or organizations, via virtual meetings or webinars.
Should you have any questions on this consultation process, or if you do not wish to receive future updates about the proposed Regulations please contact us at email@example.com.
See the juvenile here to the right of my buddy Natasha? There, right beside the mating Yellow-Rimmed Nudibranchs. This Sunflower Star was in just 5 metres of water.
Today’s two Sunflower Stars are the first I have seen in twelve hours underwater over the last three months and believe me, I have been looking. I only saw one before that. They are such a rarity now. Will these two survive? I have seen waves of juveniles before and then they disappear. Their plight appears to be linked to climate change.
Hope? With action . . . yes, there is shining hope.
Without action . . . no.
Please hang in there. Please read on.
I have been struggling too, looking for escape / reprieve from global realities as another “atmospheric river” is forecast to fall on parts of our province. It is so tempting to want to hide especially if we see the problems we are facing as disparate. They are not.
I have had to remind myself of the common solutions so that I see a way forward that is not guided by the faintness of blind hope; paralyzed by fear and overwhelm; and / or obfuscated by the din of values and voices that serve the few for a brief time.
Common solutions include: to know, live and share the GAINS that come from using LESS (fossil fuels, dangerous chemicals, disposables, less consumerism generally); to speak for truth and science and to have compassion for those who cannot; to exercise our power as voters and consumers to serve future generations; and to care and act on the knowledge of connection to others – across time, cultures, distance, and species.
In short, it’s a really good time to be a good human.
I had to dig for these words for myself. As always, may they serve you too.
For those who are not yet aware, I include the reality of Sea Star Wasting Disease (SSWD) below. A link to a summary of the research and where to report sightings is in my blog at this link.
Since 2013, more than 20 species of sea star have been impacted by SSWD from Mexico to Alaska. There is local variation in intensity of the disease and which species are impacted. It is one of the largest wildlife die-off events in recorded history. Sea stars contort, have lesions, shed arms, and become piles of decay.
Currently, some species of sea star appear to have recovered while others remain very heavily impacted. Sunflower Stars (Pycnopodia helianthoides) have been devastated and were added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list as Critically Endangered. There are current efforts to have Sunflower Stars assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) with hopes that they receive protection under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.
There is NOT scientific consensus about the cause. Current hypotheses focus on (i) a virus and (ii) low oxygen at the surface of the sea star’s skin maintained due to bacteria. What is consistent in is that changing environmental conditions appear to allow the pathogen (be it bacteria or viruses) to have a greater impact.
The best current source for a summary of the research is Hamilton et al (August, 2021). From that source: ” . . . outbreak severity may stem from an interaction between disease severity and warmer waters” and “Though we lack a mechanistic understanding of whether temperature or climate change triggered the SSWD outbreak, this study adds to existing evidence that the speed and severity of SSWD are greater in warmer waters”.
What I believe to be the reality off the coast of British Columbia is that there are refuges of Sunflower Stars at depth where it is colder. They spawn with some young then settling in the shallows where they may succumb to the pathogen if stressed by warmer water.
In this meeting, Nico referenced a line from her poem “We Are the Flood” that hit me full force with its power to capture so succinctly the reality of we humans and climate change. That line is: “We are the weather makers“.
Below I share the full poem with Nico’s permission. There is so much in the words that moves me and fortifies my resolve. May it do the same for you. 💙
Today I right a great wrong. For how can it be I did not have a blog featuring the Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker? This is one of the most cryptic and astoundingly adapted fish in the north Pacific Ocean.
Yesterday, I chanced upon the individual in the photo below and he is what finally catalyzed this blog. Just look at him! He is only about 2 cm long. I noticed him because he was swimming / hovering around like a minuscule zeppelin. Then he alighted on a rock, securing with the pelvic disc this species relies upon.
To be a little, round fish like this, nature had to do something to make sure you don’t roll over. You need to be able to secure, not only to rock, but to seaweeds and Eelgrass. The “solution” is that Pacific Spiny Lumpsuckers are among the fish species in which the pelvic fins have evolved into a sucker on their bellies.
This species has very small pectoral fins (even relative to body size) and does not have a swim bladder to help with buoyancy. All the more need to have the disc to be able to hold on between short hovering swims.
Pacific Spiny Lumpsuckers don’t have scales but rather have lumpy, bony plates known as “tubercles”. Maybe these are what the “lump” in their common name refers to.
There have been many creative attempts to describe the overall appearance of Pacific Spiny Lumpsuckers from simply “cute” to “pingpong ball with fins”, to “swimming strawberries”, “underwater bumble bees”, and . . . “a fish that has quietly come to terms with looking idiotic”. Thanks Dr. Milton Love for that last descriptor. You can imagine the many jokes and allusions made about their name which “sounds like a Shakespearean insult” (comment made by Angela Flute on YouTube).
The species name Eumicrotremus orbis references their rotundity and size. Maximum known length is 12.7 cm but they are more often much smaller, around 2.5 cm.
I believe the Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker we saw yesterday was a male because mature males are reported to be dull orange to reddish brown. Mature females are pale green and have more and larger tubercles.
The one in Paul Wright’s video below is most definitely a male. See the egg-guarding? Male Pacific Spiny Lumpsuckers guard the eggs after fertilizing them, oxygenating them by wafting water over them and protecting them from predators. It’s reported that males die after the eggs hatch and that the females die after egg laying (average of 202 eggs, size of each egg is ~2.2 mm). Outside of when they are breeding, this is a solitary species. Appear to have a life expectancy of around 1 year in aquariums (Casey Cook, pers. com).
It is normal that Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker’s mouths are almost always open and that they appear to be panting (as you see in the video).
Further species information:
Range: Northern Washington to the Bering Sea, along the Aleutian Islands to Siberia and northern Japan. Intertidal to 575 m. Source: Lamb and Edgell, 2010.
Diet: “Small crustaceans such as gammarid andy hyperiid amphipods, along with caprellid amphipods, isopods, and cumaceans” [hooded shrimp species]. Source: Love, 2011.
The following content has been very well-received on my social media. Therefore, I am sharing it here too.
Daring to share . . .
This belongs here, on my page, where ultimately it’s about the welfare of future generations; about equity and connection.
Through recent international “realties”, to situations impacting the welfare of other species and dear friends, I have gained even more insight into how power structures enable abuse and how, at their core, it’s about keeping others small, and preferably . . . silent.
I see, and live, how disparity in power means that those working for equality, truth and justice bleed out time, energy and expense into strategizing to navigate these power systems, adding another layer of disadvantage.
I have felt anger boiling up and exhaustion creeping in. I am an older woman which means . . . I can’t.
Those of us with power must help those who have less, for that is a life well-lived. It does not mean that we have to carry it all. But imagine a world where many more of us recognize and reject the forces that strive to diminutize, divide, distract, and paralyze, and rise into our power to create positive change and help others. More of us united. That’s the world I will continue to work for.
The blog I am referencing is at this link. And yes, by writing this post and that blog, it clears my head, adds to my resolve, represents what motivates me most, and hopefully is of use to others.