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Molasses Spill Destroys Hawaii Reef

Image from Dailymail.co.uk

Image from Dailymail.co.uk

Sometimes it seems like we can’t even touch the ocean without causing some sort of environmental disaster. British Petroleum poisons the Gulf of Mexico, our ships might be deafening whales, and now even molasses is killing fish. That’s what’s been happening off Honululu’s Sand Island harbor since September 9th, 2013, when a faulty pipe caused over 200,000 gallons of molasses that was supposed to go on a ship to be dumped into the harbor instead.

Turns out, molasses is pretty bad for fish. Instead of sitting on top of the water like oil does, the molasses immediately sank to the bottom of the reef, suffocating anything unlucky enough to be caught in it. Worse still, the sudden influx of pure sugar might be causing an algal and bacterial bloom. These guys suck all the oxygen out of the water and can even be harmful to human health.

Goddamnit molasses, stop accidentally killing things.

Officials say that there’s not much they can do to help out here. It’s not like they can scoop it out or try to contain it like an oil spill, which means they have to sit back and wait for the ocean currents to do the majority of the work. Luckily, most of the fish population should recover quickly as newcomers help repopulate the reef but the immobile animals, like the corals that help build the reef, may take years or even decades to recover.

The company that manages molasses shipping out of the port, Matson Navigation Co, has stepped up and claimed responsibility for the accident, saying that any recovery efforts will be paid out of their pocket and that they will take steps to make sure this never happens again, even if it means abandoning their molasses operations.

Hopefully, the reef will recover quickly. Preliminary fly-overs already look better. Hawaii’s reefs host hundreds of different fish species, including angelfish, bigeyes, blennies, butterflyfish, sunfish and jacks. These species are important to both the fishing and tourism industry in Hawaii. Any large scale disaster has the potential to seriously affect people’s livelihoods.

Not to mention, you know, the fish’s.

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Posted by on September 22, 2013 in Modernity

 

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Seafood Menus a Treasure Trove of Oceanic Information

A tuna steak at the Pike Place Market was more expensive than their halibut. Halibut was more expensive than cod. Cod was more expensive than rockfish. Rockfish was the cheapest. Therefore, I ate rockfish. I only dreamt of tuna. Fish prices are largely determined by rarity and as tuna and other species become overfished and expensive, it makes sense to start eating other, more abundant kinds.

Meanwhile, three researchers from Duke University wanted to know what fish populations in Hawaii used to look like. But government data and market surveys failed to provide enough information. So they hit on another market proxy – seafood restaurant menus.

The team analyzed over 300 menus from more than 100 restaurants dating back to at least the 1940’s. Most of the menus had been kept as souvenirs or art and were donated from private collections. The menus revealed that back in the 1940’s many restaurants were still offering local or reef-dwelling species, but as time wore on these were slowly replaced by larger, oceanic fish such as tuna and swordfish. By 1970, most restaurants had stopped offering reef fish altogether.

This sudden decline was striking, but the numbers seemed trustworthy.“Historical ecology typically focuses on supply side information,” said Loren McClenachan, who co-authored the study. “Restaurant menus are an available but often overlooked source of information on the demand side, perhaps a modern equivalent to archeological middens, in that they document seafood consumption, availability and even value over time.”

Population studies are important tools for both ecological studies and the fishing industry as a whole.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2013 in Modernity

 

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