Protect The Environment

Saving the world’s oceans seems like a daunting task, one too intimidating to even start. But what if I told you that there are things that you and I can do, some of which are pretty easy, that would make a difference?

The first thing on my list is pretty simple: reduce your impact. Install things like energy efficient lightbulbs to reduce your energy consumption (less energy = less pollution from burning of fossil fuels to make energy = less global warming and slowing the rate that ocean temperatures are rising and killing fish) and recycle or reuse plastic (or opt for something else) whenever possible. It takes so long to break down that plastic can wind up anywhere, including in the ocean!

The next thing for you to remember is that ALL waterways goes to the ocean, whether you live near a body of water or not! So no dumping medications down the drain. Use less, and more environmentally friendly, cleaners and chemicals whenever possible. That includes the stuff you use to clean things inside your home, vehicles like boats or cars, and even what types of chemicals you put on your plants! The chemicals you use wind up in your home plumbing systems or are washed into storm drains and wind up in our oceans and rivers.

Next, clean up after yourself and your pets. Don’t litter, especially on beaches and when you’re boating. Most trash that ends up in the ocean started out on land—so don’t let that trash come from you! Picking up after your pets also ensures that harmful bacteria doesn’t get washed into the storm drains as well. If you’ve got some extra time, volunteer at a litter pickup or beach cleanup. You’ll feel great afterward and it will serve as a good reminder what happens when you litter or don’t pick up after yourself!

Lastly, be considerate of marine life! Be careful when you are boating, snorkeling, surfing, or any other maritime activities. Don’t ever touch coral or disturb or feed the creatures you see. And never remove them from their habitats! Take pictures if you want to remember them, but leave them be. Don’t buy products that use bad practices or exploit the oceans! That includes when you are looking for something to eat – make sure your fish was captured in a sustainable way without harming other species in the process. You can check websites like the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch or the Marine Stewardship Council to know what is responsibly caught and what should be avoided.

See, these things don’t seem so bad, do they? If every one of us did these little things, there would be a huge ripple effect across the world and our oceans would be a healthy and clean environment for all of us to enjoy!

Why do Salmon Swim Upstream? (and other cool stuff)

Fish are weird. We’ve got smart fish like anglerfish, who have developed bioluminescent light to trick prey into basically coming right into their mouths, archerfish who squirt water with seemingly perfect aim to knock bugs into the water for a snack, the sheepshead fish that has teeth eerily resembling a human’s so that they can eat pretty much whatever they want, and then there’s the parrotfish — which covers itself in mucus when it sleeps to help itself heal and protect itself, and it poops sand.

But today, I wanted to talk a little about a fish that is a little less exotic than those guys. Let’s talk about something that may find its way onto your dinner plate: the salmon.

First, let’s talk about their awesome pink color. Salmon aren’t naturally pink, they’re white. As a matter of fact, if you eat farm-raised salmon, they probably put coloring in their food to turn them that way, not because it makes them taste better but because you, as the consumer, expect it (it’s true, they even have something called a SalmoFan to help salmon farmers determine the most profitable colors). Salmon turn pink for the same reason flamingos turn pink: it is a natural reaction to eating krill and shrimp. There’s a compound in krill and shrimp called astaxanthin, and when you eat enough of it, it turns you pink. Alaskan sockeye salmon, because they feed off the huge population of krill in the Bering Sea, are naturally the most pink of all salmon species.

OK, now that we’ve talked about appearance, let’s talk about behavior. Salmon are also kind of weird. You probably already know that they swim upstream, and that seems kind of dumb. For one thing, it’s hard to do. It takes an awful lot of energy. And for another, they’re constantly jumping through the air and then being caught and eaten by bears. Seems like a waste, doesn’t it? So why do they do it?

Oddly, it actually helps them (and some other types of fish, like rainbow trout) survive.

First, these are fairly large fish. In order to keep the species alive, they can’t compete with the ones who are trying to grow up for food. Therefore, the younger fish swim downstream and follow the food. The ones who are big and mature enough to reproduce swim the other way to give the youngsters a chance to survive. Aww!

There’s another reason, too: upstream waters are calmer, which means the eggs will have a better chance of being fertilized and hatching. Downstream, the eggs could be eaten or even swept away before fertilization.Finally, once the eggs hatch and grow out of their yolk-feeding larval stage, their diet consists mostly of insects. And where do insects congregate? Slower water, like that found upstream! Doesn’t seem like such a dumb idea anymore, does it?

So how do the fish know to go upstream and where to stop? Believe it or not, they actually can smell it. They can smell the place where they were born and that’s where they travel back to. Sadly, all that upstream swimming and spawning is exhausting, and it kills the fish within about a week after they’ve done everything they need to. But again, being upstream is a blessing here. Once the mature fish die and start to decay, because their bodies aren’t swept away or eaten by something else, they provide a nutrient-rich environment for their babies to grow. Kind of gross but also very helpful!

The next time you’re eating salmon, think back on all this and marvel about how smart they really are!