fish

Quiet Please, the Fish Are Flirting

Fish that fart together stay together.

In an ocean full of clicking shrimp and singing whales, fish are often imagined as the silent actors. Fish use motion, color, and chemicals to communicate, but they lack the iconic mewl of a cat or trill of a bird. Yet in reality, many fish chat constantly to mark their territories or find mates. And all of our noise—from seismic surveys to boat motors—is making it much more difficult for fish to hear one another. Read more in Hakai Magazine.

Fish Farms Can Be Disease Accelerators

Much like terrestrial animal farms, fish farms are incubators for disease.

Last summer, more than half a million farmed salmon died from a sea lice outbreak in New Brunswick’s Passamaquoddy Bay. More than 250,000 died directly from the parasites, which attach themselves to the fish and feed on their skin, blood, and mucus, while another 284,000 were euthanized to try to contain the spread.

The outbreak, which affected two sites owned by Gray Group, a bankrupt aquaculture company that still had fish in its pens, was a “catastrophic loss,” says Matthew Abbott, an environmentalist who monitors Passamaquoddy Bay for the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. “Both sites were wiped out.” Read more in Hakai Magazine.

Fish for Food

Exploring ways to get fish on the table in Bolivia.

People in Bolivia don’t eat much fish — among South American nations it has the lowest per-capita consumption — despite having a large number of lakes and rivers.

But local, sustainably sourced fish could be a good source of protein and help reduce food insecurity, as well as provide a new source of income for poor, rural populations. So the International Development Research Centre and Global Affairs Canada have teamed up with academics and NGOs in Canada and Bolivia on the Amazon Fish for Food project, which is trying to find ways to encourage the sustainable use of the country’s fish resources through fishing and aquaculture. Read more in Canadian Geographic.

A Fishy Plan

Canada’s new government says it’s going to expand the country’s marine protected areas. Scientists worry the government is cutting corners to hit its goal.

Canada has a long way to go in protecting its oceans. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity wants 10 percent of the world’s marine and coastal environments protected by 2020. So far, Canada has set aside just 1.3 percent.

With Canada’s change in federal government this past October, meeting the UN’s marine protection target has leapt to the top of the priority list for Hunter Tootoo, Canada’s new minister of fisheries and oceans. In his mandate letter for the new minister, Prime Minister Trudeau listed—as his very first line item—the goal of protecting five percent of Canada’s coastal waters by 2017, and the full ten percent by 2020.

That’s good news, says Rodolphe Devillers, a marine geographer at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. But he says that, in their enthusiasm, the government seems to be looking to cut corners. Read more in Hakai.

The Living Lice Comb

IMG_7281Aquaculture adopts integrated pest management techniques for water-borne pests.

Like their land-based colleagues, fish farmers have to deal with pests and parasites that attack their animals. And like famers on land, they are looking for natural ways to deal with the pests that minimize the use of chemical treatments.

For salmon farms on the east coast of Canada, that means finding a way to fight the sea lice that can plague their open-water net pens. The aquaculture industry is now experimenting with using “cleaner fish,” such as cunner fish and lumpfish, to help control lice numbers, similar to how land-based integrated pest management techniques use natural predators to control pests. Read more in Hakai.

Oil Sands Dilbit Causes Developmental Problems in Fish

Scientists have very little idea what the environmental effects of an oil sands “dilbit” spill would be.

The oil that flows in pipes away from Canada’s oil sands is not the same as conventional crude oil. Known as diluted bitumen, or “dilbit,” this proprietary blend of oil and chemicals behaves differently in the event of a spill. Or, scientists suspect it does. So little research has been done on the environmental and ecological effects of dilbit that it’s hard to say for sure. As a first step toward understanding the risks posed by dilbit, scientists working with Alberta oil sands dilbit found that the tacky mixture can cause a range of serious toxic effects in fishRead more in Hakai.