Electric Fish Power

 

Warning, high voltage: scientists solve mysteries of electric fish

BY WILL DUNHAM Reuters    Source

Original study published in  journal Science.

An electric eel is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by Jason Gallant, Michigan State University. REUTERS/Jason Gallant, Michigan State University/Handout via Reuters

An electric eel is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by Jason Gallant, Michigan State University.  CREDIT: REUTERS/JASON GALLANT, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS

  • WASHINGTON Jun 26, 2014 (Reuters) – Here is some truly shocking news: Scientists have discovered the secrets behind electric fish, using genetic studies that revealed how these exotic creatures developed an organ that can unleash a wicked jolt.

Researchers on Thursday unveiled a genetic blueprint of the electric eel – a fearsome denizen of South America that can zap you with an electric field of up to 600 volts – as well as detailed genetic data on two other types of electric fish.

Even though six groups of electric fish have evolved independently in far-flung locales like the muddy waters of the Amazon and murky marine environments, they all seem to have reached into the same “genetic toolbox” to fashion their electricity-generating organ, they said.

The new study found that various electric fish rely on the same genes and biological pathways to build their electric organs from skeletal muscle despite the different appearance and body location of their organs.

Their electrical abilities stand as one of the wonders of nature alongside traits like bioluminescence in some insects and sea creatures and echolocation in bats and whales.

“It really is something truly unique in the animal kingdom,” Michigan State University zoology professor Jason Gallant said.

“This only arose in fish because water is a conductor of electricity while air is not. Thus, birds or terrestrial animals could not come up with this,” University of Wisconsin biochemistry professor Michael Sussman added.

There are hundreds of species of electric fish worldwide, with varying degrees of electric power.

Fish with weak electric power use it to navigate in dim waters and communicate with one another. Those like the electric eel – a serpentine freshwater predator up to 8 feet long (2.4 meters) that is not a true eel but rather a catfish relative – possessing a powerful jolt use it to stun or kill prey and repel enemies.

Scientists have wondered about how these fish first acquired electric powers and how this characteristic emerged six times in groups not closely related to one another.

“Electric organs start out their lives as muscle precursor cells. Through a series of developmental steps, they become larger, more electrically excitable and lose their ability to contract,” Gallant said.

All muscle cells have electrical potential because any muscle contraction releases a small amount of voltage. Certain fish exploited that by transforming ordinary muscle cells into a larger type of cell called an electrocyte that generates vastly higher voltages. The electric organ is made of these cells.

“Each electric organ cell makes only a small voltage, similar in magnitude to our own muscles. The secret of electric organs is that the cells are aligned in stacks and electrically insulated so that the voltages add like batteries in a series,” University of Texas neuroscience professor Harold Zakon said.

The six groups include: South American knife fishes, African electric catfish, African elephant fish, stargazers, some skates and some rays. Scientists think the electric organ first appeared in a fish 150 million to 200 million years ago, Gallant added.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

MS Ride

 

 BikeMS 2014

 John Nugent  rode 200 miles June 21-22, raising $2475 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
The ride is called the Tour de Farms–the course runs mostly through fields like thiis near De Kalb, Illinois.  On Sunday, John rode with Team Citco at more than 20 miles per hour.  The course has distances for everyone, and everyone rides at his own pace for fun.
This was John’s 14th year in the Ride.  He started the Motorcycle Safety Crew and has served as chair of the Steering Committee for the event.
A member of our family has MS.

John calls multiple sclerosis “a sh*tty” disease–

 What MS can do to a person: loss of sensitivity or changes in sensation such as tingling, pins and needles or numbness, muscle weakness, very pronounced reflexesmuscle spasms, or difficulty in moving; difficulties with coordination and balance (ataxia); problems with speech or swallowing, visual problems (nystagmusoptic neuritis or double vision), feeling tiredacute or chronic pain, and bladder and bowel difficulties, among others.[1] Difficulties thinking and emotional problems such as depression or unstable mood are also common.  Wikipedia

More information here

Donate here  then click on DONATE TO JOHN on right hand side.

Court Protects Cell Privacy

 

BREAKING NEWS  NYTimes.com Wednesday, June 25, 2014 10:42 AM EDT

In Sweeping Ruling, Supreme Court Shields Privacy of Cellphones

In a major statement on privacy rights in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the court, said the vast amount of data contained on modern cellphones must be protected from routine inspection.
The court heard arguments in April in two cases on the issue, but issued a single decision.
 More of the story.

 

Using College Athletes

 

Some months ago, the football players at our neighbor, Northwestern University, voted to form a union to bargain with the university on terms and conditions of their employment.  The school went to the National Labor Relations Board to have the players declared to be only students, not employees, not entitled to organize as a union.  the NLRB upheld the players’ right to organize.

I have thought that scholarship players have a nice life–just play ball and go to school with no money worries.  NOT TRUE.  They work long hours, almost year-round, and school is secondary–at many schools few of them graduate. They get  room and board but nothing else, to buy shaving cream, for example.

 

If a player takes a little help from an alumnus, he is violating the rules and both he and his benefactor and in serious trouble.

(Once when Laura was visiting hockey-player Megan at U. of Maine, she invited Megan and several other players to out for dinner.  The girls told her the rules prohibited letting someone give them a meal.)

If one gets badly hurt, he may be out of luck and out of school–while the schools and the National Collegiate Athletic Association make millions on their work. Here is a piece by a sports commentator I always enjoy, often learn from.  rjn

Sweetness And Light

Deford: NCAA Says Amateurism Is Alive And Well, But The Jig Is Up

Morning Edition, National Public Radio  Source

Amateurism is dead, revealed so in the trial against the NCAA now in progress in Oakland, Calif., U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken presiding. Before her skeptical eyes, amateurism has been laid out naked on a courtroom slab for a jury of all fans to see that it has no beating heart.

Amateurism, Judge Wilken has been told in the case, commonly known as the O’Bannon trial, nobly protects college athletes from being exploited by evil outsiders — so the NCAA knighthood was created in order that colleges could tie up athletes all by themselves.

(In the radio version of this, De Ford points out that “amateurism” developed in Britain where aristocrats didn’t want their sons, who were above working  for a living, competing against working men--so to be an amateur was to be high-class, unsoiled,  devoted to the game alone, not financial reward.0

To this legal amateur, amateurism in college sport is in violation of the most basic antitrust laws. The claim of the NCAA is that if their athletes were paid, they would no longer be typical students.

Of course, they aren’t already, and every coach and athletic director knows that. Many players in revenue sports are not really students at all. Their job is to play a sport. Only, unlike every other employee in this country, they can’t get paid.

Why? Well, because they are amateurs … so everybody who makes money off them must help the NCAA protect the impoverished amateurs from being exploited.

But, as we’ve seen in Oakland, the jig is up.

_____________________________________________________

More about amateurism:  The Olympic Committee  took 2 gold medals (1912) away from American Indian Jim Thorpe when someone reported he had played 2 seasons of semi-professional baseball, probably for about 25 cents a game, which deprived him of amateur status.

 

 

 

Life At the Feeder

 

A dozen birds are busy at the feeder, sparrows and finches at the seed, a wary woodpecker on the suet, doves feeding on the ground with a squirrel and a chipmunk.  Now whoosh– a flash of hawk scatters the animals.

The big predator picks a little bird to chase out of the yard.  The sparrow darts into a sharp turn, leaving the hawk to sail out over the playing field beyond, the most exciting bird-watching moment we’ve had.

Or maybe it was a falcon–too fast to see.  The small peregrine falcons live on top of the public library in Evanston.

Falcons, probably peregrines,  lived on top of our bulding on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago,  We saw them stooping on pigeons, still too fast to see in detail.  When peregrines were first planted on top of some buildings, it was thought they might serious reduce the pigeon population, I’d think rats, too–but I don’t know that has happened.

Once when Jenifer and I were standing on a corner of Clark Street in Chicago, can’t remember why, I looked up and saw a peregrine perched on the lowest part of a fire escape about 15 feet above us.

In Spain we saw huge stork nests on top of buildings.  A friendly bartender told           us that the storks are valued in cities for controlling snakes and rats.  They’re pretty big–about 4.5 feet, beak to tail, with a 6-foot wingspread. 

white European stork

Several black and white birds with long red legs and long red beaks walk in a green grassy area.
 We saw a flock of them in a rural field. They’re pretty big–about 4.5 feet, beak to tail  with a 6-foot wingspread.

                                                                            

 Years ago I thought it would nice to have some birds in the back yard, so I went to the Wild Bird store in Glenview and bought a standard to hang a feeder on and a Squirrel Buster feeder for a mix of seed, a clear plastic cylinder with feeding holes on the bottom where there is a perch ring that is spring-mounted, adjustable to close  the holes when too much weight is on it.  Hanging on the other side was a shallow ceramic dish for water, now long gone.  Fixed to the stem of the standard is a wire cage to hold a cake of suet, fat with nuts embedded in it.  And below that a buffer, a big can to stop the squirrels.  Sometimes a squirrel will run up the stem into the bottomless can and qjuickly back down again.

And the birds came!  A lot of the little brown ones that seem dully the same  until you look closely.  The male English sparrows are very pretty.  The house finches have purple heads.

Passer domesticus male (15).jpg house sparrow

 

house finch

We have starlings and red-wing blackbirds that are too big for the seed feeder—it closes up on them, but they eat suet as do all the birds including the seed-eaters.

Woodpeckers come  for suet:  They are the downy, just 6 inches long, the identical hairy, about 10 inches, which we haven’t seen in awhile, and the much larger flicker which also takes seed

Gilded Flicker (Colaptes chrysoides) on top of cactus.jpg Flicker  Wikipedia

 Before we had the feeder, flickers came to eat the grubs living in the lawn.

The seed-eaters toss away seeds they don’t want which the doves, squirrels, and chipmunks eat on the ground.

 

For a long while I tried to attract hummingbirds with a feeder of one kind or another without success until I bought the present one, a small covered dish with holes in the top, which hangs on a rope.  Several anxious days after I strung it up the hummers began to make repeated visits for quick sips.

Male Hummingbird feeding on salvia ruby-throated hummingbird   Creative

We were sitting in the backyard watching birds one afternoon when a friend pointed out a  female hummingbird chasing a little  downy woodpecker.  She thought the hummer must have mistaken the downy’s red head-spot for a  flower.

Downy Woodpecker01.jpg  downy woodpecker Wikipedia

Another time, while I sat  on our deck with my head near a life-size plastic hen on the railing, a hummingbird struck the hen’s red comb with a loud click.

I’ve  seen a bee attack a hummingbird at the feeder.  The bird fought back briefly and flew away.

 Hummingbirds are said to be “solitary” creatures.  Only one feeds at a time.  If one comes while another is feeding, it flies away.   If two arrive at the same time, there is a very brief battle with the loser flying off.  A hummer might feed for 10 seconds with several quick dips and a longer one.  They return frequently during a day.

Our hummingbirds are about 4 inches long.  Cuba’s bee hummingbird is 2 inches long, the smallest bird in the world!

   hummingbird moth Wikipedia

The first time I saw a hummingbird moth in the flowers on the deck it fooled me, but still it didn’t look quite right.

Sitting on our deck with Susan and Jenifer and watching birds at the feeder, I mentioned we’d had a visit from a rose-breasted grosbeak, a beautiful bird I’d seen in the yard a couple of times but it hadn’t come to the feeder before.  I described it for the man who runs the Wild Bird store who identified it.

RosebreastedGrosbeak08.jpg  rose-breasted grosbeak Wikipedia

 Susan said she had seen some grosbeaks and heard their call. Jenny said she never seen one; neither of us had heard one, so I brought out our book that has both big pictures of birds and their recorded calls.  As we looked at the grosbeak picture, I pushed the button for its call which was answered from the tree above us!

Susan said she had seen some grosbeaks and heard their call. Jenny said she never seen one; neither of us had heard one, so I brought out our book that has both big pictures of birds and their recorded calls.  As we looked at the grosbeak picture, I pushed the button for its call which was answered from the tree above us!

I knew that others in our family had orioles in their yards, so when I saw an oriole ring in the Wild Bird store I bought it.

 

catbird

 

The ring has nails to hold orange slices, said to attract the birds though they don’t eat from them, and a cup to hold jelly which orioles eat in tiny nips.  Catbirds also eat the jelly.

Baltimore oriole    male

 

Icterus galbula1.jpg female   Wikipedia

When a male and female arrive at the feeder more or less together, the male eats first.  Recently I saw two males sharing, taking turns for quick sips, just briefly

The oriole’s golden breast is much brighter in direct sunlight with  greater contrast with black head of the male.

Orioles are named from the Latin word for golden.

At half-light one morning, about 5:00, I saw the shape of a hummingbird perched still on the feeder, the first bird of the day. Strangely, it sat there  motionless for some minutes before hovering, sipping, and flying off.  It was followed by an oriole, then another.  No other birds showed up for quite awhile.

Recently a bluejay came in and picked up some suet fallen on the baffle.  We’ve rarely seen a jay since they and their cousin crows were wiped out by the West Nile virus some years ago and no crows at all.

  bluejay  Wikipedia

Life at the feeder is a small world that I would like to understand better. Obviously a bird can intimidate a smaller one.  But among the sparrows, for example, when there are three or four feeding, the arrival of another a bird may force one or two to leave with an aggresive flurry of wings and tail and pecking. Recently I saw two sparrows quarreling on top of the feeder, fluttering and trading pecks.  That continued for several minutes until both birds dew back, sat still a bit, then flew off in different directions.

What determines who has to go?  A male/female issue maybe, but I suspect there is a more  complex and interesting social process at work.

rjn

 

 

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How Actors Learn Lines

 

There is an interesting article in the Chicago Tribune about the ways various local actors learn their lines. (June 22, A& E section, p.1). source

I sent the writer this note:

Hi Ms. Metz,

Thanks for your amusing and informative piece on learning lines.
 
Years ago, when Northlight was still playing in the school on Green Bay Road, Eva Marie Saint had the role of a middle-aged concert violinist debilitated by muscular dystrophy in visits with her psychiatrist where she sat in a wheel chair.
 
Early  in a preview performance, in the psychiatrist’s office,  it was clear that Saint did not have her lines.  Off-stage prompting, audible to the audience,  did not  help.  Someone walked on stage to give her the script which caused more trouble because Saint had a different version from the psychiatrist’s!
 
At the high school where I taught, the theater director decided to do a student/faculty production of Working based on Studs Terkel’s book.  I worked very hard to learn the part of the business executive but just could not get the lines for the sailor.
I was saved by the teacher I danced with while speaking.  She knew my lines and gave them to me sentence by sentence.
Eva Marie Saint
Saint is 89 years old now, has had a full career in movies.  I remember her as the young woman with long blonde hair in On the Water Front (1954) with Marlon Brando.
Click blue for a recent interview with Saint
and for video clips from On the Waterfront.
PS  I appreciated that all my kids came to see Working.  Some did not recognize me with my white beard dyed black.
rjn

Animal Emotions

 

Seen At 11: Do Animals Experience Emotions Like Humans Do?

CBS     June 20, 2014  Source

 NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — We love our pets, but do they love us in return?

 

 

 

 

 

 

From happiness to sadness to anxiety and empathy CBS 2′s Maurice DuBois explored animals and emotion.   VIDEO

You wouldn’t believe if you couldn’t see it for yourself — a snake and hamster that are said to be the best of friends.The same holds true for other natural enemies, like the great dane who can’t get enough playtime with a full grown deer.

“I used to work at a zoo and there was an orangutan that adopted a cat and the cat would sit on the orangutan’s lap all day,” said veterinarian Dr. Richard Goldstein.

We see these unlikely pairings often, but do these animal have real feelings for each other?

“I think really, it’s hard to argue against them having emotions,” Dr. Goldstein said.

Dr. Goldstein is the chief medical officer at Manhattan’s Animal Medical Center. He said there’s mounting evidence that proves animals of all shapes and sizes, domesticated and wild, have feelings.

Case in point: Mr. G, the goat who refused to move or eat when he was separated from his long-time companion Jellybean, a burro. When the two were finally reunited six days later, the difference in Mr. G’s mood and behavior was astonishing.

“They definitely appear to have emotions,” Goldstein said.

Dr. Goldstein said multiple studies have been conducted on the emotional status of animals, from happiness and sadness, to anxiety and regret. Some even show how the brain changes as an animal’s emotions change.

“This is a map of each dog’s brain…” said Dr. Gregory Berns.

Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University, conducted the first studies ever using an MRI to look at the brain function of dogs as a way to determine what, how, and if they think about more than just food.

Dr. Berns found just the smell of a dog’s companion or owner can stimulate the area of his or her brain associated with positive emotions.

“And those are very, very similar, if not identical to the changes that happen in people’s brains with different emotional states,” Dr. Goldstein said.

“I think the answer is definitely yes. They love us for basically the same things that humans love each other for like social comfort and social bonds,” Berns added.

The confirmation that animals have feelings came as no surprise to the pet owners who spoke with DuBois.

“Absolutely, you can tell when they’re happy, you can tell when they’re sad, you can tell when they’re confused,” said one resident.

“Animals feel almost the same thing as we do, they’re animals, we’re all animals,” said another.

Animals may not be able to verbalize how they fell, but experts said their body language speaks volumes:                                                                                  Canine Body Language | Feline Body Language

One-Wheel Motorcycle

 

JUN. 20, 2014

REINVENTING HOW CITY DWELLERS GET AROUND

Science Friday WBEZ fm 91.5

Portland, Oregon, is a model city for sustainable urban transit where trolleys, trams, light rail, and cars run on the state’s plentiful hydroelectric power. Jeff Allen, executive director of Drive Oregon, and Chris Hoffmann, inventor of a one-wheeled electric motorcycle called the Ryno, talk about how other cities might learn from Portland’s innovations.
Listen to the show on Science Friday

Check Meet the Ryno

Lionfish–Perfect Predator/Invader

 

Perfect predator’ threatens Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem

As the beautiful lionfish devours native fish, the only way to halt its path: people

By Pam LeBlanc Austin American-Statesman Chicago Tribune 6.20.14

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NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY OCEANOGRAPHIC CENTER PHOTO   Lionfish mature in a year and can spawn every four days, generating 2 million eggs annually. They live about 15 years.

    GALVESTON, Texas — It sounds like something from a horror film: A beautiful, feathery-looking species of fish with venomous spines and a voracious appetite sweeps into the Gulf of Mexico, gobbling everything in its path.

Unfortunately for the native fish and invertebrates it’s eating, this invasion isn’t unfolding on the big screen.

In recent months, news has been spreading of lionfish, a maroon and white striped native of the South Pacific that showed up off the coast of southern Florida in 1985. Most likely, someone dumped a few out of a home fish tank.

With a reproduction rate that would put rabbits to shame and no predators to slow its march, the fish swept up the Eastern Seaboard and down to the Bahamas and beyond, where it is now more common than in its home waters.

“The invasive lionfish have been nearly a perfect predator,” said Martha Klitzkie, director of operations at the nonprofit Reef Environmental Education Foundation, headquartered in Key Largo, Fla.

“Because they are such an effective predator, they’re moving into new areas and, when they get settled, the population increases pretty quickly.”

The lionfish population exploded in the Florida Keys and the Bahamas from 2004 to 2010. As populations boomed, the number of native prey fish dropped. According to a 2012 study by Oregon State University, native prey fish populations along nine reefs in the Bahamas fell an average of 65 percent in just two years.

Lionfish appeared in the western Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The next year, scientists spotted them in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, a protected area about 100 miles off the Texas coast. Now scuba divers spot them on coral heads nearly every time they explore a reef. Significant declines in native fish populations haven’t occurred here, but the future is uncertain.

“It’s kind of this impossible battle,” said Michelle Johnston, a research specialist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Galveston who manages a coral reef monitoring project at the Flower Garden Banks. “When you think how many are out there, I don’t think eradication is possible now.”

Lionfish are fascinating, beautiful creatures. Two nearly identical species are found in the Gulf. They grow to about 18 inches and have numerous venomous spines. Their stripes are unique, like those of a zebra. They hover in the water, hanging near coral heads or underwater structures where reef fish flourish. Ambush predators, they wait for prey fish to draw near, then gulp them down in a flash.

The fish mature in a year and can spawn every four days, pumping out 2 million eggs a year. They live about 15 years.

In the South Pacific, predators and parasites keep lionfish in check. But here, nothing recognizes them as food — those feathery spines serve as do-not-touch warnings to other fish. The few groupers that have been spotted taste-testing lionfish have spit them back out, Johnston said.

 

They can adapt to almost any habitat, from a mangrove in a foot of water to a reef 1,000 feet deep. They like crevices and hideaways, which they can find on anything from a coral head to a drilling platform to a sunken ship.

They can handle a wide range of salinity levels, too. Their range seems limited only by temperature — so far they don’t seem to overwinter farther north than Cape Hatteras, N.C., and their southern expansion extends to the northern tip of South America — although they are expected to reach the middle of Argentina in a year or two.

“As long as they have something to eat, they’ll be there,” Johnston said.

The impacts of their invasion could become widespread, scientists warn.

In the Gulf, lionfish are eating herbivores like damselfish and wrasse — “the lawn mowers of the reef,” as Johnston calls them

— that keep the reef clean.

“When you take the reef fish away, there’s not a lot of other things left to eat algae,” she said. That creates a phase shift from a coral-dominated habitat to an algae-dominated one. “When you take fish away, coral gets smothered, the reef dies, and we lose larger fish. It’s a snowball effect of negativity.”

In the basement of the NOAA Fisheries Science Center on the grounds of old Fort Croc kett in Galveston, Johnston sorts through a rack of glass vials.  Each contains the contents found in the stomach of a lionfish collected in the Flower Garden Banks.

She points to a fish called a bluehead wrasse in one jar.

“This little guy should still be on the reef eating algae, not here in a tube,” she said.

Other jars contain brown chromis, red night shrimp, cocoa damselfish and mantis shrimp, all native species found in lionfish bellies. “The amount of fish we find in their guts — it’s really alarming. They’re eating juvenile fish that should be growing up. They’re also eating fish that the native species are supposed to be eating.”

They eat commercially important species, like snapper and grouper, and the fish that those species eat, too. They’re eating so much, in fact, that scientists say some are suffering from a typically human problem — obesity.

“We’re finding them with copious amount of fat — white, blubbery fat,” Johnston said.

Lionfish can eat anything that fits in their mouth, even fish half their own size.

Scientists don’t want to bring in another non-native fish to eat lionfish for fear of creating another invasive species problem, and sterilization programs are costly and logistically infeasible, Johnston said.

That’s why lionfish derbies, or fishing tournaments of sorts, are popping up around the Caribbean and Gulf. Locals are encouraged to kill and gather the fish, and in some places, including Belize, cook them up afterward.

A recent study, also by Oregon State University, found that native fish populations in the Bahamas grew by 50 percent to 70 percent on reefs regularly culled for lionfish. On reefs where they’re not culled, though, native fish populations decreased by an average of 50 percent. That seems to indicate that safe havens can be created where native species can recover.

“We’re never going to be able to eradicate lionfish, but there is a level where the population can be controlled and impacts can be limited,” said Klitzkie of REEF.

REEF has hosted six lionfish derbies in southern Florida and the Bahamas, and participants have collectively removed more than 12,000 lionfish since the series started in 2009. “We’ve found they’re really making an impact on lionfish population,” Klitzkie said.

In the Gulf, researchers like Johnston have special permits allowing them to remove lionfish when they spot them in the Flower Garden Banks sanctuary, but they need help. And that takes divers, boats and money. “It’s really an uphill battle. In times of limited budget, it can seem dismal,” Johnston said. “The second you stop, they come back.”

Another key to lionfish population control? Getting people to understand that lionfish are safe to eat — and tasty.

That word is slowly spreading. At least one Texas restaurant — the raw bar Cove, inside the Houston restaurant Haven — regularly puts lionfish on the menu.

Jean-Philippe Gaston, the chef at Cove, said some of the restaurant’s regulars, who are scuba divers, alerted him to the lionfish problem in 2011. Haven hosted a lionfish dinner to get the word out. When Cove opened in 2012, it became a menu staple.

“We serve it every day,” Gaston said. “A lot of people come in just for it.”

The fish is flaky and mild tasting, not fishy, and takes on the flavor of whatever seasoning it is prepared with, he said. It can be fried, poached, served raw, encrusted in peanuts, wrapped in leaves and steamed, or marinated in coconut milk with lemon grass, jalapenos, orange segments and ginger, just for starters. To prepare it, though, the cook has to snip off the spines before fileting it.

But for now, it’s an expensive fish for most restaurants to carry. That’s because the fish are usually spear-caught and difficult to handle. An accidental puncture causes swelling and localized pain.

A market might be developing, though. In Florida, local lobstermen are catching lionfish in their lobster traps and making more money selling the fish than the crustaceans, according to Klitzkie.

The organization publishes a lionfish cookbook that features about 100 recipes, from bacon-wrapped lionfish filets to fritters, ceviche, cakes and tacos made from the invasive species.

A gourmet appetite for lionfish would be good news for the Gulf.

“Order it,” Johnston said, tapping on the tank of the office’s resident lionfish mascot, a golf ball-sized fish named Woodstock.

“It’s the greenest fish you can get.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Protecting Ocean Environment

 

Obama pushes ocean plan
The project addresses overfishing, pollution, acidification of waters
By Neela Banerjee    Chicago Tribune   p. 15
Read  National Geographic article on Marine Pollution

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama announced a series of measures Tuesday to protect parts of the world’s oceans, including the creation of a marine sanctuary that would close a large swath of the central Pacific to fishing and energy development. 

The plan would require federal agencies to take multiple initiatives to address pollution, overfishing and acidification of ocean waters, which is driven by climate change. 

“Rising levels of carbon dioxide are causing our oceans to acidify. Pollution endangers marine life. Overfishing threatens whole species,” Obama said in a televised statement to an international conference on ocean policy hosted by the State Department in Washington. “If we ignore these problems, if we drain our oceans of their resources, we won’t just be squandering one of humanity’s greatest treasures. We’ll be cutting off one of the world’s major sources of food and economic growth, including for the United States.”

Hawksbill sea turtle    Wikipedia

 

The announcement provides further evidence of Obama’s willingness to use his executive authority to advance priorities in the face of congressional stalemate, and it quickly drew criticism from congressional Republicans, who contend that the administration over-regulates natural resources industries and that the president has overreached his constitutional powers.

“This is yet another example of how an imperial president is intent on taking unilateral action, behind closed doors, to impose new regulations and layers of restrictive red tape,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash. “Oceans, like our federal lands, are intended to be multiple-use and open for a wide range of economic activities that includes fishing, recreation, conservation and energy production.”

Among the ocean plan’s most ambitious and controversial steps would be expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument southwest of Hawaii. In 2009, President George W. Bush gave monument status to nearly 87,000 square miles around Howland, Baker and Jarvis islands; Johnston, Wake and Palmyra atolls; and Kingman Reef. The islands are uninhabited, and the area is one the few pristine stretches of marine environment in the world.

Mike Leonard, ocean resource policy director for the American Sportfishing Association, said recreational fishing enthusiasts would push to ensure their exemption remains if the protected area is expanded.

The Obama plan envisions extending monument protection from the current limit of 50 nautical miles around the islands to 200 miles, limiting fishing and energy development over a far bigger expanse of ocean. The proposal could more than double the area of ocean protected by the United States, environmental groups said.

The expanded protections, which under federal law the president can order without congressional approval, could go into effect this year after a public comment period.

Joshua Reichert, executive vice president of The Pew Charitable Trusts, said he expects considerable resistance to the plan from the domestic tuna industry.

“The importance of these uninhabited islands is far greater than the value of the fish there,” Reichert said. The proposed protection zone holds some of the world’s “richest marine life and least disturbed areas. It’s immensely valuable to science and home to vast numbers of ocean species.”

The president also established a task force of at least a dozen federal agencies, including the Pentagon and Justice Department, that must develop recommendations to better combat seafood fraud and illegal fishing within the next six months.

Illegal seafood accounted for one-fifth to one-third of wild-caught seafood imported by the U.S. in 2011, according to a recent study in the journal Marine Policy. About one-third of seafood is mislabeled, according to a study last year by the environmental group Oceana, which analyzed more than 1,200 seafood samples bought in 21 states. The study found that fish sold as snapper were misidentified 87 percent of the time.

The White House plan would also improve monitoring of ocean acidification, fueled by the rising amounts of carbon dioxide the oceans absorb.Atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased by about 40 percent since the preindustrial era, thanks to the combustion of fossil fuels, according to a report issued Tuesday by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Oceans absorb about 25 percent of the carbon dioxide human activity generates, and when the gas dissolves in seawater, some of it forms carbonic acid. Greater ocean acidity poses a threat to a range of marine life, including coral reefs and shellfish beds. Under the plan, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would get $9 million over three years to better monitor ocean acidification.  The Washington Post contributed. nbanerjee@tribune.com