10 million scallops are dead; Qualicum company lays off staff

Island Scallops in Qualicum Bay said it has suffered $10 million in losses because of high acidity levels in the Georgia Strait.
— image credit: JOHN HARDING PHOTO

High acid levels in the waters around Parksville Qualicum Beach have killed 10 million scallops and forced a local shellfish producer to scale operations back considerably.

Island Scallops CEO Rob Saunders said the company has lost three years worth of scallops and $10 million.

“I’m not sure we are going to stay alive and I’m not sure the oyster industry is going to stay alive,” Saunders told The NEWS. “It’s that dramatic.”

Saunders said the carbon dioxide levels have increased dramatically in the waters of the Georgia Strait, forcing the PH levels to 7.3 from their norm of 8.1 or 8.2. Island Scallops seeds its animals at its hatchery in Qualicum Bay and they are reared in the ocean in small net cages attached to horizontal “longlines,” according to the company’s website. The longlines are submerged about 10 metres below the surface in water about 30 metres deep. From hatchery to harvest takes about three years. Saunders said the company has lost all the scallops put in the ocean in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

“(The high acidity level means the scallops) can’t make their shells and they are less robust and they are suseptible to infection,” said Saunders, who also said this level of PH in the water is not something he’s seen in his 35 years of shellfish farming.

Read more at The Parksville Qualicum Beach News

One of the most serious consequences of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels due to the burning of fossil fuels is acidification of the Earth’s oceans. Most scientists believe that it is already too late to reverse the trend.

There is an interesting and worthwhile discussion in the commentary section following the article. I recommend it.

What Your Cat Is Thinking

Cat owners speak to their cats, attribute many complex emotions to them and chide them when they bring small dead rodents into the house. People don’t pause to ask what is going on in the mind of the cat during these interactions, and perhaps that’s just as well. The role of a pet is to be relentlessly anthropomorphized.

But for any who may wonder what their feline companions are really thinking, “Cat Sense,” by John Bradshaw, provides the best answers that science can give for the time being.

Dr. Bradshaw, a biologist at the University of Bristol in England, has studied animal behavior and cats in particular for the last 30 years. The starting point of his analysis is that cats are still essentially wild animals. They wandered into our encampments when we first started to store harvested grains, which attracted mice.

Unlike dogs, which have been greatly changed by domestication from their wolf ancestor, cats have almost never been bred for a purpose. They caught mice well enough, and their kittens made attractive companions. So cats have stayed much the same, with any evolutionary trend toward domestication constrained by frequent interbreeding with wild cats.

To this day the population of domestic cats is maintained in a semiferal state by the practice of neutering. About the only males available for domestic female cats to breed with are the wildest and least people-friendly tomcats who have escaped into the feral cat population. Some 85 percent of all cat matings, Dr. Bradshaw writes, are arranged by cats themselves, meaning with feral cats.

Read more at The New york Times

Hummingbirds: hovering on the brink of extinction

I have been fascinated by hummingbirds ever since I was given a pack of wild animal cards in hospital while my tonsils were removed and fell in love with Heliothrix aurita, a speck of fire and jade. And also wine-red Topaza pella, perched in a jungle whisking a crimson tail.

I still have those cards. Their pictures seem crude now, but when I was eight I was enraptured. The Aztecs said the Earth’s first flower was fathered by the god of poetry in the shape of a hummingbird; and everything about hummingbirds seems tailor-made for a poet.

Birds see ultraviolet light, and female hummingbirds have a taste for iridescence, so males have turned themselves into flying jewels. Their metallic sheens, glancing as soap bubbles, are reflected in equally iridescent names for which taxonomists have plundered all the shimmer in the lexicon.

There are more than 300 species: words such as emerald, copper, bronze, gold, fire, sapphire, lazuline, emerald and sunbeam spill like Aladdin’s treasure through the list: amethyst woodstar, blue-headed sapphire, Brazilian ruby, buff-winged starfrontlet – you marvel not only at nature’s capacity for spangly variation but the human urge to match it in language.

Hummingbird nests – the size of a nutshell, spun out of plant down, covered with lichen, bound by spider’s silk – are works of art straight out of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Hummingbird tongues, almost transparent, are liquid-trapping miracles of bioengineering that change shape as they flick in and out of the nectar. Their tips are forked: the V’s inside edges have feathery tufts that draw in nectar by capillary action. When hummingbirds sleep they fall into hibernation-like torpor. Metabolism drops, temperature zooms to near-hypothermic levels and breathing slows so drastically that if you find a sleeping hummingbird you think it’s dead. Which, in the Peruvian Andes, makes it a symbol of resurrection.

Read more at The Telegraph