By Ken MacQueen - Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - 0 Comments
Trash continues to wash ashore in North America
For 21 months, a 20-metre concrete and steel dock floated across the Pacific from Japan only to wash ashore just before Christmas on a remote beach on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Researchers think it’s part of a 1.5-million-tonne debris field adrift in the ocean after an earthquake-generated tsunami smashed into the coast of Japan on March 11, 2011—and a harbinger of a greater mess due to hit the North American coastline in the next few months.
Governments from Alaska, B.C., Washington, Oregon and California are co-operating with their federal counterparts and local governments on clean-up plans and strategies to deal with anything that makes land—including aquatic species not native to North America—as the winter storm season reaches its peak. The latest report from the Japanese environment ministry said most light, wind-blown debris like Styrofoam and buoys have already hit the Alaskan and B.C. coasts. Lumber, much of it from houses ripped apart by the tsunami, is expected to hit the coast between now and June, though tracking what remains afloat is an inexact science. Other debris discovered to date includes a fishing boat and a motorcycle in a shipping container.
The origin of the Olympic Peninsula dock has yet to be confirmed. Researchers are testing for radioactivity and to ensure the array of sea life attached to it doesn’t include invasive species from Japan. The nearest communities to the site are Forks and La Push, famous haunts in the Twilight series of books and movies, and a suitably eerie setting. A similar 150-tonne dock that washed ashore in Oregon in June proved to be an ecological nightmare, home to no less than four invasive species native to Japan. It was sterilized with blowtorches before it was cut up and hauled away.
By Yoni Goldstein - Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
Satisfying demand for America’s favourite fish, rainbow trout, has created huge problems
Oncorhynchus mykiss—the species of fish you and I know as rainbow trout—first appeared about three million years ago, after splitting from the genus that gave us salmon to form its own family. Originally native to an area of the Pacific Rim that stretches from Mexico to Alaska and parts of eastern Russia, the rainbows spread north and south along the Pacific coast starting around 10,000 years ago. That, basically, is what nature had in mind for the rainbows. But as ecologist Anders Halverson explains in a new book, for nearly 150 years the fish has been the protagonist in an entirely different history, one of man’s most convoluted nature-renovation projects.
In An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World, Halverson is concerned with the oddly symbiotic relationship between Americans and rainbows, a connection that stretches back to 1865, and the end of the American Civil War. After the war, many Americans (men, of course) took to fishing. Why? Halverson offers a few possible explanations, two of which seem most plausible: America’s biggest cities, in the second half of the 19th century, were cesspools of pollution and disease, the result of a massive uptick in urban living. Fishing was a good excuse to escape your dirty neighbourhood. And fishing represents virility—a quality white Americans sought to bolster in the face of massive African-American immigration from the South to the North after the Civil War. Northern aristocrats “feared that success and wealth generated an effete ruling class that would easily and inevitably be overrun by the uncivilized hordes.”
In any case, these new sport fishers needed a sparring partner—a fish tough enough to put up a fight (but not too tough that it would actually win the battle against man and reel), and yield a tasty reward. Enter the rainbow trout. In the hierarchy of fish, catfish, at home in sluggish, muddy waters, were at the low end; salmon, “having the advantage of being the royal fish of England,” were chi-chi. But rainbows, “the aristocrat buccaneer of big waters,” were the most popular catch for the late-19th-century fishing man. And, with a dash of lemon and some butter, it made a great dinner, too.