Tuesday, 25 September 2012

100 is the loneliest number since the number 1...

100. Actually, fewer than 100. That is the estimated number of adult cod left in the North Sea. I have been going on about overfishing for some time now, as have most marine scientists, but these new numbers are very scary. Scientists have been analysing Cod catch in fishing ports across Europe and discovered the numbers low. Not a single Cod over the age of 13 was found and considering these creatures can live up to 25 years old, this is alarming. 260,000 tons of Cod had been recorded back in 1971, but our appetite for them has been such, that numbers have declined dramatically. Last year, it was thought that there were only 600 cod in the North Sea aged between 12 and 13 - 200 of these had been caught. Without being able to reach certain ages and sizes, reproduction will decline leading to an overall decline. It also upsets the food chain; scampi are said to be on the rise. It has been suggested by the Chief Exec. of the NFFO (the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations), Barrie Deas, that "The most effective measure in rebuilding fish stocks seems to be removing vessels from service by paying owners to decommission them.” But this will no doubt cause more arguments and more problems. Plus, after all the campaigning, people are still scoffing Cod. Maybe I sound too defeatist, but this news has given me one thought only; maybe it is time we accept it; cod is going to become extinct within the next decade.

Sea Dragons

Apparently, a lot of people have heard of this glorious creature before, but it is new to me! I wanted to post a few pictures of the 'Blue Dragon', a.k.a Glaucus atlanticus. It is a sea slug, a mollusc from the Glaucidae family. They are a small, pelagic nudibranch, only reaching up to 3cm, which is found in warmer, tropical waters. The slug actually floats upside down on the surface of the water due to an air-filled sac it has inside its stomach. It also has a very interesting diet. Because it has an immunity to the stings, Glaucus atlanticus can actual feed on some very large, venomous creatures, including the Portugguese Man O'War (Physalia physalis), the Blue Button (Porpita porpita) and the violet snail (Janthina janthina). One of the main reasons why this sea slug is so spectacular though, is its appearance. The following photos show you just why this creature gets its nick name, what an exquisite organism.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Underwater cassanova's....

delay before returning to normal swimming speeds after sexual intercourse. This is actually a bit of an issue for the squids as the Australian cephalopods only live around a year, during which, they mate with a lot of partners. The squid’s speeds are actually reduced by as much as half after they have finished having sex and the act itself is no mean feat either. The male squid will 'catch' his female and will have to physically restrain her during intercourse; which can last up to 3 hours. Intercourse for both squids can be exhausting, although the males will show a lot of activity. They will change colour frequently during sex and will squirt a lot of ink and water, the latter of which will be into the female’s mantle. Naturally, even reading this sounds exhausting and the squids certainly find it so. The Dumpling Squid will not return to its full speed capacity for around half an hour after the intercourse is over. This is another fascinating insight into cephalopod mating, as scientists have discovered many of the species have interesting such as same-sex mating and sexual cannibalism. Long sex sessions have been noticed many times in squid species, so it is unsurprising that the Dumpling Squid also has a lengthy session.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

When two become one...

In Moreton Bay, Australia, two groups of Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops species) have lived separately; living in different areas and barely communicating. They were once thought to be members of the same pod; however something caused them to separate into two. This however, has recently all changed, after a ban on trawlers in the areas. The ban has led to a 50% reduction of fishing in the bay and a huge change on the dolphin pods. They have, in fact, united to become one large pod. This is an interesting development for the dolphins, but it is important to remember that these dolphins do live in a fluid society, also known as 'fission-fusion'. They form and divide into various groups, so it will be interesting to see how long this large group lasts or whether they will divide back into smaller groups and if they do, whether it will be the same dolphins breaking off. Dolphins are a very social animal who use both sound (up to 30 different vocalisations) and body language to communicate. Pods will generally interact with each other, sometimes for social reasons, such as breeding. However, they do not always communicate for friendly reasons. Sometimes pods will fight or even attack each other sexually. It is interesting that the dolphin’s behaviour changed after fishing was reduced and no doubt further investigation into this will take place. If it is found that less fishing has a positive impact on these mammals, it is likely that this will be used in the fight to expand no fishing zones throughout the world.

Sunday, 3 June 2012


It's been quite a while since my last post, but just a quick update today! The 2 little beaches I applied for have gone through! Still got all the form filling in to do, but hopefully after that I'll be doing my bit! Anyone else done any beach cleans?

Thursday, 12 April 2012

I've applied to make a difference!

Good news this week for Bottlenose dolphins as two groups unite after a ban on fishing boats. In a previous post, I talked about the MCS beach cleans. Well, for me, they have just become more relevant.

Today I took our gorgeous dog, Lexus, for our first swim of the year off a tiny beach just outside our house. This beach really is weeny, but it is surrounded by houses and a main car park. The other side of the carpark is another tiny beach which has a busy pub right next to it. Both these beaches, which are within a 1 minute walk from my front door, often have small boats moored up as they are right in the middle of the Fal estuary. I have noticed many times they are littered with rubbish; wrappers, plastic, glass etc, but today this really hit home when me and Lex were swimming.

So what am I going to do about it? Well, I have just sent an application to the MCS to either adopt these beaches or become the Beachwatch Organiser for both! This would mean that I would have to organise year round beach cleans to ensure all the rubbish is removed and they are kept clean and tidy - just how me and Lex like it!

Wish me luck!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Beach cleans!

Beach Cleans; an excellent way for the local community to put all hands on deck and help out our marine environment. Not been part of a beach clean? Not even sure what a beach clean is? Well, keep reading to find out and maybe you can go along to help out keep our seas clean and tidy!

The beach cleans have been set up by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and the idea is that people adopt their local beach and basically look after it! The organised beach cleans are an opportunity to get a community of people together to clean up their local beaches and get the rubbish out of the area and disposed of properly.

By regularly dealing with some of teh rubbish that rolls up on our shores, we can start to reduce the amount of waste in our oceans. Of course, the best way to prevent rubbish in our seas is to stop dropping it! However, until that point, cleaning up our mess is the first best step.

To take part in a beach clean or even organise your own, check out the MCS website! The link below takes you straight to the MCS website, who are currently organizing a Big Beach Clean Up from 11th - 13th May. By registeraing to take part, you can also get £5 off your next M&S shop over £25!

Thursday, 15 March 2012


Back in university, I looked into a process called Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, or OTEC. This process, in my opinion, is pretty incredible and not only does it provide renewable energy, but one of its by-products is fresh water. It has an initial expensive insertion cost, but apart from that is relatively cheap to run and is pretty much guaranteed. I strongly believe it should be further researched and taken seriously as a renewable energy source.

So what is OTEC?

As I have already mentioned, OTEC means 'Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion'. Is laments terms, this is a process which uses the thermocline to produce energy. In the sea, the water column has varying temperatures. The bottom of the water column will be cooler than the water at the top. OTEC uses this variation in temperature to produce electricity.

The idea of OTEC is by no means a recent one. It was first proposed in the 1880s by a French physicist, D'Arsonval. However it was a student of his, Georges Claude, whom built the first OTEC plant in Cuba, which produced around 20kW of electricity. Today, there are various governments around the world who are heavily researching and testing the technology, with Hawaii leading the way.

Okay, so how does it work?

Well, I am not going to get too complicated. I know that most people who read my blog aren't scientists and nor am I, so I will keep it pretty simple!

There are two types of OTEC systems; open cycle and closed cycle. Closed cycle OTEC uses a rotating turbine, powered by a type of fluid (i.e, ammonia, as it has a low boiling point). This fluid will be vaporized by warm seawater being pumped through a heat exchanger. At the same time, another heat exchanger will have cold water flowed through it, which will condense the vapour into liquid. This will all be recycled. Still with me? The diagram below may help! (Borrowed from the NREL website, many thanks to them)

Open Cycle OTEC works a little differently. This cycle works without a fluid and uses warm surface water. This is poured into a low pressure container, which causes it to boil, causing the steam to have the ability to power a turbine which can is linked up to a generator. This is an excellent way or doing it, because the salt will have been left behind in the container, along with any other water contaminants, which means is produces a by-product of clean water. Clean water, which is suitable for drinking. Imagine all those who could benefit from this?

Both of these cycles can be combined, to form a sort of hybrid. This uses ammonia, but will also produce fresh water.

Another good point about an OTEC system is that it can be built at various locations; land based, shelf based and floating versions have all been built. a floating plant is currently running off the coast of India.

So far so good, right?

Alright, what are the cons of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion?

Well, I'll do a table of both pros and cons, because I haven't actually mentioned all the pros so far:


- It's completely clean. OTEC does not pollute air, land or sea.
- It's reliable. Unlike wind energy, it is always there.
- A by-product is fresh water
- A plant can double up as a good artificial reef
- It can provide air conditioning!
- As mentioned, it can be built at various sites


- It can be costly. This is its biggest problem. Construction can be pricey so can transporting the electricity and the clean water.
- It still needs research. Again, this costs money.
- Not many people know about it

So far, those are the only cons I have come across. This is why the fact that we are not using seems so insane to me. We need our governments to push further with this. Our current energy resources are finite. And with a world getting busier every day, we need to search further afield to keep ourselves afloat. We need more research into OTEC and to discover economical ways of getting the energy transported out. We can't let this just slip by!

Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink..

So this week we have been told that, despite it only being March, we are facing a water ban. Currently set at a hosepipe ban, however some "experts" are predicting we may face furthers restrictions.

We are being told that this is due to rain shortage and the fact that water companies don't know how use the snow which fell only very recently. The papers also printed pictures of rivers across the U.K which have run dry. Some people reacted with outrage; how much water is being used for the Olympic stadiums? What are water companies doing to prevent the leakages they encounter from which masses amounts of water seeps? How come countries across the world, mainly Europe, don't suffer from the same situation?

Well, I can't answer the first 2 questions, but with regards to the latter, it seems that countries all over the world are encountering low water resources. The EEA (European Environmental Agency) has admitted that pressure is mounting and it has called for further legislation on water usage to prevent further wastage.

Many are blaming dry seasons for our water shortage, but personally, I don't think this is the main cause. Our population is dramatically increasing and this will automatically lead to a greater water usage. And it's good to remember; it's not just our water which will be lost, but our fish stocks will suffer too - less water will ultimately mean less fish. Something which we are already struggling with.

So how does a government tackle this problem? What suffers through lack of water? If harsher restrictions are placed upon water usage, there are bound to be businesses that will suffer, should a country already in huge financial trouble be entertaining this idea? Are we REALLY using everything to our advantage? The technology we have available could lead to some relief on our resources, so why are some of these technologies still being ignored? Why hasn't reverse osmosis been pushed further? And there is Ocean Thermal Energy conversion (OTEC) which is, in my eyes, an incredible invention. It could lead to a reliable source of renewable energy AND fresh water as a by-product.

So why are we still ignoring it?

Monday, 13 February 2012

More doom and gloom?

When I look over this blog, very little of it appears pleasant. A large proportion of it sounds like doomsday warnings - our oceans are getting worse and we are going to suffer.

Well, why stop that now? A new report has come out which sounds fairly terrifying - scientists are claiming there is a possibility the oceans may run out of oxygen. Hmm.

Our oceans are developing areas called 'dead zones'. These are areas which have lost oxygen, and therefore the organisms living in that area, sadly die out. It is thought that around 15% of our oceans are currently labelled dead zones, but scientists have so far been unsure whether global warming is having any effect on the oxygenation of the water. However, new research suggests that there may be a link between the two. In fact, it’s even more worrying than that, because scientists have determined that speed is a factor in oxygen decrease as well. Therefore, the faster the ocean warms, the larger the zone of deoxygenation, meaning that the impact of global warming could be even more devastating that we already thought.

So more scary news about our big blue. Maybe I should stick to posting cute sea animals instead?