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Are Oarfish Discoveries A Warning Of Deep Sea Distress?

The first discovery was worth celebrating: A snorkling researcher found an intact oarfish carcass in relatively shallow water on the California coast. Oarfish are hardly ever seen, alive or dead. They’re the longest bony fish in the world, said to grow up to between 30 and 50 feet in length, but live in deep water, thousands of feet below the surface.

Now, the oarfish story may be taking an alarming turn. A second dead oarfish was found along the California coast just yesterday.

It’s said that oarfish finds are extremely rare. So the chances of two oarfish being found in along the coast of a single state are quite slim… unless the cause of the findings is related.

“When they come to shallow water, they’re dying,” explains a researcher in this video of a live oarfish.

Is something causing an oarfish die-off, or is it just a random reoccurence?

Oarfish are said to be harmless to humans. They’re toothless, and they eat little shrimp, so it’s not likely that people could get a dangerous bite from an oarfish, especially a foundering specimen weakening in shallow water.

However, the oarfish has a smaller relative, Agrostichthys parkeri, the ribbonfish, which has delivered electric shocks to people who have handled it. Might a healthy oarfish possess a similar ability? Nobody knows.

9 comments to Are Oarfish Discoveries A Warning Of Deep Sea Distress?

  • Tom

    Greenman, i’m sure that’s a rhetorical question. You know that the ocean is not only heating up and absorbing as much CO2 as it can, but because of these and other polluting factors, it’s acidifying and causing coral reefs to bleach out, damaging the ability of shellfish to make their shells, causing many die-offs of mammals and fish worldwide (especially this summer along the eastern seaboard with dolphin and other species washing up dead on the shoreline), and the phytoplankton are being decimated (that’s the base of the marine food chain for anyone not concerned). Add to that all the overfishing, damaging trawling, dead zones from farm run-off, and the giant plastic gyres that aren’t going away (and affecting bird and fish that try to eat the debris and die as a result) – and the result is not a pretty picture. Now we have to add in all the radioactive contaminants (some with half-lives in the thousands of years) that Fukushima has and is constantly pouring into the Pacific (not to mention the air currents) to update the dying of the oceans of the world. It won’t stop until civilization comes to a screeching halt due to all our pollution finally killing the biosphere and all life with it. There’s no leadership in the world to make the kind of decisions that need to be made into action to stop it all before it’s too late (which it already is).

  • Tom

    Here’s some more:

    http://www.theherald.com.au/story/1848433/the-ocean-is-broken/?cs=12

    (from the article)
    “After we left Japan, it felt as if the ocean itself was dead,” Macfadyen said.

    “We hardly saw any living things. We saw one whale, sort of rolling helplessly on the surface with what looked like a big tumour on its head. It was pretty sickening.

    “I’ve done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I’m used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles there was nothing alive to be seen.”

    In place of the missing life was garbage in astounding volumes.

    “Part of it was the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Japan a couple of years ago. The wave came in over the land, picked up an unbelievable load of stuff and carried it out to sea. And it’s still out there, everywhere you look.”

    Ivan’s brother, Glenn, who boarded at Hawaii for the run into the United States, marvelled at the “thousands on thousands” of yellow plastic buoys. The huge tangles of synthetic rope, fishing lines and nets. Pieces of polystyrene foam by the million. And slicks of oil and petrol, everywhere.
    (read the rest)

  • Tom

    one more:

    http://www.desdemonadespair.net/2013/10/lionfish-infestation-in-atlantic-ocean.html

    Lionfish infestation in Atlantic Ocean a growing epidemic – ‘The lionfish invasion is probably the worst environmental disaster the Atlantic will ever face’

    (from article)

    Ecologist James Morris with the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science said that while this may not be the worst epidemic the Atlantic Ocean has faced, it does have the makings of a disaster. He said the lionfish has brought a “big change in biodiversity,” and it is what he called “the most abundant top-level predator on some coral reefs (in the Atlantic).”

  • Tom

    last one, though there’s tons more:

    https://robertscribbler.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/anoxic-oceans-biotoxins-and-harmful-algae-missing-links-in-mass-dolphin-deaths-on-us-east-coast/#comments

    Anoxic Oceans, Biotoxins and Harmful Algae — Missing Links in Mass Dolphin Deaths on US East Coast?

    (it begins)
    According to reports from NOAA, as of early October more than 550 dolphins had died and washed up along the US East Coast. The deaths, which NOAA has causally linked to morbillivirus infection, are occurring at a more rapid pace than the massive 1987 die-off which eventually resulted in more than 1100 East Coast dolphin deaths over the course of a 1 year period. By the time the first three months had passed in the 1987 die-off about 350 dolphins had perished. If the current event lasts as long as the 1987 die-off we could possibly see nearly 2000 deaths, setting up the current event as the worst in modern memory.

    Morbillivirus — Cause, or Symptom of a More Ominous Problem?

    In recent calls to NOAA and the various state institutes of marine science, I continue to receive confirmation that morbillivirus is listed as the primary cause of dolphin deaths. Most of the stranded dolphins have tested positive for morbillivirus and the disease has been implicated in dolphin deaths before. (For reference, morbillivirus is the same disease that causes measles in humans and is similarly virulent in dolphins. )

    That said, numerous scientific sources, including The Scientific American and researchers at the NRDC, have questioned whether morbillivirus is the primary cause or just a symptom of a larger problem with ocean health. They point to research showing stranded dolphins with high levels of biotoxins in fatty tissue and individuals that are generally plagued by parasites and other infections. Many of these dolphins display compromised or weakened immune systems as a result of elevated toxicity levels. Meanwhile, a large enough segment of these animals are among the adult population to rule out age as a major secondary cause of mortality.

    (there’s lot’s more here)

  • Green Man

    Tom, it’s not a rhetorical question. Just because something dies in deadly conditions doesn’t mean that the particular death is due to those deadly conditions. I’m reminded of the Foyle’s War episode in which a murderer covers his tracks by leaving a body in a bombed-out house in London, during the Blitz.

    There isn’t a definitive conclusion we can reach about these oarfish findings. I’m just pointing out that they might be a clue to something bigger going on. There might not be any bigger something, too.

  • Tom

    Oh it’s bigger alright, Green Man.

  • Tom

    Remember how “shrill” and “nuts” I was about the BP disaster in the Gulf, while many said – oh, it’s a very large area and it won’t be that bad? Well, here we are, how many years later and look at the facts:

    http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/10/gulf-ecosystem-crisis-after-bp-spill-2013102065313544754.html

    New Orleans, US – Hundreds of kilograms of oily debris on beaches, declining seafood catches, and other troubling signs point towards an ecosystem in crisis in the wake of BP’s 2010 oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

    “It’s disturbing what we’re seeing,” Louisiana Oyster Task Force member Brad Robin told Al Jazeera. “We don’t have any more baby crabs, which is a bad sign. We’re seeing things we’ve never seen before.”

    Robin, a commercial oyster fisherman who is also a member of the Louisiana Government Advisory Board, said that of the sea ground where he has harvested oysters in the past, only 30 percent of it is productive now.

    “We’re seeing crabs with holes in their shells, other seafood deformities. The state of Louisiana oyster season opened on October 15, and we can’t find any production out there yet. There is no life out there.”

    According to Robin, entire sectors of the Louisiana oyster harvest areas are “dead or mostly dead”. “I got 10 boats in my fleet and only two of them are operating, because I don’t have the production to run the rest. We’re nowhere near back to whole, and I can’t tell you when or if it’ll come back.”

    State of Louisiana statistics confirm that overall seafood catch numbers since the spill have declined.

    ‘Everything is down’

    Robin is not the only member of the Gulf’s seafood industry to report bleak news. Kathy Birren and her husband own Hernando Beach Seafood, a wholesale seafood business, in Florida.
    “I’ve seen a lot of change since the spill,” Birren told Al Jazeera. “Our stone crab harvest has dropped off and not come back; the numbers are way lower. Typically you’ll see some good crabbing somewhere along the west coast of Florida, but this last year we’ve had problems everywhere.”

    Birren said the problems are not just with the crabs. “We’ve also had our grouper fishing down since the spill,” she added. “We’ve seen fish with tar balls in their stomachs from as far down as the Florida Keys. We had a grouper with tar balls in its stomach last month. Overall, everything is down.”

    According to Birren, many fishermen in her area are giving up. “People are dropping out of the fishing business, and selling out cheap because they have to. I’m in west-central Florida, but fishermen all the way down to Key West are struggling to make it. I look at my son’s future, as he’s just getting into the business, and we’re worried.”

    Dean Blanchard, owner of a seafood business in Grand Isle, Louisiana, is also deeply troubled by what he is seeing. “We have big tar mats coming up on Elmers Island, Fouchon, Grand Isle, and Grand Terre,” Blanchard told Al Jazeera. “Every time we have bad weather we get fresh tar balls and mats.”

    Blanchard said his business generates only about 15 percent of what it did before the spill. “It looks like it’s getting worse,” he said. “I told my wife when she goes to the mall she can only spend 15 percent what she used to spend.”

    Blanchard has also seen shrimp brought in with deformities, and has taken photographs of shrimp with tumours (see above). Others lack eyes. He attributes the deformities to BP’s use of toxic dispersants to sink the spilled oil.

    “Everybody living down here watched them spray their dispersants day in and day out. They sprayed our bays and our beaches,” he said. “We got a problem, because BP says they didn’t spray down here, but we had a priest that even saw them spraying. So either we got a lying priest, or BP is lying.”

    BP and the Coast Guard have told the media they have never sprayed dispersants within 10 miles of the coast, and that dispersants have never been used in bays.

    A decades-long recovery

    On a more sombre note, Dr Ed Cake, a biological oceanographer and a marine biologist, believes it will likely take the Gulf decades to recover from the BP disaster.

    “The impacts of the Ixtoc 1 blowout in the Bay of Campeche in 1979 are still being felt,” said Cake, referring to a large oil spill near the Mexican coast, “and there are bays there where the oysters have still not returned. My prediction is we will be dealing with the impacts of this spill for several decades to come and it will outlive me.”

    According to Cake, blue crab and shrimp catches have fallen in Mississippi and Alabama since the spill, and he also expressed worries about ongoing dolphin die-offs. But his primary concern is the slow recovery of the region’s oyster population.

    “Mississippi recently opened their season, and their oyster fisherman are restricted to 12 sacks of oysters a day. But they can’t even reach six,” Cake said. “Thirty sacks would be a normal day for oysters – that was the previous limit – but that is restricted now because the stocks just aren’t there.”

    Cake’s conclusion is grim. “Here in the estuarine areas, where we have the oysters, I think it’ll be a decade or two before we see any recovery.”

    BP previously provided Al Jazeera with a statement on this topic, a portion of which read: “Seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is among the most tested in the world, and, according to the FDA and NOAA, it is as safe now as it was before the accident.”

    BP claims that fish lesions are naturally common, and that before the spill there was documented evidence of lesions in the Gulf of Mexico caused by parasites and other agents.

    More oil found

    The second phase of the ongoing federal trial against BP investigates whether the company’s actions to halt the flow of oil during the blowout were adequate, and aims to determine how much oil was released.

    “BP is mounting an aggressive legal and public relations campaign to shield itself from liability and minimise the amount of oil spilled in the Gulf, as well as the ongoing impacts from the disaster,” said Jonathan Henderson, an organiser for the Gulf Restoration Network, an environmental group.

    Even Louisiana’s Republican Governor Bobby Jindal agrees. Jindal recently said, “Three and a half years later, BP is spending more money – I want you to hear this – they are spending more money on television commercials than they have on actually restoring the natural resources they impacted.”

    As far away from the blowout site as Florida, researchers continue to find oil in both Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay.

    In Louisiana, according to the LA Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), more than 200 miles of shoreline have “some degree of oiling”, including 14 miles that are moderately or heavily oiled. From March through August of this year, over three million pounds of oiled material have been collected in Louisiana, more than double the amount over the same time period last year.

    In addition, the CPRA reports that “investigations into the chemical composition of MC252 [BP's Macondo well] oil samples demonstrate that submerged oil is NOT substantially weathered or depleted of most PAH’s [polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons],” and “disputes…findings relied on by the USCG [US Coast Guard] that Deepwater Horizon oil is non-toxic”.

    The agency also expresses concerns that “submerged oil may continue to pose long term risk to nearshore ecosystems”.

    (there’s more)

  • Tom

    I don’t know if anyone will see this buried way back here, and you guys don’t do too many environmental pieces currently, but here goes anyway.

    http://dcclothesline.com/2013/10/29/something-killing-life-pacific-ocean-fukushima/

    Something Is Killing Life All Over The Pacific Ocean – Could It Be Fukushima?

    Why is there so much death and disease among sea life living near the west coast of North America right now? Could the hundreds of tons of highly radioactive water that are being released into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every single day have anything to do with it? When I wrote my last article about Fukushima, I got a lot of heat for being “alarmist” and for supposedly “scaring” people unnecessarily. I didn’t think that an article about Fukushima would touch such a nerve, but apparently there are some people out there that really do not want anyone writing about this stuff. Right now, massive numbers of fish and sea creatures are dying in the Pacific Ocean. In addition, independent tests have shown that significant levels of cesium-137 are in a very high percentage of the fish that are being caught in the Pacific and sold in North America. Could this have anything to do with the fact that the largest nuclear disaster in the history of mankind has been constantly releasing enormous amounts of radioactive material into the Pacific Ocean for more than two years? I don’t know about you, but to me this seems to be a question that is worth asking.

    Since I wrote my last article, major news outlets have reported that large numbers of sea stars living off of the west coast of North America appear to be “melting“…

    Divers were out in Puget Sound waters Saturday to see if they can help solve a mystery. Scientists are trying to figure out what’s causing one species of starfish to die in parts of Puget Sound and the waters off of Canada.

    Seattle Aquarium biologists Jeff Christiansen and Joel Hollander suited up in scuba gear in their search for answers. “We’re going to look for both healthy and potentially diseased sea stars,” Christiansen explained. “We’ve got some sea stars that look like they’re melting on the bottom.”

    The same thing is happening in the waters near Canada and nobody’s sure why.

    If scientists don’t know why this is happening, perhaps there is an unusual explanation for this phenomenon.

    Could it be Fukushima?

    The following is what one invertebrate expert quoted by National Geographic says is happening to the starfish…

    “[The starfish] seem to waste away, ‘deflate’ a little, and then just … disintegrate. The arms just detach, and the central disc falls apart. It seems to happen rapidly, and not just dead animals undergoing decomposition, as I observed single arms clinging to the rock faces, tube feet still moving, with the skin split, gills flapping in the current. I’ve seen single animals in the past looking like this, and the first dive this morning I thought it might be crabbers chopping them up and tossing them off the rocks. Then we did our second dive in an area closed to fishing, and in absolutely amazing numbers. The bottom from about 20 to 50 feet [6 to 15 meters] was absolutely littered with arms, oral discs, tube feet, gonads and gills … it was kind of creepy.”

    That certainly does not sound normal to me.

    Shouldn’t we be trying to figure out why this is happening?

    Something is also causing a huge spike in the death rate for killer whales living off of the coast of British Columbia…

    A Vancouver Aquarium researcher is sounding the alarm over “puzzling” changes he’s observed in the killer whale pods that live off the southern British Columbia coast.

    Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard says he fears changes in the ocean environment are prompting odd behaviour and an unusually high mortality rate.

    Barrett-Lennard says the southern resident orca pod, which is found in the Salish Sea between Vancouver Island and the B.C. mainland, has lost seven matriarchs over the past two years, and he’s noticed a lack of vocalizations from the normally chatty mammals.

    Once again, scientists do not know why this is happening.

    Could it be Fukushima?

    I am just asking the question.

    (and, further down the article)

    When you consider the evidence presented above along with all of the other things that we have learned in recent months, it becomes more than just a little bit alarming.

    The following are some more examples of sea life dying off in the Pacific from my recent article entitled “28 Signs That The West Coast Is Being Absolutely Fried With Nuclear Radiation From Fukushima“…

    -Polar bears, seals and walruses along the Alaska coastline are suffering from fur loss and open sores…

    Wildlife experts are studying whether fur loss and open sores detected in nine polar bears in recent weeks is widespread and related to similar incidents among seals and walruses.

    The bears were among 33 spotted near Barrow, Alaska, during routine survey work along the Arctic coastline. Tests showed they had “alopecia, or loss of fur, and other skin lesions,” the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement.

    -There is an epidemic of sea lion deaths along the California coastline…

    At island rookeries off the Southern California coast, 45 percent of the pups born in June have died, said Sharon Melin, a wildlife biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service based in Seattle. Normally, less than one-third of the pups would die. It’s gotten so bad in the past two weeks that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an “unusual mortality event.”

    -Along the Pacific coast of Canada and the Alaska coastline, the population of sockeye salmon is at a historic low. Many are blaming Fukushima.

    -Something is causing fish all along the west coast of Canada to bleed from their gills, bellies and eyeballs.

    -Experts have found very high levels of cesium-137 in plankton living in the waters of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the west coast.

    -One test in California found that 15 out of 15 bluefin tuna were contaminated with radiation from Fukushima.

    -Back in 2012, the Vancouver Sun reported that cesium-137 was being found in a very high percentage of the fish that Japan was selling to Canada…

    • 73 percent of mackerel tested

    • 91 percent of the halibut

    • 92 percent of the sardines

    • 93 percent of the tuna and eel

    • 94 percent of the cod and anchovies

    • 100 percent of the carp, seaweed, shark and monkfish

    Is it really so unreasonable to wonder if Fukushima could be causing all of this?

    And the total amount of nuclear material in the Pacific Ocean is constantly increasing. According to the New York Times, the latest releases from Fukushima contain “much more contaminated water than before”, and the flow of contaminated water will not stop until 2015 at the earliest…

    The latest releases appear to be carrying much more contaminated water than before into the Pacific. And that flow may not slow until at least 2015, when an ice wall around the damaged reactors is supposed to be completed.

    And that same article explained that cesium-137 is entering the Pacific at a rate that is “about three times as high” as last year…

    The magnitude of the recent spike in radiation, and the amounts of groundwater involved, have led Michio Aoyama, an oceanographer at a government research institute who is considered an authority on radiation in the sea, to conclude that radioactive cesium 137 may now be leaking into the Pacific at a rate of about 30 billion becquerels per year, or about three times as high as last year. He estimates that strontium 90 may be entering the Pacific at a similar rate.

    Right now, approximately 300 tons of contaminated water is pouring into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every 24 hours.

    But apparently we are not supposed to ask any questions about this and we are just supposed to blindly accept that this is not having any significant impact on our environment even though sea life in the Pacific appears to be dying in unprecedented numbers.

    I don’t know about you, but I really think that the people of the world deserve to know the truth about what is happening out there.

    • Jim Cook

      I’m not an atomic scientist, but it seems an important question to ask about effects “all over the Pacific”, including all the way over on the other side of the Pacific, is how much the many tons of radioactive material leaked from Fukushima represent when placed against the scale of the Pacific Ocean. Any ideas?

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