This week I have been to an exhibition-event all about the current status of aquaculture. Exhibitors both from industries and academic backgrounds were present for two full on days of exchanges about the future of our food.
Tomorrow is world wetlands day (marking the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea) and for the occasion I decided to dedicate this week's post to the wonderful world that lies between the sea and the land - those transitional ecosystems that are partly exposed to water and partly exposed to air..
Well, wetlands are an even more particular version of a ‘transitional ecosystem’
Just a couple of weeks ago I was told by my friends ‘let’s go an attend an evening event at the beach all about the local dunes - there is also a moonlight walk planned’.
Okay, who wouldn’t fall for that? Let’s forget an evening of Netflix and chill and out we embark on an exploration about the local dunes...
What is the most important aspect of travelling?
If you do a quick survey of your friends you will see that a popular answer is ‘food’.
Food can tell you a lot about a culture, and the further away you go the most weird stuff you are going to find. Which might end up in you eating insects, or interiors.. but if you feel adventurous…
With this post I don’t intend to put you off trying anything by any means, trying new things and having a full immersion in a new culture is indeed one of the reasons why we travel, so go on and take the plunge.
As a marine biologist working on animal-environment interactions,and focused on environmental changes driven by human activities that modify conditions for economic or societal benefit, I was surprised and intrigued to find out about bivalve gardening.
First things first:
What is bivalve gardening?
If you split the words you have your explanation. It refers to the gardening (= growing for personal use) of bivalve species, which are those marine animals with two (=bi) shell halves (=valves). Mussels, oysters, scallops, cockles..all form part of the big bivalve class.
Today we have a special guest post
Last week my friend working in conservation in Fiji asked me if I ever heard of seagrass removal projects.. I said "no, I normally hear about seagrass restoration..but removal..never!". Turned out this particular resort was doing some quite illegal actions, which might be easier in some countries compared to other. So I decided that the least I could do was to give some space on my blog for her and her colleagues to explain. So here we go:
My name is Anastasha Savura and I am publicly releasing my CV to ensure the public knows that I am a Marine Scientist and I need assistance to ensure the Warwick Answers and Apologies for this Incident!
I am the Founder of the page Ocean Guardians Fiji on FB and would like to use social media bring people together to bridge this massive gap between science and policy in the biggest Economical Industries in Fiji. The goal is to develop an umbrella of frame works and guidelines to present to Fiji Tourism and Hospitality Association and other associated bodies so that this never happens again!
Although young and still an ocean of knowledge still to swim through, I clearly understand through education, working experience and volunteer efforts. THE ACTIONS OF WARWICK RESORT and THE ASSOSIATED DIVE SHOP on 25th October, 2018 was an Injustice to the Environment. How much Injustice? I am unsure about as they have not bothered to contact us to correct us otherwise.
In the link below you will find the incident report of that particular day and the events that follow!
On 25th October
On 26th October till date
And we slept on the matter and realized that we had to do something about this because it was wrong. One of the reasons given by the Dive shop owners for firing us was that “we should have handled the situation in a more diplomatic manner instead of sitting in the water to make the digger stop”,
…So on 29th October we both wrote letters:
Other Parties Letter here
We included a presentation I prepared to the Regional Director, a Mr. Sahaan who was on property and asked him to contact us so we could sit and discuss the matter.
We also included a copy of the Regulation of Surfing Areas Decree (which states that Warwick authorized a possibly Illegal activity)
We asked him to contact us so we could sit and discuss the matter.
It is 11:58pm, 1st November, 2018 now as I type this, we have not heard anything from the Warwick however the Associated Dive Shop has contacted us with a SHOCKING EMAIL
(We are now seeking Legal Advice… ) We now have an issue of job security in the diving industry for expats and local marine scientists and Dive Professionals. (How will this be addressed in the future?- Anyone?) Who do we count on to report such PADI dive shops?)
The Only people who care to engage and raise this issue are members of the public and ocean advocates from all around the world therefore your opinion and support will decide our next PLAN of ACTION.
We already are working on a way to ensure that the tourism industry is not affected by the emotion and detrimental social media posts already online by concerned guests by ensuring them that we will work on a way to ensure that this will never happen in any other resort but WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT!
I am only 1 person and now have the support of WWF, Baby Pandas South Pacific and passionate advocates around the world. If you would like to support this cause, please support Ocean Guardians Fiji on FB https://www.facebook.com/oceanguardiansfiji/ and oceanguardiansfiji on instagram https://www.instagram.com/oceanguardiansfiji/ to help with the cause. Every bit of "talanoa" around this matter would help.
Vinaka with high hopes and crossed fingers, Anastasha Savura
As Italy welcomes in 2018, it prepares to see a ban on plastic bags for loose fruit and vegetables (abundant in shops and supermarkets as less of them come pre packaged) - sounds great, in theory, however bags will not entirely disappear but will be replaced by bioplastic bags.
Firstly some explanation: What is bioplastic?
Bioplastics are plastics derived from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, or microbiota. Bioplastics are usually derived from sugar derivatives, including starch, cellulose, lactic acid... Be careful though, as not all 'biodegradable plastic' is actually bioplastic. Some biodegradable plastics are contain additives that cause them to decay more rapidly in the presence of light and oxygen (moisture and heat help too). Unlike bioplastics, biodegradable plastics are made of normal (petrochemical) plastics and don't always break down into harmless substances. So make sure to understand what type are you using before composting etc..
And guess who is one of the biggest producers of bioplastic bags?
If you thought Italy well you thought right! Novamont is one of the biggest bioplastic bags producers and they are an Italian company.. now you may see that the Italian ban may not simply have come out of environmental concerns but out of more intricate hidden interests. Italy already banned plastic shopping bags in favour of biodegradable bags back in 2011, perhaps out of the same hidden interests?
But, you say, motive doesn't matter if it reduces plastic pollution and the plastic ocean problem... and I would agree, if it actually solved it.
But is bioplastic as environmentally friendly as it claims to be?
Now, the problem is that this so called biodegrable plastic might not necessarily biodegrade fast enough in water and may be a threat particularly for seabed habitats such as important sea grass meadows which are not only biodiversity hotspots but also important carbon sinks to help us deal with climate change....More detailed info on bioplastics can be found here
In conclusion, I believe that a deeper understanding of degradation and chemical decomposition is needed to fully understand the effects of bioplastic, and choosing the right materials with the minimal impacts on the long term.
So while a step away from plastic is welcome, we should be careful about its replacement - perhaps is time to think of reusables rather than simply replacing. Let's replace our single uses approaches instead...
And another post inspired by the amazing blue planet 2..
Apart from the amazing footage of the octopus using shells to hide from the shark (pretty impressive, uh?) , this week episode was mostly about the green forests..
Kelp and large seaweeds are very important habitat components, but being 'living habitats' are exposed and at risk the same threats which affect all the rest of marine life: climate change, pollution... you name it! Which means in some cases active protection measures and sometimes restoration are needed to retain these very important features...
Moreover, the presence of these living habitats can change species assemblages, and those changes can reflect back on the forest via feedback loops. Let me explain: if we lose some kelp, we may lose some some species of fish and they may be the same fish species that keep other algae from over-growing and occupy the space so that the kelp cannot come back the following year. Just an example. As David Attenborough showed us, the loss of one species can affect the whole of the system. He used the otter-urchin-kelp trophic cascade, a classic example of how losing the top player can change the game. When otters were hunted, and numbers dropped dramatically, then urchin proliferated and kelp was lost due to urchin overgrazing. This is just an example and similar things happen in other systems.
Did you see how those big spider crabs were afraid of the single ray? Do you know that fear in itself can also change trophic cascades?
When we think of top predators we often think about sharks, however their close relatives, skate and rays, are also at the top of the food chain - well before humans come into play, as we fished out skates from many of our oceans..but recent work , which I was lucky enough to be part of, showed that the presence of skate in itself could help maintainance of bivalve reefs by changing crabs behaviour! This means that if we want to restore bivalve reefs, we have to think more widely about the surrounding ecosystem and take a 'holistic' approach. Restoring reefs, or other systems in general, should include all the components,from top predators to microbes, thus a unification of the many disciplines, and collaborations between ecologists, microbiologists, modellers etc should be encouraged in order to see the full picture!
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