Anchovies on my pizza please.

I must say, after arriving in Ireland two weeks ago, what a beautiful, green and relaxing place to be. I came here two weeks ago in an attempt to try “wwoofing,” but to be honest, have had a much different experience that I expected. That being said, I am having a great time and I have met some interesting and lovely people.

Seeing the ocean from my room has inspired much reading and research and conversation about fishing, more specifically, sustainable fishing. Small seaside villages  inevitably rely on fishing as food and clean water for leisure and tourism, so, being surrounded by small seaside villages at the moment has allowed me to learn a lot about what the oceans mean in the simplest of ways.

If I were to cut to the chase, I recently read a report published by the University of British Columbia’s Fishery Centre saying that by 2050 there is a good chance that many of the ocean’s large fish species could be extinct. These fishes include some of our favourites – tuna and cod – as well as some sharks and grouper. When large predatory fish such as these are removed from an environment, it allows smaller fish species such as anchovies and sardines to flourish. Unfortunately when there are many small animals in the absence of predators, these populations are much more prone to collapse by disease and massive die-offs; these conditions are then optimal for algae blooms or bacterial growth, resulting in deoxygenated water that is unable to support much life at all. These are called “dead zones.”

The problem is, in the simplest terms, over-fishing and improper use of the oceans resources. Basically, when a large fish population is found, all adults are fished, leaving nothing by way of reproductive individuals to replenish the population successfully. Combined with this is the fact that most of the fishing methods employed are extremely environmentally destructive. One problem, bycatch, is  the unintentional catching of fish not necessarily used for anything which by definition exceeds the amount of target species caught in the process. For example, shrimp trawling results in 20kg of other fish species killed for one kg of shrimp. Well, not even just fish species, but also turtles, sea horses, dolphins, whales, you name it, it somehow makes its way in there.

Farmed fish also comes with its fair share of problems. Animal welfare is just one, but there are also large issues with contamination and damage to local natural ecosystems and habitats. To learn more about fish farms, read here: http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/blue_planet/problems/aquaculture/ .

But as with most bad, there is  good. There is always a way the average person can help. In Canada, http://www.seachoice.org/ is an organization that promotes sustainable fishing and seafood consumption. There is a published list of the best seafood choices – what it is, and how it’s caught. But it might also be worth it to try out the little guys that nobody likes! Anchovies, sardines, mackerel are all really delicious and deserve the same attention as your tuna sandwich.

Unfortunately, fishing is an extremely complicated topic and one that I am in no way 100% informed about. However, I am learning, and I think that it is worth my attention. I hope that more people become aware of just how fragile our oceans are. Think about how by the time the next generation grows to be adults they might never even get to try all the delicious things we enjoy today because we are enjoying them too much.

 

My view!

Tuna

 


Elephants Part I: Background

Last September I did something I had been dreaming of doing forever…go on a safari! My experience in Tanzania was definitely a safari, in the true sense of the word. Safari is a Swahili word for trip (or in many cases, adventure), and it was truly the trip of a lifetime.

My adventure started last February, when I contacted a woman named Sarah about a possible research assistant position in Tanzania and it took off from there. I didn’t think I would ever make it there, but after much struggle, saving, arguments, begging and pleading in the months leading up to September, I finally boarded a plane and traveled halfway across the world. (Shoutout!!! I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of my family (Mom+Alan, Dad+Kelly, and Chelsea) or my amazing and supportive boyfriend Aman)

It would be impossible to summarize my experience into one blog post, or even ten, but I will do my best to give a good introduction. It is also impossible to describe the biology and issues in full detail, but important points are here!

Sarah has been a presence in Tanzania for a few years doing work in animal conservation, but has since started her own PhD. project on Human-Elephant Conflict near Ruaha National Park. The problem in this area of Tanzania is not that the elephant numbers are dwindling (Ruaha has one of the highest elephant populations in East Africa) but that the elephants and the humans that live around the park are at odds with one another. The park is surrounded by very rural, subsistence farming. This means that any damage to crops, whether how big or how small, is potentially detrimental to the farmers livelihood. If you know anything about elephants, it is probably that they are big, and they eat a lot! Therefore, a family of elephants that leaves the park to find food or water, and raids a farm, could very well eat the entire crop in one night. This doesn’t bode well for the farmer, or the farmers family, and therefore, doesn’t bode well for the elephants when the farmer catches them red-handed. Not to mention, running into a wild elephant can be insanely dangerous. Mitigating (or lessening) this conflict is a very important step in protecting not only the strong elephant population of Ruaha, but all the animals that live there.

Many of these farmers and villagers that live near Ruaha have never been into the park, have never learned or experienced the true value of the biological systems that are sitting there in their backyard. Parks have been set up to protect wildlife, but as a result, have restricted access to those most important in protecting it. Nobody has vehicles to go into the park. Therefore, to most of the locals, elephants and other animals are simply that – animals, sometimes pests, sometimes food. What Sarah is doing in Ruaha is taking these farmers and villagers into Ruaha National Park and showing them what thousands of travelers from all over the world come to see, and shes hoping that these experiences change how they feel about wildlife. She believes that educating the local people about wildlife and conservation biology will make them passionate about protecting these very valuable assets

I finally got to fulfill my dream of being a safari guide (even if it was only for a little while, and I wasn’t actually guiding, just coming along for the ride). For three months I went with Rowland (our amazing local guide) into the park, in a 20-year-old Land Rover packed with people (12 to be exact, or 14 when Mama’s brought their babies), and saw the most incredible and amazing animals, landscapes, sunsets, and sunrises I have ever seen.

Me on a village trip in the park

A picture I took in Ruaha

Driving at sunset.

Parts II and III to follow!

http://www.africanconservation.org/201004281841/conservation-news-section/tanzania-the-human-elephant-conflict.html?view=article&Itemid=2