Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Are zoos and aquariums safe?

Not for you, silly. Zoos and aquariums are obviously safe for us What I mean was, is it safe for the animals?

Remember a few months back there was a big huuhah on algae growing on a polar bear named Inuka in the zoo? Well, that was actually rather harmless but it didn't take long for another captive animal to hit the spotlight again.

Source: Kaoru Nazuki Tsutomu

Previously polar bears, now what? Right dolphins, but not just any other dolphins. Pink dolphins! Pink dolphins from underwater world Singapore. 

Majestic right?
Source:  Rico Sun

You haven't seen Singapore's version of pink dolphin yet. Look below
Pink dolphin at Underwater World Singapore has non-contagious skin cancer - See more at:

 This is just sad
 Source: Wildlife watchers and sea shephard conservation society

Skin cancer in one of the pink dolphins in our very own Underwater World Singapore. Don't zoos and aquariums bear the responsibility of taking care the animals? Findings have shown that the conditions were not in the best conditions. This ranges from rusty enclosures to noise pollution (Tan, 2014).

Perhaps it is time to think whether if we are ready to house and enclose such exotic species. What would tourists think when such animals are displayed in the enclosures? 

Tan A. (2014). Pink dolphin at Underwater World Singapore has non-contagious skin cancer. The Straits Times. URL: (accessed on 29th October 2014)
Pink dolphin at Underwater World Singapore has non-contagious skin cancer - See more at:
Pink dolphin at Underwater World Singapore has non-contagious skin cancer - See more at:
Pink dolphin at Underwater World Singapore has non-contagious skin cancer - See more at:
Pink dolphin at Underwater World Singapore has non-contagious skin cancer - See more at:
Pink dolphin at Underwater World Singapore has non-contagious skin cancer - See more at:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Big Old Fat Fertile Female Fish, sustainable fish stocks?

Big Old Fat Fertile Female Fish (BOFFFF), quite a mouthful huh?
For fish lovers, this is probably some "god-sent" fish. It has everything a fish lover could want!

Photo credit: Karna McKinney, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries Service

I mean look at that, all the meat in one fish! But should we be harvesting these fishes as food?

BOFFFF hypothesis
Traditionally, fisheries treat all fish spawners equally, thinking that all fishes reproduce equally. With that conception, they manage their stock. But the BOFFFF hypothesis contradicts that. The BOFFFF hypothesis believes that there should be a reserve of Old Fertile Females to buffer against unfavorable environmental conditions (Mullon et al., 2012). 

The diagram below shows the exponential increase of fish spawn from bigger fishes.
Photo credit: Love et. al (1990) NOAA Technical Report

Advantages of BOFFFF
1. More eggs
2. Better quality eggs, fitter off-springs
3. Spawn at different times and places as younger females, less competition
4. Outlive periods unfavorable for reproduction

Message of the day
Please do not use BOFFFF as food. Encourage fisheries to nurture them to ensure sustainable food supply.

Literature cited:
Mullon, C., Field, J. G., Thebaud, O., Cury, P., & Chaboud, C. (2012). Keeping the big fish: Economic and ecological tradeoffs in size-based fisheries management. Journal of Bioeconomics, 14(3), 267-285.

University of Hawaii at Manoa. (2014, October 21). BOFFFFs (big, old, fat, fertile, female fish) sustain fisheries. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 28, 2014 from

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sand dollars Kaching Kaching

Your first impression of a sand dollar is probably this.
Source: Therese Skelly

Wrong conception. Sand dollars are real and they look more like this. 
Source: Sharon Mooney

Still not convinced that they are very much alive? Try flipping them over.

Convinced yet?  Sand dollars belong to the Phylum Echinodermata and are pretty much related to your starfishes and sea cucumbers.

They are really really really pretty huh. But Beach goers then to pick them up and collect them as "trophies", leading to a threat in their survival.

Please spread this among you friends: If you see a pretty echinoderm like this, put it back where it was gently. Leave some for the future generations to appreciate.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A sushi tells a thousand words

Sushi is a Japanese cuisine which went global. This simple dish made of cooked vinegar rice and other ingredients, the most common being seafood.

It's really hard not to like sushi. But do you know where the seafood in your sushi comes from? Is it illegally harvested out of the fishing regulations? Is your seafood safe? Many may not think of these questions and just eat this delectable food anyway.

 Photo source: Wikipedia
 Photo source: Wikipedia

Moshi moshi made the first QR code sushi in the world where a QR code is made of edible nori or squid ink is added to the sushi, allowing patrons to scan and know where and how the seafood in the sushi came about.

Many sushi eateries took up this initiative across the would such as Harney Sushi in California. This initiative encourages sushi lovers to question and choose where their sushi comes from. Apart from promoting sustainable consumption of seafood, patrons appreciate this transparency and such eateries are getting good business.

Great example of 'technology for sustainability'.

Howard, B. C. (2013). Edible QR Codes Make Sustainable Sushi Fun and Convenient. Retrieved  19th October, 2014, from   make-sustainable-sushi-fun-and-convenient/

Friday, October 10, 2014

California, plastic bags no more.

Remember the problem of plastics affecting marine life?
Well, California is doing something about it.

Plastic bags, along with other plastic products, have been discarded everywhere contributing to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and choking marine creatures.

Photo credit: Greenhouse Carbon Neutral Fdn

In light of this, California government Jerry Brown signed the nation's first statewide ban on the use of plastic bags in stores which will come into effect on July 2015.

I believe this is a huge step into environmental conservation. There has been a heated debate as to whether the government is feigning ignorance on environmental issues or are doing something to solve these problems. California has set an example for the world that the government can and is actually doing something about the issue. A few states, such as Rwanda and Bangladesh, have already restricted the use of plastic bags in their countries. With increasing environmental awareness and support, the world might just be changing for the better.

A note for all: There is still hope. Support greener alternatives and you would be saving creatures like the porcupine fish below. :)

Photo credit: Evergreen

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sea turtles can get tumours too

Fibropapillomatosis is a condition of benign epithelial tumor in sea turtles.
So basically, turtles can get tumours too.

 photo credit: Keller/NIST
 photo credit: Lacey Price, Marine Photobank
photo credit: Chris Stankis. Sea turtle with FP

 For decades this condition has been associated with pollution. Recently, a study has shown that organic pollutants are not linked to fibropapillomatosis but due to natural causes such as algae.
(Keller et al., 2014) My take is that these studies might not be sufficient to prove that pollutants are not linked to tumour in sea turtles and there has to be a control in pollutants released into the oceans. What if a few years later, we find out that pollutants are disastrous to sea turtles? Is it possible to retract the pollutants we dumped into the oceans?

Literature cited:

Keller, J. M., Balazs, G. H., Nilsen, F., Rice, M., Work, T. M., & Jensen, B. A. (2014). Investigating the potential role of persistent organic pollutants in Hawaiian green sea turtle fibropapillomatosis. Environmental science & technology, 48(14), 7807-7816.         

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Western Australia Shark Culling, stopping baited drum lines.

After strong recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and two petitions of 25000 signatures (Dalzell, 2014), drum lines deployment for this summer will not happen.

Since 2010, there were 7 fatal attacks by sharks in Western Australia. In view of this, the state government has introduced "localised shark mitigation strategy" whereby any sharks longer than 3 metres caught, will be killed (Reed & Le Page, 2014)

In 2014, Western Australia government has launched a 13 weeks trail from January to April. Baited drum lines were set off on Perth and South West beaches to trap sharks which comes close to the shore. The trail period killed 68 sharks and cost the government over $1.3million. (Dalzell, 2014)

 Photo by: Andy Corbe
 Photo by: Channel 7

Shark culling is not limited to Western Australia only. Other parts of Australia and South Africa have a tradition of shark culling to protect beach goers and their tourism industry. Sharks are apex predators important to the marine ecosystem. However, the shark populations especially the great whites are in threat of extinction.

Should shark culling still exist today? Instead of killing sharks, Gibbs and Warren (2014) suggests that the government should educate the public about sharks, encourage ocean users to accept the risks and increase the warning systems to warm on sit beach users.

Literature Cited

Dalzell, S. (2014). WA shark cull: Drum lines dumped after EPA recommendations.   Retrieved 28 September, 2014, from
Gibbs, L. M., & Warren, A. T. (2014). WA shark cull season ends, and ocean users don’t want it to return.  
Reed, C., & Le Page, M. (2014). Biting back. New Scientist, 222(2975), 44-45.