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July 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 31, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the July, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Whale Shark Rescue. In June, two whale sharks destined for an ocean theme park in China were rescued after an 18-month investigation by the Wildlife Conservation Society, covered by investigative photojournalist Paul Hilton. The operation, supported by Indonesia's marine police, revealed where the animals were being kept in sea pens at Kasumba Island, Ambon, by a major supplier of marine megafauna to the international wildlife trade. The suspects had recommendation letters from government authorities that allowed them to collect and breed ornamental fish.

Fish Can Recognize Human Faces. Scientists at Oxford University in the UK and the University of Queensland, Australia, in a recent study of archerfish, found that fish can tell a familiar human face from dozens of new faces. Why archerfish? They can indicate a choice clearly (the spitting) whereas other fish cannot. There is no ambiguity in where they are shooting. Fish were trained by being rewarded with a pellet of food when they got it right. They presented the fish with the picture of the face they wanted the fish to learn and a bunch of new faces; up to 44 new ones. The fish were able to pick the familiar face correctly 81 per cent of the time.

Rebreather Reliability. The one thing that has stopped closed-circuit rebreathers (CCR) from being adopted by mainstream recreational divers has been the fear of unreliability of their oxygenlevel management. Electro-galvanic sensors are so unreliable in the rough-and-tumble of life inside a rebreather that most units have three, each of which need calibrating before each use and employ a computer's voting logic to weed out the one that fails before it results in disaster. Now Poseidon in Sweden has come up with a solid-state sensor that uses a completely different principle. It is factory calibrated and will not expire, with unsurpassed shelf life, operational time and stability -- sufficient to revolutionize CCR design.

High Power Battery Warning. Subscriber Michael J. Millet told us that both his strobes blew out after he swapped to high-capacity 2450 mAh batteries. Inon, the manufacturer of underwater photography strobes, advises against the use of higher-power rechargeable batteries because of the heat they generate. Warranties can be invalidated. Eneloop 1.2v1900 mAh NiMH batteries are recommended. We get other reports from those who use Sea & Sea strobes that they, too, might fail in combination with higher output rechargeables.

All Change at Malpelo. One of the most amazing big fish destinations, part of the golden shark triangle that makes up Malpelo, Cocos, Darwin and Wolf in the Galapagos, might be losing its liveaboard operators from 2018 onwards! The Colombian government will oblige liveaboards for Malpelo to operate out of Colombia instead of Panama, which is certainly more complex to travel to, while safety may be a prime issue! So only another 18 months to discover the diving at this amazing island!

Bite Back at the Lionfish Invasion. Whole Foods has 26 Florida stores now selling fresh lionfish in its seafood departments. That might take a bite out of the population of invasive species hurting Florida's offshore reefs. It's an economically priced fish, which has 18 venomous spines, but is safe to eat once the spines have been removed. Mild-tasting, it's become a major restaurant item on many Caribbean islands, the one fish that can be eaten without worrying about reducing reef fish population... and now it has been spotted invading the eastern Mediterranean, expect it soon in Greek and Turkish recipes!

Fish are Dying from Oxygen Depletion. Rising sea temperatures driven by human-induced climate change are causing the metabolism of marine species to speed up, increasing their need for oxygen. These rising temperatures cause layers of ocean water to stratify so the more oxygen-rich surface waters are less able to mix with oxygen-poorer waters deeper in the ocean. With oxygen declining, it's becoming harder for marine life to breathe. Researchers reckon by 2030 to 2040, climate-driven declines in oxygen levels will be detectable in all the oceans; it's detectable today in the southern Indian Ocean and the eastern tropical Pacific. Clearly, all fish are in trouble. (Source: Scientific American/ Environment & Energy Publishing/Global Biogeochemical Cycles)

Oldest Married Divers? Guinness World Records has a category for oldest married scuba dive, but doesn't appear to identify a current record holder. Alabama born Lucy Bunkley-Williams, 67, and Ernest H. "Bert" Williams, 69, both retired marine biologists, intend to change that this summer, off the coast of Puerto Rico. While we wish them well, we'd comment that they don't appear to be very old and would hazard the guess that there might be a more elderly married couple among Undercurrent subscribers. Let us know if you are older and actively diving or know of a couple.

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