The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: question

How to Farm Fish Without Killing the Planet


Photo: Ocean Farm Technologies.

Aquaculture has been the world’s fastest-growing food sector for several decades, and some argue it is the only feasible answer to the predicament of trying to feed a growing global population that is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050.

And they have a point. Since the 1970s, roughly half of the world’s fish and seafood harvested for human consumption has been farmed, and in 2011, aquaculture exceeded global beef production for the first time in history.

But how can it be done without introducing pathogens (as well has hormones and potential toxins, like antibiotics) and depleting the ocean of precious oxygen and nutrients?

While there appears to be plenty of space in the ocean for the industry to expand, many, if not most of these farms lie in lakes and near-coastal waterways where, if not properly managed, they pose a serious threat to the surrounding environment.


Graphic: Dr. George Pararas-Carayannis.

Read more»

On the Road to Meet the Andaman Sea Gypsies. Part I: Yangon (Rangoon) and Dala, Myanmar (Burma). A Tale of Two Cities.

Version 2

Yangon (Rangoon), seen from Dala (Dalla). Photo: Owen James Burke.

I flew to Myanmar (Burma) to meet a group of seminomadic sea-dwelling peoples around the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea collectively known as “sea gypsies”. But that didn’t get off to a great start. First, I was hung up in Yangon, and what I encountered there was a far grimmer, more harrowing reality than the one I’d set out to find.

DSC_0169 (1)

The ferry terminal in Yangon. Photo: Owen James Burke.

I landed in Yangon (as the capital city of Rangoon is now known to modern-day, militarized “Myanmar”), during a monsoon where people were sitting in plastic chairs along the sidewalk dining in a river of mud and street grit, and despite recent large-scale urban development, the streets—even in the town center—were dismally dark by any city’s standard.

I must have spent three hours in a taxi on the way home from the airport, otherwise a 25 minute jaunt across the city.

After finding a hotel, I dried off and began to wander the streets, ankle deep in mud, runoff and grit. Taking each step, I felt as good as blind. High-rise buildings may have been going up, but it seemed like the sidewalks hadn’t changed since Orwell was sipping and spilling gin and tonics on them.

Read more»

The Japanese Mini-Subs of the Pearl Harbor. Terry Kerby on a Discovery that Rewrote History. A Scuttlefish Feature.


Terry Kerby at the viewing port of the deep sea sub, Pisces V. He was looking through this view port when he found a tiny Japanese submarine that rewrote the history of World War II.
Photo: Chris Dixon

Last week, The New York Times published a story I wrote that posed a question: Do Humans Have a Future in Deep Sea Exploration? The story focused on a pioneering deep sea submersible pilot named Terry Kerby and the laboratory he oversees on Oahu’s windward coast. The laboratory, part of the University of Hawaii and better known as HURL, has been the most important United States deep-sea research outpost in the mid-Pacific since the 1980s. As HURL’s chief pilot, Kerby is perhaps the most experienced submersible navigator alive. With a crew of five, Mr. Kerby and his twin Pisces submarines have discovered more than 140 wrecks and artifacts, recovered tens of millions of dollars in lost scientific equipment, and surveyed atolls and seamounts whose hydrothermal vents and volcanoes were unknown.



Kerby’s discoveries, made alongside the likes of Dr. Robert Ballard and Dr. Sylvia Earle, have rewritten the history of World War II and changed our very understanding of the deep ocean. But in 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced it would be cutting off the meager funding that helped keep HURL and its subs afloat. Today, Kerby faces the possible mothballing of his fleet – and the world faces the loss of ¼ of the planet’s human-piloted deep subs. The forces at play are the same as in many other realms of science — dwindling budgets – NOAA’s deep sea exploration budget is $26 million per year, while NASA’s space exploration budget is on the order of $4 billion. Then, of course, there’s the issue of robots.

Read more»

Kingii: This New Inflatable Wristband Probably Won’t Save Your Life, But It’s a Nice Idea.


Kingii, a new concept for a lifesaving flotation device is drawing a lot of interest on Indiegogo and has already raised nearly half a million dollars in funding (almost 10 times its goal), but we were skeptical as to whether or not the tiny wristband could hold the potential to save a life out on the water, above or beneath the waves.

We enlisted the expertise of Scuttlefish friend and veteran open-water lifesaver Jonathan Hoover–who has rescued some of the world’s top watermen (including professional big wave surfer Greg Long). We asked him what he thought about this new device, and he told us that while it’s a nice idea, it doesn’t hold much (above) water.


OJB: Jonathan, what do you think about this new product on Indiegogo, Kingii, “the world’s smallest flotation device”? These guys have sure raised a lot of money, but I think there are obvious shortcomings. You’re supposed to attach this gadget to your wrist, which wouldn’t really help keep your air passages above water once deployed, especially if you were unconscious.

Jonathan Hoover: The problems are fairly obvious. This clearly requires a conscious person to deploy it. I think you nailed it when you talk about location being a problem. Someone who deploys this in a conscious state is likely to be exhausted by the time they deploy it. With that in mind, you can see how it could be problematic trying to hold yourself up by your wrist to keep your airway above water. From the standpoint of deploying this product, I like the wrist, primarily because it is easily accessible unless there is an entrapment issue. (Ed’s note: if you were to get the clunky thing wedged in a crevice or between coral heads, or your other arm were hung up somehow, you wouldn’t be able to engage the device.)

Read more»

We Asked Famed Yacht Designer Phillippe Briand to Weigh in on the Fantastically Unseaworthy Designs of Lujac Desautel


Above: “Glass.” If a Great Lake were planning to install a new Museum of Modern Art, perhaps Lujac Desautel’s conceptual vessel, Glass (above) could find a relatively safe home. On second thought, remember the Edmund Fitgerald. Images: Lujac Desautel.

A few months ago, we were intrigued by a Wired story on the beautiful ‘sculpture yachts’ of a young French designer named Lujac Desautel. In A Yacht That Doesn’t Get in the Way of Your Ocean Views, Desautel said he took inspiration from places like Philip Johnson’s Connecticut Glass House. “There’s something so simple and powerful in its raw connection from the exterior to interior,” Desautel said. “I thought, what if I just took this idea and placed it on the boat?”

We were bowled over, but skeptical. Indeed, they are beautiful, revolutionary designs, but we just couldn’t see these things actually underway in the open ocean. In short, they looked unseaworthy. Perhaps dangerously so.


“Think Wrong, Be Bold, Move Fast.” – architect Lujac Desautel.
Above: “Salt”, a beautifully modernistic floating deathtrap.

Read more»

What Will Be the Fate of the Captain and Chief Engineer of the Eastern Star, The Capsized Cruise Ship in China?


The ship was righted and raised on June 6th, when the remains of most of those missing were recovered. Photo: gCaptain/Bloomberg.

As recovery crews continue the search for dozens of the 400-plus missing souls after last week’s tragedy in the Yangtze River in China, the captain and the chief engineer of the cruise ship, Eastern Star, which reportedly capsized in the midst of a sudden and rare but ravenous force 12 tornado which sank the ship, remain in custody. The warning of the severe weather was delivered within mere minutes–as is most often the case with tornados–and there wasn’t much time for the vessel to fall into procedure or make for shore, being such a large ship.


The number of casualties from the Yangtze River tragedy has risen to over 430. Photo: Getty Images.

What fate will befall the captain and the chief engineer of the Eastern Star? We asked gCaptain Editor-in-Chief and USCG Master Captain of Unlimited Tonnage John Konrad to weigh in:

“I don’t know what the weather looked like on-scene just prior to the tornado but, even if there were warnings, tornados are hard to predict. I have seen one small tornado (or large water spout) at sea myself and luck is the primary reason we didn’t cross paths with it.”

“In short, unlike other notable incidents like the Costa Concordia and Sewol Ferry, there was probably nothing this captain did wrong… but would it surprise you if I said that Captain Hazelwood (ed’s note: of 1989 Exxon Valdez spill fame) did nothing wrong either?

Read more»

Smile with an Intent to Do Mischief – Why Is China Really Making Islands in the South China Sea?


Above: A March 16 satellite image shows China’s recent progress on Mischief Reef. Image: CreditCenter for Strategic and International Studies, via Digital Globe

The South China Sea is one of the most heavily trafficked commercial waterways and fishing grounds in the world. Oil and natural gas were discovered in the Spratly Islands in 1968. How large those reserves may be is anyone’s guess; they remain vastly unexplored, but every southeast Asian nation within a stone’s throw away has been grappling to claim ownership in the decades since. Last year, China began a coral-smothering dredging project to create more islands – seemingly with that very idea in mind.

“We are building shelters, aids for navigation, search and rescue as well as marine meteorological forecasting services, fishery services and other administrative services,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying reported in a news briefing.


Mischief Reef, January 24, 2012 (left) and March 16, 2015 (right). Images: NYT/Center for Strategic and International Studies via Digital Globe

135 miles to the west of Palawan Island in the Philippines, China is creating an artificial island by dredging sand and burying the coral on Mischief Reef, an aptly named atoll which they laid claim to in 1995. 200 miles to the west of Mischief Reef is Fiery Cross Reef, atop which China has already established an artificial reef almost two miles long and 1,000 feet wide.

Read more»

Why Are Sea Lions and Seals Taking Oregon River Mouths by Storm?


There are over 2,000 sea lions in a single mooring basin in Astoria, Oregon. Photo: Theresa Tillson/Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

A record number of an estimated 300,000 sea lions are lining Oregon’s shores, while down the coast in Southern California pups are washing up dead. What gives?

Read more»