Noelle Swan

Posts Tagged ‘fisheries’

Fireworks Blamed for Arkansas Blackbird Deaths, Cause of Fish Kill Still Unknown

In Uncategorized on January 27, 2011 at 4:59 pm

New Year's Eve fireworks are thought to have spooked thousands of red-winged blackbirds, sending them to fly blind into the dark night.

Nearly a month after Arkansas residents found thousands of dead red-winged blackbirds and tens of thousands of dead drum fish, half the mystery remains unsolved.

The 4,000-5,000 red-winged blackbirds that fell from the sky this New Year’s died as a result of blunt trauma, according to tests conducted by several state and federal agencies, announced the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission on Wednesday. Weather radar confirmed the theory that dense swarms of the birds took off together during New Year’s Eve fireworks celebrations. Unaccustomed to flying at night, the birds have poor night vision and are thought to have crashed into buildings, trees, and other stationary objects.

The bizarre event occurred less than 24 hours after 80,000 drum fish washed up on the banks of the Arkansas River. The Game and Fish Commission has conducted similar tests on the fish, but has been unable to find any conclusive cause.

Tests of the river water revealed normal minerals, nutrients, and metals and did not find any toxins. Infections and parasites have been ruled out as well. AGFC Chief of Fisheries, Chris Racey is quick to reassure consumers that fish caught in the river are still safe to eat.

Coupled with the blackbird event, the riverbanks strewn with fish have drawn a lot of national media attention, but fish kills are not uncommon. While pollution and other human interference can occasionally lead to fish kill, in many areas of the nation, these events are simply a natural phenomenon. In Massachusetts, MassWildlife receives so many calls from residents disturbed by riverbanks dotted with dead fish, that they have a web page devoted to reassuring the public that fish kill is often a natural process. This is a seasonal occurrence and can be triggered by many different factors, from diseases to oxygen levels in the water.

Arkansas rarely sees fish kill of this size, but it does experience this type of event annually. “Unfortunately, we probably will never know exactly what killed these fish,” conceded Racey.

To Swordfish or Not To Swordfish

In Uncategorized on December 28, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Perusing the menu at Pomodoro’s in Brookline Village, my eyes locked on “Grilled Atlantic swordfish on Sardinian couscous risotto.” My lips met in the beginnings of an “Mmmmmm,” just as my stepmother chimed in “does anybody know if swordfish is still a faux-pas?”

“I thought I heard that wasn’t true anymore,” I replied in preemptive defense. She gave me one of those skeptical looks that parents reserve for their children and proceeded to order the zucchini flowers instead.

Feeling a bit guilty, I realized that I had no idea what the status of the swordfish population really was. Sure, “I thought I’d heard” but I also “thought I’d heard” that green M&Ms were an aphrodisiac and pop rocks and coke killed Little Mikey. I decided it was time to try out this environmental journalism thing and get the skinny on swordfish.

In the 1980s, the “Give the Swordfish a Break” campaign popularized the plight of the dwindling North Atlantic swordfish. This campaign successfully coordinated boycotts of restaurants serving swordfish in the northeast resulting in what the National Marine Fisheries Service describes as “recovery that has surpassed expectation.”

Despite the rebound of the swordfish population, the discerning diner must ask one critical question before ordering, “how was the swordfish caught?” If the answer is through longline fishing, then it’s time to find something else on the menu.

Longline fishing is a method of increasing yields of large fish such as swordfish and tuna. This method utilizes mainlines tens of miles long. At varying intervals, a line dangles down bearing hand-baited hooks every few feet. These lines bring in a tremendous harvest of fish, but also of sea birds, sea turtles, marine mammals, sharks and other less desirable fish that are discarded as incidental waste.

If instead, you hear harpoon or handline, you know that this fish was caught with sustainable and responsible fishing methods. If specific fishing methods are unavailable, the chef should at least be able to tell you where it was caught. The Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood WATCH considers all domestically caught swordfish acceptable. It is highly recommended that you avoid imported swordfish.

If your server simply gives you a blank stare, I’d move on.