My Ocean Story

Posted by: Michaela Shelton

My ocean story has been a journey from how I got to my present, as an intern at Ocean Champions, to where I will go in the future to help protect and spread awareness for the oceans.


The view from West Cliff at sunset

As a child growing up in the Central Valley of California, I did not have the fortune of living by the ocean, but I was able to go on family vacations every year to Santa Cruz.  For my family, vacations in Santa Cruz have been a family tradition since my mom was a little girl. I have inherited a love of the ocean from my family, as well as a desire and enthusiasm to not care where I am, as long as I can see the ocean.  My fondest memories are playing in the ocean with my family, and learning about all of the wonders that can be found under the ocean’s surface. Growing up in the valley helped me develop a thirst for the ocean’s vast, infinite presence and deceptive tranquility, and the ocean has in turn presented me with so many intriguing mysteries and memories. As an Environmental Studies student at UC Santa Cruz, ocean conservation is my top area of interest and one of my highest priorities.


One of my favorite spots at Wilder Ranch State Park

Much like a biologist is constantly aware of that natural processes around them, my education has made me constantly aware of the wastefulness I see, and often participate in everyday.  I know that every time I drive my car, I am contributing to carbon emissions, leading to problems like ocean acidification.  I steer clear of plastic bottles and bags, because they may end up in the stomach of a dolphin, whale, seal, or any other ocean creature.  I am also aware of social constructs that prevent people from making good environmental decisions, and I know that ecological destruction has grown to be a complex problem with even more complex solutions.  For these reasons, environmental policy has become the focus of my studies.

These previous chapters in my ocean story have led me to Ocean Champions. This unique organization is focused on making changes where it matters to protect the ocean.  By engaging in the electoral and legislative arena, Ocean Champions are making waves of positive change for the ocean, and this change can radiate into other environmental impact areas. It is refreshing to find an organization where I can wholeheartedly support the key issues and mission.  I am beyond excited to begin the next chapter of my ocean story with Ocean Champions.

Date Posted: July 17, 2015 @ 2:31 pm Comments Off

My Ocean Story

Posted by: Sophia Kirschenman

A couple of weeks ago I went to the beach with my dog. It is a beach in Seaside that I frequent not because it is the most beautiful area, but because it is close to my house, allows dogs and is peaceful. But lately, there has been a change. In the last couple of weeks almost every time I have been to this beach, I have come upon at least one (and sometimes two or three) dead sea lions. On this particular day, instead of seeing a dead sea lion, I saw one that was still alive.

seal on beachNow let me back up. At present, I am an Ocean Conservation Intern with Ocean Champions and as part of the job I manage their social media. Among other things, this means that I read a ton of ocean-related news. What I am trying to say is that I was well aware of recent news regarding the thousands of starving California sea lion pups washing ashore. So it was a surprise to find one that did not appear to be starving even if it was in terribly bad shape. Before I had a chance to process the situation, the sea lion started having a seizure. It was one of those awful moments when you wish you could look away, but instead find yourself staring on, horrified. The sea lion started convulsing – on its side, one of its fins straight up in the air as its eyes rolled to the back of its head. It was shocking and confusing. Why wasn’t this sea lion a pup? Shouldn’t it be starving rather than convulsing?

There was a woman standing near the sea lion and I asked her if she’d had a chance to call one of the rescue centers for help. She said she had (about an hour before) but that the volunteers from the Marine Mammal Center were swamped. They told her they’d already picked up 16 sea lions that morning and had 5 calls to answer before they could come. That’s 21 sea lions in one day! Before 10 a.m. I just didn’t realize how dire the situation was.

I kept my distance because I had my dog with me and didn’t want to cause the sea lion unnecessary stress. I felt like I had to do something, even if that something was just sitting there, trying to provide comfort to an animal in the last moments of its life. The woman (whose name I never did get) asked if I could wait because she had to get going and I told her I didn’t mind. So we sat. My dog and I sat in the sand watching the sea lion. Every so often, it would have another seizure. Each time, I could have sworn it would be the last as the convulsions progressively got more intense, each lasting longer than the one prior.

dog on beach

Before long, another woman (whose name I later found out was Colleen) approached and asked if I had called anyone. I said that another woman had, but after a brief discussion, we decided to call again. They were friendly and pleasant, but basically said the same thing – that they would be there as soon as they could. So Colleen and I (and my dog Liza) waited. At this point, I had been there for hours with this sea lion. I was sunburned and my dog was thirsty, but I simply couldn’t bring myself to leave. Maybe it was the heat and maybe I was losing my mind, but I felt connected to the sea lion. My dog, who is usually a complete spaz, was lying on her belly staring at this pitiful creature. And each time the sea lion would have a seizure, its deep, black eyes seemed to be staring through me and asking, “Why aren’t you helping me?” For hours, I had kept the tears at bay as I watched this animal suffer, but as we waited in silence, they finally started sweeping down my cheeks. I felt heartbroken. I felt guilty. I felt stupid for crying. I felt like I should be doing something. It was the most helpless moment of my life.

Since that day, I have researched California sea lions and have come to find out that not only are sea lion pups starving because their mothers are having to travel farther in search of food, but that warming ocean temperatures cause the proliferation of algae. Certain types of algae contain domoic acid, which is a neurotoxin that can cause memory loss, seizures and death. Record numbers of California sea lions have turned up on beaches this year after consuming domoic acid in contaminated food sources, which seemed to be what this particular sea lion was suffering from. Scientists have also reported a ‘warm blob’ or giant area of warm water in the eastern Pacific Ocean, but do not know what is causing it.  Thus far, experts have not found a link between this odd occurrence and climate change. However, more sea lion pups are washing ashore at the point of starvation each year even without a ‘warm blob.’ Does that mean climate change is the root cause? Either way, the health of our oceans is in decline.

I left that day feeling disheartened, but since then, things have turned around. I have had the wonderful opportunity of working for Ocean Champions and have realized how crucial the work that they are doing is for our oceans. One of the things that I most appreciate about Ocean Champions is their effort to be bipartisan. Problems regarding our oceans are not Republican problems or Democrat problems. They are everyone’s problems. Ocean Champions seeks to highlight ocean issues by putting them front and center on the political agenda. I feel blessed to be associated with an organization that I admire.

Watching the sea lion suffer that day, I felt like there was nothing that I could do. But then I realized that this sea lion was probably suffering after consuming toxic algae and that I work for an organization that fights to pass legislation addressing the causes of harmful algal blooms. I also realized that even though I could not save it, I could focus on bringing awareness and could contribute in some small way. Maybe, if we all contribute in some small way, we can make a difference for our oceans and our planet.

Now you may be wondering how this story ends and I really wish I could tell you, but I don’t know. Colleen and I stood there for quite some time and eventually, a lifeguard in a white truck pulled up. We explained the situation and he said he would wait for the rescuers. At that point, I had been there for over 3 hours, had missed my first class and was about to be late for the next. So, I gazed at the sea lion one last time and even though I am not religious, I prayed that its suffering would end soon. Then I left. I wish I had stayed.

Other than her name and the fact that she had an in depth knowledge of sea lions, I know nothing about Colleen. All I can say is that it was comforting to have someone to share that tragic experience with and I’m thankful that she was there. I had asked the Marine Mammal Center if they could keep me updated, so roughly an hour after I left I received a call saying that they were finally on their way. I followed up the next day to find out what happened and they said that no sea lions were brought in. I do not know what that means. I asked if the sea lion went back into the water and the woman on the phone said probably. I simply do not believe that. The sea lion could barely move when it wasn’t convulsing. The studies that I have read since that day state that unless treated immediately, sea lions with neurotoxic poisoning usually die. But who knows? Maybe this one didn’t have neurotoxic poisoning. Maybe it miraculously recovered and swam away. And maybe the woman from the Marine Mammal Center just did not want to tell me that the sea lion had died. I guess we’ll never know.
Sea Lion Infographic copy

Date Posted: April 24, 2015 @ 12:49 pm Comments Off

My Ocean Story: Interning with Ocean Champions

Posted by: Amanda Roletti

I have always had a love for the beauty and escape that the natural world provides, especially the ocean. My love for the ocean developed as a very young child. I grew up in San Diego and had the amazing privilege of living in beautiful weather and right on the coast throughout my youth. Ever since I can remember my answer for “what do you want to do today?” has been “go to the beach”! My childhood memories all take place on the coast, whether it be camping on the beach with my family, exploring tide pools with my mom, snorkeling with my dad, or swimming in the ocean all day with my younger sister. As I grew up, the coast and the ocean remained my playground and my escape. I would ride my bike to the beach and stay in the ocean until the sun set almost everyday. When it came time to apply for college, all I knew was that I wanted to study something to do with the natural world and I had to stay by the coast. My top choice for school was the University of California, Santa Cruz. I knew they had one of the best environmental studies programs in the nation and well, the school was five miles from the beach. I was accepted and my college experience has only enhanced my appreciation and passion for the ocean. 10896860_416373228517667_3448121219833723454_n

My motivation to protect the ocean is not only for my own interests, but for others as well. Nearly everyone in the world depends on the ocean in some way. In fact, seventy five percent of the world’s population lives within seventy five km of a coast (Hinrichsen 27). Furthermore, in California, seventy five percent of the population lives within fifty miles of the coast and seven ocean-dependent industries contribute more then seventeen billion to the state’s economy annually (Hinrichsen 28). The issues that the ocean is facing not only harms marine life, but human life as well. I decided that I wanted to work for an ocean conservation and protection organization after realizing how important to ocean is to me, the marine environment, and almost every other person on this planet.

This quarter, I had the amazing opportunity to break into the professional world for ocean advocacy and intern with the organization, Ocean Champions. They are the first organization in the nation to have a connected political action committee that represents the ocean and ocean wildlife. Ocean Champions’ mission is to develop a broad, bipartisan base of political leaders for ocean conservation and protection, or ocean champions, in the U.S Congress and key states. Ultimately, they aim to elect candidates that strongly support ocean conservation in order to make ocean policy a priority in Congress and in state governments.

My knowledge about the political process, ocean policy, and the problems our ocean is facing tremendously expanded during my time at Ocean Champions. I was able to gain first hand experience and meet incredible leaders in the environmental field. I am fortunate that I was able to work with such a successful environmental organization. Ocean Champions has specific goals that they try to accomplish, such as winning certain elections and passing legislation, and they know exactly how they will achieve success. They are a very strategic organization with a plan of action.

I gained a new perspective not only for approaching environmental policy, but for viewing my own life as well. Interning at Ocean Champions made me realize that it is so important to develop strong relationships with people, especially the ones in your field.  My internship allowed me to make these relationships and learn valuable skills you cannot learn in the classroom. I was able to develop relationships with incredible professionals in the environmental field and develop real world skills at the same time. Ultimately, I met all of my original goals and learned more about the professional world, ocean conservation, politics, environmental policy than I ever anticipated through my internship. Thank you Ocean Champions for being champions.


Date Posted: March 24, 2015 @ 12:42 pm Comments Off

Healthy and Thriving Oceans; an Issue We Can All Agree On

Posted by: David Wilmot


On the surface, Election Day was not a good day for the environment. The Republican leadership has stated clearly that they will use their new power – control of both chambers of Congress — to undermine hard fought environmental protections.

We in the ocean conservation community will feel the effects from the change in leadership, as well as the loss of strong ocean champions in Congress including Senator Mark Udall Representative Carol Shea-Porter, and likely a couple others where a winner has not yet been declared.

Dive deeper, however, and there are reasons for optimism.

We endorsed and supported 59 pro-ocean candidates — so called “ocean champions”, which is the most ever in a single election. More than 50 won and will be returning with increased seniority or serving for the first time in the 114th Congress. In addition, “Ocean Enemy #1” Congressman Steve Southerland from Florida was targeted because of his anti-ocean conservation track record. Gwen Graham defeated Southerland last night.

Southerland’s loss underscores the potential for holding Members of Congress accountable for their actions for and against oceans and ocean wildlife.  The campaign waged against Southerland in Florida’s 2nd district included an effective attack from local fishermen and ocean conservationists who were unhappy with his anti-ocean antics.  Important ocean and coastal issues were potentially determinative in other close races as well, especially those in coastal and Great Lakes districts and states.

Looking beyond Election Day outcomes, we are seeing growing signs that ocean issues are emerging as a place for bipartisan cooperation. On Capitol Hill, during the least productive Congress in modern history, both the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate passed legislation addressing the growing problem of harmful and toxic algal blooms (and President Obama signed it into law), took action on pirate fishing and other ocean issues, and the Senate ratified four ocean-related international treaties. This is modest action to be sure, but provides a path for continued progress.

We see bipartisan concern for healthy oceans and ocean wildlife because in coastal communities Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike depend on healthy oceans for jobs and a healthy local economy. According to the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, coastal counties generate more than one-third of our gross domestic product, and 69 million jobs.

We need to continue building bipartisan support, as several critical ocean issues demand attention in the coming Congress:

  • Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the law that manages ocean fishing including essential mandates to end overfishing and rebuild depleted populations of fish;
  • Continued work to eliminate illegal “pirate” fishing on the open seas, and address the well-documented problem of seafood fraud and mislabeled fish;
  • Solutions to the marine debris and plastic pollution in our oceans and coastal waters that endanger wildlife and humans;
  • Ocean acidification, coastal water quality, and more.

These are some of the policy changes needed to ensure healthy and thriving oceans. We are committed to working with our growing number of Democrat, Republican, and Independent ocean champions to cultivate even stronger support for smart, pragmatic ocean conservation policies. Too many voters value and depend on healthy fish and shellfish, swimmable beaches and clean coastlines for these issues to be ignored.


David Wilmot, Ph.D. is the Co-Founder and President of Ocean Champions, the first and only environmental organization dedicated exclusively to building political power for oceans and ocean conservation by helping elect pro-ocean candidates to the U.S. Congress.

Date Posted: November 6, 2014 @ 11:47 am Comments Off

Vote the Ocean

Posted by: David Wilmot


As I sat down to fill out my mail-in ballot I thought about all we’ve experienced this election season. All the time and energy and yes, money, that went into the many campaigns Ocean Champions has supported. And we’re not done yet.

With less than two days to go before the polls close, there’s no time to lose. Please share information on ocean champions endorsed candidates with others, volunteer if you can, and consider a financial contribution to champions that are still facing tight races. Even a tiny investment at this late date can have a big payoff. And, most importantly, remember to Vote the Ocean!

Our goal is to ensure up to 50 champions win. Please check to see if your district has an ocean champion you can support with your vote:

If you don’t see an endorsed champion in your district or state, please forward our list to any friends or family you have in areas that do have endorsed champions and encourage them to “vote the ocean!”

Here are the candidates in tough races that can use your financial help the most (in alphabetical order):

House of Representatives:


With your support, we’re closing strong on our effort to defeat “Ocean Enemy #1” Rep. Steve Southerland in Florida’s 2nd district. We will be up on the air until election day and are working to increase voter turnout in these final days.

The ocean community has stepped up in a big way, and we’re very proud of the work we’ve accomplished together. But we can’t be satisfied without the results of the election next week – please do all you can in these final days to help us ensure we build a pro-ocean majority in Congress.

Creating a pro-ocean Congress takes a total “ocean team” effort, and if we work together, we can win together.

Date Posted: November 3, 2014 @ 3:55 pm Comments Off

My Ocean Story

Posted by: Jess Morten

 My Ocean Story

While I have always been someone drawn to nature, it was always the oceans that caught my interest and attention. Born and raised in the Northeast but with family in California, I grew up staring out at both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, mesmerized by sandy horseshoe crabs in Long Island Sound and dense kelp forests in Monterey Bay.

Helping with a Plankton Tow in the Gulf of Maine

Helping with a Plankton Tow in the Gulf of Maine

Taking down behavioral data on a humpback whale in the Gulf of Maine

Taking down behavioral data on a humpback whale in the Gulf of Maine

When I first started out on the job scene after college in 2008, like so many other wide-eyed, young environmentalists fresh off their diplomas, I had a lack of clarity on the direction and narrowed field that I wanted to head towards in the environmental arena. Armed essentially only with my Environmental Studies degree and an ambitious passion for getting involved in poignant environmental causes, I set out to work as an intern/research assistant at three very different marine biology research organizations; The first in Gloucester, Massachusetts where I spent long, wind-burned days out on the (chilly!) gulf of Maine taking down behavioral data on humpback whales, the second in the San Juan Islands of Washington, where I again spent all day out on the water, this time as part of a population health assessment of the Southern Resident Killer Whales, and lastly in coastal Georgia, where I collected data from the sky as an aerial observer for a study assessing the population and reproductive health of North Atlantic Right Whales.

My Killer Whale research team in Friday Harbor, WA

My Killer Whale research team in Friday Harbor, WA

My Right Whale aerial survey team in Saint Simons Island, GA

My Right Whale aerial survey team in Saint Simons Island, GA

I left each of these incredible experiences reassured that my commitment to working in the nonprofit field, and especially the world of ocean conservation, was the right one for me. Those short years showed me so much: The diligence that goes into data collection, the patience that goes into conducting quality research, the effort that comes with working at a leanly staffed non-profit, the crucial importance of each and every grant that comes in, and–above all–the passion that is required to make a real impact. After this I headed to New York City, where I stayed for three years working for an international environmental NGO before taking the plunge and moving out to California for graduate school and my internship here at Ocean Champions.

I think I have always naturally been a pragmatic thinker, and it has certainly affected the way I have viewed and learned about environmental policy. I firmly believe that major environmental change won’t occur unless both sides of the debate are engaged on the issues, and that’s a big part of what makes me so proud to be a part of Ocean Champions, the only political voice for the oceans. Legislation is critical to conservation, and solid ocean legislation won’t occur without strong ocean and environmental leaders in Congress, defending our environmental rights and inspiring conservation efforts to save these resources we shouldn’t stand to live without.

Date Posted: May 2, 2014 @ 12:47 pm Comments Off

Toxic Algal Blooms: Coming Soon to a Lake Near You

Posted by: Kelsey Schueler

Imagine walking along the shore looking out at your favorite childhood lake. The discolored surface is covered in a thick slime. The smell stings your nose, something between rotting fish and a sewer. You might start coughing, wheezing and feeling short of breath. This is a harmful algal bloom. If you haven’t already experienced one, it’s likely coming soon to a water body near you.

red tide

Algal blooms occur naturally and form the base of food webs, but some blooms produce harmful toxins that can kill fish, mammals, and birds, and make humans sick. Examples of harmful algal blooms (HABs) hot spots include the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Eerie. However, HABs are increasingly affecting inland lakes and waterways. Thanks to climate change, it will likely get worse. Warmer temperatures, intense storms and decreased water levels all contribute to HABs. Changing agricultural practices are also worsening the problem. According to a joint report from Resource Media and National Wildlife Federation, droughts and warm summers led 20 states to report freshwater HABs in 2012. This summer, a different set of 21 states reported inland HABs.   Unfortunately, these numbers are a major underestimation because there is no federal agency tracking lake closures or health warnings nationally, and not all states report or monitor HABs.

For states tracking HABs, there are irregularities between systems. For example, New York reported 50 cases of HABs this summer. While this was the highest number of HABs recorded in any state, this does not mean that New York has the worst HABs problem. It simply demonstrates that extensive monitoring is required to reveal the severity of the problem.

pond algae

Most of us don’t give a lot of thought to algae and the impact it’s having on fish, mammals, birds, humans and local economies, but we should. For example:

  • In California, Pinto Lake has some of the nation’s most toxic algae, which poisoned sea otters in the Monterey Bay.
  • Wichita, Kansas has spent several million dollars treating drinking water because elevated levels of HABs are so common.
  • For the first time, Kentucky found HABs in four lakes, which collectively draw over five million visitors.  Visitors have reported rashes and stomach problems.
  • Oregon’s Midsummer Triathlon became a biathlon after Blue Lake was closed due to toxic algae in August
  • In Florida a massive HABs outbreak in St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon is outraging local communities.

We’ve been working hard to pass the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act in Congress.  The HABs bill will develop and implement a national strategy and regional action plans to combat harmful algal blooms in our oceans and waterways.

Date Posted: December 12, 2013 @ 10:59 am Comments Off

We Are Thankful For You!

Posted by: Kelsey Schueler

Happy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, we want to take the opportunity to say thank you for voting the ocean!

Thank you for supporting pro-ocean candidates, making your voices heard, engaging with us, and helping to shape Congress. With your support, we now have more strength on Capitol Hill than ever before! Together, we can deliver on the promise of ocean political power.

With the holidays around the corner, you can help strengthen the ocean’s political power by giving your friends and loved ones a gift membership to Ocean Champions. It’s easy to give the gift of healthy oceans – no malls, crowds or agony. Surfers, fishermen, divers, boaters and romantic couples all love healthy oceans, and they’ll love you for your thoughtfulness! In addition to your own information, include the recipient’s in the area marked “In Honor of,” and we’ll do the rest (just click here). We’ll send a fabulous Ocean Champions hat with your gift membership, so they can wear a symbol of yours and their ocean devotion!

Thanks again for your continued support. Wishing you and yours a blue/green, healthy and happy holiday season!

Blue Friday

Date Posted: November 28, 2013 @ 11:47 am Comments Off

To Eat Or Not To Eat? The Nuclear Tuna Question

Posted by: Kelsey Schueler

The news is flush with headlines about the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi meltdown. From previously unreported leaks to the challenges of cleanup to the impact on our oceans, lots of folks are understandably concerned. Some of the most outlandish headlines focused on research published by Daniel Madigan, Zofia Baumann and Nicholas Fisher from analysis of radioactive materials found in 15 out of 15 tuna. These researchers’ findings have many asking, should I be eating nuclear tuna?

RW IT Med Tour Procida Island 06th August 2007 Ph. Care'

Photo credit: Marco Care

Before answering that question, there’s an underlying question to ponder: should you eat Pacific bluefin tuna at all? The clear answer is no. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, bluefin tuna is on the avoid list. Why? Because bluefin tuna are being fished unsustainably with stock depletion at 96.4%. In terms of human health, methyl mercury, a neurotoxin, is the major concern. The FDA already warns expectant mothers against consuming too much tuna.

If you’re eating bluefin tuna anyway, here is what you need to know: Tuna samples had cesium radiation levels 10 times higher than before the tsunami. However, this is not a health concern because the levels are still relatively low. You’d have to eat 5,000 to 8,000 pounds of tuna to be at risk.

Radiation sounds scary. But, it is important to remember that most food contains naturally occurring radiation. Bananas naturally contain about 20 times the dose found in radiated tuna. In fact, the seafood you have been eating for years contains traces of cesium left over from Cold War nuclear weapons testing.

On the other hand, there is reason for concern about local non-pelagic fisheries near Fukushima. Many bottom dwelling species that don’t move far from home show cesium levels 40% above health advisories. As a result, these fisheries remain closed.

Bluefin tuna, on the other hand, swim 6,000 miles across the entire Pacific from their Japanese spawning grounds to feeding grounds off California. As they swim across the ocean, radioactive materials in their flesh are diluted. By they time they reach California, radioactivity is 10-20 times lower than levels near Fukushima. It also means the cesium acts as a natural tracer to study migrations of fish, birds, mammals, and turtles.

bluefin (1)

Photo credit: Gerick Bergsma

While the human risk of eating Bluefin tuna isn’t much worse as a result of the Fukushima disaster, the Bluefin tuna’s risk of extinction from continued human consumption remains frighteningly high.  So, come to think of it, maybe it’s better if people believe they’ll grow additional arms and sprout eye stalks if they eat Bluefin tuna these days.

Date Posted: November 20, 2013 @ 2:29 pm Comments Off

Mysteries of the Deep: Oarfish Discoveries

Posted by: Kelsey Schueler

Imagine an almost 20 foot deep-sea fish with a bright-orange, ribbon-like dorsal fin along its narrow bioluminescent body that lives in one of the earth’s last largely unexplored ecosystems. Now imagine stumbling into two of these fish in the same week! This is reality for researchers in Southern California. The exciting and puzzling discovery has sparked many to ask why? From Japanese legends that oarfish are harbingers of earthquakes, to hypotheses on shifting ocean conditions, the cause of death is still unknown.

Catalina Island Marine Institute

Catalina Island Marine Institute

In some respects, the oarfish are reminders of how little is known about the ocean. The rarely seen and rarely studied species lives in the mid-ocean mesopelagic zone, which receives almost no sunlight. Compared to the sea surface and floor, researchers have explored very little in the middle of the water column. While many smaller species call the mesopelagic home, the giant oarfish is quite unique. This over 20 foot behemoth floats in place, essentially swimming vertically while slurping up tiny organisms (check out rare footage of a live oarfish swimming). Their unique body shape likely gave rise to the notion of sea serpents.

As a result, samples are in high demand. The first oarfish, measuring 18 feet, was found off Santa Catalina Island. It is the largest oarfish reported in nearly 20 years. Around the world, researchers are anxious for a piece of tissue. Samples will be tested for toxins, including radiation from Fukushima. DNA samples were also collected to shed light on the oarfish’s nearest relatives. The vertebrae, gills, liver, heart and eyes will also be examined. Large parasites (up to six feet long) were discovered in the intestine.

Phil Hastings_Scripps Institution of Oceanography_UCSD

Phil Hastings, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

The second oarfish, a female with eggs, was dissected last week. Researchers found parasites, sand, and a small amount of krill in the stomach. The ear bones, which provide a wealth of information including the age, were not recovered from the damaged head. Scientists did not even attempt to weigh the massive fish, which had to be cut into four pieces for transport.

Many species like mako sharks and tuna, spend more time in the mesoplegaic than was originally thought. While it will take years for research results, it also represents an opportunity to learn more about the entire water column and how the ocean works.

Want to learn more? Check out this fantastic podcast with Russ Vetter, NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center biologist.

Date Posted: November 4, 2013 @ 2:33 pm Comments Off

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