Mystery Of The Mangled Mola

I went to college in Monterey Bay where I was lucky enough to volunteer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

MontereyBayAquarium

One of the most fascinating creatures that I feel in love with while volunteering, was the Mola Mola – also known as the Ocean Sunfish. This is one special animal. It’s not the most colorful, easy on the eyes, fast/quick, or appealing fish out there… but it definitely catches your eye.

Baby Mola

Baby Mola

When I came face to face with this fish, I fell in love. I love the fact that this creature is so unique. Kids ran around the Aquarium screaming “Mom, where is the other half of that fish,” “Ewww that’s an ugly fish,” “WOW what is THAT thing?” – whilst I sat there staring at the huge tank in awe.

When I could, I’d let the curious kids know how AWESOME Ocean Sunfish really are! Mola Mola’s are the largest  and heaviest bony fish in the big blue sea – as well as the most parasitic. These animals can grow up to 5,000 lbs and grow up to 10 feet wide x 14 feet high. You will often spot Mola’s at the surface laying sideways inviting birds and smaller fish to pick parasites off its skin. Some have actually been seen breaching 10ft out of the water to try and rid themselves of parasites as well. Since Mola’s are clumsy slow swimmers, they then to feast upon creatures like jellyfish or zooplankton and algae (aka easy targets).

They frequent the shores of Monterey quite often, but I haven’t been lucky enough to see one in the wild (don’t you worry it’s on my Bucket List!). The image above was taken at the Hopkins Marine Institute located right next to the  Monterey Bay Aquarium, where I had a friend working for their Tuna Research and Conservation Center (TRCC). They often had a variety of different animals their holding tanks, and luckily I visited on a day when they were housing 2 baby Sunfish! They were so adorable, I couldn’t get enough of them 🙂 Although, my TRCC friend Luis couldn’t understand why I loved the little buggers so much – it’s ok Luis, I think tuna are cool too!

Any who- I came across this video today of a 2nd grade elementary school class in Carmel CA., investigating why so many Mola’s were washing up dead on the shores of Monterey Bay. It’s super cute – and actually quite informative! Good job future marine biologists 🙂

WORLD OCEANS DAY!

Yesterday, June 8th, marked the 20th anniversary of World Oceans Day! Unfortunately I was super busy with work all week, so I wasn’t able to write a blog post yesterday- but now I have all the time in the world this morning so here  we go:

World Oceans Day was created in 1992- it’s meant to call attention to ocean pollution and combating global warming so our oceans and its creatures will be around for many decades to come. Currently, 16% of U.S. fish populations have been overfished (AND THE NUMBER KEEPS GROWING). There are so many more statistics I could post about how we are horribly and irresponsibly treating our oceans…I’ll refrain for the time being for another blog post rant 😉 But- here are some of my favorite ocean protection organizations which have plenty of statistics that will blow your mind:

If you couldn’t tell already from my blog thus far, I’m in love with the ocean. A piece of my heart will always belong to the marine environment ever since I went to Sea World when I was 4/5 years old:

Little Me!

My love for the oceans has lead me to some great accomplishments! I’ve swam with almost every creature at Sea World, researched on the Great Barrier Reef, swam with a Whale Shark in Baja, seen more whales than I can count, got Advanced and Rescue SCUBA Certified, and hopefully this list will continue until the day I die.

I am hoping that next year I can fulfill the marine science void that I’ve been experiencing working 40 mins from the ocean in a working in a totally different field than marine biology. But, life deals us the cards it does and all we can do is make the most out of them- and right now I’m going with the flow and providing a great life for myself. I’m just itching to move to a tropical island for 6 months or so 🙂 I’ll keep you updated!

LOVE THE OCEAN, LOVE YOURSELF

New “Awesome” Hammerhead Shark Discovered!

Hooray! New shark species discovered- although it looks almost identical to it’s so called twin, the scalloped hammerhead shark (which you can view up close and personal at the Monterey Bay Aquarium as seen in a photo I took below).

Monterey Bay Aquarium photo I took in college. My friend Nick Kova is in the middle of the shot- look him up- he's a great photographer.

The new species is still unnamed, but it look so similar to the scalloped hammerhead that it’s restricting the efforts to save that already endangered species.

This new species- which I will name for the time being- “Awesome Hammerhead”- has a large range in the oceans. It has been discovered near the southern coast of Brazil as well as the eastern coast of the United States. Which makes it even more difficult to start researching this new species.

Looking almost exactly like the endangered scalloped hammerhead is not a good thing for the new “Awesome Hammerheads” … that’s because the scalloped sharks are being unsustainably fished for their ‘precious’ fins which is greatly reducing their numbers. (THIS IS NOT OK) Just throwing it out there, the “Awesome Hammerhead” will probably not be around for long if we don’t crack down on illegal shark finning and protect these great predators of the sea.

At least 7% of the sharks in the US waters originally thought to have been scalloped hammerheads turn out to be the new species which I like to call- “Awesome Hammerhead.” Coming to the actualization that the real scalloped hammerhead population could be fewer than we thought..with an already endangered species this isn’t good news at all.

The new look-alike hammerhead is identical to its near twin, the scalloped hammerhead, except for a few key differences:

  • distinctive DNA
  • 20 fewer vertebrae (about 170 versus 190)
  • a genetic profile suggesting it separated from the scalloped hammerhead 4.5 MILLION years ago

That’s an incredibly long period of time, considering how similar the two different sharks look externally. Crazzzy.

While writing this piece- I found a video from the Ellen Degeneres show regarding the danger of fishing nets which I feel is a good ending to this blog post. Keep the ball rolling on sustainable fishing efforts everyone!! Sit back, watch, and learn.

 

California Legislation PASSES Banning Shark Fin Trade!

Thank goodness I live in California- this week the CA Legislature sent Gov. Brown a bill banning the sale, trade or possession of shark fins. The legislation passed 25-9 in the CA State Senate! Two senators had the audacity to say that bill was “racist” because shark fins were used in some Asian cultures as a delicacy…I’m sorry I don’t care if you consider it a delicacy- capturing sharks, cutting their fins off, and dropping them back into the water is cruel, and horrid. An estimated 25-73 million innocent sharks are killed each year for their fins…so sad.

Associated Press/LA Times

The bill was introduced by Assembly member Paul Fong- and it was supported by my very own Senator from PASADENA Carol Liu!!! She stated that this bill was needed to protect endangered shark species. I live in Pasadena, and I’m so happy to see that she was behind this bill- go Carol!

Shark fins can be sold for $600/lb and even $80 for a bowl of SOUP! Ridiculous I say.

Jay Directo/Getty Images

San Diego based Sentaor, Christine Kehoe, carried the bill through Senate. She mentions that California has the second highest demand for shark fins outside of Asia. Kehoe estimates that 85% of dried shark fin imports to the US come through California- making this legislation of uttermost importance with the restriction of shark fin trade throughout the US and abroad.

Celebrities like Bo Derek, Yao Ming, and organizations such as Oceana, Humane Society of the US and the Humane Society International, rejoiced with this victory.

Co-sponsoring the bill was the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Center for the Future of the Oceans. I used to volunteer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium– they have such an amazing impact on the world with their efforts in protecting our oceans and ocean creatures.

Another co-sponsor of the bill was the Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance. Although, some Chinese-American Senators felt different about the legislation. But Chris Chin, an executive director of San Fran-based Center of Oceanic Awareness, Research and Education, wrote in an email mentioning that policymakers were targeting a major CAUSE of shark mortality rather than a specific ETHNIC group. I concur Chris.

Let’s hope Gov. Jerry Brown does the right thing.

Sharks worth more ALIVE than dead.

Fancy that..an animal being worth more being alive than dead?!

If people would stop killing sharks for their fins, they could essentially make more money in the end by letting them live free without harm in their environment! Sharks are a great incentive (for some) to visit a particular location. Such as: whale sharks in Baja Mexico, and great white sharks in South Africa.  If nations are willing to protect these creatures- then they can ultimately benefit from them- up to 2 million dollars in tourist revenue!!

My aunt has been diving in Palau- one of the most destined diving spots in the entire world. Although her experience was quite different than most (cliff jumping into the ocean and not quite landing properly and breaking her back), she saw many sharks. Although they are on the top of her “fears” list, believing that one day she will be killed by a shark, she still enjoyed being able to see them naturally (alive) in their environment.

In Palau- 80% of their GDP (gross domestic product) comes from shark diving! In 2009, the country was the first to declare ALL of its waters to be a shark sanctuary. Other countries that have caught on are the Honduras and The Maldives.

Unfortunately- the International Union for the Conservation of Nature disclosed that 1/3 of open water sharks face extinction. Undoubtedly because of human action-finning, by-catch… Please don’t buy shark-fin soup, or purchase any item with shark in it. You’ll be thanked for your actions in one way or another (like scuba diving and actually SEEING those sharks!).

Picture of my friend Nick at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Here is a picture I took last year at the Monterey Bay Aquarium-my friend Nick Kova is in the middle shooting with his camera too. I was playing around with the settings on my camera- and thought that this turned out pretty cool. I love the scalloped hammerheads- they look like they are floating in the air.

Chaperoning High School Kids-FIELD TRIP TO MB!

Sooo I have a friend of mine who teaches a Marine Biology class to high school students in Southern California. She had planned a Monterey Bay trip for her students, and all the available chaperons couldn’t make it. She she asked me, the marine biologist graduate, if I would like to go on the trip! I OF COURSE SAID YES!

So this past weekend- we spent 3 amazing fun packed days in Monterey Bay. We stopped by SLO to see the gigantic elephant seals. Arrived in Monterey 9 hours later, unpacked, then played some indoor black-light Ocean mini-golf course (SO FUN). The next day we headed to the Elkhorn Slough for a wildlife tour on a pontoon boat. I have to say- it was one of the most gorgeous sunny days I have ever witnessed on the peninsula. We saw over 60 sea otters, over 200 harbor seals, over 400 sea lions, and 37 bird species. AWESOME!

Then our kayaking plans were put on hold since the waves were too big, so I pulled some strings and got us on the next whale watching boat leaving in an hour and a half. So we rushed back to MB and jumped on the boat.

A lot of the people, including my friend the teacher, were deathly seasick for the majority of the time. Lucky me, I dont get seasick, so I was making sure everyone else was ok. We finally spotted 3 grey whales on our journey across the huge ocean swells- got a couple good pictures.

That night we were able to have 2 hours of down time- so my friend Bryan met up with Sivan (teacher) and I for dinner. It was glorious!

The last day- we woke up early and got a tour of the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. It REALLY made me want to go back to school- specifically grad school soon. Not necessarily in Monterey..but somewhere. I’m such a nerd- the need to learn is exceedingly high for me right now.

After that- we went straight to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Amazing as always 🙂

Then we packed and got back on the bus- for the drive back to LA.

Please check out some of my favorite pictures from the trip.

Octopus Predicting World Cup Matches!

So one of my favorite animals on the planet has been all over YouTube lately.

My friend Michelle showed me this video a couple days ago- since she knew I’m and avid lover of all things cephalopods- and I want to share it with you now!

You will have to click the link since the owner of the video will not let me embed it onto the webpage : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ESGpRUMj9E

Here is a pic of me volunteering at the Monterey Bay Aquarium a couple years ago with my favorite animal!