Yes. I said it. For the first time ever, someone has described the Garibaldi as whack. Totally whack in fact. Why you ask? Because I think we’ve taken this fine inhabitant of the kelp forest for granted for far too long. First of all, it is the state marine fish of California, no small feat in state where everyone wants to be a star. Suck it Pile Perch.
Secondly, it has a merit-based hierarchy. Males commonly build nests to impress the lady fish when it comes time to reproduce. The females then take a tour of several different nests and decide which nest she likes best and lays her eggs accordingly. Bachelor fish living in their parents spare nest need not apply.
Finally, it is fierce. As the largest member of the damselfish family, it will protect its nest against anyone who gets too close. Size doesn’t matter. Like Hulk Hogan, it will fight anyone, anywhere, at any time during nesting season brother! Let’s go the video:
All in all, a pretty impressive resume for a fish that has enjoyed total protection from collection and fishing since 1995. So when you’re out there and see this orange burst of energy swimming by, enjoy and have more than a little mad respect.
In a time when the future of the worlds oceans is more unsure than at any point in history, we have this day to think about what it really means to have healthy oceans and what it takes to keep them that way. So while we raise a glass or munch some celebratory seaweed, remember that the only way to ensure healthy oceans for our future generations is to stay aware and in turn help raise awareness. The ocean you save may be your own.
I’ve been writing quite a bit lately here and on other sites about the amazing marine life supported by the rapidly aging and soon-to-be-decommissioned oil rigs operating in the waters here in the Southern California Bight. The problem facing the continued survival of these micro environments lies in the fact that there are quite a few marine conservation groups, supported by local communities, pushing for complete removal of the structures and the flourishing ecosystems they support. It’s a really odd confrontation between groups that usually find themselves on the same side of marine issues. On one side you have respected local scientists including Chris Lowe of CSULB and Dan Pondella of Occidental College conducting studies showing the productive and valuable nature of these ecosystems and presenting data that supports maintaining the rigs after their service lives have ended. Then on the other side, they are being challenged by prominent conservation groups such as the Ocean Foundation and the Sierra Club, who are pushing for a complete restoration and removal of the rigs to an original state and holding the oil companies to the agreement they made to remove them entirely. It’s a really unique situation that has supporters of converting the rigs to reefs scrambling.
They have received some recent help. California Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, is proposing a bill that would create a process by which decommissioned rigs would be turned over to the State Lands Commission, with financial support, to maintain these rigs safely as reefs in perpetuity.
On April 17th, Venoco oil announced that they would be ceasing operations on platform Holly, which lies about 2 miles offshore of UCSB in the Santa Barbara Channel. Because the rig is in California state waters, the California State Lands Commission has ordered a complete removal of the rig and capping of the well and restoration of the site to as natural a state as is possible. While this is seen as a big victory by many environmental groups, there are quite a few voices in the ocean community that see leaving some or all of the underwater structure as a way to preserve a unique and burgeoning ecosystem.
So the question is, should we accept the trade-off of keeping some structure in place to preserve these unique ecosystems? I think there is a good argument to do just that. For Throwback Thursday, I’m presenting some pictures of rig Holly from the 1970’s when the amazing animal and plant communities were first being discovered by local divers. Taken by Bob Evans, founder, creator, and the “force” behind the Force Fin, these great photos give an early glimpse into what many people now regard as one of the richest undersea communities you’ll likely encounter.
In this day and age where science is under attack and pristine wild spaces are under threat, the chance to save something so special is something we need to consider. Take a look at these amazing photos and I think you’ll agree.
Today is the first World Tuna Day, celebrating one of our most important fish. With over 80 countries worldwide having tuna fishing fleets, these “lions of the ocean” supply food security and nutrition, economic development, employment, government revenue, livelihoods, culture and recreation to millions of people across the globe.
Some groups are asking that you celebrate by not eating tuna today but I think your time could be better spent reading this letter from the Pew Foundation which gives a frank assessment of the the challenges tuna face moving forward and some successes that scientist and fishery managers are having as they look to protect them.
A lot to think about but I think Tuna are worth it. See you out there.
On any given dive in the kelp forests of northern California, divers have a surprisingly slim chance to encounter this shy kelp inhabitant. One of the prettiest fish on the rocky reefs, rock greenling are also one of the most cryptic, living in cracks and crevices waiting for their next meal to come along. Growing to 24 inches and living for up to 11 years, this fish is seldom seen by divers south of San Francisco but those that do find it are treated to a colorful scheme of mottled bright red and brownish/red blotched sides. One of the coolest fish you’ll encounter, it has nothing to be shy about. So when you’re out there, take an extra moment to look into the dark. You might just be greeted by the blue smile of the rock greenling, our subtidal hide-and-seek champ.
Okay divers, here comes Shellfish Saturday. Why Shellfish Saturday? Because I love alliteration and time marches on for the California diving lifestyle. Sheep crab is our first installment in what will prove to be a most likely irregular feature on CFD. These spider crabs range from Point Reyes in the north all the way down the Baja Sur peninsula. They are large and in charge for any of you that might have seen them on your undersea adventures with a carapace that can grow to 6 inches and a claw-to-claw span of over 2 feet.
There was once a multi-million dollar fishery for the sheep crab, specifically their claws, but it fell by the wayside in the early 90’s when gill and trammel nets were banned in California waters. Today it is considered by-catch for the most part and apparently spends a great deal of it’s time threatening divers who happen to swim up on them.
Keep your eye out for them when you’re cruising the sandy shallows around the reefs or in some of the submarine canyons that we drop down in to up and down the coast.. They are a real treat to see.
This weeks foray into the kelp forest presents us with one of the most versatile and important residents of California’s nearshore waters, the Sheephead. A large member of the wrasse family, this hermaphroditic species feeds mainly on urchins and other shellfish, keeping populations in check and rocky reefs healthy. These guys are considered a fairly vulnerable species to the pressures of recreational fishing with mainly large males being targeted, resulting in an imbalance in the populations male-to-female ratio when it’s time to reproduce. Next time you’re out there and you come across a large urchin barren, such as the ones you find off Palos Verdes, look around for Sheephead. Then look some more. You probably won’t find many. Healthy Sheephead populations mean healthier reefs and kelp forests. The more you know.
For over 40 years, starting in the 1920’s, San Diego was the Tuna capital of the the world. With a massive fleet of fishing boats and a complex of processing plants supplying tuna to a hungry world, the fishery was the third-largest employer in San Diego to only the US Navy and the aerospace industry. It was truly a way of life for mid-century San Diegans. The good times didn’t last however. With the end of WWII, major corporations started buying out the local processors and alienating the independent fishermen. Japanese imports further eroded the market and concerns over dolphins made the move to offshore fishing cheaper, driving the final nail in the coffin for what was once the late, great Tuna Town. by 1984 it was all but over.
This is kind of a special Fish Friday. Normally, here at CFD, we highlight fish that divers are likely to see. This is kind of a special occasion however as I ran across an interesting article in the Western Outdoor News about a lonely and apparently very lost Chinook Salmon being caught and released in Santa Monica Bay last week.
The largest of the Pacific salmon, Chinooks can grow to up to 135 pounds during their years at sea before returning to spawn in their home streams and rivers. They are highly sought after game fish and certain runs, such as winter run Chinooks in the Sacramento River, are even ESA listed. The species range doesn’t include any Southern California rivers so what this guy was doing here is a mystery and apparently the reporter who wrote the story forgot to ask. Fake news with cool fish.