Blue Marble - June 2012

That's One Way to Deal With Invasive Species

| Fri Jun. 1, 2012 11:50 AM EDT

What do you do with a dangerous, invasive fish? Eat it, apparently.

In the DC-Virginia-Maryland region, waterways have been plagued by the snakehead fish, an invasive species here. The fish, native to Asia, has been multiplying in the region since 2002. Snakeheads can measure nearly three feet long, they're carnivorous, and they have special lung things that allow them to live out of water for a few days and travel over land. They're pretty terrifying, and scientists are concerned about the impact they might have on the ecosystem in this region.

In Maryland this weekend, fisherfolk are invited out for a snakehead tournament, with the goal of catching as many of the fish as possible. A $1,500 prize goes to the team that catches the heaviest load of fish, and there will also be a prize awarded for the biggest single fish caught. You can fish with a regular old hook and line, or you can hunt them with a bow and arrow, according to the tournament rules.

Here's what organizers told WAMU, the Washington public radio station:

Though he says he hasn't seen any major environmental impact at this point, wildlife officials throughout the area are encouraging people to catch the fish. And they are.
John Austin is the director of the Second Annual Snakehead Tournament. Fisherman will start casting their lines, or getting their bows and arrows ready, Saturday night. They'll fish over night, and through half past noon on Sunday.
"Our goal this year is to remove at least 800 pounds of snakeheads out of the Potomac watershed," says Austin. "Last year, we removed over 400 pounds, so we're looking to double that."

I ate snakehead while I was in Vietnam last month, where it's a common dish. It's pretty tasty. I also visited a snakehead farm while there, and watched one of the workers dump a giant bag of chum into the water to feed the hungry beasts, which was a good indication of why they are so dangerous here in a non-native ecosystem.

See our previous coverage of eating invasive pigs and plants, in case you're thinking of having a feast this weekend.

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North Carolina Wishes Away Climate Change

| Fri Jun. 1, 2012 5:00 AM EDT
Shad fishing on the NC coast, circa 1935 to 1940.

Some lawmakers will go to great lengths to deny the reality of climate change. But this week, North Carolina lawmakers reached new heights of denial, proposing a new law that would require estimates of sea level rise to be based only on historical data—not on all the evidence that demonstrates that the seas are rising much faster now thanks to global warming.

The sea level along the coast of North Carolina is expected to rise about a meter by the end of the century. But business interests in the state are worried that grim projections that account for climate-induced sea level rise will make it harder for them to develop along the coast line. So policymakers in the state plan to deal with that issue by writing a law requiring inaccurate projections. No joke, here's what the measure says:

These rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of seas-level rise may be extrapolated linearly …

I'll stop here, because Scientific American's Scott Huler, a North Carolina resident, has an epic rant about this that can't be outdone:

It goes on, but there’s the core: North Carolina legislators have decided that the way to make exponential increases in sea level rise – caused by those inconvenient feedback loops we keep hearing about from scientists – go away is to make it against the law to extrapolate exponential; we can only extrapolate along a line predicted by previous sea level rises.
Which, yes, is exactly like saying, do not predict tomorrow’s weather based on radar images of a hurricane swirling offshore, moving west towards us with 60-mph winds and ten inches of rain. Predict the weather based on the last two weeks of fair weather with gentle breezes towards the east. Don’t use radar and barometers; use the Farmer’s Almanac and what grandpa remembers.

It's not clear when or if this is going to be voted on, but if it passes, the state would continue to develop along the coastline without paying any attention to where the sea will be in 50 or 90 years. Willful ignorance, thy name is North Carolina.