Thursday, January 04, 2007

Odds & Ends: Conch, New Blogs, Stranded Dolphins, PBS Documentary

Conch shells may be showing up on the beach in Milford but they’re not from around here. At least that’s what a marine biologist I conferred with told me: conch isn’t part of the natural fauna of Long Island Sound. If Bob Adams is finding them on the beach in Milford, they’re getting there in some unknown way. Here’s what he also said:

There's one very important piece of information missing from Bob's website. Is the conch that he's showing in the picture as he found it, or did he clean it off? If that's how he found it, then there's no doubt that someone put the shell there. In the wild, the outer surface of the conch's shell is quite fouled with algae and small critters (such as hydroids). They allow the conch (whether by intent or not) to blend in with its environment and be less visible to its predators; unfortunately for the conch, man usually isn't fooled, one of the reasons why they're heavily overfished.

If the conch was here, and was alive at some point, then I'd tend to think that one of the scenarios than you hypothesized in the blog probably came to pass.

Caroline DuBois, over on Long Island, pointed me to these two community blogs – one that focuses on Oyster Bay, the other on Bayville. They don’t appear to be updated all that frequently, but the top post (which Caroline wrote) concerns an ethanol spill that occurred last month.

Dolphins are getting stranded in the shallows near Cape Cod. This story uses the word “surge” to describe it but doesn’t say whether the number of stranded dolphins this winter is unusual.

Jon Christensen, a former blogger who is a research fellow at Stanford’s Center for Environmental Science and Policy, has done a documentary called "The Great Wilderness Compromise" that will be on PBS on Friday night:

PBS "NOW" heads out West on Friday, January 5, to examine a controversial effort to find common ground on wilderness protection in the reddest state in America: Idaho. Correspondent Jon Christensen follows Rep. Mike Simpson, the Republican sponsor of a compromise wilderness bill, from the halls of Congress to the peaks of the White Cloud Mountains. To break through the polarization that has stymied efforts to protect wilderness in Idaho for a generation, Simpson has worked hand-in-hand with environmentalist Rick Johnson of the Idaho Conservation League for six years carefully crafting a local compromise that gives something to everyone, but none of them everything that they want. "NOW" talked with residents, ranchers, off-road vehicle fans, and wilderness advocates, including singer-songwriter Carole King, an ardent opponent of the compromise, which would give public land to small towns in the region for future growth — the most controversial of the bills many trade-offs. Exchanging public land for wilderness is a tug-of-war that has entered into a number of wilderness bills that were seeking passage in the last session of Congress. And the Idaho compromise will be among the first bills put on the congressional agenda in the new year. "NOW" offers a window into the passions that drive the wedges — and the ongoing quest for common ground— in western wilderness politics.

More information on time and channel here, and if you can’t catch it tomorrow night, it will be online starting after the show airs, here.



Blogger Sam said...

I recall there used to be tons of Channeled Whelk (busycotypus canalicalatas) in the bays of Long Island Sound. They are highly prone to die from hypoxic conditions. Some people confusingly call these critters "conch."

The Queen Conch (strombus gigas) has a very limited range that keeps them south of Florida, although some are reported as far as Bermuda. The Queen Conch has been listed as endangered by the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), which by the way also rgeulates sturgeon and sturgeon roe. The US has an argreement between NMFS and CITES to help protect the Queen Conch.

Most likely those shells were from a saltwater aquarium or were illegally transported from the Bahamas or Florida. One may harvest abandoned conch shells in Florida but no harvest of live conch are allowed, as they are a protected species.

So what a lot of people do it make the 90-mile trip to the Bahamas, where the conch is virtuallly unregulated - one may harvest 10 per person at any give time! In response to the nearly depleted resources, the Bahamian Ministry of Fisheries is proposing regulations that no "tourists" can take any queen conch.

But for now it is legal, although remember that the US considers the Queen Conch illegal to possess because of the CITES (although dead empty shells are again OK).

It is a fascinating story. /Sam

12:20 PM  

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