Mother Sea desperately needs your help these days

I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea – except I think it is because in addition to the fact that the sea changes and the light changes, and ships change, it is because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.

–John F. Kennedy

Looking at the endless immensity of the sea, it’s hard to believe that there’s anything we mere mortals could do to screw it up. But we’ve given it our best shot, dumping untold tons of waste, chemicals and fertilizers into it at the same time that we’re over-fishing and over-heating it. In addition to being our ancestral home, the sea is in many ways still our last frontier. Every week brings reports of new discoveries about the ocean, its scaly and often mysterious inhabitants, and the critical role the ocean plays in human existence.

Just this past week the Georgia Aquarium announced that one of its rare sea dragons was pregnant – only the third time a sea dragon has bred in a U.S. aquarium. The sea dragon is a 13-inch long, threatened fish native to Australia. It has a long, aardvark-like snout, a colorful seahorse-like body and multiple paddle-like fins. Perhaps most surprising of all, it is the male sea dragon who carries around the fertilized eggs rather than the female, although whether this is done out of some biological imperative or a simple fear of the wrath of the pregnant female sea dragon is not yet clear.

In Bangkok, Thailand, researchers recently reported that the long-tailed macaque monkey has learned how to fish. Scientists at the Nature Conservancy said it is unclear exactly what prompted the silver-haired primates to start fishing rather than rely on their traditional practice of foraging for fruits and insects, but they are happy to see the monkeys displaying an ability to adapt to changes in the environment and the shifting of food sources. The monkeys use their hands to fish – there are no reports yet of a monkey tying its own fly. When there is, look for REI to offer a line of simian waders and monkey-friendly fly rods.

Biologists working for a natural science museum in Philadelphia recently came across a new species of catfish, part of the Orinoco thick-lip catfish family native to Venezuela and Columbia. In a touching show of respect and generosity of spirit, the scientists named the new species after Frank Gallagher, a longtime mailroom supervisor who retired in 2003 after spending 37 years in the museum’s mailroom. The new species will be called Rhinodoras gallagheri. This is not the first time an individual has been so honored by the scientific community. A biologist recently named a new trapdoor spider after musician Neil Young, and in 2005, entomologists named a new slime mold beetle after President Bush.

And speaking of respect and generosity of spirit, isn’t it about time we all showed a little more respect and generosity of spirit toward our Mother, the ocean? The Puget Sound, our own local little branch of the ocean, is in trouble and needs help. Efforts are under way on many fronts to restore the health of the Sound and make it accessible to all of us so that when we do feel that urge to return from whence we came, we’ll actually be able to get there. The MudUp campaign is one such effort, and it’s hosting a free, guided, low-tide beach walk at 2 p.m. July 5 at Fort Ward State Park. So come on down and get yourself muddy for a good cause. Your Mother will thank you.

Islander Tom Tyner is an attorney

for the Trust for Public Land. He is author

of “Skeletons From Our Closet,”

a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.

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