Can I adopt a whale?

Of course! Now, do not expect to take a whale home. There is no way your tub can fit a marine mammal comfortably, plus, taking care of a salt water tank is all too fussy.

If you are willing to donate the money you can do just about anything in the world. Adopting a whale is something I highly recommend for a classroom or family project. My fifth grade class adopted a humpback whale (named Pegasus). From the organization that my teacher used to adopt the whale the class received annual letters on the migration of Pegasus. This was a fabulous way to conceptualize currents and migration patterns. I am pretty sure my younger brother’s class adopted her baby.

The well established non-profit, Save the Whales, has a great program to adopt killer whales.

Do you have another great question for the Beach Chair Scientist? E-mail or just let us know at

What is your fish of the day?

When you are going out to eat and want to eat seafood that is good for you and good for the sustainability of the ocean carry around the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch pocket guide. It lists the best choices, good alternatives and what to avoid.

This guide can be downloaded and printed out, is an iPhone app, or they will kindly mail you one. The guide is even broken down regionally: west coast, southwest, southeast, northeast, central US and Hawai’i.

Here is a list of the best choices nationally:
Arctic Char (farmed)
Barramundi (US farmed)
Catfish (US farmed)
Clams (farmed)
Cobia (US farmed)
Cod: Pacific (Alaska longline)+
Crab: Dungeness, Stone
Halibut: Pacific+
Lobster: Spiny (US)
Mussels (farmed)
Oysters (farmed)
Sablefish/Black Cod (Alaska+ or British Columbia)
Salmon (Alaska wild)+
Scallops: Bay (farmed)
Shrimp, Pink (Oregon)+
Striped Bass (farmed or wild*)
Tilapia (US farmed)
Trout: Rainbow (farmed)
Tuna: Albacore (troll/pole, US or British Columbia)
Tuna: Skipjack (troll/pole) – pictured.

+ part or all of this fishery is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.

Read more about being a socially responsible consumer of seafood.

Image (c) Monterey Bay Aquarium.

What is marine spatial planning?

I will get into more detail quickly, but, want to mention that marine spatial planning is gaining a lot of momentum these days because it is part of creating the National Ocean Policy.

A National Ocean Policy was recommended by the Pew Oceans Commission (in 2003) and the US Commission on the Oceans (in 2004) after these organizations observed that the ocean is “ruled” by over 140 different laws and 20 different organizations to implement these laws. Currently, there is an Ocean Policy Task Force working diligently to streamline the governance of the ocean. Last month, the Task Force released a framework for creating the National Ocean Policy (open for comment until mid-February 2010).

This framework for creating the National Ocean Policy has some core themes that may already be clear to you. For instance, for the planning of the policy the Task Force wants to create an atmosphere of transparency and make certain that all stakeholders have the opportunity to voice their opinions and ask questions about the changes that may occur. Also, the Task Force wants to plan and implement the policy with (not for) state, tribal, regional and local authorities.

The framework for creating a National Ocean Policy also has some core themes that are rather new to traditional ocean governance.

First, the framework mentions that the Task Force will use scientific data (coupled with traditional knowledge) when making decisions.

Secondly, and this brings it full circle, the Task Force will take an approach called Marine Spatial Planning when creating the new laws that will eventually come to be known as the National Ocean Policy.

Marine spatial planning is a unique way to look at the ocean and who uses it. For instance, when we look at the Gulf coast of Florida it is a patchwork of various authorities. There are fishery management plans, marine protected areas, and oil and gas leases that mandate permissions to that coastal area. Marine spatial planning will consolidate and bring these patches together for a better understanding of what and who is using our oceans. Imperative to the concept of marine spatial planning are good maps (see below for example). These maps will help create less conflict and more comprehensive approaches to how we use our oceans. Rhode Island and Massachusetts already have marine spatial planning as a tool for making decisions.

image (c) Ocean Conservancy.

Want to tell President Obama

you support the creation of

a National Ocean Policy? Write him a letter.

Do you have another great question for the Beach Chair Scientist? E-mail or enter it at

What is a Marine Protected Area (MPA)?

“A marine protected area (MPA) in the ocean is similar in concept to what a national park is on the terrestrial environment.” Shifting Baselines

There are many terms that mean ‘MPA’, including: sanctuaries, parks, preserves, or natural areas. All of these areas have some boundary in the oceans and are protected by either the Department of the Interior (National Park Service) or the Department of Commerce (National Ocean Atmospheric Administration).

Not all MPAs are completely closed off for human use. Each MPA has various characteristics delineated to it based upon the best circumstances for various stakeholders.

The characteristics are 1) conservation (natural, cultural and/or sustainable), 2) protection level (zoned, zoned with no-take areas, uniformed, no take, no impact, or no access), 3) permanence of protection (permanent, conditional, or temporary), 4) constancy of protection (year-round, seasonal, or rotating), 5) ecological scale of protection (ecosystem or focal resource).

Cape Hatteras, N.C. was the first marine protected area established in 1975.

MPAs are not new management tools but are gaining new momentum as a conservation tool. Watch this PSA with folks from Scrubs, January Jones, and Pierce Brosnan about supporting MPAs off California.

If you have another great question go ahead and e-mail or just enter it at

Why are some animals ‘wallflowers’ and others are ‘social butterflies’?

An animal has many reasons to behave more like a ‘wallflower’ vs. a ‘social butterfly’. Some of the more universal reasons to lean to one behavior more than the other would be 1) habitat, 2) predators or 3) availability of food.

For instance, river dolphins (pictured right) typically are solitaire animals because their habitat is smaller than that of the bottlenose dolphins that live in the open ocean. Bottlenose dolphins are highly social animals. Living in a group works to their benefit in the open ocean. A group can be more aware of predators that are nearby and they are able to work together to gather food. Food is rather tough to gather if you are just one mid-size animal in the expansive sea.

If you have another other great question for the Beach Chair Scientist, please e-mail or just enter your question at

Image (c)

We are now a member of The Nature Blog Network.

Nature Blog Network

Ninja-like crustacean

Excerpt from the Blue Planet.

Do you have a question for the Beach Chair Scientist? e-mail

National Wear Blue for Oceans Day – January 13, 2010


What: Wear Blue for Oceans Day

Who: You and thousands of other that want to protect, maintain and restore the oceans, coasts, estuaries and Great Lakes

Where: Lafayette Park, across from the White House

When: January 13, 2010 at noon – Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow!

Why: To let the Obama Administration know you support a national oceans policy

Don’t forget … if you have any questions e-mail

Image (c) me.

Love Our Blue

In honor of National Wear Blue for Oceans Day this January 13, 2010 here is a little ditty to get you amped … Lyrics amended from the song “Love Me Do” written by the brilliant John Lennon and Paul McCartney of The Beatles.

Love, love our blue.
You know we love blue,
We’ll always be true,
So please, love blue too.
Whoa, love our blue.

Love, love our blue.
You know we love blue,
We’ll always be true,
So please, love blue too.
Whoa, love our blue.

Some blue to love,
Some sea so  blue.
Some blue to love,
Some sea so blue.

Love, love our blue.
You know we love blue,
We’ll always be true,
So please, love blue too.
Whoa, love our blue.

Love, love our blue.
You know we love blue,
We’ll always be true,
So please, love our blue.
Whoa, love our blue.
Yeah, love our blue.
Whoa, oh, love our blue.

Answers to “Test your knowledge of sea stars”

Answers to “Test your knowledge of sea stars” from December 31, 2009.

True or False: Sea stars are fish. They are echinoderms, a group of invertebrates. Invertebrates have no backbones. All fish have backbones.
True or False: Sea stars are closely related to sea cucumbers, sea urchins and brittle stars.
True or False: Sea stars have a flexible skeleton.
True or False: Sea stars breathe through gills. They breathe through a water vascular system. You can see the tube feet (a main component of the water vascular system) on the underside of the sea stars.
True or False: Sea stars can regenerate most body parts.

Congrats to all those that got them correct!