Fish in Danger
In the past few evenings after the heat of the sun has faded, I’ll break from my desk to step into my back garden. The drooping butterfly bushes are in full bloom, and they make the air heavy with the saccharine scent of nectar. I hear the vibrational wingbeats of a hummingbird before I see it. It flits around the hanging basket with petunias spilling over the side and stabs its needly beak into the heart of each blossom.
The teeny bird is mostly an earthy green with a little white underbelly, and I go back inside to look up what species it might be. Calypte anna, or Anna’s hummingbird. It’s important for me to learn the names of the local flora and fauna because I’m writing a story about a naturalist with an obsessive proclivity for knowing the name of every last species on nearby Galiano Island, British Columbia.
What’s in a name? Juliet didn’t think much of them, but the plot of her infamous tragedy suggests that Shakespeare thought differently. For a naturalist, giving something a name means acknowledging its existence. Welcome to the human vernacular. Only once we have the basic vocabulary to discuss these plants and animals can we begin to understand and appreciate them.
While we’re on the subject of names, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Marina. To distinguish myself from Mariannas, Mariannes, and Marias, I often tell people to think of where they’d park a boat.
I also must acknowledge the perfect aptronym—that someone with my name has ended up at a magazine that largely features the marine environment. Actually, I take my name from Julie Andrews. You see, my parents gave my older sister—four at the time—the esteemed privilege of naming me, and her favorite film was The Sound of Music. Her toddler pronunciation came across muffled, and my parents (not natives of the English language) mistook her attempt at “Maria,” the movie’s main character, for “Marina.”
If I were to sing to you—“How do you solve a problem like Marina,” for example, or another favorite among my friends, “If you like Marina coladas” —you’d surely cover your ears as if screamed at by a menopausal banshee, so I can forget about living up to the angelic voice of my eponym. Luckily, pitch doesn’t matter on the written page; during my fellowship at Hakai Magazine, I hope to bring you marvelous stories from the marina and beyond.

Marina Wang
Journalism fellow
This Week’s Stories
Survivor: Salmon Edition
Will different salmon species adapt before the climate votes them off the island?
by Brandon Wei • 4,600 words / 23 mins
The Scent of Danger Makes These Fish Hulk Out
Some fish go through pronounced, yet reversible, physical changes when they sniff a predator’s trail.
by Susan Cosier • 750 words / 3 mins
Conservationists Set Their Sights on Shipping
Canada already has the legal tools to restrict shipping activity in marine protected areas. These environmentalists think it’s time to start using them more rigorously.
by Erica Gies • 1,000 words / 5 mins
“Your Heart Never Forgets the Story”: 12 New Coastal Kids’ Books to Remember
From board books featuring Indigenous art to picture books highlighting solutions to the plastic problem, this season’s selections teach children about caring for the environment and each other.
by Raina Delisle • 2,400 words / 12 mins
Predicting When the Next Bluff Will Fall
Researchers in Southern California are using lidar to improve scientists’ understanding of the erosional forces that cause bluffs to collapse.
by Ramin Skibba • 900 words / 4 mins
What We’re Reading
A fire that sparked on the surface of the ocean (yes, really) off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on July 2 took more than five hours to extinguish and concluded North America’s week of record-breaking temperatures, melting power cables, and heat-related fatalities. Videos of the bright-orange blaze—a churning, flaming eye looking like something from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings—spread on social media. A state oil company, Pemex, blamed a gas leak in an underwater pipeline and said it would investigate further. (Reuters, CTV News, HuffPost)
Farther north, in British Columbia, shoreline temperatures surpassed 50 °C last week and a foul smell began to emanate from the beaches. Chris Harley, a marine biologist at the University of British Columbia, soon realized that sea creatures such as mussels, clams, and snails had been cooked to death in the heat. He estimates that more than a billion shore-dwelling critters living along the Salish Sea could have died. (CBC News)
A sunken ship on the other side of the world might be to blame for the deaths of as many as 176 turtles and 20 dolphins. The MV X-Press Pearl, a cargo ship carrying nitric acid, bunker fuel, and plastic pellets, caught fire off the coast of Sri Lanka in late May and sank in June. Some researchers suggest that the pollutants could have been carried by ocean currents toward the turtles’ nesting sites. (Mongabay)
Kelp forests play a significant role in keeping our air clean, as they capture up to 20 times more carbon per acre than land forests while also housing a variety of marine life. According to satellite data, these underwater jungles have been shrinking. In order to preserve the carbon sink, scientists in California are working to control sea urchin populations–kelp forests’ enemy–by shoring up commercial demand and increasing sea star numbers. (Washington Post)
With the help of a space laser, scientists estimate that 410 million people around the world could be living in at-risk areas by 2100 if sea levels rise one meter. (Wired)
In “First Passage,” writer Elizabeth Rush ponders what it means to pursue motherhood in a changing climate and a woman’s place in the Antarctic. She is open about her own desires to conceive just before finding out she’d been invited to sail south to Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica–where pregnant women aren’t welcome. While onboard, a crew member who turns out to be with child develops symptoms of a possible ectopic pregnancy and is rushed back to the Rothera base on Adelaide Island for medical aid. The verdict: benign cysts and she’s having a boy. Had there been a medical ultrasound on the ship, the evacuation would have been unnecessary, Rush writes, but “our inability to imagine a pregnant woman alongside Thwaites” resulted in the detour. (Orion Magazine)
Binge listen to our five-part podcast, The Sound Aquatic, on our site or subscribe now through your favorite podcast app.
Behind the Story
Brandon Wei, our 2020 journalism fellow and author of this week’s feature, “Survivor: Salmon Edition,” wonders if there is anything more to write about salmon.

I was hesitant when editor in chief Jude Isabella suggested I write about salmon for my first-ever feature story. As a lifelong Vancouverite, I wondered: how could I write 3,000 words about a perpetually written-about fish in the Pacific Northwest? What could possibly be left to say?
Now, 4,500 words later and almost a year after I began this journey into the world of salmon, I realize my hesitation was misplaced. Pacific salmon are far more complex, dynamic, and nebulous than I anticipated. Salmon, as well as we might think we know them, are quite mysterious creatures. They have a niche yet are adaptive. They’re competitive, resilient, and quirky. They’re a lot like us.
One of the great salmon mysteries centers on why certain species and populations do well in some regions but not others. Much of my story focuses on chinook populations that are in decline along the entire Pacific Northwest coast. But there are a few exceptions. This photo is of chinook that exceeded broodstock requirements at the Puntledge River Hatchery in Courtenay, British Columbia, on the east coast of Vancouver Island.
Chinook populations were extirpated from this watershed decades ago, but now the hatchery says the river contains self-sustaining populations, with 50 percent of the fish from the hatchery and 50 percent from the wild. When I visited last October, I saw what peak chinook season looked like at the facility. The number of dark, majestic chinook brought a certain gravitas to the tanks, as smaller coho and chum swam around them. In decline, the king salmon certainly were not—at least here.
As journalists, we’re constantly trying to answer the question, What’s really going on here? Well, there’s a lot going on with Pacific salmon—much of which experts are still figuring out. I’m grateful to have gleaned some clues. And to have cut my feature-writing teeth.
A Bit of Fun, Just for the Halibut
Reply to this email to send us questions, comments, or tips.
If this newsletter was forwarded to you, you can subscribe here.
Copyright © 2021 Hakai Magazine. All rights reserved.