It’s a Bird-Eat-Bird World
The weather tends to factor into most conversations here in Victoria, British Columbia, but this week folks could talk about little else as a heatwave melted the smug-about-our-mild-weather grins off our faces and broke the city’s highest recorded temperature.
Our team members did their best to work through the heat in our various remote locations. In Zoom meetings, everyone’s smiling faces were shiny with sweat (we haven’t set a date for our post-pandemic return to the office, but since the 1874 stone building we’re in has no air conditioning, or even double-pane windows, that wouldn’t have helped, anyway).
This week was also the end of school for many kids, including my daughter. Along with the thermometer dropping back down to more reasonable temperatures and restrictions continuing to ease off, I’m looking forward to camping trips, beach days, and checking things off our summer vacation fun list (blanket-fort slumber party, cross-city park crawl, baking cookies and dropping them off anonymously on friends’ doorsteps …). Wherever you are and whatever your area’s restriction levels are like, I hope you also have some fun things to look forward to!
Mark Garrison
Art director
This Week’s Stories
Clash of the Feathered Titans
For Gough Island’s imperiled albatrosses, the sudden emergence of a giant new predator is tough to handle.
by Jake Buehler • 900 words / 4 mins
The Mighty Taku Glacier Takes a Bow
After advancing for over a century, a massive glacier near Juneau, Alaska, is poised for accelerated retreat and the birth of a new fjord.
by Tim Lydon • 1,200 words / 6 mins
Bringing Eels Back to the River Thames
One ongoing project is looking to reduce the barriers to migration for juvenile European eels.
by Nancy Averett • 950 words / 4 mins
Coastal Job: Maritime Pilot
A captain oversees the safe passage of ships into and out of the US East Coast’s busiest port.
as told to Brendan Crowley • 600 words / 3 mins
What We’re Reading
A reporter bought 1.5 meter’s worth of Subway tuna sandwiches which yielded several bags of tuna salad that she sent a lab in order to determine whether the restaurant chain uses real tuna in its subs. (A recent lawsuit alleges the fish is fraudulent; the chain maintains they serve the real thing.) What’s the verdict? (New York Times)
Indigenous-led research is supporting conservation efforts around the world, including on the British Columbia coast. Here, species such as yelloweye rockfish and Dungeness crab are in trouble and environmental baselines are unclear to science—but not to Indigenous memory, which is informing environmental policy. (Vox)
The country of Cyprus is embarking on a quest to vaccinate 40,000 seafarers. (gCaptain)
A terribly cute rodent known as Gould’s mouse, thought to have been extinct in Australia for the last 150 years, has been discovered living on several islands off the coast of Western Australia. Many native Australian rodents, including Gould’s mouse, took a pummeling when European colonizers introduced reams of new species. (The Guardian)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada avers that the culprit for crumbling cod stocks in Newfoundland and Labrador is climate change, not seals. (This comes on the heels of a Newfoundland and Labrador politician’s tweet that rampant seal populations are responsible for the fish’s decline, and thus the cod fishery’s woes.) (Toronto Star)
In the low-lying Florida Keys, climate change-driven sea level rise has encroached on many neighborhoods. Residents are facing grueling choices whether or not to try and raise streets and homes; but they don’t have the resources to save all of the infrastructure. (The Guardian)
The long-awaited international Central Arctic Ocean Fisheries Agreement entered into effect last Friday, banning fishing in this part of the sea until the ecosystem is better understood. The treaty will last 16 years with the option to extend, and is signed by Canada, China, Denmark, the European Union, Iceland, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. There is currently no fishery in the central Arctic Ocean, but as sea ice dwindles, commercial activity is increasing. The treaty also mandates Indigenous knowledge and participation in future fishery discussions and policy. (Arctic Today)
More than 200 tonnes of marine debris was collected from just 300 kilometers of British Columbia coastline during a recent shoreline cleanup. (National Observer)
The rose star comes in a dazzling array of colors and patterns, earning it the additional name of snowflake star. Even more impressive is its undiscerning palate; a plethora of ocean invertebrates are on the menu for this many-armed marvel, from the stationary (anemones, sea pens, bryozoans, and tunicates) to the shelled (bivalves) to the mobile (nudibranchs and even other sea stars). With so many options, it seems like this sea star would hardly need to move, but its ability to reach blistering speeds of 70 centimeters per minute comes in handy when it needs to escape from sunstars. The voracious morning sunstar and even speedier sunflower star are formidable predators.
This spiny sea star was spotted by our friends at the Hakai Institute during a biodiversity research trip on the central coast of British Columbia, then added to iNaturalist as part of ongoing efforts to incorporate the community science platform into the institute’s work.
Oceans can hold more than 150 times more carbon dioxide than the air. To fight climate change, scientists are proposing a process to pull carbon from seawater to form carbonate rock. To maintain equilibrium, the ocean should absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in response. (“Petrifying Climate Change”)
Mexico’s dive tourism industry has serious economic clout. The country’s 264 tour operators and 860 dive sites pull in US $455-million to $725-million per year in revenue. (“In Mexico, Dive Tourism Is Worth as Much as Fishing”)
In 2002, a mysterious parasite called MSX killed millions of oysters in Bras d’Or, Nova Scotia, wiping out the lucrative harvesting industry. The parasite dispatches oysters by devouring their internal organs, causing the bivalves to starve. (“Freeing Oysters from a Parasite’s Hold”)
Some urban gulls have precisely timed routines to capitalize on human food sources, flocking to schools during lunch breaks, or to the dump to meet garbage trucks. (“The Gull Next Door”)
In the Salish Sea, British Columbia, resident killer whale females prevent inbreeding with closely related males by choosing mates with “foreign accents.” (The Sound Aquatic Episode 4: “Learning To Speak Whale”)
Birdopolis: Coastal Birds at Home in the City Webinar Follow-up
We had a great time chatting about urban gulls with experts Louise Blight and Ed Kroc this week. If you missed the webinar, you can find the recording on YouTube.

Here are the links to some of the resources mentioned by Louise and Ed:
We didn’t have time to answer all of the audience questions, but Louise and Ed took the time to follow up.

Margie wondered if fireworks bother gulls?

Louise: Yes, they do. During fireworks displays in Vancouver and Victoria, gulls alarm-call and take flight, leaving their nests (with chicks or eggs) and rooftop territories. Urban-nesting cormorants also leave their nests during these displays. Impacts of firework displays have been studied in coastal towns on the US Pacific coast. This California study found that some cormorants experienced nest failure as a result, while western gulls left their nests during the display but did not abandon them (i.e. they returned after the event). Here is an article about a similar study in Oregon and a European study that used radar to document bird flight just after midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Neeltje asked for the panelists’ thoughts on how the public feels about urban nesting gulls, noting that in the United Kingdom they are featured in tabloids with horror stories such as “gull eats chihuahua.”
Louise: These members of the public seem to be enjoying observing a gull. Most people I talk to either openly admire gulls for their beauty and toughness, or have a grudging respect for them for similar reasons. 
Melba wondered how the gulls in our region [Pacific coast of North America] are related to the Pacific gulls in Australia. Are there many variants that are essentially the same species with different names?
Louise: The large “white-headed” gulls are all in the genus Larus.
Ed suggests the resource Gulls of the World: A Photographic Guide by Klaus Malling Olsen, which, he says, “goes into all the minutiae of different common/regional names for the same species, and is loaded with helpful pictures.”
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.