River Rubbish, Fish Fall, and Seagrass Sex
Big problems can seem insurmountable and make you feel powerless. I imagine that’s how Gary Bencheghib felt when he and his younger brother attempted to kayak the Citarum waterway in Indonesia in 2017. Some claim it’s the most polluted river in the world, and on their trip, the Bencheghib brothers encountered plastic pollution so backed up that they were forced to carry their kayaks along the shore.
But Gary was motivated. He’d been involved with beach cleanups and wanted to make a difference to the rivers on the island of Bali, where he lives. As you’ll see in this week’s story “Solving Bali’s Rivers of Trash,” he has made a difference, diverting over 650 tonnes of waste in the past two years. The story is a nice reminder that a few people working together can make a difference.

David Garrison
This Week’s Stories
Solving Bali’s Rivers of Trash
A hardworking nonprofit uses simple tech, a team of volunteers, and a grand vision to harness garbage from the rivers of Bali, Indonesia.
by Theodora Sutcliffe • 2,000 words / 10 mins
Letting Carbon Sink with the Fishes
Fish fall to the seafloor when they die, sequestering carbon in the deep. Our penchant for catching big fish is breaking the cycle.
by Amorina Kingdon, Kelly Fretwell, and Meigan Henry • 2 mins
Sea Otters Are Reshaping the Genetics of Eelgrass Meadows
The once-imperiled marine mammal could help this vital coastal ecosystem adapt to a changing world.
by Isobel Whitcomb • 900 words / 4 mins
Chile’s Kelp Forests Seem Nearly Unchanged Since the Voyage of the Beagle
In a changing world, South America’s subantarctic kelp forests hold firm.
by Jake Buehler • 950 words / 4 mins
What We’re Reading
Scientists in Nova Scotia were shocked to recover hours of footage from a body cam that was attached to a gray seal before it was lost in 2018. The data-collection device likely fell off the seal during its spring molt. The camera was dragged up from the ocean floor in fishing gear this past summer. (CBC)

Boaters in Washington State’s Puget Sound were also treated to a special surprise when they spotted a lone beluga whale swimming some 2,400 kilometers from home. The last time a beluga was seen in the area was in 1940, and researchers aren’t sure how or why this beluga came so far south. (Seattle Times)

The Strathcona Regional District and the Nuchatlaht and Kyuquot Checlesaht First Nations have collaborated on a tsunami-risk mapping project for parts of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. The project is built off Indigenous knowledge and oral history as well as computer modeling. (CBC)

This year, Bristol Bay, Alaska, saw its largest sockeye salmon run in recorded history, with 66 million fish returning to the waterways. Elsewhere in the state, salmon are suffering. Scientists believe climate change is driving these imbalances. (The Atlantic)

The tiny village of Katoku has one of Japan’s last remaining pristine beaches, yet a concrete sea wall is under construction to curb erosion. The project embodies the clash between Japan’s construction obsession, which has long been its answer to the threat of natural disaster, and the desire of residents to have a more pastoral existence. (New York Times)

In the same vein as “Letting Carbon Sink with the Fishes,” a video about a concept known as fish fall that we published earlier this week, a new study from McGill University in Quebec examines yet another environmental impact of overfishing. When fish poop, they sequester large amounts of carbon in the ocean deep. With fewer fish, this carbon is ending up in the atmosphere rather than on the seafloor. (CTV)

Barnacles may seem completely sedentary, but surprise! They’re not. A new study reports how one species of barnacle that lives on the shells of turtles moves toward locations of high water flow where it can feed more easily. (The Scientist)
With its winglike swimming appendages, a slug-shaped body, and a head adorned with stout hornlike tentacles, the sea angel is likely to cause confusion upon first encounter. This small sea creature belongs to the pteropods (meaning “wing-foot”), a group of free-swimming marine snails and slugs. The sea angel may seem to glow angelically from within—furthering the vague resemblance to a Christmas-tree topper come to life—however the spots of color inside its transparent, gelatinous body have a carnivorous origin: as the animal gently flaps through life in cold and temperate pelagic waters, it feeds exclusively on a small herbivorous sea-snail relative. The sea angel metabolizes carotenoids—a class of pigments that also give pumpkins and carrots their color—from its prey and accumulates them within its body.
Photo by the Hakai Institute
A Bit of Fun, Just for the Halibut
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