The Ocean Blog

Chasing a Basking Shark

"Ocean sunfish" by Mark Harris Credit: Mark Harris It was a hot and sunny day, with barely a whiff of breeze. I boarded a boat in Oban, on the coast of Scotland, and headed west past the Isle of Mull and into the North Atlantic. It was July 2014, and I was in search of some imagery for a book I was writing on freediving photography. I was seeking basking sharks. These are commonly seen off the British coast during the summer and are a great subject for the freediving or snorkeling photographer because they spend much of their time near the surface, filtering small plants and animals out of...Read more
An opah at the Honolulu Fish Auction with a printed label attached that includes an ID number, bar code, the date, the receiver's ID number, the cart number, species name, vessel name, and weight of the fish.

“Storied Fish”: Why Sustainable Seafood Requires A Tale

An opah at the Honolulu Fish Auction with a printed label attached that includes an ID number, bar code, the date, the receiver's ID number, the cart number, species name, vessel name, and weight of the fish. Credit: Crystal Sanders Imagine sitting down at your favorite sushi restaurant. Your server arrives, laying before you a perfectly wrapped dragon roll, which comes adorned with a small square of rice paper resting on top of the spicy mayo. Taking out your phone, you scan the code written delicately in soy-based ink upon the rice paper and immediately your phone displays a description of...Read more
Trout cages in 30 feet of water.

Aquaculture Comes Full Circle

Trout cages sit in 30 feet of water and are surrounded by ropes where mussels and sugar kelp grow, absorbing excess nutrients in the water. Credit: Rebecca Zeiber, N.H. Sea Grant Until recently we were farmers on land and hunter-gatherers at sea, but how we get our seafood is changing rapidly. With demands for seafood growing and catch from wild fisheries stagnating , aquaculture is an increasingly important player in maintaining seafood as a viable food source around the world. The global aquaculture industry has grown by leaps and bounds since 1980— up 8 percent every year through 2012 . In...Read more

Take a Virtual Submarine Dive to the Deep

You can explore the Curasub from your computer! Inspect, launch, board and recover to get an idea of what it's like to mann an underwater submersible. Credit: Courtesy of Curasub A manned submersible is the only way to immerse oneself in the deep sea firsthand. SCUBA equipment can’t safely take you beyond relatively shallow depths, and operating the cameras and high-tech arms of an unmanned submarine from the surface can't match the experience of dropping to the ocean's depths in the flesh. Not many people get the chance to travel this way. Even for scientists who have made multiple trips in...Read more
A school of akule (Hawaiian for bigeye scad) explode into a camera's frame.

Following the Akule

Credit: Wayne Levin While swimming off of the big island of Hawaii in Kealakekua Bay, I saw what first appeared to me as a coral head. As I approached I saw movement within the shape. To my surprise it was an enormous school of fish, tightly packed, and numbering in the tens of thousands. I dove down and took a few photos before continuing my swim. It turns out this giant group was made up of akule— Hawaiian for bigeye scad . Over the next year I would occasionally see a school of akule; I would take a few pictures, then be on my way looking for other subjects. But my fascination grew as I...Read more

Seaside Lichens

Horizontal bands of color represent different species of lichen that have adapted to the conditions at different heights above sea level. Credit: Stephen Sharnoff Very few plant species can survive close to the ocean, where pounding surf fills the air with tiny salt crystals. Too much salt is not good for us, and it is not good for most plants. When you think about it, the land side of the seashore is a really harsh environment, with crashing waves, salty spray and a constantly moving shoreline. Living things need special adaptations to survive there. One group of organisms called lichens,...Read more

Spirals in Time: A Walk at the Seashore

When I set out to write a book about mollusks (called Spirals in Time ), I wasn't quite prepared for just how many animals I would get to know. There are somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 mollusk species alive today, from clams, cockles and conches to snails, nautiluses and argonauts. I knew I wouldn’t try to name check them all or build an encyclopedia of everything that‘s known about them. Instead, my book would attempt to answer why the mollusks are so wondrous and diverse. I grew up exploring the wild, Atlantic-swashed shores of southwest England on family holidays. Back then,...Read more

Young Aquanauts to the Rescue

Pieces of baby coral hang on PVC pipe structures until they are large enough to be transplanted. Credit: Courtesy SCUBAnauts International “Naut” is an ancient Greek word that means “sailor,” and when attached to the end of another noun it means voyager. Today there are all types of nauts out there―astronauts, cosmonauts, aeronauts, etc.—but the original “naut” was a sea explorer, or an aquanaut. Ironically, though we have explored space, tiptoed into volcanoes, climbed the highest peaks and drilled deep into the earth, we have only explored five percent of the ocean. An international youth...Read more

Why I Love Polychaetes

Credit: © 2008 K.J. Osborn Polychaete worms are not your average cringe-inducing, writhing worms. (Okay, maybe some are.) They are fascinating, varied, and a critical part of our ocean. The visual variety among the more than 10,000 described species means a polychaete enthusiast is never bored. They come in every imaginable color and pattern, from completely transparent to iridescent to candy striped. You can find polychaetes of every shape from spherical to sausage-shaped to pencil thin, and every size from microscopic to several feet long. Some are smooth and sleek, others frilly and...Read more
A wave curls near the shore.

Shooting the Waves: Tips from a Surf Photographer

Waves play an important role in the way coastal ecosystems function, and also provide tourism dollars because of their draw for surfers. Credit: Flickr user bluewavechris A great surf photograph appears loose and improvised, like the waves and surfers it depicts. The reality is less spontaneous. The photos that you see in surf magazines rarely happen by accident, and could never be captured without preparation and planning that can start months before—all to capture a moment that lasts a fraction of a second. Hauling your bulky camera and housing through the surf is rarely easy, and staying...Read more