Let’s face it, our oceans currently aren’t in great shape. The levels of overfishing, chemical pollution and noise pollution are only some of the issues that make us feel even luckier to be able to enjoy some quality time with the fantastic creatures that somehow endure such detrimental pressures. The Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) we met out on the choppy Atlantic this morning are representative of a species that is miraculously surviving due to their intelligence and incredible social dynamic. While such adaptiveness makes them somewhat luckier than other marine dwellers such as the Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), it doesn’t mean they aren’t affected by our dangerous negligence of the natural world. One of the biggest human activities affecting dolphins is the overexploitation of our oceans, leading to a dangerous depletion in the prey of these efficient hunters.
Of course one of the natural reactions to our disastrous use of our oceans is to stop eating fish. While this is a noble decision, people who enjoy eating fish can also help the situation by eating more consciously. Keeping yourself informed about the lifecycles, life spans and conservation status of different species of fish on a regional scale will make an incredible difference to your role as a consumer. One local fish which is popular amongst tourists but is definitely not sustainable to eat is the Espada or Black scabbard fish (A.carbo). These gruesome looking predators forage in the deep ocean, the ocean basin where contaminants accumulate and intoxicate the flesh of long-lived predators. The scabbards that come to Madeira are mature animals, probably the most mature within the North Atlantic population and are thought to visit the islands waters to spawn. The oldest animal caught on record was intact caught here and was 14 years old. So it’s best to enjoy this fish in moderation and also consider how it’s being fished. Long-lines containing thousands of bait hooks are used to catch the Espada in the abyss, an ecosystem which also contains many of the oceans fragile deep-sea shark populations who often end up as bycatch.
Rumour has it that the Bottlenose dolphins around Madeira have started to opportunistically feed on the scabbards caught on the long-lines, enriching their own tissue with more toxins from depths they would never venture to. It’s hard to eradicate our negative effect on the planet but a little bit of conscious consumption goes a long way.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins