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Seaw rds The Marine Option Program Newsletter

December 2015

10 “ ... California Coast

Commission’s blocked SeaWorld’s proposal for ... a tank expansion for the killer whales.”


December 2015 Volume XXIX, Number 10

Articles Page 3: Letter from the Editor Page 4: Ke Kai Ola “The Healing Sea” Page 6: Ocean Updates Page 10: MOP’s Polynesian Voyaging Society Tour Page 12: Seaworld’s Blackfish Page 14: Ocean Art Page 16: Generation Blue Page 18: Marine Mammal of the Month Page 20: Critter of the Month and Flashback Page 24: MOP calendar of events

About the Photography -Cover: Daniel Jennings, former MOP Student -Table of Contents: Kimberly Mayfield -December calendar of events: MOP Stock -Back cover: Brown Boobie submitted in the 2015 Photo Contest Taylor Shedd, former UHM MOP -All uncredited photos by: MOP -Disclaimer: any photo taken from is used under the Creative Commons License and is credited appropriately with links to the user’s flickr account.

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Letter from the Editor


loha readers of Seawords! Before I begin, I would like to thank the previous Editor of Seawords, Brijonnay Madrigal, for all of her hard work and dedication to this publication. I would also like to thank Kathryn Lam, the Editor before Brijonnay, for her continued support and guidance as an advisor and mentor. Without these two wonderful people, Seawords would not be what it is today. For that reason, I am proud to announce that I will be the next Editor of Seawords. I hope to further enhance the experience for Seawords readers. In this issue of Seawords you will find articles written by Sarah Franklin, a member of UHM American Cetacean Society student, about marine mammals in captivity for our entertainment. There will also be an article about UH Hilo’s MOP trip to the monk seal hostpital, Ke Kai Ola, written by Keelee Martin, a UHH MOP student. We hope you enjoy! As always, we love to hear feedback so send us an email at and we’ll publish and respond your note in our next issue. Mahalo to all the contributing authors and support that made this issue possible. Thank you for reading,

Camra Hopper Seawords Editor DECEMBER  2015  |3


ith an estimated 1,153 Hawaiian monk seals left in the world (NOAA Fisheries Assessment Report, 2015), Ke Kai Ola (“the Healing Sea”) opened in July 2014 to rehabilitate sick and injured Hawaiian monk seals. Located in Kailua-Kona, Hawai‘i, the $3.2 million dollar hospital has treated 15 patients in its 16 months of operation. Eight rehabilitated patients have been released back to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) and seven patients are currently being treated. Ke Kai Ola’s patients have all been emaciated or malnourished, but there are other threats impacting these seals. Deb Wickham, the Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital Operations Manager, explained that seals face shark predation (mainly in the NWHI), competition for food, entanglement with marine debris, and injuries from aggressive males. She explained that every seal that has come into their facility would have died if it hadn’t been treated. Ke Kai Ola’s website reports that a newborn monk seal

Ke Ka “The Heal

By Keelee Martin, U

has a 20% chance of survival to adulthood. Statistics like these show how necessary it is to have a local care center for Hawaiian monk seals, in order for them to have a better chance to develop into adulthood. Ke Kai Ola is the only one of its kind in the state. It is a branch of the Marine Mammal Center, a nonprofit veterinary research hospital and education center based in Sausalito, California (The Marine Mammal On site there are two pens with pools for juveniles and adult seals and two pens with pools for seal pups. Ke Kai Ola was strategically built on the coast, where the hospital has an extensive seawater filtration system. Deep and surface water are collected and used in the pools, keeping the water clean and at a perfect 82°F. The water then returns to the ocean with no added chemicals. The hospital has a fully operational and equipped medical lab, a food prep kitchen, staff offices and a pavilion for educational events. The hospital’s purpose is to rehabilitate sick, malnourished, or injured seals from the Hawaiian archipelago and release them back into the wild on the island from which they came.

Photos by Matthe

UH Hilo MOP students with Deb Wickham in the Ke K Ke Kai Ola and toured the facility. The education pavilion was set up with poster displays, a sample of skin from a molting event and a skull specimen. Wickham and Sylvester Orosco, the new Hawaiian Monk Seal Response Manager for the Hawai‘i’s west side, demonstrated how to restrain a seal during tube feeding of the malnourished seals they receive. The center had a special plush seal made to help train volunteers for tube feeding and for hands on presentations at education events.

Wickham, Orosco, and Dr. Claire Simeone, a Conservation Medicine Veterinarian for NOAA and the Marine Mammal Center, led students around the buildings in groups. Ke Last month, MOP Kai Ola stresses that they try to limit students at UH Hilo human interaction with the seals as took a trip to visit much as possible. Inside the staff of-

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ai Ola ling Sea”

UHH MOP Student

ew Arellano, UHH MOP Student

fish or fish mash) is to be given. Ke Kai Ola gets their fish from another marine mammal facility in Kona, Dolphin Quest. The seals are fed herring, a high calorie fish, because their patients come in malnourished and they want to get them back to a healthy size. Typical ingredients in a fish mash (chef specialty, of course) can consist of herring, salmon oil (used as a fattener) electrolytes, vitamins, and water. Orosco explained that the goal is to get the animals eating whole fish headfirst as they do in the wild. He also explained that Kai Ola education pavilion. they do take some samples while the patients are there because, “we fice was a large screen that showed never stop learning in the field of eight live camera views of the hosscience.” pital’s patients. This viewing room is the best way to monitor the ani- Dr. Simeone took students into the mals’ health, safety, and interaction hospital. In the center of the room with the other seals so that they was an elevating operating table can judge the best time to go in to that, thankfully, has not been used clean or feed without overly disturb- for surgeries on any of their paing the animals. This viewing room tients. The hospital room has all the seemed to be the center of activity tools needed to perform surgeries and the favorite room amongst staff and endoscopies. and volunteers because it could be a Being there, in the sterile well-lit place to appreciate the animal while room made the fight for Hawaigiving them respect by limiting huian monk seals’ health and survival man interference. very real. Earlier Wickham had disThe fish kitchen, despite being com- cussed some past cases with Hawaipletely sterile and spotless, had that ian monk seals: one had ingested a lingering fishy aroma. Orosco ex- barbed fishhook, another lost both plained the feeding schedule that back flippers to a shark bite, one had staff and volunteers refer to daily. to have an eye removed, and anothThe schedule separates each patient er lost a tongue. Fortunately, all of by pen and name and gives instruc- these patients survived. Being aware tion of when and what food (whole of case studies like these and stand-

ing in a facility capable and dedicated to helping these animals was a hopeful experience. Ke Kai Ola is always willing to have new volunteers. Many volunteers work with Orosco in monk seal response calls, which can consist of driving to the site and assessing the scene for any potential dangers to the seal, putting up “please do not disturb” markers, and communicating with the public. The majority of the volunteer work at the hospital is cleaning. Strict regulations keep the fish kitchen, hospital room, pens, and pools exceptionally clean and sterile. Volunteers begin mainly in the food kitchen preparing fish mash and cleaning up afterwards. For many, the most exciting part of volunteering at Ke Kai Ola is seeing the transformation of a malnourished seal, nurtured back to health and being released into the wild. Treated and healthy seals are transported from Ke Kai Ola to the Kona International Airport where they are flown to the island they came from to be released. Not only have past Ke Kai Ola patients been sighted in the NWHI thriving, but also the facility in its short time of operation has cared for 1% of the Hawaiian monk seal population. This is a hopeful sign for the Hawaiian monk seals, a rehabilitation and care facility has been long awaited. n

DECEMBER 2015  |5

cean updates

By Jeremy Gasta, UHM American Cetacean Society Student

Baby loggerhead turtle Jupiter Island, Florida. Photo Crecit: Kim Seng, Flikr

FLORIDA COAST / SAN DIEGO BAY On opposite coastlines of the United States and across multiple species, global climate change seems to be having a surprising effect on sea turtles: their gender ratios are leaning heavily towards femininity.

this study aimed to get gender ratio data from older turtles. Luckily, sea turtle foraging sites were found to be popular with reptiles of all ages, giving researchers access to animals from adolescents to mature adults, and thanks to a new gender identification method (gender in mature sea turtles is notorious for being difficult to pinpoint), all that was required to get the results was a blood sample. In the 69 green sea turtles sampled, there were 2.83 females for every male. In younger turtles, the female bias was even more pronounced, with 78% of immature turtles being female.

Unlike mammals, sea turtles lack X and Y chromosomes, and so gender is dependent not on genetics but the temperature of their nests. Warmer eggs produce female hatchlings, while cooler eggs produce males. As climate change heats up the planet and changes weather patterns, the warmer temperatures may be affecting turWhile a gender ratio leaning towards females can sometle nests so that there are more female hatchlings than times be good for a population, resulting in more pomales. tential breeding mothers, genetic diversity will decrease Researchers from Florida Atlantic University, including if this is pushed too far. Sea turtle populations already Dr. Jeanette Wyneken, conducted a four-year study on naturally boast more females than males, and pushing the nests and gender ratios of the loggerhead sea turtle, this any further may be harmful to the species. It is estiCaretta caretta. The Florida coasts are a critically im- mated that only one loggerhead hatchling in 2500-7000 portant site for loggerheads, as most of the turtles in the survives into adulthood, which means that, with an avnorthwest Atlantic are born here. Many environmental erage of 105 eggs laid per nesting season, a female turtle factors go into determining nest temperatures, includ- must nest at least ten times, over a range between twening rainfall, amount of sun or shade, and even sand ty to thirty years, just for one or two of her young to type, so the researchers studied these factors to see how become mature enough to have eggs of their own. If the and if they contributed to the hatchlings’ gender ratios. number of males decreases, this could pose a serious At the end of the four-year study, over the course of four problem for the species. Scientists estimate that if nothnesting seasons, the majority of the hatchlings were fe- ing is done about this trend, nearly all newly hatched male. However, a greater number of males were present turtles could be female in ten to fifteen years. near the beginning of the four-year period, as well as in BERING STRAIT wetter, cooler seasons. Climate change isn’t treating the Arctic well. Every year, Population studies in San Diego Bay with green sea the ice level decreases, and more open water remains. turtles Chelonia mydas resulted in similar findings. As Temperate animals from warmer climates are migratit is easier to study newly-hatched turtles than adults, ing northward. In order to track these environmental 6| Seawords

changes, and see the effects on the behavior and distribution of local wildlife, a team of researchers, led by Kathleen Stafford, Principal Oceanographer for University of Washington's applied physics lab, is monitoring marine mammals in the Bering Strait, which Stafford describes as the “Gateway to the Arctic." The Bering Strait, a tiny strip of water between Russia and Alaska, connects the Pacific Ocean to the frigid Chukchi Sea and is highly traveled by whales migrating northward to take advantage of the waters’ summer bounty. If temperature changes, the behavior and movement of the marine mammals can reveal this to scientists. The problem is that many of these animals are hiding deep underneath a freezing sea, and sometimes even under the ice, which is rather inhospitable for scientists to observe firsthand for extended periods of time. Instead, Stafford’s program includes anchoring sound-recording hydrophones to the sea floor off Alaska’s coastline, which will listen in to marine mammals 24/7 and gain invaluable data. Each hydrophone can pick up sound from 20-30 kilometers away, giving the researchers a wide range of study.

Hawai`i. It has also been discovered that many “summer” whales, which usually move to warmer, southern waters in the winter, are more numerous than usual, and are spending more time in the Arctic waters, not migrating south until September or even November. The project has only recently begun and the researchers are looking forward to all that they will be able to discover as it continues. Stafford plans on incorporating oceanographic data into their findings and how marine mammals react to these, such as amount sea ice, water temperature, and the behavior of currents. UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

The greatest contributor to atmospheric carbon dioxide levels is currently from industrialized fossil fuel combustion, which is released into the air via waste known as flue gas. Over-accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide, in its pure form, is one of the leading contributors to the greenhouse effect. Through a chemical reaction known as sequestration, carbon dioxide can be neutralized into a harmless bicarbonate molecule. However, in order for this reaction to be efficient, a catalyst must be added to speed the overall reaction up. And the Using spectrograms (figures that examine the frequensolution may come from the very bottom of the sea. cy and amplitude of sound), the researchers can identify the species of marine mammals inhabiting the strait, Thiomicrospira crunogena is a bacterium that makes it including fin, humpback, bowhead, and killer whales, home on hydrothermal vents on the sea floor, far out as well as various types of pinnipeds. Not only will the of the reach of sunlight. Nutrients spewed from the hyproject help the researchers identify the animals, but drothermal vents allow unique communities of marine also observe their numbers and activity. Already the re- life to thrive around them, and T. crunogena is one of searchers are learning new things from the project. Male the many species that benefit from these aquatic oases. humpback whales have been heard singing in the Chuk- What makes this bacterium unique is that it secretes an chi Sea, a behavior they were only thought to do during enzyme known as carbonic anhydrase, used to remove their breeding season in warmer, tropical waters such as unwanted carbon dioxide from living organisms, which

Bering Strait in 2008 Russian-American Long-term Census of the Arctic (RUSALCA) voyage. Photo Credit NOAA PMEL, Flickr

DECEMBER  2015  |7

Ocean updates

Mother and calf bottle nosedolphin looking back. Photo by Blue Dolphin Marine Tours, Flickr.

could be used as a catalyst to convert harmful carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to more benevolent bicarbonate. Because the enzyme is capable of functioning at the extraordinarily high temperatures around the hydrothermal vents, it could be used industrially to neutralize carbon dioxide in flue gas. The resulting bicarbonate could be reused to make other products, such as chalk and baking soda. Scientists at the University of Florida are investigating widespread use of carbonic anhydrase, though there are still several issues they are working to combat. Continuously harvesting T. crunogena from the ocean floor is not efficient for the amount of enzyme needed on an industrial level, so they are instead using E. coli bacteria genetically engineered to produce the enzyme. Several milligrams of carbonic anhydrase has been achieved so far, which is promising, although it must be produced on a much larger scale. The enzyme itself, while able to withstand heat, is not yet very efficient. For it to be used on an industrial scale, more research must be done to make it faster acting, more stable, and longer lived. However, it is a promising prospect in the fight against climate change. BARATIA BAY The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill may still be having negative effects on wildlife in the area, despite occurring over five years ago. A pod of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Baratia Bay, Louisiana, which have been studied over the past five years since the spill, are exhibiting long-term health issues that may 8| Seawords

continue to affect them and other creatures along the coast in following years. In 2011, the dolphins were found to have a high frequency of lung disease, as well as adrenal dysfunction. Now, it has been found that reproductive rates are hurting as well. In the aftermath of the oil spill, an otherwise healthy female dolphin was found to have a condition know as hypoadrenocorticism, which causes stress hormones that are important for survival, such as the fight or flight response, to be abnormally low. Before, this condition had only been recorded in humans, and could be potentially life-threatening in stressful situations such as pregnancy and childbirth, to both the mother and child. As it became apparent that multiple dolphins were affected by this condition, low reproductive rates were found to correspond with the findings: only 20% of pregnant females successfully gave birth to healthy calves over the five-year period, whereas similar dolphins in Sarasota Bay (which was not affected by the oil spill) had an 83% success rate. This corresponds to a similar situation following the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in 1989. During this time, the sea otters that were exposed to oil faced a higher number of failed pregnancies and deaths than usual. Many of the dolphins have been found to also have lung disease, which is a common symptom of exposure to oil. The survival rate dropped from 95% to 85% in the first 4 years. The combination of low reproductive rates and decreased survival rates does not bode well for the animals.

After the five-year study, only two dolphins out of the population had successful pregnancies and minor lung complications. A full recovery from the BP oil spill is still going to take a while.

of seabirds and migratory fish is less than 4% of its previous load. “This once was a world that had ten times more whales, twenty times more anadromous fish, like salmon, double the number of seabirds, and ten times larger herbivores – giant sloths and mastodons and WORLDWIDE mammoths,” says Joe Roman, a cetacean researcher inIn the past, scientists have thought that only plants and volved in the study. bacteria were important in the Earth’s nutrient cycles However, there is good news. In both the land and the – animals were only passive consumers. However, a reocean, large animal species are recovering. Whale popcent study has revealed that, not only do animals play ulations have been steadily on the rise for the past seva vital role in nutrient spreading, but this role may be eral decades, ever since a ban was placed on commercial getting interrupted as their numbers decline. whaling. Domestic animals, such as cows, can also play The nutrient cycle naturally flows from high moun- a key role in the nutrient cycle if they were given wider taintops down into the ocean, but animals can spread ranges to roam. If their populations continue down this nutrients in the opposite direction. Most critically, they road, it is very likely that the phosphorous cycle will refacilitate the spread of phosphorous. Often residing in turn to its former richness. n the ocean deep, whales will carry this element to the ocean’s surface, while birds and migrating fish will bring it inland. Large land mammals may feed in areas where nutrients are abundant, travel to another area, and leave the vital nutrients in their feces to fertilize the ground and make it more welcoming to life where it otherwise might not have existed. Because of the spreading of nutrients, inhospitable locations, such as the ocean’s surface and inland on continents, are able to host a bounty of life. The larger the mammal, the more nutrients they carry and the farther they can travel, making megafauna vital to the cycle. Whales perhaps play the most important role, initially bringing nutrients out of the depths. However, that’s not to say smaller animals are unimportant: migrating fish such as salmon and seabirds are the main carriers of nutrients inland, and thanks to them there are fertile locations on the planet besides oceans and coasts. Unfortunately, declines in the number of species and their densities are disrupting this system, which hurts everything from the ecosystem to farming. Of large mammalian megafauna, 150 species have gone extinct since the last Ice Age due to changing climate and the arrival of humans, leaving today’s land animals’ ability to carry nutrients only 8% of what it used to be. Thanks to hunting of whales, their ability to transport nutrients to the surface has fallen by over 75%, the 750 million pounds of phosphorous they moved before commercial whaling now has fallen to 165 million. Meanwhile, because of habitat destruction and overfishing, the ability

Orca doing a deadhead. Photo by Taylor Shedd, Former UHM MOP Student

DECEMBER 2015  |9

Polynesian Voyag

Pictures by: Tate

“On Saturday, Nov. 21, UHM MOP w Training Center, where the Polynesian V voyaging canoes out on Sand Island. The dent Nainoa Thompson has built two P and the Hikianalia) and are undergoing about sustainability and ancient Polynesi sextants, cellphones, watches or GPS! T but we were able to see the Hikialania.” -

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ging Society Tour Wester

went on a tour of the Marine Education Voyaging Society keep and maintain their e Polynesian Voyaging Society led by PresiPolynesian Voyaging canoes (the Hokulea g a world wide voyage to share knowledge sian navigation. They don’t use compasses, The Hōkūle`a just arrived in South Africa, Tate Wester

DECEMBER 2015  |11

Photo by Taylor Shedd, Former UHM MOP Student

SeaWorld’s Blackfish By Sarah Franklin, UHM American Cetacean Society Student


eaWorld Entertainment Inc. founded in 1964, has been making numerous headlines across the country in the past few years, due to its treatment of killer whales in captivity. The release of the documentary, Blackfish, in July of 2013, documented the life of Tilikum, a killer whale, captured from the wild, now in SeaWorld Orlando, who has been involved in the death of three people. The backlash from the film has been huge. From children, to members of Congress, people have been boycotting SeaWorld, and calling them out for the mistreatment of their animals.

is also a push for phasing out of the displaying killer whales, and giving the facilities that contain orcas time to prepare a humane future for these majestic animals. SeaWorld responded to Schiff ’s announcement by saying, “While efforts to phase out whales in human care may strike an emotional chord, SeaWorld and other science-based organizations are part of the solution, not the problem,” Jill Kermes, a spokeswomen for SeaWorld Entertainment.

In October the California Coastal Commission’s blocked SeaWorld’s proposal for Project Blue World, a Recently, Rep. Adam Schiff announced that he would tank expansion for the killer whales, due to public conintroduce the Orca Responsibility and Care Advance- cern that this would give SeaWorld more opportunities ment (ORCA) Act. Under this new legislation, Sea- to breed orcas. The commission approved the project World would be banned from breeding, taking, and with the condition that SeaWorld stopped breeding orimporting or exporting orcas for public display. There cas. SeaWorld did not accepted the terms of the propos12| Seawords

al and plans to fight the commission’s decision in court.

spend so much time near the surface. Tanks are inadequate depths (which thereby result in unnatural expoOn November 10th of 2015, SeaWorld announced dursure to the sun and a lack of natural water pressure) and ing its investors meeting that the whale shows in the San whales are so bored that they spend a large amount of Diego location will be phased out in the upcoming year, their time swimming or floating near the surface where but the killer whale shows will continue in San Antonio the fin has no support. and Orlando. This may be less about ending a show, but more about starting a new one. Blue World, SeaWorld’s The impact of the 2013 documentary Blackfish is reachproposed plan to expand its orca exhibit and create an ing further than anyone could have imagined. Pixar entirely new “orca experience” in 2017, may improve Animation Studios’, Finding Dory was revised after the the orcas situation very little. As SeaWorld CEO, Joel chief creator and director saw the film, and the movie, Manby said, “ Guest want an experience that is more Paper Towns, had scenes containing SeaWorld cut from natural…guest will resonate with this more. The theat- it because the director believe that it was “a little less rical production of the show in that market is what they playful after the release of the documentary”. wanted to see less of." SeaWorld’s decision to end the Stockholders are not pleased either because SeaWorld’s orca shows in San Diego may be less about the animals latest earnings show that it is losing the public relations welfare and more of a public relations move to help salbattle. The company’s quarterly loss was wider than exvage their image, by making captivity more appealing pected. In the fourth quarter, attendance at the park fell to visitors. Manby said that a more “natural” show is 2.2% and attendance for the year fell 4.2%. They reporta “very marketable attraction that gets a return on ined a fourth-quarter loss of $25.4 million, or 29 cents a vestment.” However, no amount of changes to the orshare and revenue fell 2.7% to 264.5 million. cas’ tanks will be sufficient enough to meet the animals’ needs. SeaWorld can move away from circus tricks, but Though SeaWorld does not address Blackfish directly they will never be able to focus on orcas’ natural be- in reports, it may be why crowds are steering clear of haviors in an enclosure that is a fraction of the size of a the theme park this summer. Only time will tell how SeaWorld will fair under continuous scrutiny and critikiller whale’s natural habitat. cism. They are making steps in a positive direction, with SeaWorld has been working to improve their deteriothe ending of the whale shows in San Diego and the rating image, as the media and general public continuproject to expand the tanks. Also as a leader in marine ously question their ethics. arose to conservation, SeaWorld is responsible for educating help the corporation combat the continuous questionmillions about the dire circumstances of many whales ing and marring of their brand. On the website, they around the world and how it is all our responsibility to promote stories, such as their “exceptional” veterinarprotect their habitat so that they are around for generaian care and how they are working to help wild killer tions to come. As long as SeaWorld continues to heed whales. What has received the most notoriety about the complaints of the public regarding their treatment this defensive website is the “You Ask. We Answer” of the whales in captivity, they will continue to progress link, where SeaWorld encourages concerned citizens to towards the image as ambassadors of the sea. n tweet questions, where an expert will answer them. This website was met with opposition, and the creation of a website that fact checks all the answers given by the SeaWorld experts. This website,, has become another nightmare for SeaWorld, discrediting every claim made by SeaWorld’s veterinarians and scientist. For example, one frequently asked question is “why are the dorsal fins on the captive killer whales collapsing?” SeaWorld addresses this issue by claiming that this is a natural occurrence, and the reason that it is routinely seen in SeaWorld’s orcas is because they spend more time at the surface. What they fail to address is why their orcas DECEMBER 2015  |13

ocean art by Jasmine McClain Jasmine’s poem was chosen from a collection of poems submitted to us by Eric Paul Shaffer, an HCC English professor and written by his English 241 class.

Hidden in the Deep I wonder where all the whales are hiding, as I gaze at the surface of the globe like a glass-covered ball. The crust of the earth is the thinnest layer with thousands of miles to the solid core. This water is just a splash on the surface and these islands are just a pile of pebbles. The mainland is like a big piece of driftwood with so much water in between everything. I cannot wrap my mind around the true depth of the sea. I watch the ocean lapping softly against the edges of land and see the land extend far below the surface until the sand is out of sight. I remember those glowing deep-sea fishes with ugly bulging faces. The deep does exist and the deep is dark down there. I am peering out the airplane window, and I see so much ocean. When I am on land, the sea is deep and mysterious but from this plane, I feel like I should be able to see all the whales.

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Photo credits: Amelia Dolgin, UHH MOP Student

DECEMBER  2015  |15

Actions for the Ocean

BLUE Photo credit: John Coney

By Jessica Lotts, UHM MOP Student

THE OCEAN SPANS OVER 70 PERCENT OF OUR WORLD. It is responsible for regulating temperature, food production, sustaining numerous marine species, and is a source for inspiration among multiple other things. The ocean gives us so much and it is time for us to return the favor and take actions to make the ocean ecosystem healthy again. Almost every action that we take affects the ocean in some way. Our everyday choices can be tailored to support a healthy ocean. Here are some examples of green acts that will keep the ocean blue.

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t is estimated that about 20 percent of the world’s coral reefs are damaged beyond repair, and according to NOAA, half of the remaining coral reefs are under the threat of collapsing. Coral reefs are vital to our future; thousands of species depend on reefs for survival because they provide food for millions and protect the shoreline from storm damage and erosion. Without coral reefs, our world would lose an ecosystem whose biodiversity rivals tropical rainforests. Humans are the major contributors to the destruction of coral reefs; below are some steps you can take to help protect our precious coral reefs.


Photo credit: Jeff Kuwabara, UHM MOP Coordinator

Wear coral reef safe sunscreen. According to a new study done by the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, 6,000 to 14,000 tons of sunscreen is washed off beach goers into our coral reef ecosystems each year. To help, avoid sunscreens containing oxybenzone, butylparaben, octinoxate, and 4-methylbenzylidene. These are all common chemicals in sunscreen that are known to contribute to coral bleaching.


Respect the reef. Keep in mind that the reef is a living system, and should be treated with respect. Next time you swim or snorkel, remember not to grab or step on the reef. Follow the Coral Reef Etiquette provided by Hanauma Bay Natural Preserve, which can be applied to any coral reef.

is alive and very fragile. Rocks submerged “Coral in the bay provide hard surfaces for algae to grow on, providing food for many of the bay’s inhabitants. Walking, standing or sitting on live rock can damage algae affecting the carrying capacity of the bay. Additionally, coral is very sharp and full of bacteria. It can easily cut or puncture skin and has potential for infection. Stay safe and keep our reef healthy by standing only in sandy areas. - Hanauma Bay Natural Preserve


Read about NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program to discover career and volunteer opportunities that help out the reefs. You can also find small things you can do to help the environment as a whole, even if you don’t live by a reef.

DECEMBER 2015  |17

Hawaiian monk seal

Scientific Name: Neomonachus schauinslandi Hawaiian Name: “‘Ilio holo I ka uaua” (dog that runs in rough water) Range:Hawaiian Islands Diet: fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans Size: 7.0- 7.5 feet (2.1- 2.3 m) Status: Endangered (ESA Endangered)



Jeff Kuwabara, UHM MOP Coordinator

ONTH 18| Seawords

By Sarah Franklin, UHM MOP Student


awaii’s state mammal, the Hawaiian monk seal is endemic to the islands, making it one of the rarest marine mammals in the world. It is truly an exception animal because most of the seal’s relatives make their home in cold waters and the Hawaiian monk seal lives predominantly in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in warm tropical waters, with a growing population in the main Hawaiian Islands. These islands and atolls are teeming with life, since there is little human impact, which provides the monk seal with nutrients it needs to survive.

taceans are overfished, which is their main food source. The populations of monk seals that live in the North Western Hawaiian Islands face competition from jacks and sharks for food, and suffer from shark preying on pups. On the main Hawaiian Islands, the pups benefit from the lack of apex predators, but are often entangled in nets and other fishing gear. Another cause of death for the monk seal is “mobbing,” which is when multiple males attack one female (or juvenile male or female) in order to mate with her. This happens in populations where there is a higher male/ female ratio. The female victim of these attacks is left with many wounds that can lead to infection and eventually death. Though the total population of Hawaiian monk seal is declining, the population on the main Hawaiian Islands has seen an upturn. As of 2008, 43 pups have been counted and there have been numerous seal sightings out on O‘ahu’s Ka`ena Point, and all around O‘ahu.

The monk seal is an opportunistic predator and will feed on a wide variety of food that is available. Their diet is based on what is readily available. They feed mainly in the benthic region of the ocean, consuming reef dwelling bony fishes, cephalopods, and crustaceans. They are also known to dive deeper than 1,000 feet (330 m), where they will prey on eels and other benthic organisms. They spend almost two-thirds of their life at sea, but can be found basking on the sands of quiet lagoons. Reversing the damage that has been done to the monk Since there is an immense distance between the Hawaiseal population is quite the undertaking. Volunteer ian Islands and all other landmasses, the monk seal’s groups have been organized to help rescue and rehahabitat is restricted to the Hawaiian Islands. bilitate animals and prevent undue stress by keeping The monk seal got its name from the short hair that beachgoers away from resting animals. There have also grows on the top of its head, which resembles that of a been numerous public education campaigns to help monk. They have a grey coat of hair and a white belly, build awareness about conserving the species and their which they annually molt when their previous coat goes habitat. The Ke Kai Ola: The Hawaiian Monk Seal Hosfrom a dark grey to a light brown and their underside pital on O’ahu offers school tours, classes, and camps turns from white to yellow. Sometimes their hair turns to help spread marine mammal awareness and ocean green from algae growth, and this is also shed during the stewardship. As the population continues to grow on molting metamorphosis. They have stout noses, which the main Hawaiian Islands, programs like this will be enables them to eat prey that hides between rocks and critical for their survival. Many of the beaches we visit lives close to the ocean floor. The monk seal is extreme- the monk seal relies on for breeding and resting, so in ly hypordynamic because it has a very sleek figure, and order for these animals to be around for generations to lacks external ears, which can create drag in the water. come, the public can do there part by giving them space on the beach to relax and rest, and like always reduce Like many species around the world, the monk seal is waste and debris that finds it way into the ocean, not endangered, and the population continues to decrease. just to protect the monk seal, but everything that lives The cousin of the Hawaiian monk seal, the Mediterrain the ocean. n nean monk seal (Monachus monachus), is extremely rare, and the Caribbean monk seal (Monachus tropicalis) is extinct, with the last sighting in the 1950s. One of the main threats to the Hawaiian monk seal is the low juvenile survival rate. Many juveniles get entangled in marine debris and fisherman’s nets and drown. They all to often starve to death because lobster and other crusDECEMBER 2015  |19

critter of the month


Scientific Name: plakobranchus ocellatus

Photo credit: Ari Hansen, Former UHM MOP Student

by Jessica Lotts, UHM MOP Student Plakobranchus ocellatusis a species of sea slug commonly found in shallow waters throughout the Indo-West Pacific Ocean. They have a broad cone-like body and can reach upwards of 4 cm in length. Sea slugs are typically hard to spot due to their camouflaging colors. They can range from sand, cream, brown and varying shades of pink or purple. The diet of Plakobranchus ocellatus is currently unknown. Plakobranchus ocellatus store a large number of chloroplasts between their parapodial flaps (the folds on their underside), which causes their ventral surface to be bright green. The exact reason for these chloroplasts is unknown, but some scientists theorize that the chloroplasts serve a role in protection from ultraviolet radiation as well as conducting photosynthesis and providing the sea slug with nutrients.


20| Seawords

In December 1996, MOP wished their fellow peers and the community “seasoned greetings” which, in English, means “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” From everyone here at MOP and Seawords, we would like to wish the same. May everyone have a safe and happy holidays! See you next year!

December 2015 Science and Changing Seas 6 December •

“Making Climate Change Prediction Useful: A New Method of Predicting The Impacts of Climate on Marine Fishes” by Gen Del Raye

“What makes a coral susceptible to disease?” by Amanda Shore-Maggio

HOLIDAY HIATUS Seminars resume on Sunday, 10 January 2016


13 December •

"Living on the Edge – Adapting to Coastal Hazards and Climate Change in Hawaiʻi" by Dr. Bradley Romaine

• • • •

DECEMBER 2015  |21

CALL TO ACTION Please check nearby coral reefs and report any signs of bleaching. Make an online report: Send photos to: Bleached coral with life from Eyes of the Reef’s Bleachapalooza on Kauai on October 6, 2015.

Multiple reports of coral bleaching have recently been received through the Eyes of the Reef Network. ‘Bleaching’ is a coral stress response, in this case likely due to high temperatures. It describes the loss of color from coral tissue, which makes the coral appear white. Corals can recover from bleaching if temperatures return to a normal range. The peak bleaching season for the Pacific is July-- September.

More examples of coral bleaching:

Photo credit: Terry Lilley

Photo credit: Tricia Crocket

Want to know more about the EOR Network or coral bleaching? Flyer and photos created by and used with permission from: Eyes of the Reef 22| Seawords

If you are interested in submitting articles, photography, or art to Seawords, send us an email at with the subject line “Student submission.” We accept submissions year round. Photo credit: Koa Matsuoka, former UHM MOP Student

Seawords Volume XXIX Number 10, December 2015 Editor: Camra Hopper Advisor: Kathryn Lam Dr. Cynthia Hunter (éminence grise) Jeffery Kuwabara (éminence grise) Seawords- Marine Option Program University of Hawai‘i, College of Natural Sciences 2450 Campus Road, Dean Hall 105A Honolulu, HI 96822-2219 Telephone: (808) 956-8433 Email: <> Website: <> Seawords is the monthly newsletter of the Marine Option Program at the University of Hawai‘i. Opinions expressed herein are not necessariliy those of the Marine Option Program or of the University of Hawai‘i. Suggestions and submissions are welcome. Submissions may include articles, photography, art work, or anything that may be of interest to the marine community in Hawai‘i and around the world. All photos are taken by MOP unless otherwise credited.

OCTOBER 2015  |15

December Photo credit: MOP Stock



Next month: -Jan. 1- New Years Day -Jan 11 -First Day of Spring 2016 Instruction



Sunday’s at the Bay Hanauma Bay 3 - 4 pm “Science and the Changing Seas”

Pearl Harbor Memorial Day



Sunday’s at the Bay Hanauma Bay 3 - 4 pm “Science and the Changing Seas”









Finals Week!









24| Seawords

MOP & Community Events










Last Day of Fall 2015 Instruction UHM


Dolphin QUEST Tour Kahala Hotel and Resort 8:45am- 1:30 pm

MOP Graduation Dean Hall 104 5:00 am- 8:00 pm



Good Luck! 24


Christmas Eve

Christmas Day


31 New Year’s Eve

OCTOBER 2015 |25

University of Hawai`i at Mト]oa Seawords, Marine Option Program College of Natural Sciences 2450 Campus Road, Dean Hall 105A Honolulu, HI 96822-2219 Address Service Requested

Thank you for reading!

December 2015 Seawords  

The December 2015 issue of the Marine Option Program's newsletter, Seawords.

December 2015 Seawords  

The December 2015 issue of the Marine Option Program's newsletter, Seawords.