29 August 2012

The Problem with Rock and Surf Anglers

I have been walking along beaches most of my life and enjoy what I find and see. Last week I had to think for a while before I could work out what the dead thing was.

Fishing with bait on a line has several disadvantages. In the first place you don’t really know what you are going to catch. If you are an ethical angler and you catch something you do not want you simply unhook the fish or shark and release it back in the sea. If the creature was not too injured or stressed it should survive.

If you are an idiot angler and are scared of what you catch or just lazy you simply cut the line and leave the creature to its own devices and you do not care whether it lives or dies. It is difficult to work out what happened to this large stingray. The hook and bait were still down its throat but the wings were removed. I guess the lazy angler hacked off the wings and threw the body back into the sea. I hope the skate was dead as this is sounding more and more like shark finning where the fins are hacked off the shark and the shark is thrown overboard to drown slowly.

There are many aspects of this that irritate me but I always come back to the hazards of fishing line and fish hooks. If you look to the sides of the cadaver you will see many footprints of the seagulls that were scavenging off the skate. There is a good chance that one will reach the baited hook and impale itself trying to get at the bait. If it does not do that it can entangle itself in the fishing line – this also normally has fatal consequences.

Another possibility is that you come along the beach walking on your bare feet enjoying the texture of the sand when you suddenly encounter the sharpness of the hook in your foot. The consequences are painful and sometimes it is really difficult to remove the hook. Sometimes you have to draw the hook backwards to get it out. Trying to cut off the shank of a hook stuck in your foot with a pair of pliers (if you are luckily enough to have pliers with you) is very painful. Another exciting way for this to improve your day is that your dog will find the baited hook and swallow it. It is never easy to remove a hook from a dog’s mouth and if it goes any further into the dog’s digestive system you will have massive veterinarian bills to pay.

Perhaps the most disruptive way of finding a hook like this is if I child walks on it. Apart from the trauma, pain and possible infection you have to get the crying child to a general practitioner. There are many wonderful ways to ruin an outing to the beach and finding a discarded fish hook really irritates me. But the person who caught the skate has also allowed another painful end to a day at the beach come into play – by discarding the ray in this way you have to bonus of being able to step onto the venomous spines. While I have not experienced this myself I have seen what pain it causes. Interestingly the best way to alleviate the pain is by placing the wound in hot water as this breaks down the toxins.

Funny how fishing and its equipment remains primitive and that the behaviour of the fishermen with the disposal of fish hooks, fishing line and their catch has remained despicable.

23 August 2012

Climate change affecting survival rate of Columbian ground squirrels

Columbian ground squirrels are now surfacing from their winter hibernation in the foothills of Canada’s Rocky Mountains 10 days later than they did 20 years ago. These findings by a group of international researchers were published in the online edition of the journal Nature earlier this month. The delay is considered significant and is having an impact on how many female squirrels and their babies survive to the next spring. In newspaper interviews this month, Jeffrey Lane, lead author of the new study, puts the squirrels’ delayed surfacing down to the increased frequency of late-spring snowstorms. Lane says that after studying a colony of Columbian ground squirrels for 20 years in Kananaskis Country’s Sheep River Park, the survival rate for female squirrels has dropped by one percent every year. Twenty years ago, 87 percent of the rodents survived the winter. Last spring, 67 percent survived. According to the study, Columbian ground squirrels spend as much as three-quarters of the year sleeping in their burrows. Their three to four months of activity is highly regimented. Waking up 10 days later means that much less time to fatten up before hibernating again. And if food is less than ideal because dumps of late-spring snowfall have affected the vegetation, survival is harder.

6 August 2012

Burn Pollution?

Our village burn in Belford, Northumberland has turned a turquoise colour this afternoon. Some residents described it as the colour of Vosene shampoo. Our picture shows Eric Gassner our local trout fisherman testing the PH value of the water and you can clearly see the uncoloured natural water coming into the burn from the right.

2 August 2012

The Ghost Forest

The Ghost Forest consists of 10 giant hardwood rainforest tree stumps from the Suhuma forest reserve in Ghana and is an environmental art installation by artist Angela Palmer highlighting deforestation & the depletion of natural resources. Artist Angela Palmer says that the trees are intended to represent rainforest trees worldwide:"Today, a tropical forest the size of a rugby pitch is destroyed every four seconds, impacting on climate, biodiversity and the livelihoods of indigenous people" and that the absence of the trees' trunks in the installation is "a metaphor for the removal of the world's 'lungs' through deforestation". Most of the trees in the Ghost Forest fell naturally in adverse weather conditions, those that didn't were part of a sustainable controlled logging programme.

After leaving Ghana, the Ghost Forest was installed in Trafalgar Square, London, then outside the Parliament Building in Copenhagen during the Cop15 UN Climate Change Conference and, most recently in Oxford. Now it has come to the National Botanic Garden of Wales at Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire, for its final, permanent resting place.

The installation has been jointly secured by the National Botanic Garden of Wales in partnership with the Wales-based rainforest charity, Size of Wales. The phrase  'an area the size of Wales’ is frequently used to measure the rate of forest destruction. Size of Wales is a unique Welsh initiative aiming to turn the negative use of Wales' size around by aiming to protect an area of rainforest the size of the Welsh nation - that is 2 million hectares of rainforest. Director of Size of Wales, Hannah Scrase, said: “Wales is stepping up to the challenge of stopping tropical forest destruction and having Ghost Forest here in Wales to remind us will really strengthen our resolve and will help us all to get closer to the issue of tropical deforestation."
Garden director Dr Rosie Plummer said: “No one can fail to be awed by the sight of these huge botanic leviathans and we are planning to inspire all our visitors, young and old, to create poetry, art, photography, music and theatre out of their experiences.”

On Sunday, the 29th of July, the Ghost Forest arrived at the National Botanic Garden in a major logistical operation, involving 6 huge low-loader lorries, a massive crane, a team of engineers, garden staff, charity representatives, volunteers and much tea, coffee, sandwiches and Welsh cakes.

Here are a few pictures of the day:

The 20-ton trunk of a Denya (Cylicodiscus gabunensis, naturally fallen) arrives on low-loader
Preparing the Denya and then hoisting it into position

Left to right: Rosie Plummer (Director of National Botanic Garden of Wales), Lowri Jenkins ('Size of Wales' charity), Angela Palmer (artist) posing with cut-out Wales shape

Hoisting another buttress-rooted trunk into position - it look so surreal against the backdrop of native British woodland

Beautiful shapes reminiscent of so many things

And even before the installation is officialy open, a Garden volunteer explores the inside of an 8.8 ton Dahoma (Piptadeniastrum africanum)
...and the view from the inside

Yes, no doubt, the Ghost Forest is going to be very popular

Go and visit !!

And if you want to know even more about this project, here are some links: