Sunscreen Kills; Bugs Going Batty
As part of my fishing, nature and eco-coverage – all of which conveniently fall under my hyper-heading of “Fish Story.” – I just have to bring you the far-outest of issues crossing my dangerously cluttered desk.
This week I’m in a lather over the latest findings of a world-class environmental organization called the European Commission.
In a sunning, make that stunning report the commissions asserts that dip-happy tourists are killing some of the planet’s most admired and sensitive-bottom dwelling creatures: corals.
Truth be told, it’s a cool relief to find a story that allows me to distances my column – if only slightly – from Global Warming as being at the root of every eco-ailment that arises.
In this case, it’s warming humans that are inadvertently pummeling poor defenseless coral reefs around the globe.
Are you ready for this?It appears that suntan lotions bearing complex chemical to enhance UV protection are killing coral, slowly but surely. Sun protection residue washing off tons and tons of tourists frolicking in oceans and seas around the world is leading to the bleaching or coral, a condition that is indubitably fatal to the delicate anthazoans that live within the calciferous kingdoms they create, which we know as reefs and coral heads.
The study was done in Egypt, Indonesia, Thailand and Mexico.
Even when present in small quantities, ultra-violet filtering chemicals common to most touristy sun products caused bleaching of coral reefs, the study’s researchers found. A 20-minute dip in the ocean can wash off over 25 percent of applied lotion, said the researchers.
I know a threat from bodyless sunscreen lotions sounds weird but it’s real – and as alarming as it is incredulous.
Upon first hearing about the study, I had problems thinking in volume terms. Come on, how much on-the-hoof suntan lotion can there be out there?
Then I glanced over at a beach-view photo taken during the recent Memorial Day Weekend, when we had enough holidayizing folks to sink the entire Island by at least a few inches. Without a doubt, every one of those beach-ites bore goodly gobbing of lotions – with one tiny tot I saw in Ship Bottom looking like he just popped out of a whipped cream pie. (He was just standing on the sand, motionless, glancing down at his goop-covered body, arms sticking out like flared back jet wings, with this expression of “What the hell ya doin’ to me here?”)
Despite those hundreds of thousands of lathered folks over that weekend, I couldn’t help but recall the utterly huge reef systems I’ve surfed upon and what a stretch it was that some incidental lotiony wash-off could make a big-time impact. However, things became more scientifically graspable after I factored in that reefs are actually the nonliving calcium material formed by the delicate coral polyps living within. Those fairly flimsy filter-feeding creatures, often pictured gingerly popping out of the ends of the tubes where they reside, are highly vulnerable to environmental swings, being yet another coalmine creature, responding to the slightest changes – the slightest toxins – that seep in.
In the European Commission study, led by Roberto Danovaro of the University of Pisa in Italy, researchers established that virtually all sunscreen brands, regardless of so-called suns protection factor, caused bleaching of hard corals.
Publishing the study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, Danovaro wrote,
"The coral response to sunscreen exposure was not dose dependent, as the same effects were observed at low and high sunscreen concentrations."
On the forensic side of things, the study indicated that within 18 to 48 hours, exposure to even small doses of sunscreen lotion led to the environmental stressing of the coral, marked by large discharges of coral mucous. Complete bleaching occurred within 96 hours, leading to the extreme weakening and, most often, the death of the corals.
While such coral collapses should alarm all of us, even in temperate low-coral climes, there was another aspect of the study that has me worry-worting once again. The study also found the virus levels in those waters holding even small amounts of sunscreen lotion had virus levels 15 times that of control samples. That moves the wash-off thing closer to home. While sunscreen lotion intrusion into our ocean or bay waters does not necessarily mean more virulent dips and swims for humans, it could easily mean that viruses dangerous to marine life might be coming into play.
For now, I’ll be noting with far greater interest the message on all sunscreen products: “Reapply frequently. Always reapply after swimming.”
OUTBACK IS WET, WILD AND WINGY: I know a lot of folks that stop by here are major outdoorsites -- or simply enjoy going vicariously natural by hiking through here, while intelligently sitting in air-conditioned homes avoiding attacks by the crawly creatures of the NJ Pine Barrens.
I bring that crawly angle up since it is turning into an insane insect year out there. At least, that’s the buzz. (Oh, that’s bad even for me).
I’ve been seeing this biting insect burst first hand – and ankle and wrist and back and legs. In fact, for the first time in my life, I got a mosquito bite on my eyelid, right above my eyelashes. I scratched it by blinking that one eyelid real fast, very much like a crazy person does right before they haul them off for a “short visit” to the Ancora State Facility. I was blink-itching that one eye in Wawa and looked over to find a 70-year-old gal and some guy with flaring nostrils winking back at me.
Gospel truth: I got that eyelash bite while holding a 5-foot blacksnake I had caught to do a quick health check on. That snake species is strong and seriously bad-tempered so the prospect of letting loose on my grip to swat an eyelid sucking mosquito was impossible.
Anyway, we of an outback ilk saw the bug clouds forming as storm after spring storm filled up every woodsy low spot out there.
Rejoicing in the puddly aftereffects of the rains are mosquitoes, greenheads, black flies, deer flies and eyebugs, my name for little demon flies that incessantly try to land on the tear ducts of my eyes.
I have this sense that dryness loving bugs, including the legitimately dangerous deer tick and the totally intolerable chiggers, also flourish when spring are wet.
A woods trek over the weekend left me carrying ticks in numbers I seldom if ever see. I have developed this agreement with ticks that if they leave me alone I won’t take them home and, in a due turnabout, insert a syringe in them and suck their blood out. “How do you like it, my little parasitic friend?” Only during population boom years does word fail to get around to all the ticks that it’s best to just bail out after landing on my body.
I’m obligated to include here that nothing is better for the Pinelands ecology than a rainy spring. It is just what the survival doctor ordered for amphibians, including threatened Pine Barren tree frogs and such. Repeated bouts of spring rain also help perpetuate those rare Pinelands plants that need vernal ponds to survive -- vernal ponds being those low-lying areas that fill with life-giving water in the spring then dry up for the summer.
There is also a stunningly visual side to our rainy spring, one I hope those of you who travel Pinelands roads will stop to enjoy.
After quite few years of lackluster blooms, the mountain laurels have exploded on-scene this year. They are peaking this week.
A more subtle but equally impressive lime-green blossoming of adjacent shrubberies, like low bush blueberries and hog huckleberry, enhance the look of the laurels.
If you’re an explorer willing to disembark from car or SUV, another atypical blossoming has rare pink lady slipper orchids popping up under virtually every thicker stand of taller pines.
These orchids need a forest floor covered by pine needles and virtually no other competing plants.
Not only is it unlawful to remove these rare flowers (and any other rare plant species) but they do not transplant because of a complex interaction of the plant with a fungus in the ground – an environmental set-up virtually impossible to duplicate after transplant.
Pink lady slipper orchids (see http://www.pineypower.com/pbpg2nature.html section on Webb’s Mill) can go AWOL some years and seldom show in knockout numbers like this spring.
Note to frisky neo-off-roaders: I know many off-road newbies with Turtle Waxed SUVs or 4WD trucks want to get out there and hit the Pinelands way-outback roads. Well, at this point and time, you might want to hold off on self-instructing drives, lest they turn into self-destructing drives -- finding yourself using that onboard GPS to notify towing company where they need to fly in with their chopper to lift your vehicle out of what you assured the little lady was, “just another big puddle, honey.”
Be it the state backing off on back-road maintenance (due to funding cuts) or simply the brim-filling of puddles by storms, it’s treacherous-grade tricky on many of the roads I’ve been traveling of late.
SHOOTOUT AT HAND: This Saturday is the High Point Volunteer Fire Company’s Striper Shootout, Tournament and Fish Fry. Registration deadline for this all-boat event is this Friday at 8 p.m.
And, in deed, it could be a shootout extraordinaire, if the current hookup of major bass continues – as it surely should. The boundaries of the contest extend from the Seaside Heights Ferris Wheel down to the Ship Bottom water tower – the prime location of the recent nearshore bunker-based bite.
The entry fee is $150 a boat for two anglers, $30 for each additional angler with a max of five anglers. To get info go to http://www.hpvfc.com/ then cursor to the “Striper Shootout” and click on “Get results.” That’ll take you into all the info including sign-up instructions and special weigh-in methods.
RUN-DOWN: Since we’re already striper spouting, the talk of the last week has been the surf bass action -- though the prattle has also been echoing the nearshore boat snag-and-drop bass bite.
The 2008 Simply Bassin’ tourney saw three major fish – all over 40 pounds – power onto the leaderboard.
After going 2 years without a bass over 20 pounds, hard-core caster Gene Slaughter doubled that 20 – and added a pound. Gene bested a 41-pound hyper-long striper while fishing his home surf using bunker last Thursday.
Gene’s breaking of the 40-pound barrier loosed the hounds, so to speak.
A lot of folks were working the suds, real hard. And it paid dividends. +
On Friday, perennial Simply Bassin’ top-spot contender Shawn Taylor went big-cow, using bunker to come to terms with a 48-12 signifi-striper. That entry sets the top-spot bar up near that 50-pound territory, a threshold size that should be fully attainable in this year’s event, based on the arriving cows related to the bunker pods.
On Sunday, Joe Filice worked the south end and went yard with a fine 42-8.
While it would seem that the nearshore boat bite – the snag-and-drop bunker corps – should be snapping shots of huge and huger bass, there are now a load of variables, not the least of which might be the problem of too many bait balls rolling around.
“There are plenty of bass in the 20 – 30 pound range but during the most recent trip we found the bunker outside but could not get a bite …” Capt. Alex Majewski, Lighthouse Sportfishing.
Doubling that was Capt. John A. Cafiero, Seafood Charters. He reported, “Too Much Bunker??? I was out Friday with a great bunch of guys that understood that sometimes its called catching and sometimes its called fishing. …We had bunker so thick you could walk on them from the lighthouse to Brant Beach. It was one big school as far as I was concerned. We marked fish. We even saw fish gorging on bunker. We tried live bunker, bunker chunks, and even trolling with nothing doing. There was just too much bait for them to get excited about our baits …”
Obviously, that lack of attack can end in an instant. It is always good to have loads of bait.
Sidebar: That bunker population boom could conceivably lead to surfside cruises by those huge bass now lounging below the countless baitfish balls. I'm likely trying to incongruously attribute human eating trait to fish but might those bunker-stuffed bass now be taking to the suds just for a change of menu? Instead of another stinkin’ bunker, a few tasty crabs or poorly buried surf clams would be real nice.
Bluefishing is there for the stalking. It doesn’t take much to find them. In fact, it often takes a lot to finally lose them.
Fluking remains frustrating. Shorts for one an all. Keepers for a select few, though the “few” often have some mighty nice stringers to show. Minnowing remains very good. Spearing are generally small during day seines with larger ones out at night.
IGFA IS WATCHING: I will note for umpteenth time the International Game Fish Association snag when using the snag-and-drop method if the “snag” part involves trebles hooks, as it often does. I have been advised by those in the know that using a treble hook when bait fishing (yes, live-lining bunker falls under “bait fishing”) would disqualify a potential world record fish, including line-class records since the fish was caught with a “gang” hook.
IGFA “Line-class” records are legitimate world records based on the largest fish caught on specific line tests. There are world records in all common line classes for virtually every planetary gamefish. IGFA also keeps world records for fly fishing tippet (line) class and for “Juniors.”
That line-class thing looms large in the striped bass realm, since the chances aren’t real good (though not impossible) for taking the overall world-record away from Al McReynolds and his 77-7 A.C. bass. However, folks willing to put on light line to fight a huge bunker-stalking striper might challenge some of the current line-class leaders in the infamous IGFA “Book of Game Fish World Records.”
Oh, by the way, you might want to by-pass the 20-pound line-class. McReynolds was using 20-pound line when he took his WR bass.
There is also a club (of sorts) based on folks catching fish many times beyond the line-class they’re fishing. You qualify for the 5-to-1 club if you catch a 50-pound fish on 10 pound test, or any other mathematical combination of a fish being 5 times the line-class. The closest I ever came was when I once took forever to land a 9-pound bluefish on 2-pound test. I was just messin’ around during a tiring bluefish blitz when I had freshwater pickerel gear in my truck. I tied steel leader to my freshwater gear and threw out a small spinner with ominously shadowy blues only a few feet from shore. It was remotely interesting – for the first five minutes. After that it became one of those “This is the last time I’m ever doing this crap,” things.
The 10-to-1 club is a high-bar accomplishment. In practical terms, you’d have to catch a 100-pound fish on 10-pound test; a 60-pound fish on 6-pound test, so on. In nearshore terms, the best chance to get into a 10-to-1 club is boat fishing for something like a drumfish, using very light line. The dogged way a black drum fights would allow the reel’s drag to do all the work – which is the trick of working fish many time a line-class.
Sidebar: Talk about a club with very few members. Kona, Hawaii’s Kelley Everette caught a 1,103-pound blue marlin on 30-pound test line. That’s a fish something like 37 times the line-class! By way of nearshore perspective, that would be a 74-pound bass on two-pound test.
But back to that initial warning that treble hooks could disqualify a world record fish, a striped bass, in particular.
I question any angler who totally excludes the possibility of going world when fishing. With bass off the Delmarva testing the waters surrounding McReynold’s super-striper, just imagine nabbing a fish with promotional potential surely toying with a million bucks and watching it drain away because of disqualification?
I think back on last year’s astoundingly excessive IGFA disqualification of Neptune nurse Monica Oswald's monster 24.3 summer flounder, the biggest fluke ever taken on rod and reel. By her own admission, she had quickly rested her rod on the transom while fighting that worldly flattie. That’s a vivid no-no if following the letter of the IGFA law. Still …
Of course, one need only ponder all the offshore big game records and logicalize how many anglers must have had their rods go gunnel at one point or another.
Anyway, the un-tallied loss of promotional monies (6-figures, easily) for Monica wasn’t chatted about much, since a load of sheepish anglers felt badly after wrongly accusing her of cheating, alleging she had the fluke given to her. Those chatroom-centered allegations were totally disproved via follow-up interviews with witnesses and a lie-detector test she easily passed. However, I believe it was surely the jealousy-based hubbub that had Monica micromanaging her account of the catch to IGFA officials, thinking and rethinking the fight to finally include that slight transom stop.
Oh, well, onward and outward to those trophy fish.