Delta Smelt Stand Up
This is one of those winter ramblings that wades a goodly distance from angling NJ. It’s some fun nonetheless. To write about it, I have to drag you all the way out to Oklahoma, to touch base with the country’s most famed monster-ish creature – Big Foot.
Whodda thunk it? Big Foot prowling a state most famous for grain and corn -- used for making hard liquor and other hallucinatory spirits. Hmmm.
Just kidding. Any state that can produce Garth Brooks is OK by me.
Sidebar: Ever wonder what kinda parent names their son Garth?. I’m thinkin’ that name might have come via good old dad whose name is (gospel truth here) Troyal Brooks. Hey, the name Garth is better than, say, Troyal 2.
Anyway, watching the latest episode of “Monster Quest” on the History Channel, I was astounded by the number of Big Foot sightings in a state that is generally so boring its motto is “Oklahoma Is OK.” Not great, mind you, just OK.
Though I’ve faithfully watched loads of shows about Big Foot, this was the first one that
kinda caught me off guard when it utilized the plural of Bigfoot. Get this, when a Bigfoot is frolicking in a meadow with all its family members they are called Bigfoots, which is undoubtedly yet another reason the public in general finds it hard to believe they even exists. If a bevy of Bigfoots were called Bigfeet it might be a tad easier to sell, grammatically speaking.
Which is a queue to now haul all ya’all off to Maui.
When I moved to Maui a lifetime or two ago, I remember walking a jungle path and running headlong into my first mongoose. They are so common on Maui they have been named the official, “Weird Long Furry Thing That Runs Around and Doesn't Eat Rats the Way They’re Supposed to” animal.
Fortunately, the same meaning in Hawaiian reads, a’a’a, with the emphasis on the second “a.” If you mispronounce it and put the emphasis on the final “a” that translates into something akin to “your mother has a moray eel on her eyebrow,” which will most likely get you instantly punched in the mouth since, unbeknownst to many folks, Hawaiian are highly inclined to punch first and later ask, “Eh, what it mean my muddah got da kine eel on her face?”
Anyway, as I became familiar with a’a’a (a.k.a mongoose) on Maui, I happened to once refer to a group of mongoose as mongeese. This drew a tidal wave of laughter from resident Hawaiians who thought mongeese was just about the funniest word they had ever heard -- until someone in the crowd corrected me and said "the proper word is mongooses,” which once again got everyone laughing their asses off, again, since that was just about the funniest word they hard since the word mongeese.
Bigfoots? Bigfeet? Whatever.
Now where was I? Oh, that’s right, Bigfoots.
I just wanted to note that there is a local angler, a respected doctor by trade (and thusly he’ll remain anonymous herein) who told me he was fly-fishing in outback Washington state (early 1990s) and got a full gander at a giant bipedal hominid-like creature on the far bank of the lake he was working at sunrise. Also a hunter, he said it was absolutely not a bear. “Not even close,” was his words. He is now among the ranks of the believers. He preempted a question I had when he explained that they had flown into the lake and had chosen it over the lake they had first picked since the initial choice was fogged in. That all but shoots down the notion of a hoax since nobody could have anticipated the anglers even landing there, much less idly waiting around in huge furry costume just in case someone shows up to hoaxify.
That show on Oklahoma Bigfoots played heavily on the fact that virtually no scat, i.e. fecal matter, from these 300-pound creatures have ever been found -- in my case, stepped in.
“Jay, what the hell is all over your boot?’.
“Oh, you gotta be kiddin’ me! Hand me that stick over there.”
(If you look real close at one of the more famed videos of Bigfoot, it sure seems it has a trailing piece of toilet paper on one of its feet. Something to think about.)
My read: I think the idea of a heretofore undiscovered hominid species surviving in secret on our planet, despite standing something like 8 foot tall and covered in smelly hair, is utter phantasmagoric nonsense. I opt for the far more rational likelihood that these creatures only occasionally come to our realm via portals from a less sophisticated parallel universe. How else can you explain these Bigfoots – at least until you watch the History Channel series “UFO Hunters”?
NEW NOAA HEAD IS PEW-STER: Oregon State professor Jane Lubchenco has gotten President Obama’s nod to head up the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Lubchenco comes with glowing credentials and an immense amount of praise for the job she did while working at the university. She is also a member of the moderately controversial PEW Ocean Commission.
As a Pew primer, I’ll list that the Pew Ocean Commission recommends:
“Improving the management of the nation’s commercial fisheries;
Establishing networks of marine reserves in coastal waters;
Increasing the involvement of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in environmental restoration;
Applying strong environmental standards to fish farms; and
Regulating the discharge of waste by cruise ships.”
Near and dear to her heart is the protection of marine ecosystems, something the new Magnuson Act writers swore up and down should be addressed (to no avail).
Lubchenco is also cofounder of Climate Central, http://www.climatecentral.org/, a website dedicated to educating professionals on global warming.
“Jane Lubchenco is a world-class marine scientist who has an international reputation for her integrity, her wisdom, her good judgment and her evenhanded, levelheaded approach to complex policy issues,” said Sylvia Earle, who served as NOAA chief scientist in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. “Her nomination is amazingly good news.”
MY READ: Somewhat ironically, years back we saw a fairly amazing gal named Christie Whitman accept a presidential (Bush) appointment to head up the EPA. Whitman all but walked out of her EPA post after refusing to kowtow to fierce political pressures in D.C.
During this Obama run, another Jerseyan, African-American Lisa Jackson, has been asked to head up the EPA. Who knows where that’ll go.
So how does this relate to the new head of NOAA?
If the past holds any precedent, even the finest minded folks reach D.C. with the best of intent and credentials but are slapped into a do-as-we-say place real fast.
Here’s an oddly related incident.
SMELT MAKE A STAND: We need to take a quick dip into the murky waters of federal policy. To do this, lets zip over the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California. Conservationists over there are trying their hardest to protect the tiny delta smelt – every bit as small and unassuming as its name implies. The species has slipped off the map, populations-wise. Its disastrous decline is bviously geared to the building of huge pumps that suck water out of the delta area for usages by nearby farmers and more distant city dwellers.
To relay this story, let me offer a little animation here – you know, for the toddlers who read this column regularly.
Picture this wetlands area and up steps a burly pump builder, obviously in the process of deciding where to jam the next super-sucking pump.
“This look about right,” he offers to himself, out loud.
A small fishy head pops to the surface of the water.
“Uh, sir, what about us?” A delta smelt asks as the heads of fellow smelt arise.
“And who the hell are you?”
We’re called delta smelt and since you began pumping we’ve begun dying off like crazy.”
The pump purveyor pouts, “Delta smelt? Oh, hells bells, you’re not like those stinkin’ snail darters over in Tennessee are ya?”
The smelt begin asking among themselves if anyone is related to a snail darters, one fish in back noting he had an uncle who once visited Tennessee.
The head smelt says, “There doesn’t seem to be a snail darter here, specifically, but not unlike the case of the Tellico Dam in Tennessee, we’re dying off because all our water is getting removed.”
“And you’re gonna say it’s my fault?’ huffs the pumpist.
“Well, sir, since you’re pumps have begun sucking things dry, our numbers are down to the endangered level and seems like we’re going extinct,” explains the smelt.
“Big frickin’ deal, smelt breath. Animals go extinct everyday.”
“So when are you humans going extinct?” asks a small smelt voice off toward the back of the school.
“Oh, so we’re talking a buncha wise-ass smelts here, eh?” growls the pumpifier. “Well, we human ain’t never goin’ extinct.”
“I wouldn’t bet on that, lard ass.” Bubbles up from amid the smelt. Another smelt snickers, “Can you say dinosaur, dude?”
“Hush, you guys,” says the head smelt. “Sorry about that, Lard, I mean, sir. But I should point out that the fine folks from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service came through here just last week (“Nice folks,” muttered here and there amid the smelt school). They asked us all to raise our fins so they could take a count and they realized that not only is our species collapsing but your pumps are surely the cause.”
The pumpman offers a cocky chortle. “Well, let me tell ya somethin’, slimeball, I got friends way up high in the department and I’m thinkin’ that frickin’ population count just might end up making you smelt look like your reproducing like rabbits. Have a nice extinction.” The pump builder stomps off.
“Now, that didn’t sound good, did it?” offers the head smelt, as it submerges.
And it wasn’t good, childrens. The pumped up pump-meister did, in fact, have heavily soiled friends in high pseudo-eco- places within the department and the threatened fact fudging took place. Fish and Wildlife Service officials were ordered to distort the data to make it look like a new pump wouldn’t harm the smelt whatsoever. The bogus report was then presented to other officials as proof that a new pump should be built.
Now, all you toddlers have to run off and go potty or drink some milk or whatever it is you do when you’re not drinkin’ milk and pottying. Uncle Jay has to say some nasty words about the Bush-based bozos that ordered the changing of the facts about the smelt population. Oh, before you kiddies go, the delta smelt are gonna win in the end and even though they won’t live happily ever after they’ll get to hang around a bit longer – and, who knows, they might be lucky enough to see mankind make itself go extinct. Won’t that be great kiddies? Now, bugger off.
And least you adults think the above is a fairy tale, a California judge who heard all the details of this smelt case was truly pissed off at the fed fudging, though it’s unlikely heads will roll considering how quickly Bush rolled out of town. What’s more, the state of California turned off all the pumps during the annual migration of the smelt.
Detail: The migrating population of smelt, which the Fish and Wildlife Service was forced to report as “healthy”? A total of 25 fish!
JAB ME A TAN: As we seek the slightest signs of a sun bearing some serious warmth, it won’t be that many moons before we’ll shift over to bitching about the stinkin’ heat and blistering sun.
And with the onslaught of the season of solar sufferings, the ever-growing issue of scary sun-related skin damage will arise. That strikes home with anglers, especially boat fishermen, who are among the prime candidates for melanomas and other cancerous dermal non-goodies.
Well, science is taking a truly bizarre jab at skin protection: tiny implants that introduce a newly discovered peptide, called Melanotan, into the body, leading to a no-sun darkening of the skin.
These implants don’t produce a fake-o non-protective “tan in a can,” like those attained from lathering on goops and lotions that essentially stain the skin -- and leave the deluded impression that the skin is dark and can take what the sun dishes out.
"It's a bioabsorbable implant that you just inject into the skin. It stimulates melanin production," said Colin Mackie with Clinuvel, an Australian company perfecting implant tanning.
The ingenuity behind the implant originated at the University of Arizona, where a group of scientists, headed by endocrinologist Mac E. Hadley, isolated a peptide that can spur our bodies into producing huge amounts of the hormone that is otherwise slowly issued during the tanning process. They dubbed the peptide Melanotan. It was quite a breakthrough in skin health.
The scientists rationalized that prompting the body to quickly tan prior to sun exposure greatly reduced the dangerous pre-tan exposure time, when skin first burns.
The main problem with the Melanotan isolated at the university was the short duration of the darkening when the peptide was simply injected into a subject. Even then, Melanotan had the potential to offer something of a wedding day or special occasion tan. However, that wasn’t the skin-saving intent of the scientists work. What’s more, word had leaked out on the active ingredient in Melanotan and a dangerous rush of tan-by-night injectors arose, promising a jab and a tan. Recent warning in medical publications highlight the dangers of adulterants in what is often homemade Melanotan and the accompanying non-professional injections.
Realizing their research work was done, the U. of A. scientists licensed their discovery, via something called a technology transfer. The Clinuvel Company is among those seeking a way to bring the skin-saving capacities of Melanotan to the public. The Clinuvel implant, a tiny clear inch-long rod, darkens for upwards of a month, per animal studies.
While the Melanotan seems a boon to folks with fair skin or a family history of skin cancers, there are some side effect, of sorts, that actually have the pharmaceutical realm buzzing to the tune of “We’re in the Money.” Along with a comely dark tan, it sees that many Melanotan users also get a surge in libido and even rapid weigh loss. Working on that angle, there is now a rush to refine something called Melanotan 2.
Don’t be confused by Melanotan 2, which is a whole other chemical animal from the original Melanotan. M2 is meant to highlight that libido and weight loss angle. Needless to say, that seems to be working a whole other side of the block, including deep within hormonal zones with “Keep Out” written all over them.
Warning: Don’t be messing with those street-grade quick-jab tans. The implants are now being tested in Finland and could go public by next year.