Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Underwater World

The past few days have been unseasonably calm in the Gulf of the Farallones, with almost no swell and a slight breeze, so we decided to take the opportunity to do some snorkeling around the island. Seeing the watery world beneath the surface of the sea reminded us of why the Farallon Islands are so biologically important. The Farallones are perched on the edge of the continental shelf, where cold waters upwelling from the deep ocean bring nutrients that support a remarkable web of life, from plants, plankton, and fish to seabirds, seals, sharks, and whales.

Near East Landing, Dungeness crabs munched on iridescent maroon kelp. Schools of larval fish swarmed among rose-colored coralina against a backdrop of bright orange sponges. Here and there a greenling or a China cod darted into the safety of a sea cave. In Fisherman’s Bay, we saw green anemone as big as a human head, abalone the size of hubcaps, and a wide variety of colorful sea stars, from giant pisasters to bat stars, and a spectacular purple sunflower star. Occasionally a harbor seal would swim over to investigate us – a welcome change from their wariness of humans on land. Typically we have to stay hidden from the seals so we don’t scare them into the water, but underwater they are in their element.

A healthy ocean ecosystem offers so much to humans, from providing food to absorbing carbon dioxide, and is critical to our survival as a species. It is easy to forget that 80% of the world exists beneath the sea surface and is vulnerable to harm if we fail to protect it. Future generations will thank us for our foresight in conserving the biological resources of the Gulf of the Farallones.


Daniel R. Patterson, Editor said...

Keep it wild

Anonymous said...

Starfish are animals that are not good for any environment. They generally lead to poisoning of the water column -- when they consume fish flesh, they convert it to a noxious substance which they then release. I have read about this before in a few magazines. It is also not so easy to get rid of them, as when they are dissected they can "re-energize" into multiple different organisms.