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  • Richard Conniff

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    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Posts Tagged ‘illegal fishing’

How Big Data Could Save Whales Like This From Ship Collisions

Posted by Richard Conniff on February 19, 2016

A dead female humpback after receiving "The Princess Experience from Princess Cruises, 2010 (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA/via Reuters)

A dead female humpback after receiving “The Princess Experience,” courtesy of Princess Cruises, 2010, near Juneau, Alaska (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA/via Reuters)

The oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface, and for much of human history they have appealed to sailors and poets alike as a wild refuge, beyond the reach of mundane human authority. But the scale of the oceans have also made them a haven for criminals, and for some of the most destructive modern commercial practices imaginable, from dynamite fishing to industrial-scale bottom trawling. It’s one reason we live in an era of empty oceans and empty nets.

Even ships that are entirely legal can inadvertently do damage to wildlife–for instance, by fatal strikes, propeller noise, introduction of invasive species, and anchoring in sensitive habitats. But much of that destructive behavior could easily be avoided with help from Big Data, according to a new study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science.

The potential for conservation and law enforcement to reach even into the most remote regions of the ocean comes from Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Conservation and Extinction | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

The Dark, Nasty Business of Ethical Shopping

Posted by Richard Conniff on January 8, 2016

My latest for

Though I have written here often about illegal fishing as a leading factor in the “empty oceans” crisis, I still feel like an ignoramus every time I attempt to make an ethical purchase at my supermarket seafood counter. As a crude rule of thumb, I could just assume that everything imported is illegal. But only about a third of imported seafood actually fits that description, and supermarkets seldom bother to label their merchandise by origin, in any case.

So why not just break out my Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guide, to help me make a sustainable choice? That’s what I tell readers to do. But I am a hypocrite: Shopping this way makes me feel like those hipster restaurant customers in “Portlandia,” fretting about whether the woodland-raised, soy-fed heritage breed chicken named Colin is really the ethically pure choice for dinner. By default I end up buying anything other than shrimp, because I know shrimp is almost always terrible for the environment. Then my wife goes and buys the shrimp anyway, and we have a fight.

Is it any wonder that consumers everywhere opt for willful ignorance? If it’s pretty and the price is right, we Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Environmental Issues, Food & Drink | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Among 2016 Conservation Issues: Way Too Much Testosterone

Posted by Richard Conniff on December 29, 2015

What’s ahead for wildlife in the coming year? Anybody reading the headlines would probably answer: Calamity and extinction. Elephants? Rhinos? Lions in the African bush? Pollinators here at home? None of it sounds like good news.

For the past few years, a group of scientists and others with a strong interest in the natural world have tried to look past the headlines and identify emerging conservation issues most people in the field aren’t talking about yet, but will soon. They call it “horizon scanning,” and they try to include opportunities as well as threats. The new list for 2016 is just out in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution, and it makes for interesting reading.

The list the group came up with inevitably includes China, but for a reason that hasn’t gotten much attention so far: The national government has now incorporated the idea of becoming an “ecological civilization” among its leading policies. If you have been hearing about the recent pollution red alert in Beijing, or about poaching and deforestation issues pretty much anywhere in the world, the words Read the rest of this entry »

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A Spy in the Sky Against Pirate Fishing

Posted by Richard Conniff on January 23, 2015

Bluefin tuna (Photo: Franco Banfi/Getty Images)

Bluefin tuna (Photo: Franco Banfi/Getty Images)

On a large monitor in a room in Harwell, England, the planet Earth rotated against a black background. Brightly colored dots bunched up against the shorelines of the continents, with other points scattered across the oceans. It looked like something from the latest James Bond film. In fact, those dots represented the location of nearly every known fishing vessel now at sea, monitored in close to real-time by satellite.  The visualization—it’s not quite reality yet—was part of an ambitious new program that its backers believe will be the best tool yet for ending the scourge of pirate fishing.

“Outside of the military, we are not aware of any project that will bring so many layers of information together and bring so many stakeholders together to end illegal fishing,” said Tony Long, director of the Ending Illegal Fishing Project for the Pew Charitable Trusts. “Project Eyes on the Seas,” he said, will shine “a quicker and brighter spotlight” on illegal fishing.  The project, a collaboration between Pew and Satellite Applications Catapult, a company established through a British government initiative, will begin monitoring two Pacific regions on a pilot basis and gradually spread worldwide over the next three to five years.

That may be just in time. A study published last week in Science warned that,

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Conservation and Extinction, Environmental Issues | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »