By Amy McDermott
If you think 2017 was a garbage fire, we can't stop you. But the world wasn't the only thing in flames. You know what else was on fire this year? Fish discovery.
Last year, we brought you six of our favorite fish discovered in 2016. This year, we're upping the ante. Meet seven of our newly-minted favorites, discovered in 2017.
1. Snailfish of the Deep (Pseudoliparis Swirei)
Plunge into the Mariana Trench, and you'll find a ghostly snailfish cruising along the seabed, nearly 8,000 meters (26,000 feet) deep. It lives in crushing pressure and darkness, as one of the deepest-living fish ever collected.
Scientists found 37 of the pinkish, translucent, blobby-looking critters using abaited traps with attached video cameras. The snailfish's body is so pale that its liver, stomach and innards are visible through the skin. Other snailfish species have been found in trenches around the world
Just how deep does the new snailfish live? Well, from sidewalk to sky, the Empire State Building is 443 meters (1,450 feet) high. You'd have to stack 18 below the surface to reach snailfish territory. It's a bit deep. Your odds of stepping on one while frolicking at the beach are, luckily, very low.
2. Kaguya's Dartfish: A Fairy Tale Goby (Navigobius Kaguya)
This fish is fit for a fairy tale.S.K. Tea
Called Kaguyahime-haze in Japanese, this gorgeous goby is named for the Moon Princess Kaguya, the central character in an ancient Japanese folktale. The name is an allusion to the moon-like spots on the fish's dorsal fin, and its discovery on reefs in Japan, as well as in the Philippines.
The new goby looks a lot like another (as-yet-unnamed) species from Bali and the Maldives. Its head and body are orange to pink or yellow-grey, with purple stripes that sometimes become spots. Divers have spotted this species before and snapped photos of it. It's also sometimes caught for home aquariums. But it hadn't been named and described until November. Formal description in a scientific paper is how new species are technically "discovered" in science.
If the world got you down this year, just take a deep breath and remember Kaguya's dartfish: the lovely new goby named after a moon princess.
3. Magma Fairy Wrasse (Cirrhilabrus Shutmani)
The magma fairy wrasse likes it hot.B.P. Shutman
If we're talking fairy tales, we can't skip the magma fairy wrasse. Scientists sampled four spritely specimens from the underwater rubble slopes of the active Didicas Volcano in the Philippines' Babuyan Islands, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire.
This fish is truly volcanic. The magma-red colors of its body and fins set it apart from other, closely-related wrasses.
4. Korean "Dwarf" Seahorse (Hippocampus Haema)
Good things come in threes.Jin Koo Kim
If princesses and fairies aren't enough, let's throw in more mythical creatures. Hippocampus haema is the most common seahorse in Korea, but is also found in Japan, where it's called "himetatsu," meaning "dwarf seahorse" or "princess seahorse."
The new species is part of a larger group of crowned seahorses, also found in Japan and Korea. This year, scientists examined 182 seahorse specimens from the region, and sorted them into the three species. The crowned seahorse (H. coronatus) and painted seahorse (H. sindonis) had already been discovered and described. But a third, new species, H. haema, shook out of the mix, based on genetic and physical differences from the other two species.
Those other two seahorses also have epic Japanese names. The painted seahorse is "hanatatsu," which translates to flower dragon. And the crowned seahorse is "tatsu-no-otoshigo," or "dragon's bastard child."
5. Deep-Sea Anglerfish (Oneirodes Sanjeevani)
Sure, this anglerfish is ugly, but it probably has a great personality.H. Kumar
Anglerfish are a departure from the whimsy of princesses, fairies, dwarves and dragons. But what they lack in cute and cuddliness, they make up for in peculiarity. A fleshy growth protrudes from anglerfish heads, and acts as a lure for curious prey.
Oneirodes sanjeevani, the new anglerfish, has a short lure and a narrow head. Only one specimen, a female, has ever been seen. She looks like a giant mouth full of sharp teeth, tapering to a tail. The new angler was discovered in the Western Indian Ocean, between 380 and 600 meters (1,250 and 1,970 feet) deep.
Rows of imposing teeth, and horn-like protrusions from her head, make this critter look downright ghoulish. Luckily, she's only a few centimeters long.
6. Hoodwinker Sunfish (Mola Tecta)
Hiding in plain sight.Maria Nyegaard
Ocean sunfish are hard to miss. They're huge and disc-shaped, with no apparent tail and long, flapping fins on top and bottom of their flattened bodies. Remember those Boston fishermen who thought they'd found an injured baby whale in 2015? That was a sunfish.
If you've ever seen one, you might have called it a "Mola mola," which is the scientific name of one species. Turns out, there are even more Mola species: Mola ramsayi, and, based on genetic analysis, the new Mola tecta. It's sleeker than its cousins, and the first addition to the genus in 125 years.
7. Fire Goby (Palatogobius Incendius)
With a name like a Harry Potter spell, this Caribbean goby rounds out the 2017 fish list in magical style. Its fiery name comes from its bright orange, yellow and pink scales. Fire gobies live in schools on deep reefs, from roughly 100 to 200 meters deep.
Back in 2015, before the gobies were formally described, scientists found a school of 50 swimming near a rock wall in Curaçao. The researchers filmed the gobies from inside a submarine, and then saw something unprecedented. Invasive lionfish, introduced to the Caribbean from the Pacific, attacked the school while the scientists watched. The researchers caught it all on film, in the first recording of invasive lionfish threatening an "undiscovered" species.
If you thought this year was a trash fire, then fire gobies devoured by invasive species probably adds to the hot mess. Don't despair though. With princesses and dragons and volcano fish in the mix, scientific discovery was ablaze this year too. For fish at least, 2017 was lit.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Zahida Sherman
Cooking has always intimidated me. As a child, I would anxiously peer into the kitchen as my mother prepared Christmas dinner for our family.
Falling in Love With Food All Over Again<p>Slowly, through my most intimate relationships with friends and partners, I began to see the beauty — and rewards — of cooking.</p><p>I got tired of giving in to defeat and always bringing chips or paper products to social gatherings. I started asking my mom to send me her Christmas and Thanksgiving recipes. I even volunteered to host Thanksgiving dinner at my place.</p><p>Each time I heard my loved ones sing the praises of the foods I prepared for them, I felt a tinge more confident that I could carry out our traditions my way.</p><p>In reaching out to other relatives for their favorite recipes, I learned that they had a little help of their own. They didn't rely solely on their ancestral cooking instincts. They turned to Black chefs for guidance.</p><p>These 7 cookbooks by Black chefs have inspired my family and fed us in nutrients, joy, and spiritual sustenance. They're also helping me overcome my personal fears of cooking.</p>
Get CookingWhether you're in recovery from cooking fears like me, or are just looking to expand your culinary confidence with dishes honoring Black heritage, these Black chefs are here to support you on your journey.Turn on some music, give yourself permission to make mistakes, and throw down for yourself or your loved ones. Glorious flavors await you.
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By Tara Lohan
The conclusion to decades of work to remove a dam on the Middle Fork Nooksack River east of Bellingham, Washington began with a bang yesterday as crews breached the dam with a carefully planned detonation. This explosive denouement is also a beginning.
The History<p>The Middle Fork Nooksack drains glacier-fed headwater streams that run off the icy summit of 10,778-foot Mt. Baker. The Middle Fork joins the North Fork and then the mainstem of the Nooksack River, which travels to Bellingham Bay and Puget Sound. The entire Nooksack watershed stretches 830 square miles across Washington and into British Columbia.</p>
A Plan Comes Together<p>The Middle Fork dam is not a pool dam built for water storage. Much of the time, water flows over the top until dam operators drop a floodgate to divert water to new locations. That water travels about 14 miles through tunnel and pipeline to Mirror Lake, then Anderson Creek, and to Lake Whatcom before finally being delivered to residents' taps.</p><p>Before removing the dam, engineers had to move the water intake 700 feet upstream and situate it at an elevation that still enabled city water withdrawals throughout the year, regardless of flow conditions.</p><p>They also needed to make sure that the rushing water didn't sweep up fish and accidentally send them through the water-supply system.</p><p>"The solution required a fairly complex design in the intake structure, including a fish exit pipe out of that structure to put fish back into the river in a way that meets current environmental permit standards," explains LaCroix.</p>
Project layout for the removal of the Middle Fork Nooksack diversion dam and rebuilding of water intake. City of Bellingham<p>Despite the cost and the work, she says, being able to continue to meet their municipal water obligations while opening up habitat for threatened species has been a win-win.</p><p>"I think there's a lot of benefits to having a dam removal versus fish passage — the main one being that you get a free-flowing river that can be a dynamic ecosystem and change over time," she says. "A static fish ladder just can't provide that same level of ecosystem benefit."</p>
Restoration Success<p>Despite local authorities' championing dam removal on the Middle Fork, the project has largely flown under the radar, overshadowed in the Pacific Northwest by heated discussions about a much larger potential project — removing <a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/feds-reject-removal-of-4-snake-river-dams-in-key-report/" target="_blank">four federal hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River</a>, a major tributary of the Columbia River.</p><p>Proponents of dam removal there see it as the best chance for recovering threatened salmon populations, including Chinook, which could help starving Southern Resident killer whales. Those dams also provide irrigation water, barge navigation and hydropower, so there's been more pushback against removal efforts.</p><p>Previous dam removals around the country, however, have proved successful at aiding fish recovery and river restoration.</p><p>Most notably the 1999 demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/edwards-dam-removal/" target="_blank">Edwards Dam on Maine's Kennebec River</a> restored the annual run of alewives, a type of herring essential to the food web. The fish run has gone from zero to 5 million in the two decades since dam removal. Blueback herring, striped bass, sturgeon and shad have also extended their reach. And the resurgence has brought back osprey, bald eagles and other wildlife, too.</p><p>The overwhelming success of river restoration on the Kennebec helped to spur a nationwide dam removal movement that's now seen 1,200 dams come down since 1999. Last year a record <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/conservation-resource/a-record-26-states-removed-dams-in-2019/" target="_blank">90 dams</a> were removed in 26 states, including <a href="https://therevelator.org/cleveland-forest-dam-removal/" target="_blank">20 dams in California's Cleveland National Forest</a>.</p>
Spider excavators remove on dam on San Juan Creek in California's Cleveland National Forest. Julie Donnell, USFS<p>The results have been seen in the Pacific Northwest, as well, which boasts the largest dam removal thus far in the country. In 2011 and 2014, the demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/elwha-dam-removal/" target="_blank">two dams</a> on Elwha River, which runs through Washington's Olympic National Park, opened up 70 miles of habitat that had been blocked for a century. Scientists have started seeing all five species of salmon native to the river coming back, particularly Chinook and coho. Bull trout, they've observed, have increased in size since the dams were removal.</p>
Benefits on the Middle Fork Nooksack<p>McEwan hopes to see a similar outcome on the Middle Fork.</p><p>Like the Elwha the Middle Fork Nooksack is a relatively pristine river with little development, and dam removal is expected to provide a big boost to fish. The additional miles of spawning habitat are important, but so is the temperature of that water.</p><p>The dam removal will open access to cold upstream waters, which are ideal for salmon and getting harder to come by as climate change warms waters and reduces mountain runoff.</p><p>"This is really great for the climate change resiliency for these species," says McEwan.</p><p>Steelhead will get back 45% of their historic habitat in the river, and scientists expect Chinook populations to increase in abundance by 31%.</p><p>That <em>could</em> help Southern Resident killer whales.</p><p>"When you get to the ocean, it's a little bit of a black box in terms of what you can model and say definitively is going to help, but more fish is better for orcas," McEwan says.</p><p>Upstream habitat will see benefits, too.</p><p>Oceangoing fish like salmon enrich their bodies with carbon and nitrogen while at sea. When they return to their natal rivers to spawn and die, the marine-derived nutrients they carry back upriver become important food and fertilizer for both riverine and terrestrial ecosystems — aiding everything from trees to birds to bears.</p><p>"Once the fish start making their way back, it will start changing the whole ecological system," says Delgado.</p><p><span></span>But any ecological benefit from salmon restoration, either in the ocean or the upper watershed, won't be immediate.<br></p><p>"The population of salmon on the Middle Fork is so low that we expect it's going to take quite a while to rebound," she says. "But the big picture is that what's good for salmon is good for the region — our history and our destiny are intricately intertwined."</p><p>After decades of work, that process of restoration has finally begun.</p>
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By Katie Howell
A new tool called The Food Systems Dashboard aims to save decision makers time and energy by painting a complete picture of a country's food system. Created by the Johns Hopkins' Alliance for a Healthier World, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Dashboard compiles food systems data from over 35 sources and offers it as a public good.
By Manuela Callari
It can grow to a maximum of six inches (16 centimeters), change color depending on mood and habitat, and, like all seahorses, the White's seahorse male gestates its young. But this tiny snouted fish is under threat.
Building an Ocean Seahorse Destination<p>Seahorses are found in tropical and temperate coastal water worldwide, but are most abundant around Australia, China and the Philippines. </p><p>Trade in the tiny creatures is strictly regulated because of their use in traditional medicine, aquariums and their sale as dried curios. But because they are poor swimmers and cannot easily move elsewhere, habitat loss is a particular threat for these curious animals. </p><p>Seahorses wrap their tails around seagrass and corals to avoid being carried away on currents. They use the habitat to spawn and hide from predators such as crabs, while also feeding on riches of plankton and small crustaceans living in the reef.</p><p><span></span>Where corals aren't available, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/aqc.1217" target="_blank">scientists</a> found seahorses taking up residence in fishing nets and old crab traps abandoned at the bottom of the ocean. </p>
Mixing With the Locals<p>Baby seahorse mortality is high in the wild because they are easily caught, so those bred in the protected environment of the aquarium weren't ready to be released into the wild until early May.</p><p>The team released 90 new arrivals into Sydney Harbor, placing some directly into the purpose-built hotels, and others onto a net that wild seahorses had already settled on.</p><p>Before setting them free, the researchers marked each young seahorse with a fluorescent tag with unique IDs inserted just beneath the skin to track how they get on in the different environments. </p><p>"The most exciting part was being able to put these animals into the wild and then go back a month later and still see them surviving and growing," said McCracken. </p><p>The seahorses will be old enough to mate and reproduce around October or November 2020. And researchers hope that by then, they will be able to breed with the wild population. </p>
Building a Global Seahorse Hotel Chain<p>With seahorses everywhere facing the loss of their coral reef homes, similar projects have sprung up in places like Greece and South Africa, home to the world's most endangered seahorse, the Knysna seahorse. </p><p>"The endangered South African seahorse is benefiting from something quite similar, even though it wasn't intentional," said Peter Teske, professor at the Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg.</p><p>In the South African <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322649251_An_endangered_seahorse_selectively_chooses_an_artificial_structure" target="_blank">case</a>, seahorses have bedded down in "Reno mattresses" — wire cages filled with rocks — that were used to build a new marina. Researchers from NGO Knysna Basin Project found the structures acted as a refuge for the animals.<span></span></p><p><span></span>While Teske describes the seahorse hotels as "a positive news story" and a great way to create public awareness of conservation, he added that establishing artificial habitats in some areas will only prevent the extinction of local populations.</p><p>"For a complete recovery, it is necessary to give the natural habitat a chance to regenerate," said the seahorse expert. </p>
Underwater Mascot<p>In Australia, the researchers hope the project could provide an opportunity to raise awareness not only of the plight of the Sydney seahorses but the other animals with which it shares its ocean habitat.</p><p>The waters around Sydney and the east coast are rich in biodiversity and include several threatened species like the weedy seadragon — a relative of the seahorse — and the grey nurse shark. Like the seahorse, they're also under pressure from pollution, ocean traffic and habitat loss through storms and coastal construction. </p><p>"It's a good thing to get people's support and interest. The seahorses are a useful vehicle to get people concerned if the harbor is in trouble," said David Booth, professor of marine ecology at the University of Technology Sydney who is also working on the project. </p><p>The hotels have become an attraction for divers hoping to catch a glimpse of these small but near mythical creatures. </p><p>"Everyone loves seahorses," added Booth, "they are so popular." </p>
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