REVEALS ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS
years ago I wrote about a research project in Antarctica that described
an unusual association between a small invertebrate called an amphipod
and an even smaller bright orange swimming snail called a sea butterfly.
revealed that fish living under the ice at the South Pole find amphipods,
which are related to sow bugs aka roly-polies, delectable. However,
fish that try to eat sea butterflies find them highly distasteful and
spit them out.
discovered that amphipods actually capture sea butterflies and swim
around with them on their backs, which provides an effective disguise
because fish avoid attacking amphipods carrying a brightly colored,
biologist who led the study is Jim McClintock, a professor at the University
of Alabama at Birmingham. McClintock is also an avid fisherman who has
worldwide experience with fishes and fishing.
his fishing expertise with his ecological knowledge of saltwater and
freshwater habitats he has written an outstanding book, "A Naturalist
Goes Fishing: Casting in Fragile Waters from the Gulf of Mexico to New
Zealand's South Island" by Jim McClintock (2015, St. Martin's Press,
is framed around nine chapters covering the author's experiences with
particular fish, beginning with redfish around the Chandeleur Islands
focus on fish and locations as diverse as tarpon in Costa Rica, rainbow
trout in New Zealand and anchovies in France. Each chapter is a personal
narrative blending adventure and ecological information about the fish
encountered with environmental messages and philosophy.
each chapter is anchored around a particular type of fish, the habitat
the species lives in also receives attention since any organism's existence
is dependent on its environment.
on spotted bass in the Cahaba River of Alabama is captivating not only
because of information about the fighting spirit of spotted bass and
the real story behind the 22 1/4-pound world record largemouth bass
but also because of facts about the river itself.
Cahaba River, which flows from Birmingham to Mobile, is estimated to
have "the highest diversity of freshwater fish in North America"
as well as "an astounding diversity of invertebrates." The
mix of fish tales and environmental accounts scattered throughout the
book is both entertaining and educational.
considering McClintock's previous research, one of the chapters focuses
on fishing in Antarctica, with a spotlight on an awesome creature that
thrives in the subfreezing ocean waters. The author explains that the
salt waters at the South Pole reach temperatures below freezing, to
levels that would flash freeze a warm water fish that was dropped into
of how a type of biological antifreeze protects fish species living
in the region is fascinating, as is the author's account of fishing
for Antarctic toothfish, which can reach a length of 6 feet and weigh
more than 400 pounds. The chapter discusses some of the negative environmental
changes in the Antarctic caused by human activities, including high
ocean acidity, unsustainable commercial fishing and rising temperatures.
chapter, titled "Fishing for Solutions," provides some hard-hitting
facts about the state of the world's fishes and the human activities
that adversely affect them. Some of the man-made environmental hazards
addressed are "toxic metals from mining, pesticides from agriculture,
and airborne chemicals from industrial smokestacks." McClintock
further notes that fish today face new perils from "rising temperatures
and ... ocean acidification," both of which "owe their origin
to increased levels of greenhouse gases." On a positive note he
offers a thoughtful discussion of programs from Alabama to Alaska that
could successfully address the problem of how to maintain sustainable
fisheries and unpolluted aquatic habitats.
like to fish, you will certainly learn some new ways to enjoy your hobby.
But you needn't be a fisherman to enjoy reading "A Naturalist Goes
Fishing" and learning about fishes of the world, their natural
habitats and human impacts on their environments and populations.
you have an environmental question or comment, email