Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Musings: Marine Mysteries

Reports of a dead humpback whale calf washing up on a westside beach Monday afternoon have prompted more than a few people to ask: what’s up with the waters around Kauai?

As you may recall, a dead calf also washed up on a Niihau beach recently. The Robinson family reported it to state officials on Feb. 2, along with accounts of a major fish kill on the island’s southern beaches. It’s unclear, however, exactly when the whale and fish died. Two state guys flew to Niihau — with the Robinson’s charging $4,000 for the chopper ride — to investigate on Feb. 4, and said it appeared the fish were not freshly dead.

And on Jan. 20, there was a mass lanternfish kill at Kalapaki Beach on the eastside.

So within the span of three weeks, we’ve had two big fish kills and two dead baby whales. What’s strange about it, besides the proximity of otherwise infrequent events, is that the dead fish were deep and mid-water species, whereas reef fish are more commonly involved in big kills. “It’s very mysterious,” said one scientist, noting the state is awaiting toxicology reports on the dead fish.

Some state officials, scientists and conservationists are wondering if the deaths are connected to a recent aerial application of rodenticide on Lehua, a small island near Niihau. According to a press release from USDA-APHIS:

On January 6 and 13, 2009, biologists from the National Wildlife Research Center and the Wildlife Services' Hawaii state office, in cooperation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Hawaii, aerially broadcast diphacinone rodenticide bait pellets on Lehua Island.

The island is a 312-acre crescent-shaped volcanic cone that supports colonies of seabirds such as Laysan and black-footed albatrosses, red-footed and brown boobies, black noddies and shearwaters. Some of these species are threatened by invasive Polynesian rats. Two diphacinone bait drops were used during the rodent eradication operation to ensure there was enough bait to reach every rat during a lethal exposure period.

A similar rat eradication effort was carried out last February on Mokapu Island, off the north coast of Molokai, with the EA anticipating no non-target poisoning problems:

The [environmental] assessment noted studies concluding that fish were unlikely to ingest bait pellets and that there would be no impact to marine animals from direct or indirect ingestion of diphacinone. In addition, the report said the pellets were not expected to persist for more than two to three days in winter seas.

"Exposure levels of marine invertebrates to toxins in the bait would be at such low levels and for such a short time that no tissue accumulation is anticipated and no effects to humans," the assessment said.

Follow up studies apparently bear that out:

No detectable concentrations of diphacinone were found in the fish, limpets, or sea-water samples from Mokapu Island or from the reference sites.

Similar tests were to be done after the Lehua rodenticide application, and I’m waiting to hear about the results.

Of course, PMRF – the largest underwater range in the world — is also over in that neck of the woods, and no one but the navy knows what was happening there these past few weeks. The latest whale washed in at Kokole Point, on the border between the base and Kekaha. In The Garden Island account of the beaching, PRMF spokesman Tom Clements says only that “the base is reacting to the reports and will remain on standby as NOAA checks into it.”

“Are they using sonar out there?” wondered one scientist. “This is the same navy that ran their cruiser aground on a sandbar on Oahu. I don’t have a lot of confidence in them. What 21-year-old navy kid pushed the wrong button and blasted the hell out of the marine environment? Oops.”

Btw, in attempting to free the billion-dollar warship, the navy dumped 5,000 gallons of sewage to lighten its load, without bothering to tell the Department of Health or anyone else. “That’s just another example of the navy doing whatever the fuck it wants,” said a biologist.

Speaking of the navy doing whatever the fuck it wants, Maui's Dick Mayer sent out an email with the message:

Here is confirmation for what we have been saying all along. The Superferry was a prototype for the Navy's new JHSV vessel, both as in the design of the ship, and as a mechanism to train the many workers who will be needed to build the Navy's ships.

It was accompanied by this link reporting on Austal getting the Joint High Speed Vessel contract, potentially worth $1.6 billion:

“As demonstrated by the two Hawaii Superferry vessels recently constructed at our Mobile, Alabama facilities, our US shipyard has the capability to deliver large high speed advanced aluminium platforms on time and on budget - a capability which will be further enhanced upon completion of the MMF and the expansion of our US workforce,” Mr Browning said.

I hate to say I told you so, but....


Anonymous said...

perhaps the f-bomb killed the fishy

awolgov said...

To fishy boy.

You want to be an asshole? Do it or say it in your own land, not here. Or the islands just might regurgitate you out of here.

Donʻt you sound like the typical know-it-all from the mainland who I can envision wimpering like a 3 year old if the food supply was cut off.

Guaranteed youʻd be standing in line at the Kanakaʻs house waiting to see what he harvested for dinner.

I got stuck with a schmuck in the mountains of Oahu after going through the underground tunnels of that island in a tube raft years ago...after spending a horrible night fighting mosquitos, watching out for ʻpot shooting patrolsʻ AND reassuring the crybaby (who had boasted about being in VNam and this was nothing) He was hopeless.

I built a fire on a dirt path in the morning, by which the helicopter rescue found us. Good thing I took a lighter (CAUSE I SMOKE CIGS) He even had the audacity to shake and rock the lift basket when they hauled us off from thousands of feet up cause he was feeling cocky again.

How how quickly he forgot about our prior danger.

How easy it is to be cocky when all is well. Or with the mistaken belief that your ʻuncle samʻ will take care of you.

Guess what, theyʻve got elaborate plans for an underground city to house members of Congress when the shit hits the fan (you know when they ʻbring it onʻ and cause another country to drop, not the ʻf-bombʻ but the n-bomb)...and the plan does not include you or us to house or feed.

Iʻm sick of your kind of attitude - itʻs old already and not cute.

Anonymous said...

How about nunya say it in his own land and not here. Is there a bigger asshole know-it-all with attitude from the mainland?

Anonymous said...

most of the info i have you could easily replicate if you tried fyi, its not hard to do

if anything, ive been pretty gentle to date

Anonymous said...

most of the info i have you could easily replicate if you tried fyi, its not hard to do

What are u talking about?

Anonymous said...

Nunya can tell all that from 6 words. My, My, conclusions come easy when your hate is that strong.

Anonymous said...

What about the 28 nearly identical large fast catamarans Austal built before the 2 Superferrys? Don't they count for anything? Austal has been building this design for at least twenty years. To say "I told you so" about your half-baked exclusively Superferry conspiracy theory, you'll have to come up with a lot more than this.
This quote hardly proves it.
The Military Conspiracy theory claims a singular purpose by many more than this company that, in this quote, is merely trying to drum up continuing business for the huge investment they made in a shipyard.

Joan Conrow said...

Yes, but they weren't building them this big, and they weren't building them in America and they weren't building them to withstand the kind of rough waters required of a JHSV.

Mauibrad said...

You tell 'em Joan.

Anonymous said...

"What are u talking about?"

pardon. its a small matter

i comment, like others. like others, if i know a relevant thing i mention it. some folks here know much about housing / permitting, for example, and they share it. an item might pop up about prefatory "whereas" clauses in a statute, for instance, and id pass along some basics on statutory interpretation. so pretty standard stuff

anyways, some people dont like to be corrected. so sometimes the only way they will, for example, grudgingly acknowledge that perhaps saddam gassed some kurds is a link to a saddam bio on al-jazeera

but as we can see, the evolutionary biology / psychology aspects of conspiracy theory generation is far, far more interesting

Anonymous said...

The Euroferrys Pacifica was delivered by Austal to Spain in 2001. It was 5 metres shorter than SF, 2 knots slower and had the same capacity and design.
The Auto Express, later leased by the US Military as WestPac Express, was also delivered in
2001. It was 5 metres shorter, 3 knots slower and had the same capacity and design.
The average Austal fast ferry is the same design, 20 metres shorter and 5-10 knots faster than Superferry.
The Austal JHSV will be 3 metres shorter than SFI, 10 metres shorter, than SFII, 4 knots slower with stats closer to Euroferrys Pacifica and Auto Express than SF.
They make basically the same boat over and over with small variations as per customer needs.

I told you so.
It's the same

Joan Conrow said...

I'm impressed that you did some research. However, you did not address the "made in America" issue or the rough seas handling characteristics, both of which were crucial to landing the JHSV contract. And those "small variations" of size and speed make big differences in performance.

Anonymous said...

I considered those arguments weak; but, if you insist:

The basic Austal design, and there is just one of those, has been in use as fast vehicle/passenger ferries in Sweden, Denmark, and Ireland. Home to much rougher waters than ours. Also, all around Australia, Malaysia, and Tahiti. Westpac has been around Asia and the South Pacific. Also Germany and Poland, eight countries around the Mediterranean, Venezuela, NW Canada, and Lake Michigan. The ferries run year round and all these places can severely test a vessel. They did not need some kind of test by the SF except in Brad's imagination. The critical data for the Navy came from Westpac 2001-2003, when the process had begun, long before
SF1's hull was completed. By the time SF1 sailed, that part of the JHSV competition was over. The rest of the competitive process was not about sea trials. The SF conspiracy hypothesis fails also over SF2, which never was, and still isn't, a factor and everone, especially Austal, knew it was going to be completed way beyond the timetable for this contract. Finally, according to Brad's regular posts, SF1 can't be said to have passed it's rough sea trials; so why did Austal get the JHSV contract? Why? Why? Why? Explain that with the conspiracy hypothesis.

As for building in America, it is for the same reason as Nissan, Honda, and Toyota. #1, they are after more business...like they should be...and they got it. #2, they are reducing the stigma of being "foreign" in an era of zenophobia. They did just that as "Austal USA." That the first 2 ships were for an American Company sailing in American waters is a much more significant point in analyzing business motivation than the flimsy thread of coincidences regarding Lehman et al.

Joan Conrow said...

Finally, according to Brad's regular posts, SF1 can't be said to have passed it's rough sea trials; so why did Austal get the JHSV contract? Why? Why? Why?

Perhaps because they made changes in the design based upon what they learned by the SF operations here. Which has been my point all along.

That the first 2 ships were for an American Company sailing in American waters is a much more significant point in analyzing business motivation than the flimsy thread of coincidences regarding Lehman et al.

So why do you think Lehman ventured out of his usual defense-oriented investments and funded HSF so heavily if there is no military connection?

Anonymous said...

"I considered those arguments weak; but, if you insist:"

-- be careful with facts, or ur gonna get called "asshole" and other colorful terms

Anonymous said...

J. F. Lehman and Company is in equity investment (buying and holding of stocks) for middle level companies in the areas of Defense, Aerospace, and Maritime. SF fits the Maritime category and doesn't need a hypothesis to do so.

As for the other:

Army News Service
April 30, 2007:
"On April 23-27, 2007, Representatives of the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps and the shipbuilding industry met at at Quantico Marine Corps Base in Va., to discuss the JHSV’s current status of the Joint High Speed Vessel and update prospective contractors on the vessel’s design requirements...The JHSV's specifications and capabilities are based on lessons the services learned from operating four leased, commercial high-speed vessels over the past five years."

It makes sense to me that the Military is the dog and Austal the tail in this affair. It also makes sense to me that the Military made their decisions based on the ships they actually used for years (which is also what they actually say they did) and not based on ships not in the water yet that Austal somehow had conspired to wag the dog with. You go ahead and believe whatever you've heavily invested in wanting to be true.

awolgov said...

Thereʻs a bigger boogey man than the little Lehman. Itʻs Robert D. Kaplan and all the answers to any questions like these would probably originate with him.