Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Scallops and Sustainability

Big NEWS! I ate scallops for the first time ever this weekend! This is big news because I am not very fond of anything that comes from the sea (or freshwater for that matter)...not because I study it...but because I don't like the "fishy" flavour everything has...blek : P

So in my mission to become a less picky eater (this has included eating onions and mushrooms too), Diego has been preparing extra fresh seafood, smothered in sauce of course, for me to try.

These were still alive when Diego shucked fresh can you get! This is what they look like on the inside! The round white part is the abductor muscle (when flexed it closes the shells). The rest is the mantle (muscle that lines the shell), gills (the equivalent of our lungs), eyes (the little black spots all around the shell when they are closed up) and digestive system. Mostly, people only eat the abductor muscle because, as we found out, the mantle can be chewy...

Diego prepared "deviled scallops", a Mexican recipe that includes, onions, bacon, cream, chipotle chili and cheese. I also made some baked eggplant slices with tomato and brie cheese to accompany the scallops.

Let's just say...they were OK. Unfortunately, we used a strong white cheddar for the scallops and it overwhelmed any other flavour. They weren't fishy but they weren't delicious either. The texture was fine so I gave Diego the OK to make it again with the proper cheese to give it a real try! Also, for the eggplant...the brie was too strong too, next time I will try some goat cheese. I'll let you know how it all works out!

One final note on trying to like seafood. Although, I don't eat it because I don't like it...I also have issues eating seafood that is being fished (or aquacultured) in an unsustainable manner. This unfortunately goes for almost all of the world's fisheries and much of the shrimp and finfish aquaculture. There are some exceptions and I don't want to get into the controversy here. However, I do want to point to some good initiatives for you to know what seafood is sustainable and which is not. Here are some links to an article about biodiversity loss from overfishing among other causes, as well as wallet cards and initiatives indicating sustainable and non-sustainable seafood species. Check it out! You have the choice and the power to make the change!


Sustainable Seafood Initiatives:

The scallops we ate were cultured in St. Margaret's Bay here in Nova Scotia. These are locally grown, so hardly any fuel was spent getting them to me and I am supporting the local economy. Also, they feed on naturally occurring phytoplankton so there is no need to feed them, adding extra nutrients to the system or fishing other species of fish to feed them or feeding them a mix of fish and corn (like in most finfish culture). So, in a nutshell, I am morally ok with eating these scallops...let's hope Diego can convince me to get some much needed seafood based omega-3s (for the heart and brain) by eating them more often with some delicious recipes! : )

Bye for now!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Deep Sea Treasures!

I have been quite busy these last couple of days, but I have an exciting new treasure to share with you!!! On Wednesday, Diego (my partner) and I went over to our friends' place for some wine and cheese. Jon work for Fisheries and Oceans and goes out on cruises identifying species and collecting data for the government. This time around he brought home some delightful shells that he shared with me!

These are called tusk shells. They are a small group of molluscs that are found throughout the world and generally at depths of 30m (100 feet) or more! They are in the same class as snails (Gastropoda) except that the foot (see diagram) is reduced and adapted for digging. They live partially buried in the sand or mud (pointy part up) and they draw in water so they can absorb the oxygen and eliminate wastes through their skin of their mantle where the water then exits through a small hole at the apex (tip of the point).

From Wikipedia Commons: Snail Diagram

Also the head has no eyes or tentacles but it has appendages (anything that sticks out from the core of the body of any animal, like our arms) that look like threads around its mouth that it uses to capture tiny bivalves (means 2 valves - like clams) and forameniferans.

Photo from Image Quest 3-D

Forameniferans (forams for short) are microscopic organisms that live everywhere in the ocean, they can be floating in the water as plankton or crawling on the bottom (ie: benthic forams). They are composed of one cell that lives inside a hard shell of calcium. These are increadibly important, not only as food for other species but when they die their shells sink to the bottom of the ocean and remain there. Much of the mud of the ocean is almost entirely composed of shells of forams, as well as some of the rocks which constitute the earth's surface. These rocks are made of forams from thousands or even millions of years ago that were once mud then because of intense pressure and/or heat the mud became rock (this is known as the Earth's rock cycle - !

I have only ever read about tusk shells and admired the shells in my books, so I am very happy to add them to my collection. Although, they are quite stinky, so they will stay outside for a while to dry out. I don't want the shells to crack if they freeze so they might get a bleach bath when outside temperatures start to dip near zero!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Welcome to my blog!

I hope this will be a way for me to showcase the wonders of the ocean as I see them, as a scientist, diver and just plain old admirer. I love the ocean. It has always fascinated me. I have wanted to become a marine biologist since I was 5!! I am lucky that I have been able to pursue my dream. Although being here now is quite different then what I envisioned as a young girl, it is better than I ever expected!

I also want to use this to post photos, stories, recipes and the happy and frustrating moments in life! Hopefully, this will be a source of continuous fun as well as a place of solace, a kind of refuge...working on a PhD can be rough and sometimes you just need a diversion!

Just as an aside, in my header photo are just 2 of the hundreds of ocean treasures I have collected over the years and have scattered around my house. The Arctic surf clam (Mactromeris polynyma) and Jonah Crab (Cancer borealis). Both were found washed up on Martinique beach (photo courtesy of Sean Anderson) after an intense winter storm. The crab still had meat in took one full year to get the stink out! Let's just say we didn't visit that corner of the deck too often! : )