Monthly Fishbits- June 2016

Rubbish on the sea bed. Petr Kratochvil

Rubbish on the sea bed. Petr Kratochvil

June Fishbits: Going plastic free for the sea, bridging the divide between different interest groups, and writing our science heaps more betterer!


This month lots of people, including the FishThinkers team are trying out Plastic Free July in the hope that maybe one day we can reduce all that plastic that’s getting into the oceans, by eliminating our need for it. I generally don’t use take-away cups, plastic bags and straws, so I’m aiming to notice plastic in anything else I use, and yes it’s in everything! This is the first time I’ve done it, and one of the major obstacles I’ve come across is toiletries. Biome is a pretty good website that collates some useful products in the Plastic Free section and also gives a helpful description of all the things you should consider ‘plastic’. A  lot of the products are soap though and there is only so much soap I need. Moisturiser that is not in a plastic container and isn’t ridiculously expensive is the one I’m struggling with so far!


You know when you feel really strongly about an issue, (overuse of plastic for example), and you want to change people’s minds but everyone you know kind of feels the same way, so you’re always ‘preaching to the converted’? Turns out we’re pretty much always sharing our views with likeminded people and this has negative impacts on the spread of information on environmentally sustainable behaviour. This article about Social networks and environmental outcomes has found that sharing of environmental information hardly ever occurs between social groups and this might be significantly impeding the spread of sustainable behaviours. The article is specifically in relation to various commercial fisher groups sharing information on shark bycatch and how communication across segregated groups could contribute to more sustainable outcomes.

It’s easy to see how this happens even on the smaller scale of our lives though, and it might be a good prompt for science communicators to think of ways to get their information out to people who don’t already hold similar views.


Evie makes a good point on sharing info across groups. At Fish Thinkers we seem to sit right in the middle of the spectrum between fishers, scientists and conservationists and get a bit of an insight into each. I often still see discussion within each of these groups that is relevant to the other two but doesn’t reach them, which is a shame but not as easy to overcome as it might seem. On the other hand there is of course some great work being done by various groups within each that are notable exceptions to the rule e.g. Fin Interest are doing some cool stuff in the freshwater world.

In a similar vein, on the science/ecology front there is a big push towards communicating science to the people, which still often just looks like scientists trying to lay some knowledge on people rather than giving them access to something they want to learn about.  However , there are more and more examples of people doing a good job, check out Wild Melbourne for starters.  It is a hard ask for individuals and small groups that rarely have any funding for communication (as an amateur outfit we know all about that), so I’d like to start highlighting more good examples down the track to both learn from and support them in a small way. If you come across any examples of note then do let me know.


Our friends at Mac Uni Fish Lab are after some volunteers for their Port Jackson research in Jervis Bay (week long stints preferred) details below:

“We are looking for volunteer field assistants to help collect data on habitat use and spatial ecology of Port Jackson sharks in the Jervis Bay Marine Park, NSW, from 7-29 August (one week minimum). Duties include photography and videography, taking measurements and monitoring behaviour of wild sharks, help with blood and skin sample collection, active tracking of sharks for up to 24h, writing and posting lab social media and blog updates. For more information or to apply contact: Catarina Vila Pouca (”.

One of my many bad writing habits is the excessive use of parentheticals (A parenthetical statement is one that explains or qualifies something. Especially when it’s in parentheses).

The “Write as I say, not as I do” post on Scientist Sees Squirrel has a nice illustration of how to use the active voice in scientific writing and a good discussion of the struggles of writing well (something I understand all too clearly). While reading it I also realised that one of my many bad writing habits is the excessive use of parentheticals (A parenthetical statement is one that explains or qualifies something. Especially when it’s in parentheses). HA! I just spent an hour taking them out of the draft paper I am writing.



My fellow researchers and I have just published a data set from a small pilot study, the data set “Jervis Bay Marine Park: Active Tracking of Blue-spotted Flathead”  has all our detection for 5 tagged flathead and you can play around with the data or even download it here. I have a paper coming on that short project very soon and plan on loading up some of our more in depth large scale data down the track, so more on that front later!


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