Report: Billions of jellyfish wipe out salmon farm - Not Japan, but of grave concern to Japan

Report: Billions of jellyfish wipe out salmon farm

A 10-square-mile pack of jellyfish wiped out a 100,000-fish salmon farm in Northern Ireland, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The billions of jellyfish, piled densely in a 35-foot-deep layer, did in the fish through stings and stress, according to John Russell, managing director of Northern Salmon.

The Pelagia nocticula species, or "mauve stinger," ordinarily is found in warmer waters such as the Mediterranean Sea. Scientists pointed to the presence of the jellyfish, rarely seen that far north, as evidence of global warming.

All of the fish, worth $2 million, are dead or dying and, absent government aid, the farm likely will go out of business, Russell said.


Whale Shark at the Osaka Aquarium

P1020242.JPG, originally uploaded by Bryan1974.


Japanese cow herd coddled for 12 years to make Kobe beef

Japanese cow herd coddled for 12 years to make Kobe beef

Company promises pure Kobe beef – if you're willing to pay

Saturday, June 30, 2007

HARWOOD — Even by the standards of Texas, where beef is no trivial matter, rancher Jose Antonio Elias Calles has coddled his cattle.

The animals imported from Japan are guarded by off-duty Texas Rangers and kept away from American bulls that might contaminate their coveted gene pool. They were meticulously reared for 12 years before a single hamburger could be sold.

"We knew it was going to take a long time," said Calles, whose interest in ranching was sparked by a grandfather who raised cattle for export in northern Mexico.

Through careful breeding and with the help of surrogate cows, Calles' tiny herd of 11 has grown to 5,000, the largest group of purebred Akaushi cattle outside of Japan.

Japanese cattle, which come in red and black varieties, are a closely guarded national treasure. Their beef, often called Kobe beef by American restaurants, commands staggering prices but is heralded by chefs and food connoisseurs for thoroughly marbled fat that gives it tenderness and rich flavor.

A number of American producers sell beef from half-breed Japanese cattle, but Calles' company, HeartBrand Beef, now has enough animals to market purebred American-raised Japanese beef to restaurants and consumers.

The butterscotch-colored cattle are genetically identical to those raised by Japanese ranchers, Calles said. They aren't as fatty as the highest-quality Japanese beef because of the tastes of health-conscious American diners.

Calles and his investors acquired their original group of Akaushi after an exporter flew the animals to the United States in 1994. They had been sitting in quarantine in Japan for two years while Japanese trade officials tried to sort out how a trade agreement loophole resulted in the legal export of the animals from Japan.

"It was really just a miracle that it worked this way," Calles said. "Some of the best animals came here."

Since that time, Calles and his business partners, who paid $2.5 million for the original herd and millions more to get a marketable quantity of purebred beef, have been growing it large and steady enough to offer roughly 15,000 pounds of beef per week. Because the cattle's reproduction rates are low, Calles had purebred embryos implanted in surrogate cows, preserving the genetic material of the Japanese animals but allowing for faster reproduction.

Today, herds of identical-looking red Japanese cattle graze on tall grass at HeartBrand's ranch and other nearby properties before being taken to feedlots, where they are given more-than-average shade and space during their final weeks before slaughter.

On the market since last year, HeartBrand distributes to about 40 restaurants and a handful of retailers.

American beef consumption has been declining over the past 25 years, but producers such as HeartBrand and others with crossbred animals can command premium prices for their boutique beef.

"The interest in Wagyu (Japanese cows) is growing rapidly," said David Lunt, who has spent decades researching Japanese cattle and is the associate head for operations at Texas A&M University's animal science department.

Choice-grade ground beef, the kind pickier Americans will buy from supermarkets for Independence Day barbecues, sold for an average $3.97 per pound last year, according to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. HeartBrand's ground beef sells for $6 per pound, and a 12-ounce ribeye goes for $45, a cost that at least partially reflects the expense of caring for the animals.

"This is a beef that's eaten on special occasions," Lunt said. But no matter how coddled Calles' cows are, they might not pass Japanese muster. Researchers note that the taste and consistency of beef are affected by more than genetics; feed and other environmental factors also play a part.

At least one Japanese chef says Texas-raised animals cannot produce meat as good as coveted Kobe beef.

"The taste and flavor of meat grown in the U.S. is completely different," said Yoshiaki Matsuda, owner of Seishin Hanten restaurant in Kobe, Japan.

"The difference would be obvious to the eyes of a professional."

Additional material from Associated Press writer Kana Inagaki in Tokyo.


Army poised for action against wild animals on Yahoo! News

Army poised for action against wild animals

Mon Jun 11, 8:50 AM ET

Japan is preparing to mobilize troops to deal with wild animals such as boars, bears and monkeys.

Having debated since March on how to stop the animals from attacking crops and entering residential areas, a group of ruling party politicians has agreed to call on the military for help, the Asahi Shimbun daily reported Sunday.

Under the ruling party's plan, subject to approval from party executives, local leaders will be able to request help from the country's Self Defense Forces to build fences and set traps.

Some in the party are also calling for troops to use guns, the Asahi said.

But the defense ministry is cautious on the use of weapons, it said. Japan's military activities are strictly curtailed by its pacifist constitution.

Japan sent 600 ground troops to southern Iraq in 2004 on a non-combat reconstruction mission but all returned home last year without suffering casualties or firing a shot.


Rare giant manta born at Japan aquarium

Rare giant manta born at Japan aquarium

By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press WriterSun Jun 17, 7:35 AM ET

What is believed to be the first giant manta ray born in captivity has arrived at a southern Japanese aquarium, the facility said Sunday.

The baby manta, a female, was born late Saturday in a huge fish tank at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, more than a year after its parents mated, the aquarium said in a statement posted Sunday on its Web site.

In a video capturing the birth, the baby manta, rolled up like a tube, came sliding out of the mother manta, then quickly spread its fins and began swimming around.

The scene, recorded by the aquarium, was broadcast by national broadcaster NHK on Sunday.

The event marks the first birth of a manta in captivity, according to the aquarium, which started raising manta rays in 1988.

Noriyasu Suzuki, an official at the Izu-Mito Sea Paradise commercial aqua zoo in western Japan, said he thought the birth in captivity could be a world first.

"I've never heard of any other case before," he said. "Aquariums that raise manta rays are rare to begin with ... because they get so big."

According to the aquarium, the newborn manta was more than six feet wide.

The mother manta, which was brought to the aquarium in 1998 after hitting a fishnet off the southern island of Okinawa, about 1,000 miles southwest of Tokyo, mated with its partner on June 8, 2006, and was pregnant with the baby for 374 days, according to the statement.

Aquarium official Minoru Toda said little has been known about the life of manta rays, and the record of pregnancy and the birth would provide valuable scientific data to the studies of the species.

"We unfolded some of the mysteries about the life of manta rays, including the length of their pregnancy," Toda said. "Now we have to make sure the baby grows in good health."


Ryukyu Flying Fox

Animal Info - Ryukyu Flying Fox

(Other Names: Zorro Volador de Ryukyu)

Pteropus dasymallus

Status: Endangered


1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Habitat, Gestation Period, Birth Season, Early Development, Diet, Behavior, Social Organization)
5. References


Picture: Ryukyu Flying Fox (6 Kb JPEG)

The Ryukyu flying fox utilizes forest for daytime roosting. It eats the fruits of a variety of plant species. Figs are a favorite. It lives in colonies.

The Ryukyu flying fox occurs in the Ryukyu Archipelago (Japan). It previously occurred in Taiwan. It is abundant in the southern and central parts of Okinawa. Populations appear to be large on Ishigaki, Iriomote and Yonayuki. (WCMC/WWF 1997)

Threats apparently include hunting and deforestation on different islands.


*** Flying foxes are so-called because of their fox-like faces. They cannot use echolocation. Instead, they navigate using vision and normal hearing.

*** Most flying foxes eat fruit and are also called fruit bats. Fruit bats are ecologically and economically important because they pollinate and disperse the seeds of wild and commercial plants.

*** The Ryukyu flying fox can be a pest of commercial fruit crops.

Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

Countries Where the Ryukyu Flying Fox Is Currently Found:

2004: Occurs in Japan (Ryukyu Islands: Nansei-shoto). (IUCN 2004)

History of Distribution:

The Ryukyu flying fox occurs in the Ryukyu Archipelago (Japan). It previously occurred in Taiwan, most recently on the island of Kashoto (= Lutao) (Mickleburgh 1992). It is abundant in the southern and central parts of Okinawa. Populations appear to be large on Ishigaki, Iriomote and Yonayuki. (WCMC/WWF 1997)

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

Threats apparently include hunting and deforestation on different islands.

Data on Biology and Ecology


The Ryukyu flying fox utilizes forest for daytime roosting.

The Ryukyu flying fox lives in both the Japan and the Philippines Biodiversity Hotspots (Cons. Intl. 2005).

Gestation Period:

The gestation period of flying foxes is 4 - 5 months (Bonaccorso 1998).

Birth Season:

1 birth of a captive animal in May has been recorded.

Early Development:

The young of flying foxes become independent at 3 - 6 months (Bonaccorso 1998).


The Ryukyu flying fox eats the fruits of a variety of plant species. Figs are a favorite.


Flying foxes roost in tree tops and often actively remove foliage from roost trees (Bonaccorso 1998).

Social Organization:

The Ryukyu flying fox lives in colonies.


Hondo Stoat

The Stoat, an ermine, is a small mammal belonging to the weasel family. The Hondo Stoat (Mustela Erminea Nippon), particularly found in Honshu, is an Asian species of the ermine family abundantly inhabiting Northern Eurasia and North America. The Stoat is also called Yama-Itachi or Kuda-Gitsune in Japan. Another subspecies, Ezo-Stoat (Mustela erminea orientalis), inhabits Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan, and is classified as a "Near Threatened(NT)" animal in the Red Data Book.

The Stoat feeds mainly on mice, rats, birds' eggs, and insects. In spite of its lovable appearance, the Stoat has a rather aggressive nature and sometimes attacks hares, which are many times larger than itself.

The Stoat is characterized by its change of pelage color. Its brown mask and back, maintained from early spring to summer, is replaced by a snow-white coat during the winter season. However, the tip of its tail remains black throughout the year.

The only difference between the Hondo Stoat and the Ezo Stoat is that the former is smaller than the latter. Hondo Stoat males average 18 to 24 centimeters (7.2 to 9.6 in.) and females 14 to 23 centimeters (5.6 to 9.2 in.) long, while the Ezo Stoat grows to 30 centimeters (12 in.) or more in length.

HABITAT The habitat of the Hondo Stoat ranges from alpine zones in the central Honshu region, northward to Aomori Prefecture. Although the Hondo Stoat seldom shows itself to people, a rare glimpse of the animal standing on its hind legs looking around may be seen in forests or highlands in mountainous regions. The Hondo Stoat is designated as a natural treasure in Nagano Prefecture. In the area of Shiga Heights, it is especially well cared for and affectionately nicknamed "Mountain Fairy" as a symbol of good fortune, because of its cute appearance.

Blakiston's Fish Owl

Bubo blakistoni, is an owl. This species is a part of the family known as typical owls, Strigidae, which contains most species of owl. Blakiston's Fish Owl and three related species were previously placed in the genus Ketupa; mtDNA cytochrome b sequence data is equivocal on which genus name is applied for this species (Olsen et al. 2002).

This owl is a resident breeder in Russia, China, Japan, and possibly North Korea. Its habitat is riparian forest, with large, old trees for nest-sites, near lakes, rivers, springs and shoals which don't freeze in winter.

It feeds on a variety of aquatic prey, including fish and amphibians, but also takes mammals and birds.

Blakiston's Fish Owl is a massive (60-72cm) owl. The upperparts are buff-brown and heavily streaked. The underparts are pale buffish-brown. The throat is white. The iris is orange-yellow, and it has long, broad, horizontal ear-tufts. Sexes are similar, with females notably larger. The call varies by subspecies; in some places the call is a short, deep boo-bo-voo or a shoo-boo.

This bird is endangered due to the widespread loss of riverine forest, increasing development along rivers and dam construction. The current population in Japan is approximately 100 birds (20 breeding pairs and unpaired individuals), whereas on mainland Asia the population is much higher, perhaps several thousand individuals.

Henry Seebohm named this bird after the English naturalist Thomas Blakiston, who collected the original specimen in Hakodate on Hokkaidō, Japan in 1883.

Japanese River Otter | Lutra Nippon

The Japanese River Otter (Lutra nippon), a member of the weasel family, is a nocturnal carnivore reaching 65 to 80 centimeters (26 to 30 inches) in length at maturity. The animal is characterized by its webbed-feet and streamlined body with dark brown back and light brown belly, as well as by its thick, long tail, which is very common to the weasel family. The species inhabits midstream and downstream regions along rivers and becomes active at night, searching for fish, shrimp, and crabs for prey. While the animal hunts for food mainly in the water, it spends the rest of its time on land sleeping and rearing its young.

Once abundantly dispersed throughout Japan, the Japanese River Otter was reduced to very small numbers during the Meiji and Taisho eras due to the hunting of its fur and liver, which was applied as a medicine for patients with Tuberculosis. Moreover, environmental changes, such as the decrease of habitats, breeding grounds, and prey due to large-scale river-related construction and industrial and agricultural water contamination, have accelerated the decrease of the animal. Many of the species were also killed by dogs, their natural enemies, as well as by cars.

Due to serious concerns about its possible extinction, the Japanese River Otter was designated as a special natural treasure of Japan in 1965. However, the last official sighting of the otter was in Kochi Prefecture in 1979, and the existence of the creature has not been corroborated since then. Non-governmental organizations as well as the Environment Agency and prefecture and city governments have commissioned searches by specialists in the field to ensure its survival. Recent sightings of the Japanese River Otter have been reported by various sources, but have not yet been officially confirmed.

HABITAT The Japanese River Otter has widely inhabited river regions throughout Japan, encompassing the main islands, Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. It mainly inhabits midstream and downstream regions. In order to meet the needs of its active life and high energy consumption, which require a large amount of food, the otter travels over 10 kilometers (6.25 miles) along rivers and seashores where prey is plentiful. Although it is believed to live only in the southern region of Shikoku island, sightings of the animal have not been officially confirmed.