Be careful when you remark, “yeah, when pigs fly!” because we just discovered a shark that can walk. In fact, we discovered two.
Researchers from Conservation International found 50 new species in the Bird’s Head region in Papua. The new discoveries include 20 corals, 24 fish and eight mantis shrimp. But the ones that’ve got everyone cocking their head to the side with a resounding “huh!” are the two new species of epaulette shark, which spend most of their time walking across the sea floor, swimming away when danger looms.
If this all seems strangely familiar, you probably are thinking of the “Lost World” that was discovered miles away just seven months earlier. A land expedition by the same group revealed several dozen new species of frogs, butterflies, flowers, and birds.
But this unparalleled biodiversity is not off-limits to destruction. Subsistence fishermen use dynamite and cyanide in the area, and mining and logging in Papua province has degraded water quality. And wouldn’t you know it — the government plans to introduce commercial fishing along the coast.
Conservation International is calling for the government to set up a series of marine parks around Bird’s Head Seascape. While you probably don’t have much influence on the Indonesian government (sorry to break it to you), you can do something to help protect corals, and our diverse ocean sea floors, all over the world.
In two weeks, the UN will convene in New York to decide what to do about vulnerable deep-sea habitats. Contact President Bush’s environmental advisor and tell him you want the White House to support the UN moratorium on bottom trawling. I know what you’re thinking: “yeah, when pigs fly…” But stop that negative thought. Sharks do walk. And the administration did just protect the Northwest Hawaiian Islands …