I was shocked to read that soulful gay hip hop artist Frank Ocean who got into that parking lot altercation with rapper Chris Brown just admitted to Oyster magazine he once sold cocaine and…Say what? OK, I confess I know more about this than I should and by the way, Oyster magazine is all about fashion not bivalves.
The reason I’m familiar with Frank Ocean is because my Blue Frontier marine group (www.bluefront.org) input the word “Ocean” on our Google Daily News Alert over a year ago. For months roughly 50 percent of U.S. news stories with the key word “Ocean” were about Frank Ocean. Now he’s down to around 20 percent. Mind you I’ve nothing against this man but should any one person, no matter how trendsetting and melodic, get as much press coverage as 71 percent of the planet? Kanye West probably thinks so but if you believe the proper answer is ‘no’ then let’s try and figure out how we can get the media more focused on the state of our seas than the other Cs – Celebrities.
First we have to admit the ocean is a celebrity poor habitat. Ocean activist Ted Danson with his slick of white hair does not reach the TMZ demographic and 2003 Disney star Nemo, unlike former Disney star Miley Cyrus seems an unlikely candidate for a scandalous second act. After all when a fish starts shaking its tail no one really notices.
Of course the media is also into violence but Discovery Channel’s Shark Week has that covered, also SyFy’s hit TV movie ‘Sharknado,’ deserves some credit for its biting satire linking marine biodiversity and climate change.
So that leaves us with the media’s other major focus, sex. And this is really good news because on average the ocean has more reproductive strategies and behaviors going on than a house full of Kardashians, a season of ‘The Bachelorette” or any show on MTV.
Some years ago the conservative preacher James Dobson of ‘Focus on the Family’ accused the SpongeBob SquarePants TV show of promoting the, “homosexual agenda.” I responded in a Los Angeles Times article by pointing out that sponges actually reproduce asexually which he should approve of. Of course they can also be hermaphrodites, producing both sperm and eggs in a single sponge that can then broadcast spawn, releasing them in such profusion as to turn seawater smoky white (corals do the same, although only once a year and only for purposes of procreation).
Still life in the sea can be quite scandalous, also sometimes quite romantic, even more so than those Cialis ads.
Take the blue crab, pound for pound one of the most fearsome creatures on the planet, yet when the female undergoes her molt of puberty, she releases a scent that makes the male’s aggression dissipate. They’ll then copulate for between 10 and 48 hours. If this condition persists for more than 96 hours please consult your waiter.
Scientists refer to the most desirable of all fish as BOFFs, Big Old Fat Females, because they produce more eggs and those eggs tend to be more viable (produce more fry or baby fish). Still, a number of species, like blue-headed wrasses, are transgender. They all start out as females; but some then flip a hormonal switch in order to function as males when they all spawn together.
Groupers also go through a sex change, but slowly over time. They start out life as females but as they grow older and larger they become males. Unfortunately, with fishermen traditionally targeting larger fish, the remaining groupers tend to be bachelorettes with few opportunities to meet guy fish and make baby groupers. Evolution, not being sexist, applies the same reproductive strategy to anemone (or clown) fish, with the largest and most protective of any grouping being the alpha female. If she dies the next largest male will convert over several days to become the new alpha female. In Finding Nemo Disney Pictures just wasn’t prepared for the sexual politics involved in showing Nemo’s dad becoming his new mom.
What about our fellow mammals? Because dolphins are intelligent, sociable and have jaw structures that make them appear to be smiling, we like to think of them as peace loving. The bottlenose dolphin of “Flipper” fame, however, has a sex life less like that of a hippie than a Hells Angel. Male bottlenose dolphins will form alliances of two to four in order to isolate and have sex with a single female they like. They’ll keep other males away while repeatedly copulating with her for several weeks before letting her go.
The terminally cute sea otter could also be defined as a marine weasel into rough sex. The male otter’s arms (legs, whatever) are effective for grooming their fine pelts or cracking shells on rocks they place on their bellies, but they are too short for getting a good grip on a mate. So the male gets firm purchase by biting down on the female’s nose before going for a little splendor in the kelp. Females can often be spotted after sex hauled up on rocks with matted fur and bloodied noses.
But whatever you think about these marine animals as possible candidates for cable TV reality shows or celebrity profiles in US Weekly, we owe them, big-time. Their populations have been decimated by hunting, fishing, pollution and loss of habitat. We’re now catching fish faster than they can employ their reproductive strategies.
It’s humans’ reckless disregard for life’s unique, sexy and profound diversity that I’d call the real sin against creation and the real news story not being widely enough reported. To be quite Frank about our Ocean the fact is of all marine resources, good stories are the one resource not being fully exploited. We each have to start thinking about the most creative ways we can use media, both old and new, to tell the story of our ocean; that wildly popular, sexy, violent crucible of life on our blue marble planet, that big salty body of water that still rocks our world.