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Month: January 2010

American White Pelicans of Coyote Hills

American White Pelicans of Coyote Hills

Pelicans are beautiful birds but I find American White Pelicans even more so. Their wingspan of 8-10 feet and more than a foot long beak make them really interesting. They are fascinating not only because of their shape but also because of their behavior and all white color. I consider myself lucky to live in an area close to Fremont’s Coyote Hills Regional Park and Don Edwards SF Bay National Wildlife Refuge – home to a large population of these beautiful birds. Some of these birds also migrate here in the winters from as far away as the Rocky Mountains.


Unlike brown pelicans, white pelicans are found inland, although often near coastal areas with brackish water. They live and nest on remote islands and places away from noises and human activity. Coyote Hills is such a jewel in the middle of suburbs. There is probably a colony of 50-100 birds that live on an island in the marsh. They eat carp, chub, perch, crayfish and other fishes. One of the most interesting thing about them is that they cooperatively forage to encircle and trap their prey. I have seen them do that at the old salt ponds at Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge.

These birds are “species of specicial concern” in California and need protection. Unfortunately, exactly the opposite will result from the proposed development at Patterson Ranch land. The developer (?) Richard Frisbie is proposing to build hundreds of houses right next to Coyote Hills. That might be a disaster for these birds and other fragile wildlife at Coyote Hills. The lights and noises will be a big problem for the pelicans. These pelicans are highly sensitive to human intrusion and disturbances. They abandon their nesting sites when they see people nearby or hear sounds. They also get easily poisoned from pesticides near their habitat, and as we know, pesticides are found in abundance in our lawns and gardens. Pelicans eat the discarded plastic bags and die. Dogs and children nearby will cause distress and pelicans will probably leave their nesting site.

Please click the link below and sign a petition for Fremont mayor and the city council and urge them to not approve the massive housing project right next to Coyote Hills. These beautiful birds depend on us to protect their habitat.

Click here to sign the petition

Impact of shrimp farming

Impact of shrimp farming

Last weekend, I had lunch with a friend and my family at Red Lobster. I had Shrimp Jambalaya and Bayou Gumbo – both contained shrimps. Thought came to mind that these shrimps were farm-raised which lead me to think about the impact of shrimp farming on local environments.

I researched and found that 75% of shrimps are farmed in China and Thailand and shipped around the world. And global shipping, as we know, is a significant contributor to global warming.

Almost all of the farm raised shrimps are either pacific white shrimps or giant tiger prawns, which are very susceptible to diseases. To combat the diseases, they are fed antibiotics which contribute to development of drug resistant bacteria in the environment.

Most shrimp farming is done in coastal areas because of the availability of salt water. This results in direct destruction (clearing) of mangrove forests. Mangrove forests are the natural hatcheries of local fishes and other wildlife. They help protect the soil from erosion. They acts as buffer and filter between the ocean and fresh water run offs.

Fertilizers are used to grow phytoplankton on which the shrimps feed. The excess fertilizer (and there’s a lot of it) gets in the local environment causing imbalance in the environment with excessive plants and algae growth. This crowds-out other local species of plants and aquatic life.

Intensive shrimp farming creates a lot of waste in the form of residual chemicals and shrimp excrement etc. This and high salt concentrations render the ponds useless within a few years. Then the shrimp farms have to move out to new land creating the same problem there.

A seemingly benign act of enjoying Shrimp Jambalaya and Bayou Gumbo has this profoundly negative impact on the environment half a world away! Should I consume shrimp in future? I sure will think about all this impact next time I see shrimp in my food.