17 August 2008

Do you know what a "jubilee" is ?

There are of course many types of jubilees, both religious and secular, characterized by celebrations of certain anniversaries. But the jubilee I'm blogging today refers to a specific event that happens intermittently in Mobile Bay, Alabama (map above).

During a jubilee immense numbers of shrimp, crabs, eels, and bottom-feeding fish congregate in the shallow waters along the shoreline on the eastern side of Mobile Bay, in such density that local residents can scoop them up, literally by the bucketful.

The cause of this bizarre behavior is oxygen depletion of the water in the bay; the marine life moves to the shoreline where a better oxygen tension prevails -
The large volume of crab and fish that a jubilee can produce is hard to overstate.... author Archie Carr comments that "at a good jubilee you can quickly fill a washtub with shrimp. You can gig a hundred flounders and fill the back of your pickup truck a foot deep in crabs."

In addition to the sheer mass of the sea life present, harvesting them is made considerably easier by the effect that the oxygen deprivation has on the animals. Their behavior has been described as "depressed and moribund" or "unnatural" crabs are observed "climbing tree stumps to escape the water."
Mobile Bay jubilees occur most often in August, but that's not why I'm blogging it now. Last month HuffPo and other sites carried articles about the expanding dead zone where the Missippi enters the Gulf of Mexico, and I just ran across a link describing the worldwide nature of this problem, suggesting that jubilees may start be seen more often along American and other coastal waters. See the blog entry below this one...

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