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One Man’s Trash Another Man’s Treasure

2013 March 18

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Phil Colarusso

A shelf in my home holds old bottles, pieces of broken china and a porcelain imported mustard jug, treasures I found while diving. If I had found any of these objects on the street, I would not have bothered to pick them up. The fact that they were underwater added mystery and value to each of them.

In the sea, sunken vessels, railway cars, surplus army tanks, airplanes and a whole host of other things very quickly turn into artificial reefs. The sea and the life in it quickly claim as their own just about anything that humans have placed in it. I do not advocate dumping trash in the sea, but the ocean does seem to possess a remarkable redemptive quality.

The Atlantic Ocean has more than its share of discarded tires, which eventually become home to a variety of creatures. Lobsters, crabs, sea stars, sea urchins and a variety of small fish will happily live in the steel belted radial. The tire no doubt provides refuge from predators, waves and currents.

The most unique use of a tire I‘ve seen was by a male lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus). The cartoonish lumpfish is about the size of a football. With seemingly undersized tails and pectoral fins, they resemble miniature Goodyear blimps. Large suction disks on the belly allows them to adhere to surfaces. They are awkward, slow swimmers, and come in a variety of colors. Lumpfish, predominantly found among large rocks that support macroalgal and kelp growth, spend days moving as little as possible among the kelp looking for worms, crustaceans, mollusks and small jellyfish. On occasion they actively forage, but generally prefer to ambush prey. They will remain motionless, securely attached to a surface until some unsuspecting creature comes within range.

While collecting samples in an eelgrass bed, I saw a tire in the meadow. On the edge of the tire sat an adult lumpfish, a surprise since adult lumpfish aren’t normally associated with eelgrass. The greater surprise was the large clutch of eggs found inside the tire. Female lumpfish lay up to 150,000 eggs, then leave them with the male until they hatch. The male guards the nest and blows water over the eggs to aerate them. We backed away and allowed the male to maintain his vigil undisturbed.

Back in my office, I Iearned scientists have not identified the preferred spawning habitat of lumpfish in the Gulf of Maine. I envisioned my next scientific paper: “Goodyear blimp fish found to spawn in Goodyear tires”. I decided the lumpfish’s secret was safe with me.

About the Author: Phil Colarusso is a marine biologist in the Coastal and Ocean Protection Section of EPA New England, and is an avid diver. He’s living the dream in Wenham with wife JoAnn, two kids, dog and white picket fence.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. Nick permalink
    March 18, 2013


  2. Arman.- permalink
    March 18, 2013

    My Heart Will Go On…….!

    If Steven Spielberg knows that the sea was dumping trash about many materials, I believe he won’t to be a director of the “Titanic”. Ya, this place wasn’t created for them, but for the fish breath is on..!

  3. Patience permalink
    March 18, 2013

    I love “cartoonish lumpfish”! Great picture! Thanks for this written adventure…now I see why you love to dive!

  4. alexander permalink
    March 21, 2013

    it’s very interesting. So are the People for one man’s trash, for another man’s treasure.

  5. permalink
    April 11, 2013

    Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your website? My website is in the exact same area of interest as yours and my users would truly benefit from some of the information you present here. Please let me know if this okay with you. Thank you!

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