Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fresh Water Tilapia Adapting to High Salinity in Salton Sea

White Sands (?) @ Salton Sea State Recreation Area Shoreline
From afar, the Salton Sea looks very inviting: white sand, blue skies, diverse species of resident and migratory birds, wildflowers swaying beautifully, 
Wildflowers Blooming @ Salton Sea Shoreline
and sparkling blue sea that is bordered by desert mountains. It looks like a piece of heaven. A refuge for wildlife. 

White Pelicans Enjoying The Richness of Food (tilapia) @ Salton Sea
Heaven and refuge in the middle of the barren desert facing some of the harshest conditions.  Excited, I took off my sneakers and changed to walking sandals. With camera on hand, I started walking towards the shore. As soon as I reached what I thought to be a white sand shore, my feet felt the sharpness of the broken shells and bones. I finally realized my biggest mistake of taking off my sneakers for walking sandals.
Dead Tilapias on Salton Sea's Shore
What I thought as white sand were actually mostly broken barnacles and bones from millions of fish, birds and shells that had surrendered their lives to this accidental sea.
More Dead Tilapias
In the 1920's, the Salton Sea was once California's busiest State Park, with more visitors than Yosemite National Park. It was a popular get-away for the rich and famous, and of celebrated Hollywood artists. The concern then was the danger swimmers may be facing from the 400,000 boats that crowd each year. But today, Salton Sea speaks of deep solitude, the thousand swimmers and boaters now gone.
Kayaker @ Salton Sea
The Salton Sea State Recreation Area now gets only a trickle of visitors, who come to enjoy hiking, fishing, boating, bird watching, swimming, and camping on the shores of California's largest accidental lake. Because this was an accidental lake without an outflow, the Salton Sea's salinity had an accelerated change that jeopardized some of the species in it. Many species of fish are no longer able to survive in this once diverse inland aquatic system. With the death of the many fish species in this lake, came the non-native fish, tilapia. How the tilapias came into Salton Sea is still not exactly known.
Tilapia are native to Africa but have been widely introduced worlwide into tropical fresh and brackish waters around the world. They are generally fresh water fish, but can withstand very high salinity such as in Salton Sea which is saltier than the Pacific Ocean. Tilapias are fast growing and breed rapidly, thus, despite their periodic deaths in the Salton Sea, still, an estimated 2 million tilapias exist in this shallow lake at Salton Sea.  
Extremely Dried Tilapia
Some tilapias die during winter when they can not tolerate extreme cold temperatures since tilapias are warm water fish. Sometimes, tilapias die in the summer when the heat in the desert rises so high depleting them of their essential nutrients. Fishing in Salton Sea is thriving, the tilapia population can be so dense that anglers get fish as soon as they reel in. Despite fishers catching ice chests-full of fish for days with no end, yet the fishing does not seem to slow down nor the tilapia numbers diminish. The variety of fish at the Salton Sea have declined with the continued rising of the salinity and other minerals. Ironically, what thrives now in this extremely high saline water are the fresh water fish tilapia. It is said that tilapia would be the last fish that can survive in the extremely salty water here because of their ability to adapt to the physical conditions surrounding them. Because of the abundance of fish, Salton Sea has attracted visitors for fishing. People grill freshly caught tilapia on shore and bring ice chests-full of tilapia home.
However, it's not only people fishing get to enjoy the tilapia in Salton Sea. Millions of birds flock into the Salton Sea annually because of richness of food. This accidental sea is their food haven. Today, the southern part of the Salton Sea is a Wildlife Refuge within the Pacific Flyway and is established for the protection of resident and migrating birds.  

In one of my next posts, I will share more about some of the resident and migratory birds that make Salton Sea their refuge. 
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  1. Your world is always charming and luring.

  2. Wow....I thought the "white" sand was sand...but it turns out to be the remain of animals...awesome!

  3. I love the Pelicans. Amazing landscapes and scenery. Beautiful collection of photos. Have a wonderful weekend!

  4. I love all the photos as always Betchai, with all the blueness...the wings, the favorite is the sixth photo...I am sad about tilapia dying there but then that is just the way nature is...the beauty of it is that they become food to nurture other creatures and they continue to breed rapidly the taste of tilapia however way it is cooked...looking forward to your post on other migratory and resident birds that make Salton sea their refuge....

  5. What a fantastic place to see! Too bad about the tilapia dying, but like Kulasa said, it's the nature of thing.

    Gorgeous photos!

  6. Beautiful captures! I need to get down there one day after school.

  7. I always wondered by the dead tilapias' eyes disappear first.

    Looks like the desert has shown some great wildflowers!

  8. Great shots Miss Beth, especially the 4th and the 5th pics...

    Very interesting post Miss Beth... I never knew tilapia could survive high salinity... But I do know they can survive polluted rivers such as the river separating Taculing and Alijis (near Hechanova) back home... I know because back in my elementary days, we used to go to that river almost every weekend, and there were many people who visited its banks... When I was in high school, it got so polluted due to factories upstream... Even the lowly kuhol are dying... But low and behold, tilapia still thrived in that river... Up to now...

  9. The only thing I knew before this about tilapia was that they taste very good.

  10. What a beautiful accidental ocean, and I'm glad that tilapia adapting well, and sad that they died too! Gorgeous photos, Betchai..You're a great adventurer!

  11. This is very strange! The tilapia don't have too many concentrated minerals to eat?

  12. very informative post, Beth. i enjoyed reading. your description of the Salton Sea makes me want to visit the place one day. it may never happen but i can always dream because i've seen it through your photos. all thanks to you! :)

  13. I don't eat fish, but I sure do love them. I hope they can adjust and adapt as needed. This was a very good post.

  14. tilapia is one of my favorite, grill it, bake it or fry it - i love them !


  15. I can eat tilapia everyday. :)

    My first time to read about Salton Sea, thanks a lot for sharing.

    White sands, blue skies...beautiful. Love the photos.