Feds expand critical habitat for North Atlantic right whales

New protection to aid recovery of rare marine mammals

NOAA has expanded critical habitat for endangered North American right whales. Photo courtesy NOAA.

NOAA has expanded critical habitat for endangered North Atlantic right whales. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

North Atlantic right whales will have a little more protection off the East Coast, as NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service expanded critical habitat to cover feeding areas in the Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank region and southeast calving grounds from North Carolina to Florida.

The expansion does not include any new restrictions or management measures for commercial fishing operations, but it would require more extensive review of any proposed activities in the region. Continue reading

CO2 could take huge toll on ocean fish by mid-century

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Can the world’s oceans survive the global warming era?

Not much time left to cut greenhouse gas pollution

Staff Report

Building levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans could have a widespread and devastating effect on many fish by 2050, Australian researchers warned in a new study.

“Our results were staggering and have massive implications for global fisheries and marine ecosystems across the planet,” said Dr. Ben McNeil, a researcher at the University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre. “High concentrations of carbon dioxide cause fish to become intoxicated … a phenomenon known as hypercapnia. Essentially, the fish become lost at sea. The carbon dioxide affects their brains and they lose their sense of direction and ability to find their way home. They don’t even know where their predators are,” McNeil said. Continue reading

Snowshoe hares face climate change challenge

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Can snowshoe hares survive global warming? Photo courtesy Kim Fenske.

‘That mismatch does indeed kill’

Staff Report

For millennia, snowshoe hares have camouflaged themselves from predators by blending in with their surroundings, turning pure white in the winter to blend in with the snow, then brown in the summer.

But climate change is shifting the timing of the snow season, and the hares may not be able to adapt in time, according to a North Carolina State University study published in the journal Ecology Letters.

Based on field research with radio-collared snowshoe hares in Montana, mismatched snowshoe hares suffer a 7 percent drop in their weekly survival rate when snow comes late or leaves early and white hares stand out to predators like “light bulbs” against their snowless backgrounds. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Can a federal rule change slow the tidal wave of species extinctions?

USFWS proposes to revamp endangered species listing process

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Endangered manatees at a Florida wildlife refuge @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

In the age of climate change, rampant consumption and development, plants and animals are going extinct faster than ever before in the history of the planet — so fast that the Endangered Species listing process in the U.S. has been overwhelmed. Continue reading

Sea Shepherd partners with Mexican government to halt the illegal gill net fishing that threatens the vaquita

Hong Kong prosecution of black market traders could help slow illegal fishing in Gulf of California vaquita preserve

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Vaquita porpoise. Photo courtesy Paula Olson/NOAA.

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Wildlive conservation activists and the Mexican government are partnering to try and save a remnant vaquita population in the upper Gulf of California. Map courtesy Sea Shepherd.

By Bob Berwyn

Conservation groups and the Mexican government are making progress in trying to avert extinction of the vaquita porpoise, a small marine mammal that lives only in a few thousand square miles in the northern Gulf of California.

Late last month, Greenpeace announced that several Hong Kong traders involved in selling illegal marine products from the Gulf of California were convicted and fined for their activities, which could help deter more trade in illegal marine products from the region. It’s that trade that’s pushing the vaquita to the brink of extinction.

And in the Gulf of California, the Mexican government has stepped up enforcement of a gill net ban that’s aimed at protecting the vaquita. At the same time, the Mexican government has partnered with Sea Shepherd, giving the nonprofit direct action group the authority to remove illegal gill nets. Two Sea Shepherd vessels are patrolling the region as part of the group’s Operation Milagro II. Continue reading

Wildlife: Another Oregon wolf moves to California

Room to roam?

OR25, a yearling male in the Imnaha Pack, after being radio-collared on May 20, 2014.  Photo courtesy of ODFW. Download high resolution image.

OR25, a yearling male in the Imnaha Pack, after being radio-collared on May 20, 2014. Photo courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Staff Report

The wild mountains, plateaus and forests of northeastern California are becoming a stronghold for wolves dispersing from Oregon.

This week, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that yet another wolf — a three-year old male — appears to be “exhibiting dispersal behavior” in Modoc County. Continue reading

Yellowstone bison get more room to roam

New Montana policy could end annual bison slaughter

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Montana will expand year-round habitat for wild bison in Montana outside Yellowstone National Park. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Wild bison in the Greater Yellowstone area will have more room to roam, as Montana Governor Steve Bullock this week agreed to expand year-round habitat for wild bison in Montana outside Yellowstone National Park.

Historically, thousands of wild bison have been hazed or slaughtered as they migrated from Yellowstone into Montana in the spring. According to wildlife advocates, the decision represents a significant change in bison management. Continue reading

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