Feds to boost protection for Florida manatees

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Manatees at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. @bberwyn photo.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes strict limits on commercial access to key winter manatee habitat

Staff Report

FRISCO — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to better protect endangered manatees with new rules at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.

With record numbers of manatees wintering in Three Sisters Springs, and substantial increases in the number of people wanting to see the marine mammals in their natural habitat, the rules are needed to limit the potential for “viewing-related disturbance,” according to refuge manager Andrew Gude.

“Three Sisters Springs is among the top three most frequented springs by manatees in the world,” Gude said in a press release. “It is also the only confined-water body in the United States open to the public while wintering manatees are present. Understandably, more manatees in the springs attract more people who wish to experience them up close,” Gude said. Continue reading

New Arctic oil exploration puts narwhals at risk

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Marine conservation advocates say new seismic airgun blasting in the Arctic Ocean threatens whales and other marine life. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Seismic blasting east of Greenland raises concerns about impacts to marine mammals

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Arctic Ocean north of Alaska isn’t the only area increasingly at risk from oil and gas exploitation. Oil companies are exploring the seabed off the eastern coast of Greenland, and the seismic blasting is likely harm whales and other marine life.

Oil companies use seismic equipment to map underground oil and gas reserves with airguns that emit 259 decibel blasts, a sound intensity would be perceived by humans as approximately eight times louder than a jet engine taking off. Continue reading

Study eyes powerlines as factor in sage grouse decline

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Greater sage-grouse avoid powerlines, and the poles are used by perching raptors that target sage grouse nests. Photo via USGS.

Another piece in the sage grouse puzzle …

Staff Report

FRISCO — After closely studying a greater sage-grouse subpopulation on the Columbia Plateau in eastern Washington, wildlife biologists said that power lines may be a greater factor in habitat fragmentation than previously believed.

The new study found that transmission lines from hydroelectric dams and wind turbines affect greater sage grouse habitat by isolating fragile populations and limiting movement. The was published online this summer in the journal Landscape Ecology.

“With only a fraction of pre-settlement habitat left in the state for this species, it’s key that all of that habitat be connected in order for the population to be viable in the future,” said lead author Andrew Shirk, a research scientist with the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group. Continue reading

Feds boost greater sage-grouse efforts with $211 million for more conservation measures

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Can more money help save greater sage-grouse?

Focus is on voluntary, incentive-based approach

Staff Report

FRISCO —Acknowledging the deteriorating health of sagebrush habitat and the decline of greater sage-grouse, federal officials this week announced a $211 million push to fund  conservation plans and to help implement an effective strategy to reduce rangeland fire risk.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0 will provide additional assistance for ranchers to make conservation improvements to their land, which mutually benefits the iconic bird and agricultural operations in 11 Western states. Continue reading

Biodiversity: NOAA research voyage aims to track rare North Pacific right whales

New data from the Gulf of Alaska expedition will help guide ongoing conservation efforts

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North Pacific right whales are among the most endangered marine mammal species. There may be as few as 30 individuals remaining. Photo via NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO —There may only be about 30 North Pacific right whales remaining, but fisheries scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are determined to do all they can to try and save the species.

To start, a team of researchers has set out on a month-long research voyage to track the whales in the Gulf of Alaska, where they sometimes visit. North Pacific right whales may be the  most endangered marine mammal to visit U.S. waters. The species was decimated by historic whaling in the 19th century, as well as illegal whaling by the Soviet Union in the 1960s. Continue reading

California reports first wolf pack in almost 100 years

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Wolf pups at play in northern California. Photo via CDFW.

California wildlife agency documents five wolf pups and two adult wolves

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — OR-7, the lone wolf that enthralled wildlife lovers when he wandered through northern California a few years was the trailblazer.

Earlier this spring another lone wolf wandered into the state, and now, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says there’s a new wolfpack forming. The agency has photographically documented five pups and several individual adults that have taken up residence in the state.

“This news is exciting for California,” said Charlton H. Bonham, CDFW Director. “We knew wolves would eventually return home to the state and it appears now is the time.” Continue reading

U.S. pushes Mexico to strengthen sea turtle protection

A loggerhead sea turtle off the coast of New England. Photo courtesy NOAA/Matthew Weeks.

Loggerhead sea turtles need more protection from gillnet and longline fishing off the coast of Baja. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Failure to protect loggerhead sea turtles could lead to seafood sanctions

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Mexico isn’t doing enough to protect sea turtles, U.S. officials said last week, issuing a formal warning that could ultimately lead to a ban on seafood imports from Mexico.

At issue are endangered North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles in the Gulf of Ulloa. Mexico earlier this year adopted new regulations aimed at protecting the sea turtles with a fishery reserve, a mortality limit and  fishing gear restrictions.

But according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries service, those regulations don’t go far enough to address the bycatch of loggerhead turtles. As a result, the U.S. for the first time ever has issued a “negative certification” for bycatch of a protected living marine resource under the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act. Continue reading

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