Environment: Less light pollution along Florida beaches is good news for sea turtles

A leatherback sea turtle at sea. Photo courtesy NOAA.

A leatherback sea turtle at sea. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Lighting ordinances help protect nesting turtles

Staff Report

Coastal development may still be running rampant in Florida, but there are some signs that a concerted effort to protect sea turtles from at least some of the impacts is paying off.

A study that started as a high school science project suggests that a network of sea turtle-friendly lighting ordinances along Florida’s coast seems to be working by darkening beaches, which is a big deal because scientists already know that sea turtles are disturbed brightly lit areas. The findings fit in with other studies that assess the impacts of light pollution on wildlife.

“Florida’s coastlines are getting darker, and that’s a good thing not just for sea turtles but for other organisms,” said University of Central Floria biology professor John Weishampel, co-author of the study published last week in the journal Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation. “It shows we affect turtles’ nesting, but at the same time we’ve been successful at reducing that effect.” Continue reading

Comeback spurs plan to downlist manatees

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Manatees gathering at a freshwater spring in Florida. @bberwyn photo.

Protection efforts pay off for the marine mammals

Staff Report

Federal biologists say manatees are on the road to recovery and they’re proposed to downlist the species from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

When scientists started tracking the gentle marine mammals, the Florida population was estimated at about 1,200. In the last 25 years that population has grown to about 6,300, with 13,000 across the species’ range, including Puerto Rico, Mexico, Central America, South America, and Greater and Lesser Antilles. Continue reading

Sharks at risk in key Atlantic fishing zones

A whitetip reef shark. Photo courtesy NOAA.

A whitetip reef shark. Photo courtesy NOAA.

New research can guide conservation efforts

Staff Report

A four-year study that followed about 100 tagged sharks shows that commercial fishing operations overlap with shark hotspots in the ocean. The findings suggest that sharks are at risk of being overfished in some areas.

“Our research clearly demonstrates the importance of satellite tagging data for conservation,” said Neil Hammerschlag, director of the shark research program University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. “The findings both identify the problem as well as provide a path for protecting oceanic sharks,” Hammerschlag said. Continue reading

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

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

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