NOAA steps up efforts to track West Coast toxic algae

A nice haul of blue crabs.

Toxin-producing algae is threatening West Coast fisheries.

Grant funding to help pinpoint cause of outbreak

Staff Report

FRISCO — After sending extra scientists to help track the spread of toxin-producing algae along the West Coast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this month said it will help fund more monitoring and research. The agency is committing $88,000 in grant and event response funding for Washington state.

According to NOAA, the money will go to supporting researchers and state and tribal managers in collecting and analyzing additional samples to test for abundance and concentrations of toxins. The information, along with analysis of ocean and weather conditions, will help identify factors contributing to the outbreak and its severity. Continue reading

Industrial pollution threatens European porpoises

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Porpoises trail a fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico near Florida. @bberwyn photo.

‘Almost 20 percent of sexually mature females showed evidence of stillbirth, foetal death or recent abortion …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even though PCBs were banned in the UK more than 30 years ago, researchers are still finding moderately “moderately high” levels of the toxic chemicals in the tissue of harbor porpoises.

The marine mammals around parts of the British Isles are struggling to successfully reproduce as a result of chemical pollutants found in European waters, according to new research led by the Zoological Society of London. Continue reading

Better info, more public awareness is the key to reducing shark attacks, researchers say

No evidence that culling sharks cuts risks

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There are more great white sharks and more people in the ocean along the California coast, but the risk of shark attacks has decreased since the 1960s. Photo courtesy NOAA.

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Researchers say shark attacks are more likely in the evening than during the day. @bbberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even as many more people take to the water along the California Coast, the risk of being attacked by great white sharks has dropped considerably since the 1950s, according to Stanford University researchers who took a close look at shark attack statistics.

Their findings show that empowering people with information about how to avoid sharks is far more effective for public safety than trying to cull sharks. The scientists released their study results after a recent wave of shark attacks in North Carolina made headlines.

“You have a higher chance to win the lottery, a much higher chance to drown in the ocean, than to be attacked by a shark,” said Stanford researcher Francesco Ferretti. “At the same time, people need to approach the ocean with precaution and respect. We are entering the realm of predators and they are fulfilling their ecological role,” Ferretti said. Continue reading

Good news for Gulf of Mexico sea turtles

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Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawlers.

Change in Louisiana law will benefit turtles and shrimpers

Staff Report

FRISCO — Gulf of Mexico sea turtles may soon be a little safer, following a vote by the Louisiana State Legislature to reverse a 1987 law that conflicted with federal rules requiring shrimp fishing boats to use Turtle Excluder Devices in fishing nets.

The TEDs are openings in the net that enable trapped sea turtles to escape before they drown.Louisiana was the only state that refused to enforce this federal law, even though the state’s vessels make up a significant portion of the Gulf Coast shrimp trawl fishery, which by some estimates kills up to 50,000 turtles per year. Continue reading

Climate: Conservation group tries new path to limiting CO2 emissions

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Increasingly corrosive ocean waters pose a serious threat to shell-building species and other marine life.

‘Future generations will look back and wonder why we didn’t do everything we could to save the world’s oceans …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Citing the growing threat to the world’s oceans, environmental advocates want the federal government to regulate carbon dioxide under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The regulations have been used to limit emissions of other harmful chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons, PCBs and asbestos.

“Time’s running out to avoid a mass extinction of wildlife in our oceans,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It may not look like a toxic chemical, but when there’s too much CO2 in the ocean, it turns seawater corrosive and dissolves the protective shells that marine animals need to survive,” Sakashita said. Continue reading

Acoustic survey tracks whale population trends along the coast of Southern California

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.

Blue whale numbers holding steady; fin whales increasing

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new acoustic survey in Southern California coastal waters is helping researchers track whale populations.

The data analyzed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego suggests that blue whale numbers are holding steady, while the number of fin whales is increasing.

Both species are often seen in the Southern California Bight, the curved region of California coastline with offshore waters extending from San Diego to Point Conception (near Santa Barbara, Calif.), but little is known about their use of the area, where ever-increasing ship traffic has raised concerns about collisions between whales and boats. Continue reading

Key Biscayne National Park establishes new marine reserve to try and restore coral reef ecosystem

A spiny lobster in the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary. Photo courtesy NOAA.

A spiny lobster in the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary, where protective management has helped rebuild fish stocks. Key Biscayne National Park hopes that a new protected area will help restore coral reefs. Photo courtesy NOAA.

No-fishing zone seen as key piece of new management plan

Staff Report

FRISCO — The National Park Service says a 10,000-acre no-fishing zone will help restore the heart of Key Biscayne National Park’s coral reef ecosystem and boost fish populations in surrounding waters.

The new marine reserve was announced earlier this month as part of an updated management plan for the popular park near Miami. The no–fishing zone covers about 6 percent of the park’s waters. Some other ecologically important shoreline areas will be protected by slow-speed, no-wake, and no-motor zones to benefit seagrass beds, manatees, mangroves and nesting birds. Continue reading

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