Are hungry seals hampering Scottish cod recovery?

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Atlantic cod.

‘We may have to live with smaller cod stocks if we want to protect our seals’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Efforts to rebuild commercially important cod stocks off the west coast of Scotland have been hampered by hungry seals, scientists said. The research by marine biologists at the  University of Strathclyde suggests that, as fishermen have cut back on their catches by half, predation by seals has rapidly increased.

The seals may be consuming more than 40 percent of the total stock of cod, up to  7,000 tons per year off the west of Scotland, where landed catches now amount to only a few hundred tons. The research paper has been published in the Journal of Applied Ecology. Continue reading

Still more questions than answers about the ecological effects of oil dispersants used in Gulf of Mexico

Scientists say more study needed before the next big spill

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster approaches the Alabama coastline. Courtesy U.S. Navy.

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster approaches the Alabama coastline. Courtesy U.S. Navy.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Fallout from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster is still rippling through the Gulf of Mexico — and through the scientific community studying the effects of the largest oil spill on record.

Along with 210 million gallons of crude oil that leaked from BP’s failed deep-sea well, cleanup workers applied 1.84 million gallons of chemical dispersant intended to break down the oil and prevent it from reaching the shoreline in massive quantities. Continue reading

Are jellyfish taking over Puget Sound?

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A NASA Earth Observatory satellite image shows Puget Sound.

Study shows dramatic shift in marine species

Staff Report

FRISCO — Biologists looking at 40 years of fisheries data from Puget Sound have documented a dramatic shift in marine species. Key fish in the food chain, like herring and smelt, have declined, while the number of jellyfish has increased exponentially, to the detriment of the marine ecosystem.

“On land people see the changes that come with human population increases, but underwater the changes are much harder to discern,” said Correigh Greene, with NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center. “What this tells us is that when you look over time, you can see that the underwater landscape of Puget Sound is changing too,” said Greene, lead author of the new study published in Marine Ecology Progress Series. Continue reading

Environment: do you want to sail the Ocean Blue with Jack Johnson and learn about plastic pollution?

Video contest will award winner with a spot on a six-day Atlantic research voyage

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Oceans or garbage dumps?

The winner of the 5 Gyres video contest will join the crew of the Mystic on a scientific sailing expedition. Photo courtesy % Gyres.

The winner of the 5 Gyres video contest will join the crew of the Mystic on a scientific sailing expedition. Photo courtesy 5 Gyres.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A short video about local solutions to ocean plastic pollution could put you aboard a six-day scientific sailing expedition aimed at learning more about the North Atlantic Gyre, where huge amounts of waste spin in a giant lazy ocean eddy — to the detriment of the ocean environment.

The contest is sponsored by the 5 Gyres Institute, named for the five major ocean circulations that trap garbage and debris. In some areas, rafts of floating garbage have enabled invasive bacteria to get a foothold in the ocean environment. Scientists have known about the problem for a long time, and they also know it’s getting worse. Continue reading

Study shows how ocean noise harms dolphins

Seismic airgun blasting, naval warfare training are key sources of harmful ocean noise pollution

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A dolphin the Gulf of Mexico. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — With ever more offshore oil and gas exploration proposed, conservation advocates have been warning that the cumulative effects of those activities will take a huge toll on dolphins, whales and other marine life.

Of particular concern are plans to ramp up seismic underwater airgun blasting, used in the search for oil and gas deposits beneath the seafloor. Federal officials recently adopted a final proposal that would allow the use of this controversial technology in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida.  Continue reading

Long-distance migration by western gray whale raises more questions than answers

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Gray whale population dynamics may be more complex than previously believed. Photo courtesy NOAA.

New study suggests more interaction between western and eastern gray whales

Staff Report

FRISCO — After tracking a western gray whale from Russia’s Sakhalin Island to Baja and back, biologists say they have new questions about the species.

The 14,000-mile migration is the longest ever documented by any mammal and suggests that endangered western gray whales may interact with eastern gray whales — which are not endangered — more than previously believed. Continue reading

Climate: Oceans die quickly, take millennia to recover

‘We humans have to think carefully about the planet we are leaving for future generations’

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Using driftwood logs as paddles, local fishermen head out to set nets along the northern coast of Jamaica. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — It may take oceans thousands of years to recover from global warming impacts, California-based scientists said after study a seafloor sediment core sample that tracked the impacts of ancient climate upheavals.

The study, led by scientists with the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory and Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute, looked at more than  5,400 invertebrate fossils, from sea urchins to clams, in a 30-foot sediment core from offshore Santa Barbara, California.

The core sample documents changes in the ocean ecosystem between  3,400 and 16,100 years ago, during the last major deglaciation, which was a time of abrupt climate warming, melting polar ice caps, and expansion of low oxygen zones in the ocean. Continue reading

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