Posted on February 28, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Scientists see changes in the way marine mammals use the Bering Strait. Photo courtesy NASA.
Scientists say mitigation needed to protect marine life in the region
FRISCO — American and Russian scientists studying the Bering Strait say that global warming is changing the way marine mammals use the area. Species at home farther south are using the narrow passage to the Arctic Ocean much more often, the researchers said after monitoring the area for three years with underwater microphones.
The recordings show Arctic beluga and bowhead whales migrating seasonally through the region from the Arctic south to spend winter in the Bering Sea. They also detect large numbers of sub-Arctic humpback, fin and killer whales traveling north through the Bering Strait to feed in the biologically rich Chukchi Sea. Continue reading
Filed under: Arctic, climate and weather, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: Bering Strait, climate, global warming, oceans, whales | Leave a comment »
Posted on February 22, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Seismic airgun testing poses a risk to marine mammals.
Marine mammals at risk off the East Coast
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — The fossil fuel industry’s use of seismic airgun testing to search for as-yet untapped offshore oil deposits could prove damaging to ocean species — especially marine mammals that depend on acoustic information.
Unless federal agencies use the best available science to design effective avoidance and mitigation strategies, thousands of dolphins and whales could be affected, including critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, with a dwindling population of only 500 individuals. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: endangered species, marine mammals, Oceana, seismic airgun testing | Leave a comment »
Posted on February 17, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Former Breckenridge resident Andy Cook cleans a yellowfin tuna he caught in the rich fishing waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River near Venice, Louisiana. bberwyn photo.
Exposure to PAHs disrupts basic cellular function of heart muscles
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — When BP’s failed Deepwater Horizon drill rig spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, scientists immediately began documenting impacts to natural resources, finding dead corals on the seafloor, sick dolphins in Barataria Bay and remnant oil in the splash zone along Florida beaches.
Even low levels of oil pollution can damage the developing hearts of fish embryos and larvae, reducing the likelihood that those fish will survive. Scientists have known of this effect for some time, but the underlying mechanism has remained elusive.
But recent research by scientists with NOAA and Stanford University, shows how oil-derived chemicals disrupt the normal functioning of the heart muscle cells of fish. The findings, published in the Feb. 14 issue of Science, describe how toxic oil-based chemicals disrupt cardiac function in young bluefin and yellowfin tuna by blocking ion channels in their heart muscle cells. Continue reading
Filed under: energy, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation, oil drilling | Tagged: Deepwater Horizon, Gulf of Mexico, oceans, oil spills, tuna | 1 Comment »
Posted on February 14, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
New satellite technology could help biologists getter more accurate estimates of whale populations NOAA photo.
New method could help with marine mammal conservation planning
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — After using satellite images to discover new emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica, scientists with the British Antarctic Survey said they’ve also been able to use similar technology to count whales.
Marine mammals are extremely difficult to count on a large scale and traditional methods, such as counting from platforms or land, can be costly and inefficient, so the new method could lead to breakthroughs in estimating populations of whales and other marine mammals. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: biodiversity, conservation, marine mammals, oceans, whales | Leave a comment »
Posted on February 7, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Whale is on the menu in some Iceland restaurants. bberwyn photo.
U.S. officials say whaling trade violates international conservation treaty
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Iceland may face trade sanctions after U.S. officials formally declared that the island nation’s whaling is undermining an international ban on commercial trade in whale products.
The declaration by U.S. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell may have been spurred in part by Iceland’s December announcement that commercial whaling will continue for the next five years. As many as 154 endangered fin whales and 229 minke whales could be killed each year under Iceland’s self-allocated quotas which are set to run from 2014 to 2018.
Iceland killed 35 minke whales and 134 fin whales, massive animals second only to blue whales in size, during the 2013 whaling season. Whaling has deep cultural and economic roots in Iceland, and the fishing industry is by far the largest sector of the country’s economy, but wildlife and animal rights advocacy groups say it’s time for Iceland to rethink its whaling activities. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: CITES, Environment, Iceland, marine mammals, oceans, whaling | Leave a comment »
Posted on February 6, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Decision based on animal welfare concerns
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Germany’s largest travel agency and tour operator has announced that it won’t be offering any more trips to destinations that keep whales and dolphins in captivity.
TUI Deutschland officials made the decision after aligning themselves with an advocacy group that has highlighted just a few of the problems faced by captive cetaceans, including tiny enclosures and disruption of social structures.
TUI also cited information from the CNN documentary Blackfish, which is set to air once again on Feb. 9. The company also said it won’t offer trips to destinations that advertise swimming with dolphins, according to the German publication Die Welt.
While facilities like SeaWorld and other marine parks see themselves as good stewards of marine mammals, public pressure is growing to end the practice of showing whales and dolphins for entertainment.
German wildlife advocates said recent worldwide attention on the gruesome dolphin slaughter in Taji also helped push the huge tour operator toward the decision.
Filed under: Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: Animal welfare, dolphins, Environment, Travel, whales | 2 Comments »
Posted on January 27, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Majestic manta rays are among the species identified as facing a significant threat. Photo courtesy NOAA.
‘Unless binding commitments to protect these fish are made now, there is a real risk that our grandchildren won’t see sharks and rays in the wild …’
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Overfishing is putting about 25 percent of the world’s sharks and rays at risk of extinction, according to ocean experts who took a close look at the global distribution, catch, abundance, population trends, habitat use, life histories, threats and conservation measures.
Previous studies have documented local overfishing of some populations of sharks and rays, but this is the first survey of their status throughout coastal seas and oceans. According to the findings, 249 of 1,041 known shark, ray and chimaera species globally fall under three threatened categories on the IUCN Red List.
“We now know that many species of sharks and rays, not just the charismatic white sharks, face extinction across the ice-free seas of the world,” said Nick Dulvy, a Simon Fraser University Canada Research Chair in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. “There are no real sanctuaries for sharks where they are safe from overfishing,” Dulvy said. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: biodiversity, ocean conservation, rays, sharks | Leave a comment »
Posted on January 21, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Can West Coast orcas survive?
New studies map important coastal habitat
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Ocean conservation advocates say the latest research shows a need to protect more habitat for orcas along the west coast.
Based in part on tracking studies showing orca movements, the Center for Biological Diversity last week petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect the whales’ winter foraging range off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California. The petition points out that only 81 killer whales remain in the Southern Resident population. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: biodiversity, Environment, oceans, Orcas, West Coast | 1 Comment »
Posted on January 11, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
New data could help reduce bycatch of endangered turtles
A leatherback sea turtle at sea. Photo courtesy NOAA.FRISCO — A new mapping effort may help prevent accidental deaths of leatherback sea turtles, one of the most endangered animals in the world — if resource managers use the information to establish timed seasonal fishing restrictions.
By Summit Voice
The research shows use-intensity distributions for 135 satellite-tracked adult turtles and distributions of longline fishing areas in the Pacific Ocean. The overlap of these distributions in space and time allows prediction of bycatch risk.
Leatherback populations have declined by more than 90 percent since 1980. One of the greatest sources of mortality is industrial longlines that set thousands of hooks in the ocean to catch fish, but sometimes catch sea turtles as well. Using modern GPS technology, researchers are now able to predict where fisheries and turtles will interact and to reduce the unwanted capture of turtles by fishermen. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, leatherback sea turtles, oceans | 1 Comment »
Posted on January 8, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
‘Tipping points are real …’
FRISCO — Over-harvesting fish in the world’s oceans has already tipped some ecosystems over the brink, according to Florida State University researchers who led a major review of fisheries data showing the domino effect that ensues when too many fish are harvested from one habitat.
The loss of a major species from an ecosystem can have unintended consequences because of the connections between that species and others in the system. Moreover, these changes often occur rapidly and unexpectedly, and are difficult to reverse.
“You don’t realize how interdependent species are until it all unravels,” said Felicia Coleman, director of the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory and a co-author on the study. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: Environment, marine ecosystems, oceans, overfishing, tipping points | Leave a comment »