Global warming: Goodbye to sea scallops?

A northward shift of the Gulf Stream could warm waters off the New England coast significantly, according to a new NOAA study. Graphic courtesy NASA.

Rapidly warming ocean temperatures off the New England coast are affecting many marine species. Graphic courtesy NASA.

New vulnerability assessment to help guide fisheries management

Staff Report

Rapidly warming ocean temperatures off the coast of the Northeastern U.S. are likely to have a big impact on nearly all fish and other marine life in the region. Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration carefully surveyed 82 species in a recent study, trying to identify which are the most vulnerable to global warming.

“Our method identifies specific attributes that influence marine fish and invertebrate resilience to the effects of a warming ocean and characterizes risks posed to individual species,” said Jon Hare, a fisheries oceanographer at NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) and lead author of the study. “This work will help us better account for the effects of warming waters on our fishery species in stock assessments and when developing fishery management measures.” 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

Study: Most ocean fish still tainted by toxic chemicals, but levels are gradually decreasing

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Levels of pollutants in seafood vary widely in different regions. @bberwyn photo.

More research needed to determine risk to consumers

Staff Report

Fish in all the world’s oceans are still tainted by a stew of potentially toxic chemicals, but concentrations of the pollutants have decreased in the past 30 years, according to a new study by researchers with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

The scientists said their findings included both good and bad news. On the up side, the findings suggest that the global community responded to the calls-to-action, such as in the Stockholm Convention, to limit the release of potentially harmful chemicals into the environment. 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

CO2 could take huge toll on ocean fish by mid-century

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Can the world’s oceans survive the global warming era?

Not much time left to cut greenhouse gas pollution

Staff Report

Building levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans could have a widespread and devastating effect on many fish by 2050, Australian researchers warned in a new study.

“Our results were staggering and have massive implications for global fisheries and marine ecosystems across the planet,” said Dr. Ben McNeil, a researcher at the University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre. “High concentrations of carbon dioxide cause fish to become intoxicated … a phenomenon known as hypercapnia. Essentially, the fish become lost at sea. The carbon dioxide affects their brains and they lose their sense of direction and ability to find their way home. They don’t even know where their predators are,” McNeil said. Continue reading

Algae toxin found in West Coast fish for first time

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A series of Landsat 8 images captures the scope of the algae blooms off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Global warming is poisoning the seas

Staff Report

Warm ocean temperatures in the Pacific led to what researchers now are calling an unprecedented bloom of toxic algae along the west coast of North America in 2015. The algal toxin domoic acid was found in samples from a wide range of marine organisms — and for the first time, in the muscle tissue of several commercial fish species.

Scientists from the University of California, Santa Cruz led the investigations into the spread of the toxin through the marine food web, finding that it persisted in Dungeness crab months after the algal bloom disappeared from coastal waters.

Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin produced by a type of microscopic algae called Pseudo-nitzschia that occurs naturally in coastal waters. Blooms of the toxic algae along the California coast typically occur in the spring and fall and last just a few weeks. This year, however, unusual oceanographic conditions (unrelated to El Niño) led to the largest and longest-lasting bloom ever recorded. Continue reading

Fukushima radioactive contamination still increasing off West Coast of U.S.

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Radioactive contamination from the Fukushima disaster lingers in the Pacific Ocean.

Readings still far below official safety limits

Staff Report

Continued monitoring in the Pacific Ocean shows that radioactive contamination from the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster is still spreading eastward.

An increased number of sites off the US West Coast are showing signs of contamination, includes the highest detected level to date from a sample collected about 1,600 miles west of San Francisco. Continue reading

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