Scientists search for ‘acoustic wilderness’ in the oceans


A supply ship lumbers through the biodiverse waters of the Antarctic Sound. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Ocean scientists are advocating for the designation of quiet zones to help gain a better understanding of how noise pollution affects marine life.

Creating areas where ship traffic is limited would help researchers find the best way to protect marine life from harmful noise, according to a new study published in the journal  Marine Pollution Bulletin. By assigning zones through which ships cannot travel, researchers can help find the best way to protect marine life from harmful noise.

Almost all marine organisms, including mammals like whales and dolphins, fish and even invertebrates, use sound to find food, avoid predators, choose mates and navigate. Chronic noise from human activities such as shipping can have a big impact on these animals, since it interferes with their acoustic signaling. Increased background noise can mean animals are unable to hear important signals, and they tend to swim away from sources of noise, disrupting their normal behavior. Continue reading

Study offer new clues in sea star wasting epidemic

Northern rainbow star afflicted with sea star wasting disease. This species had virtually disappeared from central California kelp forests as of February 2014. Photo: Steve Lonhart / NOAA MBNMS

A northern rainbow star afflicted with sea star wasting disease. This species had virtually disappeared from central California kelp forests as of February 2014. Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA MBNMS.

Unique student research project tracks immune response to virus at genetic level

Staff Report

Biological sleuthing by a group of young marine-disease researchers from around the country may help solve the mystery of a massive sea star die-off along the West Coast.

Millions of the animals have died the past few years. Scientists still don’t why. They suspect a common ocean virus is at fault, and the new study, published this week in PLOS ONE, has contributed key information about the sea stars’ immune response when infected with this virus, which causes the marine creatures to develops white lesions on its limbs and within days dissolve or  into a gooey mass. Continue reading

Chile creates largest marine preserve in the Americas

 Photo courtesy Enric Sala/National Geographic

A new marine park off the coast of Chile will help protect important ocean resources. Photo courtesy Enric Sala/National Geographic.

‘A gift to the world …’

Staff Report

The creation of the world’s largest marine park in the Americas could help rebuild fish stocks off the coast of South America, ocean experts said this week, hailing Chile’s announcement that it will protect 297,518 square kilometers as a no-take zone. With the formation of Nazca-Desventuradas, Chile will now protect 12 percent of its marine surface area

 “Chile is one of the world’s primary fishing countries,” said Alex Muñoz, vice president for Oceana in Chile. “With the creation of this large marine park, Chile also becomes a world leader in marine conservation.” Continue reading

Court orders U.S. Navy to cut sonar testing, explosives use in key marine mammal areas


Marine mammals around California and Hawaii will get some relief from U.S. Navy training exercises. @bberwyn photo.

‘If a whale or dolphin can’t hear, it can’t survive …’

Staff Report

Whale and dolphins off the coast of California and Hawaii will get temporary protection from naval warfare training activities under a federal court settlement that restricts sonar training and the use of powerful explosives in some areas.

The settlement is in response to a lawsuit from a coalition of activist groups that has been sparring with the U.S. Navy over the issue for about 10 years. The court previously found that the Navy’s activities illegally harm more than 60 separate populations of whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions.

Continue reading

Study suggests oil spill impacts linger for decades


The Exxon Valdez oil spill likely affected fish populations for decades. Photo via NOAA.

Exxon Valdez oil spill fingered in decline of herring, salmon populations

Staff Report

FRISCO — Long-term research that followed up on the impacts of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill suggests that fish and other marine organisms may feel the effects of low levels of toxic crude oil for much longer than previously believed.

The new study shows that embryonic salmon and herring exposed to very low levels of crude oil can develop hidden heart defects that compromise their later survival. The findings, published this week in the online journal Scientific Reports suggest that the delayed effects of the spill may have been important contributors to the decline of some fish populations. Continue reading

Global warming to drive massive ocean biodiversity shift


Where will fish go as the oceans warm?

Changes will come at unprecedented pace

Staff Report

FRISCO — Ocean biodiversity is set to change at an unprecedented pace, a team of researchers said in a new study after modeling how global warming will affect some 13,000 ocean species.

The findings reinforce a large body of previous research showing that, in general, many fish will move toward toward the poles looking for cooler water. The researchers pointed out that similar redistributions have happened before — but always on a geological timescale spanning millions of years. Continue reading

Environment: Scientists say global standards for ocean noise pollution are needed to protect marine life

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

Ocean noise pollution hinders communication among whales, and likely impairs their ability to navigate and feed.

Increase in seismic blasting raises concerns

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists say new global regulations on ocean noise pollution are needed to protect marine life.

Governments and industries around the world are expanding the use of high-decibel seismic surveys to explore the ocean bottom for resources, potentially putting whales and other animals at risk.

To reduce the risks, the experts recommended that ocean noise be recognized globally as a pollutant — something the European Union has already done — and managed through a revision to the existing International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. Continue reading


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