Posted on June 17, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Are Pacific Ocean great white sharks endangered?
New study suggests there’s no need for endangered species listing
FRISCO — While California is considering endangered species status for great white sharks, some recent research suggests the apex ocean predators are doing just fine, and that populations appear to be growing.
George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, said the wide-ranging study is good news for shark conservation. The study, to be published June 16 in the journal PLOS ONE, shows that conservation measures are working.
Scientists reanalyzed 3-year-old research that indicated white shark numbers in the Eastern North Pacific were alarmingly low, with only 219 counted at two sites. That study triggered petitions to list white sharks as endangered.
“White sharks are the largest and most charismatic of the predator sharks, and the poster child for sharks and the oceans in general,” said Burgess, whose research program is based at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. “If something is wrong with the largest, most powerful group in the sea, then something is wrong with the sea, so it’s a relief to find they’re in good shape.” Continue reading
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Posted on June 7, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
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.
Biologists fully expecting local extinctions
FRISCO — As scientists continue to puzzle over the cause of a devastating starfish disease, the outbreak this month spread rapidly north along the coast of Oregon, where ocean experts are now expecting a widespread die-off with some local extinctions of starfish possible.
Sea star wasting syndrome is a traumatic process in which, over the course of a week or less, the sea stars begin to lose legs, disintegrate, ultimately die and rot. They sometimes physically tear their bodies apart. Various epidemics of the syndrome have been observed in the past, but none of this extent or severity, according to information released by Oregon State University. Continue reading
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Posted on May 27, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Northern and southern humpbacks rarely mingle
A humpback whale near Hawaii. Photo courtesy NOAA.
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Humpback whales in the North Pacific, the North Atlantic and the Southern Ocean are much more genetically distinct than previously thought, and should be recognized as separate subspecies, according to biologists who carefully analyzed DNA from hundreds of whales around the world.
The findings could bolster conservation strategies for the whales, which were nearly hunted to extinction during the 20th century. While some humpback whale populations have made a strong recovery since the end of the whaling era, other isolated populations may need additional help to recover.
The findings could help federal biologists in the U.S. as they consider a proposal to designate North Pacific humpbacks as a single “distinct population segment” under the Endangered Species Act and illustrate the complexity studying and managing marine mammals on a global scale.
The bottom line, according to the paper published last week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B last week, is that humpback whales of the North Pacific, North Atlantic and Southern Hemisphere are on independent evolutionary trajectories. Continue reading
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Posted on May 2, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
This shows litter items on the seafloor of European waters. Clockwise from top left i) Plastic bag recorded by an OFOS at the HAUSGARTEN observatory (Arctic) at 2500 m; ii = Litter recovered within the net of a trawl in Blanes open slope at 1500 m during the PROMETO 5 cruise on board the R/V “García del Cid”; iii) Cargo net entangled in a cold-water coral colony at 950 m in Darwin Mound with the ROV “Lynx” (National Oceanography Centre, UK). iv) “Heineken” beer can in the upper Whittard canyon at 950 m water depth with the ROV Genesis. Image credit: Pham CK et al. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0095839
Researchers find human garbage from the Arctic to the Azores
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — For all our efforts to contain civilization’s refuse, a lot of it is still ending up in the world’s oceans. The giant swirling garbage patches of the surface have been well documented and a new study shows that you can also find bottles, plastic bags, fishing nets and other types of human litter in deep sea trenches and even along the remote mid-Atlantic Ridge.
In some areas, generally within 100 miles of shore, the scientists found litter at the rate of about 20 pieces per hectare (about 2.5 acres) and even at the lowest density sites in more remote areas, the survey found about two pieces of garbage per hectare, said Kerry Howell, associate professor at Plymouth University’s Marine Institute.
“This survey has shown that human litter is present in all marine habitats, from beaches to the most remote and deepest parts of the oceans,” Howell said. “Most of the deep sea remains unexplored by humans and these are our first visits to many of these sites, but we were shocked to find that our rubbish has got there before us.” Continue reading
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Posted on April 29, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Orcas along the coast of the Pacific Northwest may get more protected habitat. Photo courtesy NOAA.
Feds to consider expanded habitat protections for endangered resident population of killer whales
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Federal biologists will take another look at an endangered population of killer whales off the West Coast to determine whether they need more critical habitat.
The southern resident population of the marine mammals, based in Puget Sound, range along the Pacific Coast. A critical habitat expansion would protect winter foraging range off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, which spurred the review with a formal petition.
“Despite nearly a decade of federal protection, the Puget Sound’s orca population remains perilously small, hovering around only 80 animals,” said Sarah Uhlemann, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This proposal is an important step toward recovery and will help the whales stave off extinction.” Continue reading
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Posted on April 24, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
New data could help minke whale conservation efforts
A group of Antarctic minke whales, which have been identified as the source of a mysterious sound in the Southern Ocean. Photo courtesy Ari S. Friedlaender, Oregon State University.
FRISCO — If you’ve ever heard mysterious sounds that you can’t identify, you’re not alone. For decades, researchers have tried to trace the source of a unique rhythmic sound in the remote Southern Ocean that’s often been recorded, but never definitively pinpointed — until now.
This week, scientists with NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center said the sound is generated by the Antarctic Minke whale, the smallest of the “great whales” or rorquals, a group that includes the blue whale, Bryde’s whale, and humpback, fin, and sei whales. Rorqual whales are relatively streamlined in appearance, have pointed heads and, with the exception of humpback whales, small pointed fins. Continue reading
Filed under: Antarctica, biodiversity, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation, Uncategorized | Tagged: biodiversity, minke whales, Southern Ocean | Leave a comment »
Posted on March 23, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
A leatherback sea turtle at sea. Photo courtesy NOAA.
New study to help inform conservation efforts along East Coast and Caribbean
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Threatened leatherback sea turtles like to hang out off the northeastern U.S. coast in late summer and fall, when mature jellyfish are abundant in the area, scientists said last week, sharing the results of a long-term study based on satellite data of tagged sea turtles.
“Our study provides new insights about how male and immature turtles behave, how they use their habitats and how that differs from adult females,” said University of Massachusetts researcher Kara Dodge. “Resource managers for protected marine species have lacked this key understanding, especially in coastal regions of the U.S. and Caribbean where leatherbacks and intense human activity coincide.” Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: biodiversit, leatherback sea turtles, marine conservation, oceans | 1 Comment »