Oceans: U.S. takes small step toward controlling unregulated commercial fishing

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A fisherman in Slovenia tends his nets. bberwyn photo.

Presidential task force unveils proposal for seafood tracking program, more international cooperation

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Obama administration last week took a small step toward addressing illegal fishing and widespread seafood fraud. A set of recommendations by a presidential task force includes creation of a “risk-based traceability program” to prevent illegal seafood products from reaching the supply chain. Continue reading

Study: Federal regulations alone won’t help Hawaii spinner dolphins

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Spinner dolphin. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Duke University researchers say community based conservation measures also needed

Staff Report

FRISCO —Hawaii’s spinner dolphins need federal regulations limiting human access to resting areas, but that alone won’t be enough to help them survive in the long run. Along with any new federal rules, resource managers will also have to work to develop local community-based conservation measures, which can be tailored to how individual bays are used, according to new research by Duke University.

Federal biologists estimate there are about 3,000 spinner dolphins around Hawaii, where hundreds of thousands of tourists pay for up-close encounters with the animals, swimming with them in shallow bays the dolphins use as safe havens for daytime rest. But as the number of tours increases, so do the pressures they place on the resting dolphins. Continue reading

Feds taking input on new Florida manatee plan

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Manatees at Crystal Springs, Florida. bberwyn photo.

Refuge managers seek to balance protection of marine mammals with demand for public access at Three Sisters Springs

Staff Report

FRISCO — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says a careful management plan at a freshwater spring in Florida can help protect manatees and ensure public access to the popular Three Sisters Springs recreation area.

The agency this week started taking input on a draft environmental assessment for management actions to protect manatees and still allow public access at Three Sisters Springs during the winter season. Continue reading

Study pinpoints threats to Mediterranean dolphins

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Can Mediterranean dolphins survive the rising tide of tourism? bberwyn photo.

Pollution, boat strikes contribute to decline of Balearic population

Staff Report

FRISCO — Growing tourism, fishing, pollution and general marine traffic is threatening a small population of bottlenose dolphins living in coastal waters off the Pityusic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, according to a study led by University of Barcelona researchers.

The biologists said they were able for the first time to get an accurate population count of the dolphins during spring and summer, crucial seasons for the marine mammals. Continue reading

Environment: “Microplastics are everywhere’

The five major ocean gyres.

The five major ocean gyres.

Plastic waste infiltrating many ocean ecosystems

Staff Report

FRISCO — Plastic pollution is far more widespread and prevalent in all the world’s oceans than more previously believed.  Far from being contained in several well-known ocean garbage patches, those “gyres” are acting like shredders, breaking the pollution in smaller bits that are subsequently transported far and wide.

“When the 5 Gyres Institute formed in 2008, we set out to answer a basic question: how much plastic is out there?” said the group’s research director, Dr. Marcus Eriksen. “There was no data from the Southern Hemisphere, Western Pacific or Eastern Atlantic. We’ve found microplastic ocean pollution, in varying concentrations, everywhere in the world.” Continue reading

Oceans: Will new regs ease pressure on Atlantic bluefin tuna?

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Atlantic bluefin tuna are in trouble. Photo courtesy NOAA.

NOAA amends rules to protect Gulf of Mexico spawning areas

Staff Report

Federal resource managers this week said they’ll tweak fishing regulations to try and protect Atlantic bluefin tuna to help ensure compliance with international quotas set to maintain sustainable stocks of the commercially valuable fish.

The species is categorized as endangered on the IUCN red list. By some estimates, there has been a global decline of between 29 percent and 51 percent based on summed spawning stock biomass from both the Western and Eastern stocks over the past 21–39 years. Continue reading

Study: Human activities having a big impact on Pacific Ocean nitrogen cycle

At home in the ocean.

Along with changes to the carbon cycle, human activities are changing the net nitrogen balance of the Pacific Ocean.

‘The North Pacific is so vast it is hard to imagine that humans could impact the natural nitrogen cycle’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists studying the North Pacific Ocean said this week they were surprised to find a significant human impact to the upper ocean nitrogen cycle, primarily resulting from industrial and agricultural emissions.

The rate of deposition of reactive nitrogen (i.e., nitrogen oxides from fossil fuel burning and ammonia compounds from fertilizer use) from the atmosphere to the open ocean has more than doubled globally over the last 100 years. Continue reading

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