Education the path to more support for shark conservation

A whitetip reef shark. Photo courtesy NOAA.

A whitetip reef shark. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Study says recreational anglers need more and better info

Staff Report

A little education could go a long way toward spurring more support for shark conservation among recreational anglers, said a team of scientists who recently questioned anglers on the subject.

The study, led by University of Miami scientists, showed that recreational anglers were more supportive of shark management and conservation if they had prior knowledge of shark conservation. Continue reading

Study documents high rate of reproductive failure in dolphins hit by Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Impacts of oil pollution expected to affect Barataria Bay populations for a long time

Dolphin Y01 pushes a dead calf in March, 2013. This behavior is sometimes observed in female dolphins when their newborn calf does not survive. Credit Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

A dolphin pushes a dead calf in March, 2013. This behavior is sometimes observed in female dolphins when their newborn calf does not survive. Photo courtesy Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Staff Report

There’s already a wealth of research showing that the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was very bad for coastal dolphins. One study, for example, showed dolphins in Barataria Bay exposed to BP’s oil suffered lung disease and hormone deficiencies.

In a report released this week, a team of researchers led by National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration scientists is reporting a high rate of reproductive failure in dolphins exposed to the 2010 spill. The biologists monitored bottlenose dolphins in heavily-oiled Barataria Bay for five years following the spill. Continue reading

Do seals compete with commercial fishermen?

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Do seals compete with commercial fisheries? @bberwyn photo.

New UK study tries to answer the age-old question

Staff Report

Like in other countries, some Irish fishermen have been complaining that seals are increasingly eating up valuable commercial fish stocks, but a new scientific study says that’s generally not the case, with the possible exception of wild Atlantic salmon.

The work done by researchers with Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, shows that seals don’t have a significant impact on herring, mackerel, cod, haddock, whiting and 30 other species caught for commercial purposes along the south and west coasts of Ireland, from counties Galway to Waterford. Continue reading

Oceans: Scientists sound warning on harmful algae blooms

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A NASA satellite captured a large bloom of phytoplankton off the coast of New York and New Jersey in Aug. 2015. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

More research needed to track trends

Staff Report

Scientists tracking the northward track and seasonal shift of potentially harmful plankton are warning that the trends do not bode well for ecosystems and human health.

Presenting recent findings at an international conference, biologists said  the future may bring more harmful algal blooms and called for changes in research priorities to better forecast these long-term trends.

The intense toxic phytoplankton blooms off the west coast of North America this summer appear to be associated with unusual warming-related conditions. Scientists also suspect such blooms may be a factor in a die-off off endangered right whale calves off the coast of Argentina.

“Does this large scale harmful algal bloom provide a window into the future?” said Dr. Vera Trainer of NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center. “While it still is unclear, there is reason for substantial concern.” Continue reading

Environment: Are toxic algae blooms killing whales?

This is a right whale calf washed up at Peninsula Valdes, Argentina. New research indicates a likely connection between the deaths of hundreds such calves starting in the mid-2000s and blooms of the toxic algae Pseudo-nitzschia. Andrea Chirife, Southern Right Whale Health Monitoring Program

This is a right whale calf washed up at Peninsula Valdes, Argentina. New research indicates a likely connection between the deaths of hundreds such calves starting in the mid-2000s and blooms of the toxic algae Pseudo-nitzschia. Photo courtesy Andrea Chirife, Southern Right Whale Health Monitoring Program.

Study examines juvenile right whale deaths off coast of Argentina

Staff Report

Biologists suspect that blooms of toxic algae may have been responsible for a sudden surge in mortality among young right whales off the coast of Argentina during the past decade.

The baby whales started dying in increasing numbers in 2005, with the average number of deaths per year at Peninsula Valdes jumping more than 10-fold — from fewer than six per year before 2005 to 65 per year from 2005 to 2014.

The area is an important calving ground for southern right whales, and researchers had never seen such a dramatic spike in deaths. Even more striking, 90 percent of the deaths from 2005 to 2014 were very young calves fewer than three months old. The mystery killer appeared to be targeting the nearly newborn, sometimes more than 100 calves of the endangered species each year. Continue reading

Scientists say it’s time to step up ocean conservation efforts

The Mediterranean at Cassis, France.

The Mediterranean Sea at Cassis, France. @bberwyn photo.

‘The politics of ocean protection are too often disconnected from the science and knowledge that supports it …’

Staff Report

In a perfect world, anywhere from 10 to 50 percent of the world’s oceans would have some type of protection to help sustain ecosystems and critical resources. But while recent decades have brought some progress in ocean conservation, we’re still far from the targets set by scientists, according to a new study published in the journal Science.

Right now, about 1.6 of the world’s oceans have strong protections, lagging far behind terrestrial conservation efforts. In the new study, researchers with Oregon State University point out that numerous international policy agreements call for protection of 10 percent of coastal and marine areas by 2020. Continue reading

Global warming: Too much plankton, not enough fish

Study warns of ‘top-down’ ecosystem changes

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New research suggests a potential upheaval in ocean ecosystems due to climate change. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Global warming could lead to a “top-down” collapse of ocean ecosystems, researchers warned after showing how ocean acidification and warming are likely to cause a reduction in diversity and numbers of various key species that underpin marine ecosystems around the world.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded there is only “limited scope” for acclimation. Very few species will escape the negative effects of increasing CO2, with an expected large reduction in species diversity and abundance across the globe. One exception will be microorganisms, which are expected to increase in number and diversity.

“This ‘simplification’ of our oceans will have profound consequences for our current way of life, particularly for coastal populations and those that rely on oceans for food and trade,” said Ivan Nagelkerken, an associate professor at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

The large-scale analysis of existing research, analyzed data from 632 experiments covering tropical oceans, Arctic water and a range of ecosystems from coral reefs through kelp forests to open oceans. Continue reading

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