Oceans: Whale sharks get a little love from tuna fishermen

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Whale sharks are getting some protection from purse-seining in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

New fishing regs protect world’s largest fish from harmful tuna netting practices

Staff Report

FRISCO — Whale sharks in the Pacific Ocean are getting a little help from an international fishing group that recently banned the practice of placing purse-seine tuna nets around the world’s largest fish.

Whale sharks are so docile that humans often swim alongside them without concern, snapping photographs of their incredible size. But it is exactly their enormous bulk that made them an accidental target of commercial fishermen, who know that tuna like to gather in schools around whale sharks (as well as other large floating objects).

Tuna fleets often use fish-aggregating devices to attract tuna to an area, making it easier to find and encircle the tuna in the purse seine nets much more efficient. When fishermen deploy nets around whale sharks to capture tuna swimming beneath it, the encircled whale sharks are often caught in the net, where they are injured or die. Continue reading

Oceans: What triggers phytoplankton blooms?

New study will deepen understanding of plankton’s role in global carbon cycle

A European Space Agency satellite image shows a phytoplankton bloom near the Falkland Islands.

A European Space Agency satellite image shows a phytoplankton bloom near the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Scientists working in the Gulf of Mexico are tracking BP's spilled oil as it works its way up the food web, from bacteria to plankton. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

How does ocean phytoplankton respond to global warming?

Staff Report

FRISCO — It’s well-known that ocean phytoplankton are a key link in the global carbon cycle, and a new study this year will help expand that understanding.

A researcher with Oregon State University will lead a $30 million NASA-funded study to look at a phytoplankton hot spot stretching from Woods Hole, Massachusetts to the Azores and north to Greenland’s southern tip.

The research could challenge conventional wisdom about when and why phytoplankton bloom and help show how global warming will change the oceans. Continue reading

Trade court deal to help marine mammals worldwide

I've always thought of dolphins as being all curves.

A court-ordered settlement will protect marine mammals.

Seafood imports to U.S. must meet high marine mammal protection standards

Staff Report

FRISCO — In what conservation advocates are calling a landmark settlement, the U.S. government this week agreed to implement a long-ignored provision of the Marine Mammal Protection Act that will require foreign fisheries to meet the same standards required of U.S. fishermen or be denied import privileges. Continue reading

Australian scientists trace decline of pink snapper fishery

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Study presents new evidence of unsustainable fishing.

Catch rates down by 90 percent in 100 years

Staff Report

FRISCO — Australian ocean scientists say they’ve quantified a decline in Queensland’s pink snapper fishery that resulted in a drop almost 90 percent in catch rates since the 19th century.

To trace the decline, researchers with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at the University of Queensland and the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry scoured thousands of newspaper articles dating back to1870 to reveal the historic catch rates for the iconic Queensland fishery. Continue reading

Scientists eye tsunami debris for invasive species

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NOAA is tracking marine debris from the 2011 tsunami.

Winter weather patterns expected to bring another wave of flotsam

Staff Report

FRISCO — Ocean scientists in the Pacific Northwest say winter winds and currents are set to deliver another load of debris from the deadly 2011 tsunami that swept Japan. Last year, about 30 fishing boats washed ashore along the coast of Washington and Oregon, many covered with living organisms native to Asia.

Some of the Asian coastal species could pose a threat to native ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest, said John Chapman, an Oregon State University marine invasive species specialist at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. Continue reading

Environment: Plastic microfibers building up in deep sea sediments

Do you know where your plastic shopping bag ends up?

Do you know where your plastic shopping bag ends up?

‘It is alarming to find such high levels of contamination, especially when the full effect of these plastics on the delicate balance of deep sea ecosystems is unknown’

Staff Report

FRISCO — After researchers found plastic litter even in some of the remote reaches of the Arctic Ocean a few years ago, it’s probably not surprising to learn that the deep sea is becoming a collecting ground for plastic waste.

Floating mats of plastic have become a breeding ground for bacteria that could bring invasive pathogens to the open sea, and in another study, researchers documented how crabs are ingesting plastic through their gills.

A new study, published this week in Royal Society Open Science, shows how plastic debris breaks down into microfibers that are piling up in the deepest parts of the sea. The scientists with the Plymouth University and Natural History Museum say there could be around four billion microscopic plastic fibers could be littering each square kilometer of deep sea sediment around the world. Continue reading

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

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