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Feds launch ocean biodiversity monitoring network

A pelican perch along the coast in Englewood, Florida.

A pelican perches along the coast in Englewood, Florida.

Florida, California and Alaska sites will host pilot phase of research effort

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal agencies are launching an ambitious $17 million pilot project to monitor ocean biodiversity, recognizing that fragile coastal and marine ecosystems face increasing threats, including climate change.

“To mitigate and adapt to such threats, we need a fuller, more integrated, picture of how the biodiversity within these ecosystems may be changing, especially since marine biodiversity is a key indicator of ocean health and critical to sustaining natural resources such as fisheries,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a press release. Continue reading

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New governance model needed for sustainable fisheries

Trawl nets grab any and all forms of marine life, laying waste to the ocean floor. The total area bottom trawled is nearly 150 times the area of forest that is clearcut annually around the world. Credit: Sarah Foster

Trawl nets grab any and all forms of marine life, laying waste to the ocean floor. The total area bottom trawled is nearly 150 times the area of forest that is clearcut annually around the world.
Credit: Sarah Foster

Focus on large commercial fishing operations misses big part of the picture

Staff Report

FRISCO — Ignoring small-scale fisheries risks irreversible harm to ocean ecosystems, scientists warned this week, calling for on governments to adopt new models for regulating small coastal fishing operations that account for about 90 percent of the world’s fishers — about 100 million strong.

Most of those fishermen depend on the ocean for their livelihoods and many catch fish and other marine animals at unsustainable levels. Governments, conservationists, and researchers around the world must address the enormous threat posed by these unregulated and destructive fisheries, marine scientists wrote in Science. Continue reading

Environment: Report warns against unsustainable exploitation of deep ocean resources

global warming ocean changes

Unchecked exploitation of deep ocean resources could have unforeseen impacts, researchers warn.

Planning should include consideration of deep-ocean ecosystem benefits

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists are warning against unchecked exploitation of deep ocean resources in the coming decades, saying that the lack of a regulatory framework for areas outside territorial waters opens the door for unsustainable development.

The analysis, published in Biogeosciences, outline the societal benefits of the deep oceans.

“The deep sea is the largest habitat on Earth, it is incredibly important to humans and it is facing a variety of stressors from increased human exploitation to impacts from climate change,” said Andrew Thurber, an Oregon State University marine scientist and lead author on the study. “As we embark upon greater exploitation of this vast environment and start thinking about conserving its resources, it is imperative to know what this habitat already does for us,” Thurber said. Continue reading

Study tracks big drop in Pacific walrus numbers

PHOTO: U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY Melting Arctic sea ice is forcing walrus colonies into a shore-bound existence to which they aren't adapted. Scientists say they've documented several cases of young calves being trampled in stampedes.

 Melting Arctic sea ice is forcing walrus colonies into a shore-bound existence to which they aren’t adapted. Photo courtesy USGS.

Melting sea ice likely a factor in population decline

Staff Report

FRISCO — With a 2017 endangered species listing deadline looming, federal researchers are trying to pinpoint Pacific walrus population numbers. In the newest study, the U.S. Geological Survey said the population dropped by about half between 1981 and 1999, but scientists aren’t sure if the numbers have stabilized since then.

in 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged that the species was under pressure from sea ice loss and over-harvesting, but didn’t formally add the Pacific walrus to the endangered species list. A federal court said the agency must make a final determination by 2017. Continue reading

New mapping traces origins of ocean debris

Ocean boundaries redefined

Patches of plastic debris accumulate where they are concentrated by ocean currents.

Patches of plastic debris accumulate where they are concentrated by ocean currents.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Shredded bits of plastic now outweigh plankton in parts of the Pacific Ocean, posing a growing risk to to fish, turtles and birds that eat the trash. Efforts to limit the debris haven’t progressed much in the past few years, but new modeling of ocean currents may help researchers determine exactly where the waste is coming from.

“In some cases, you can have a country far away from a garbage patch that’s unexpectedly contributing directly to the patch,” said Gary Froyland, a mathematician at Australia’s University of New South Wales.

For example, the ocean debris from Madagascar and Mozambique would most likely flow into the south Atlantic, even though the two countries’ coastlines border the Indian Ocean. Continue reading

Environment: It pays to clean up beaches

Study shows costs of coastal litter

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Beach-goers tend to avoid dirty beaches, even it means driving farther and spending more money to find a clean spot. bberwyn photo.

STAFF REPORT

FRISCO —Littered beaches are a costly economic liability in California, as beach-goers tend to avoid local beaches if they’re dirty. The economic study, funded by NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, showed that having no marine debris on the beach and good water quality were the two most important factors in deciding which beach to go to.

Given the enormous popularity of beach recreation throughout the United States, the magnitude of recreational economic losses associated with marine debris has the potential to be substantial.  Continue reading

Oceans: Pacific bluefin tuna on the brink as feds seek input on new fishing regulations

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Even the imminent decimation of tuna populations hasn’t stopped sport fishermen from harvesting the desirable fish in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere. bberwyn photo.

Not enough adults left to replenish populations

Staff Report

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FRISCO — Pacific bluefin tuna won’t last long at any sustainable level without immediate and drastic intervention by fisheries managers, according to ocean advocates who are urging the federal government to adopt strict limits on bluefin tuna catch.

Overall, many tuna populations are on the brink of collapse. Five of eight tuna species have been assigned threatened or near-threatened status on the international Red List maintained by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

In the Gulf of Mexico, for example, the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster spewed millions of gallons of oil into the species’ prime breeding grounds, and a 2010 report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists showed how illegal fishing and inadequate enforcement are decimating tuna stocks all over the world. Continue reading

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