Feds eye more critical habitat for Pacific Northwest orcas

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Public input wanted: final decision due in 2017

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal biologists will study whether more critical habitat could benefit an endangered group of killer whales that roams the ocean off the Pacific Northwest, from Puget Sound down to northern California.

Wildlife conservation advocates last year petitioned NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Service, seeking critical habitat designation for the whales’ winter foraging range off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California. Documents related to the process are compiled here. Continue reading

Global warming: Where have all the sardines gone?

Trying to hack the climate by introducing fertilizers to induce alge bloom could have serious consequences.

Sardines and other commercially important fish are moving north in response to global warming.

Study tracks temperature-driven shift in Atlantic Ocean fish populations

Staff Report

FRISCO — For centuries, sardines, anchovies and mackerels have been critically important species for coastal communities, but global warming is chasing the fish northward. Some fishing towns may be facing make big economic adjustments in coming decades, according to researchers who carefully crunched the numbers for 40 years worth of fishing records.

The new study warned that the changes in such an important ecological group “will have an effect on the structure and functioning of the whole ecosystem.” Continue reading

Is it time to rethink governance of high-seas fisheries?

‘We should use international waters as the world’s fish bank …’

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Shrimp boats in Apalachicola, Florida. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Growing exploitation of open-ocean resources will soon require  the world to rethink the way it manages the high seas, including a potential ban on commercial fishing that would help distribute fisheries income more equitably among the world’s maritime nations, according to research from the University of British Columbia.

After studying fisheries data, the researchers concluded that maintaining or boosting fish stocks in the high seas would help boost coastal fisheries. If increased spillover of fish stocks from protected international waters were to boost coastal catches by 18 per cent, current global catches would be maintained. When the researchers modeled less conservative estimates of stock spillover, catches in coastal waters surpassed current global levels. Continue reading

Environment: Study says at least 5 million metric tons of plastic waste entering the world’s oceans each year

‘We’re being overwhelmed by our waste’

86597_webStaff Report

FRISCO — There are plenty of studies showing how hundreds of ocean species, from zooplankton to marine mammals, are affected by the plastic waste that keeps accumulating in the world’s oceans, and the problem is likely to get worse before it gets better. Continue reading

Sonar study finds blue whale ‘hotspots’ in Southern Ocean

Whale populations around Antarctica still rebounding from industrial whaling era

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New sonar techniques could help pinpoint blue whale numbers in the Southern Ocean and identify important habitat. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — After a century of relentless industrial whaling, blue whales were nearly extirpated from the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, The giant marine mammal is now making a comeback, and resurgent whale numbers could affect other parts of the ecosystem.

Other recent research has shown blue whale numbers rebounding off the coast of California, and biologists with the British Antarctic Survey recently reported that satellite technology could also help count whales.

But for the Southern Ocean, scientists don’t have a good grasp of population numbers. Between 1978 and 2010 blue whale surveys recorded only 216 visual encounters, so new research by Australian scientists may help identify important habitat areas and pinpoint numbers, which helps inform conservation strategies, with several large marine protected areas in the works for Antarctica. Continue reading

Oceans: Biologists report progress on abalone restoration

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A world without abalone?

Improved hatchery spawning and rearing may help rebuild populations

Staff Report

FRISCO — West Coast fisheries biologists say they’re making progress toward restoring abalone populations with improved laboratory spawning and rearing. If the shellfish can withstand the effects of ocean acidification, resource managers may be able to rebuild populations off the coast of California. Continue reading

Study finds massive amounts of oil from Deepwater Horizon disaster buried in Gulf of Mexico sediments

Oil spreading across the Gulf of Mexico in July, 2009. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

A NASA satellite image shows oil spreading across the Gulf of Mexico.

‘It’s a conduit for contamination into the food web …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Five years after BP’s failed Deepwater Horizon drill rig spewed 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, a significant amount of that oil remains buried in seafloor sediments.

A new study by a Florida State University researcher estimates that about 6 to 10 million gallons of oil are still there, perhaps decomposing slowly, but probably affecting Gulf ecosystems.

“This is going to affect the Gulf for years to come,” said researcher Jeff Chanton. “Fish will likely ingest contaminants because worms ingest the sediment, and fish eat the worms. It’s a conduit for contamination into the food web,” he said. Continue reading

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