Climate: Conservation group tries new path to limiting CO2 emissions

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Increasingly corrosive ocean waters pose a serious threat to shell-building species and other marine life.

‘Future generations will look back and wonder why we didn’t do everything we could to save the world’s oceans …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Citing the growing threat to the world’s oceans, environmental advocates want the federal government to regulate carbon dioxide under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The regulations have been used to limit emissions of other harmful chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons, PCBs and asbestos.

“Time’s running out to avoid a mass extinction of wildlife in our oceans,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It may not look like a toxic chemical, but when there’s too much CO2 in the ocean, it turns seawater corrosive and dissolves the protective shells that marine animals need to survive,” Sakashita said. Continue reading

Acoustic survey tracks whale population trends along the coast of Southern California

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.

Blue whale numbers holding steady; fin whales increasing

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new acoustic survey in Southern California coastal waters is helping researchers track whale populations.

The data analyzed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego suggests that blue whale numbers are holding steady, while the number of fin whales is increasing.

Both species are often seen in the Southern California Bight, the curved region of California coastline with offshore waters extending from San Diego to Point Conception (near Santa Barbara, Calif.), but little is known about their use of the area, where ever-increasing ship traffic has raised concerns about collisions between whales and boats. Continue reading

Key Biscayne National Park establishes new marine reserve to try and restore coral reef ecosystem

A spiny lobster in the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary. Photo courtesy NOAA.

A spiny lobster in the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary, where protective management has helped rebuild fish stocks. Key Biscayne National Park hopes that a new protected area will help restore coral reefs. Photo courtesy NOAA.

No-fishing zone seen as key piece of new management plan

Staff Report

FRISCO — The National Park Service says a 10,000-acre no-fishing zone will help restore the heart of Key Biscayne National Park’s coral reef ecosystem and boost fish populations in surrounding waters.

The new marine reserve was announced earlier this month as part of an updated management plan for the popular park near Miami. The no–fishing zone covers about 6 percent of the park’s waters. Some other ecologically important shoreline areas will be protected by slow-speed, no-wake, and no-motor zones to benefit seagrass beds, manatees, mangroves and nesting birds. Continue reading

Environment: Scientists investigate unusual spate of endangered fin whale deaths in coastal Alaskan waters

9 whales died about the same time around Kodiak Island

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The first of several dead fin whales, later named FW01, floats outside Marmot Bay on May 23. Credit courtesy of MV Kennicott crew and NOAA.

Why did a large number of endangered fin whales die in the waters around Kodiak Island? Map courtesy Wikipedia.

Why did a large number of endangered fin whales die in the waters around Kodiak Island? Map courtesy Wikipedia.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Marine researchers in Alaska are investigating the death of at least nine endangered fin whales in the ocean between  Kodiak to Unimak Pass since late May.

“It is an unusual and mysterious event that appears to have happened around Memorial Day weekend,” said Kate Wynne, an Alaska Sea Grant marine mammal specialist and University of Alaska Fairbanks professor. “We rarely see more than one fin whale carcass every couple of years.”

Fin whales, an endangered species, grow to 70 feet long. They use baleen in their mouths to strain copepods, krill and small fish from seawater. The whales feed in tight formations, so Wynne thinks the dead whales could have consumed something toxic around the week of May 20. Continue reading

Oceans: Scientists track spread of toxic algae along West Coast

Is the outbreak linked to global warming?

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Ocean temperatures along the west coast of North America have been well above average for many months, possibly contributing to a widespread outbreak of toxin-producing algae.

A nice haul of blue crabs.

Crab fishing and other seafood harvesting has been shut down along the West Coast because of an algae outbreak.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Top federal scientists suspect that a widespread bloom of toxin-producing algae along the West Coast is linked to months of well above-average ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific, but say it’s too early to tell for sure.

The researchers may know more in a few months, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle is mobilizing extra scientists to track the widespread algal bloom along much of the West Coast. The epidemic has triggered numerous closures of important shellfish fisheries in Washington, Oregon and California. Continue reading

Environment: GOP takes aim at ocean protections

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Commercial shrimp boats at anchor in Appalichicola, Florida. @bberwyn photo.

Proposed House measure would threaten decades of progress on restoring fisheries

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — After years of attacking public land protections with little to show for their efforts, anti-environmental Republicans in Congress are now taking aim at the oceans.

House Resolution 1335, cooked up in the witch’s kitchen of the House Natural Resources Committee, would slash rules that, for decades, have helped rebuild fisheries and protected ocean species from extinction. Continue reading

Are hungry seals hampering Scottish cod recovery?

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Atlantic cod.

‘We may have to live with smaller cod stocks if we want to protect our seals’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Efforts to rebuild commercially important cod stocks off the west coast of Scotland have been hampered by hungry seals, scientists said. The research by marine biologists at the  University of Strathclyde suggests that, as fishermen have cut back on their catches by half, predation by seals has rapidly increased.

The seals may be consuming more than 40 percent of the total stock of cod, up to  7,000 tons per year off the west of Scotland, where landed catches now amount to only a few hundred tons. The research paper has been published in the Journal of Applied Ecology. Continue reading

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