Posted on July 11, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Beach nesting areas, open ocean habitat protected
Room to roam for loggerheads. Photo by NOAA.
FRISCO — Loggerhead sea turtles may have a better chance of surviving — and even thriving — after federal agencies designated 685 miles of beaches along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastlines, as well as 300,000 square miles of ocean, as critical habitat. The decision came after more than five years of delays and court battles, as conservation groups sought protection for the turtles.
While the ocean habitat rule provides unprecedented habitat protection for loggerhead sea turtles, it only protects nearshore habitat for one mile off nesting beaches despite science showing the importance of habitat three miles from beaches for females and hatchlings. The rule also failed to identify critical habitat for the endangered North Pacific Ocean loggerhead, which is at risk due to Hawaii and California fisheries activities in areas overlapping with the loggerhead’s habitat. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, ocean conservation | Tagged: critical habitat, endangered species, Environment, loggerhead sea turtles, oceans | 2 Comments »
Posted on July 7, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Zoning coastal waters could help preserve marine resources for future generations. bberwyn photo.
Scientists call for ‘zoning’ of coastal waters
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Piecemeal planning and conservation efforts won’t be enough to preserve valuable ocean resources for future generations, a leading group of environmental and marine scientists said last week, calling on countries around the world to cooperate on zoning coastal waters in an approach that would mirror common land-use planning efforts.
Effective long-term conservation is crucial because about 20 percent of the world’s population — mostly in developing countries — lives within 60 miles of the coast. Growing populations and worsening climate change impacts ensure that pressures on tropical coastal waters will only grow, they warned. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, coral reefs, endangered species, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: conservation, conservation planning, ocean conservation, oceans | Leave a comment »
Posted on July 5, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
A North Atlantic right whale and calf. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.
Healthy whale populations could buffer oceans from some global warming impacts
FRISCO — Whales may play a much bigger role in ocean ecosystems than previously thought, according to a University of Vermont researcher who studied how the great cetaceans recycle and move nutrients from one region to another.
“For a long time, whales have been considered too rare to make much of a difference in the oceans,” notes University of Vermont conservation biologist Joe Roman.
That was a mistake, he said, explaining how his research shows that whales have a powerful and positive influence on the function of oceans, global carbon storage, and the health of commercial fisheries. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: carbon cycle, climate change, endangered species, Environment, oceans, whales | 1 Comment »
Posted on July 1, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
The five major ocean gyres.
‘But probably, most of the impacts taking place due to plastic pollution in the oceans are not yet known’
FRISCO — Humankind’s out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitude about garbage is slowly but surely turning the world’s oceans into a soup full of microscopic plastic particles that are probably passing into the marine food chain, Spanish scientists said this week, describing their findings from a nine-month research cruise around the world.
“Ocean currents carry plastic objects which split into smaller and smaller fragments due to solar radiation,” said Andrés Cózar, aresearcher with the University of Cadiz. “Those little pieces of plastic, known as microplastics, can last hundreds of years and were detected in 88 percent of the ocean surface sampled during the 2010 Malaspina Expedition,” Cózar said. Continue reading
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Posted on June 17, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Are Pacific Ocean great white sharks endangered?
New study suggests there’s no need for endangered species listing
FRISCO — While California is considering endangered species status for great white sharks, some recent research suggests the apex ocean predators are doing just fine, and that populations appear to be growing.
George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, said the wide-ranging study is good news for shark conservation. The study, to be published June 16 in the journal PLOS ONE, shows that conservation measures are working.
Scientists reanalyzed 3-year-old research that indicated white shark numbers in the Eastern North Pacific were alarmingly low, with only 219 counted at two sites. That study triggered petitions to list white sharks as endangered.
“White sharks are the largest and most charismatic of the predator sharks, and the poster child for sharks and the oceans in general,” said Burgess, whose research program is based at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. “If something is wrong with the largest, most powerful group in the sea, then something is wrong with the sea, so it’s a relief to find they’re in good shape.” Continue reading
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Posted on June 7, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Northern rainbow star afflicted with sea star wasting disease. This species had virtually disappeared from central California kelp forests as of February 2014. Photo: Steve Lonhart / NOAA MBNMS.
Biologists fully expecting local extinctions
FRISCO — As scientists continue to puzzle over the cause of a devastating starfish disease, the outbreak this month spread rapidly north along the coast of Oregon, where ocean experts are now expecting a widespread die-off with some local extinctions of starfish possible.
Sea star wasting syndrome is a traumatic process in which, over the course of a week or less, the sea stars begin to lose legs, disintegrate, ultimately die and rot. They sometimes physically tear their bodies apart. Various epidemics of the syndrome have been observed in the past, but none of this extent or severity, according to information released by Oregon State University. Continue reading
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Posted on May 27, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Northern and southern humpbacks rarely mingle
A humpback whale near Hawaii. Photo courtesy NOAA.
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Humpback whales in the North Pacific, the North Atlantic and the Southern Ocean are much more genetically distinct than previously thought, and should be recognized as separate subspecies, according to biologists who carefully analyzed DNA from hundreds of whales around the world.
The findings could bolster conservation strategies for the whales, which were nearly hunted to extinction during the 20th century. While some humpback whale populations have made a strong recovery since the end of the whaling era, other isolated populations may need additional help to recover.
The findings could help federal biologists in the U.S. as they consider a proposal to designate North Pacific humpbacks as a single “distinct population segment” under the Endangered Species Act and illustrate the complexity studying and managing marine mammals on a global scale.
The bottom line, according to the paper published last week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B last week, is that humpback whales of the North Pacific, North Atlantic and Southern Hemisphere are on independent evolutionary trajectories. Continue reading
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