Environment: Green sea turtles making a comeback

Federal biologists proposal to revamp endangered species listing recognizes conservation progress and allows for more site-specific management

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A green sea turtle swims near the seafloor of the Pacific. Photo courtesy Andy Bruckner/NOAA.

Staff Report

* More Summit Voice stories about sea turtles

FRISCO — Conservation and recovery efforts under the Endangered Species Act have helped green sea turtles around Florida and Mexico’s Pacific Coast recover to the point that federal biologists have proposed downlisting the species from endangered to threatened. Continue reading

Study tracks blue whales across Southern Ocean

New data will help shape conservation efforts in the waters around Antarctica

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

Australian and New Zealand researchers have tracked blue whales across thousands of miles in the Southern Ocean to help inform conservation efforts. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — As a keystone species in marine ecosystems, blue whales have a significant impact in the ocean around Antarctica, but the population dynamics of the species in the region are still a mystery as the marine mammals recover from the decimation of the whaling era.

That may change following the recent six-week Australia-New Zealand Antarctic Ecosystem Voyage voyage, as researchers tracked the world’s largest creatures across thousands of miles of ocean, detecting their songs from as far as 750 kilometers away. Continue reading

Scientists see ‘unprecedented changes’ in productivity as oceans temps off West Coast go off the charts

Many sea lion pups in California's Channel Islands are underweight and are washing up on beaches starving are dead. Biologists suspect unusually warm ocean conditions are reducing marine productivity, causing female sea lions to struggle to find sufficient food to nurse the pups. For further details http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/News/CA_sea_lions.htm

Many sea lion pups in California’s Channel Islands are underweight and are washing up on beaches starving are dead. Biologists suspect unusually warm ocean conditions are reducing marine productivity, causing female sea lions to struggle to find sufficient food to nurse the pups. Photo courtesy NOAA.

‘We are seeing unprecedented changes in the environment …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — California’s extended drought is at least partially driven by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific, and that warming is also have a huge impact on the ocean itself.

“We’re seeing some major environmental shifts taking place that could affect the ecosystem for years to come,” said John Stein, director of NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center. “We need to understand and consider their implications across the ecosystem, which includes communities and people.”

The shift in large-scale climate patterns is pushing the waters off the West Coast toward warmer and less productive conditions that may affect marine species from seabirds to salmon, according to the 2015 State of the California Current Report delivered to the Pacific Fishery Management Council. Continue reading

Oceans: Proposed gillnet ban may be too little, too late for critically endangered Gulf of California vaquitas

Lack of enforcement seen as stumbling block to recovery

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A vaquita in the Gulf of California. Photo courtesy NOAA/Paula Olsen.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Mexico has launched a last-ditch effort to protect the critically endangered vaquita porpoise by banning the use of gillnets in the northern Gulf of California. Conservation advocates said the ban is a step in the right direction, but expressed concern that Mexico won’t follow through with enforcement.

Vaquitas, the smallest members of the porpoise family, live only in the northern Gulf of California, generally in the vicinity of the Colorado River delta. The species has been on the Endangered Species List since 1985. Scientists say less than 100 individuals remain. Vaquitas could be extinct by 2018 without drastic conservation and recovery actions.

According to conservation biologists, the biggest threat by far to vaquitas is drowning in fishing nets. Environmental pollution, habitat degradation and inbreeding are also factors in their decline. Continue reading

Scientists say dynamic, adaptive management of ocean resources would benefit fisheries, conservation

‘We know too much about the world now to keep managing the ocean in the same old way’

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Shrimp boats in Apalachicola, Florida. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dynamic, adaptive management is needed to manage ocean resources, including protected species and commercial fisheries, according to San Diego State University researchers, who say such a shift could benefit both commercial fishing fleets and conservation-focused stakeholders.

The need for a new paradigm is illustrated by the growing threats to ocean ecosystems, including overfishing, ever-busier shipping routes, energy exploration, pollution and other consequences of ocean-based industry, according to SDSU biologist Rebecca Lewison.

There’s plenty of data available to help managers make real-time decisions, but they often can’t react quickly enough to new information, Lewison said, after outlining a framework for “dynamic ocean management” in a paper published today in the journal BioScience. Continue reading

Environment: NOAA doubles size of marine sanctuaries along northern California coast

Just 50 miles northwest of San Francisco, Cordell Bank teems with life above and below the surface. This thriving 'underwater island' is the centerpiece of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which NOAA has now expanded to protect additional areas like Bodega Canyon along the continental shelf.

Just 50 miles northwest of San Francisco, Cordell Bank teems with life above and below the surface. This thriving ‘underwater island’ is the centerpiece of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which NOAA has now expanded to protect additional areas like Bodega Canyon along the continental shelf. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones home to 25 threatened and endangered species

Staff Report

FRISCO — A pair of marine sanctuaries off the coast of northern California are doubling in size, offering more protection for globally significant and productive marine ecosystems. The sanctuaries encompass estuarine wetlands, rocky intertidal habitat, open ocean, and shallow marine banks.

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, located 42 miles north of San Francisco, will expand from 529 square miles to 1,286 square miles. Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary will expand from 1,282 square miles to 3,295 square miles of ocean and coastal waters. Continue reading

Conservation groups seek to rebuild New England cod fishery

An Atlantic cod at the Atlantic Sea-Park in Ålesund, Norway. PHOTO BY HANS-PETTER FJELD.

An Atlantic cod at the Atlantic Sea-Park in Ålesund, Norway. PHOTO BY HANS-PETTER FJELD.

Petition would end targeted fishing, lower incidental take limit

Staff Report

FRISCO — After decades of short-sighted exploitation by commercial fishing outfits, Gulf of Maine cod are at the brink of “commercial extinction,” according to conservation advocates who this month petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service today to end targeted fishing of the species.

The petition also seeks to cap the incidental catch limit at 200 metric tons. The once-plentiful fish have declined 90 percent since 1982, when monitoring began, and 77 percent in the past five years. Currently Gulf of Maine cod are at 3 percent to 4 percent of what a well-managed stock should be, the petition asserts. Continue reading

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