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

Feds publish recovery plan for endangered corals

‘The clock is ticking …’

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Caribbean corals are under the gun from global warming and local threats.

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Can elkhorn coral be saved?

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal scientists say it may be possible to save the fantastic undersea gardens of elkhorn and staghorn corals, but continuing increases of heat-trapping greenhouse gases will impede that recovery.

The findings are outlined in a recovery plan for the corals, which were put on the Endangered Species List in 2006 after a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity. Continue reading

Environment: Scientists say proposed seismic testing off the Atlantic Coast would be devastating to marine life

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Whales and other marine mammals would take a big hit from millions of air gun blasts proposed to uncover fossil fuel deposits beneath the sea floor of the Atlantic. Photo courtesy Tim Cole, NMFS.

Air gun blasting has a huge environmental footprint and poses ‘unacceptable risks’ to marine life

Staff Report

FRISCO — Proposed seismic testing for oil and gas beneath the Atlantic Ocean floor is likely to have significant, long-lasting, and widespread impacts on the reproduction and survival of fish and marine mammals, scientists warned last week in a letter to President Barack Obama.

The letter was written in response to the administration’s announcement last month that it will, for the first time, open areas off the U.S. mid-Atlantic and south Atlantic coasts for fossil fuel exploitation. Continue reading

Science team maps key ocean areas for marine mammals

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Marine mammals are under pressure from human activities in the oceans around the U.S. bberwyn photo.

With more offshore drilling on tap, regulators need more information to protect marine life

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with a few small pockets of ocean already protected for marine mammals, biologists say there are hundreds of other areas that should be considered biologically important when making management and regulatory decisions about human activities that could affect whales, dolphins and porpoises.

The creation of Biologically Important Areas (BIAs) are described in a special issue of the journal Aquatic Mammals. Expert judgment was combined with published and unpublished data to identify 131 BIAs covering 24 species, stocks or populations in seven regions of the U.S. Continue reading

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

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