Oceans: West Coast oysters facing multiple threats


Oysters face an uncertain future.

Climate change makes young oysters more vulnerable to invasive snails

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — West Coast oysters could be facing a double whammy of global warming and invasive snails, according researchers with University of California, Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory.

Lab tests suggests that, as oceans become more acidic from the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, oysters will be smaller, and invasive snails will take a bigger toll.

Specifically, invasive snails ate 20 percent more juvenile oysters when both species were raised under ocean conditions forecast for the end of this century The results highlight the dangers of multiple stressors on ecosystems, said Eric Sanford, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis and first author on the study. Continue reading

Oceans: Study identifies risk hotspots for leatherback sea turtles

New data could help reduce bycatch of endangered turtles



A leatherback sea turtle at sea. Photo courtesy NOAA.

A leatherback sea turtle at sea. Photo courtesy NOAA.FRISCO — A new mapping effort may help prevent accidental deaths of leatherback sea turtles, one of the most endangered animals in the world — if resource managers use the information to establish timed seasonal fishing restrictions.

By Summit Voice

The research shows use-intensity distributions for 135 satellite-tracked adult turtles and distributions of longline fishing areas in the Pacific Ocean. The overlap of these distributions in space and time allows prediction of bycatch risk.

Leatherback populations have declined by more than 90 percent since 1980. One of the greatest sources of mortality is industrial longlines that set thousands of hooks in the ocean to catch fish, but sometimes catch sea turtles as well. Using modern GPS technology, researchers are now able to predict where fisheries and turtles will interact and to reduce the unwanted capture of turtles by fishermen. Continue reading

Ocean ecosystems unraveling from overfishing

‘Tipping points are real …’

Illegal fishing threatens the viability of legal fleets. Bob Berwyn photo.

Fishing boats pierside in Apalachicola, Florida. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Over-harvesting fish in the world’s oceans has already tipped some ecosystems over the brink, according to Florida State University researchers who led a major review of fisheries data showing the domino effect that ensues when too many fish are harvested from one habitat.

The loss of a major species from an ecosystem can have unintended consequences because of the connections between that species and others in the system. Moreover, these changes often occur rapidly and unexpectedly, and are difficult to reverse.

“You don’t realize how interdependent species are until it all unravels,” said Felicia Coleman, director of the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory and a co-author on the study. Continue reading

Deep ocean ecosystems not shielded from global warming impacts

New study says ‘trickle-down’ impacts likely to have profound effect on seafloor organisms 

A Patagonian toothfish, sometimes sold in stores as Chilean sea bass. Photo by Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.

Fish dwelling deep in the ocean will also feel the impacts of global warming, according to a new study by scientists with the National Oceanography Centre. Photo by Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Warming ocean temperatures will have a cascading effect reaching even the deepest parts of the ocean, researchers with the UK’s National Oceanography Centre warned in a new paper published in the scientific journal Global Change Biology.

Their study quantifies future losses in deep-sea marine life, finding that marine life on the ocean floor will decline by up to 38 percent in the North Atlantic and by more than 5 per cent globally during the next century.

These changes will be driven by a reduction in the plants and animals that live at the surface of the oceans that feed deep-sea communities. As a result, ecosystem services such as fishing will be threatened. Continue reading

Oceans: NOAA report offers guides for sustainable aquaculture


Fish farms can be operated sustainably with good planning and best management practices, according to NOAA.

Good safeguards can help minimize environmental impacts

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Despite reported environmental problems reported with existing aquaculture operations, federal scientists say coastal fish farming can be done minimal or no harm to the coastal ocean environment.

The new report by researchers at NOAA’s National Ocean Service finds that water quality impacts are limited to slightly raised levels of nitrogen and phosphorus within a few hundred feet of aquaculture facilites, but that impacts can be limited with good planning and environmental safeguards. Continue reading

Feds say Oregon must improve coastal pollution controls


Runoff from agriculture and logging threaten marine ecosystems along the Oregon coast. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

State could lose funding for key water programs

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Oregon is at risk of losing federal funding for coastal and Clean Water Act funding if it doesn’t beef up its coastal nonpoint pollution control program, federal agencies said this week.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the EPA say the state plan doesn’t adequately address nonpoint source impacts from agricultural activities. Specifically,

Oregon needs to show how it will control impacts from logging, including measures for protecting small and medium sized streams; measures to protect landslide prone areas; and measures to address runoff from forest roads built prior to modern construction and drainage requirements. Continue reading

Environment: Dolphins hit by Deepwater Horizon spill are suffering from lung disease and hormone deficiencies

‘”I’ve never seen such a high prevalence of very sick animals …”


Oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster is making dolphins very ill.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Dolphins exposed to heavy doses of oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster are experiencing lung disease at five times the rate of dolphin populations in other areas, federal researchers reported in a new study published this week. The scientists also found that 25 percent of the Barataria Bay dolphins were significantly underweight and the population overall had very low levels of adrenal hormones, which are critical for responding to stress.

“I’ve never seen such a high prevalence of very sick animals — and with unusual conditions such as the adrenal hormone abnormalities,” said lead author Dr. Lori Schacke, who announced similar findings in March 2012. Continue reading

Environment: Loggerhead sea turtles need protection at sea and in feeding grounds, not just on nesting beaches

Loggerhead sea turtle. Photo courtesy NOAA/Marco Giuliano.

Loggerhead sea turtle. Photo courtesy NOAA/Marco Giuliano.

New research to help inform conservation

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Protecting nesting beaches is an important part of the loggerhead sea turtle recovery effort, but it may be even more critical to protect older juveniles and sub-adults to ensure they reach maturity and breed multiple times, according to new research by federal, state and university biologists.

NOAA last summer proposed designating nearshore reproductive habitat, breeding areas, and migratory corridors as critical habitat for the species.

“Our study suggests that the cumulative survival from hatchling to maturity, which may take 30 years, combined with present-day climate effects on mature females, has a greater influence on annual nesting population size than does the exclusive impact of survival during the first year of life as hatchlings,” said biologist Vincent Saba.  “The first year of life represents only 3 percent of the time elapsed through age 31.”

Saba, a research fishery biologist at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center , and his study co-authors used annual nest counts from Florida and a time-series of climate data in turtle-nesting population models. These models were then used to assess observed changes in nest counts and to project future nesting trends in the Northwest Atlantic loggerhead sea turtle population, the largest in the world. Continue reading

Conservation groups challenge feds on naval training

Lawsuit highlights potential impacts to marine mammals from sonar and underwater explosives


An orca and calf. Photo courtesy NOAA.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Conservation advocates say federal authorization of a five-year U.S. Navy plan for testing and training activities off Hawai‘i and Southern California doesn’t do nearly enough to protect marine mammals from the impacts of sonar noise and underwater explosions.

The plan acknowledges that the training could cause up 9.6 million instances of harm to whales and dolphins and other marine mammals. The use of active sonar and explosive are known to cause permanent injuries and deaths to marine mammals.

According to the lawsuit filed this week Hawai‘i federal court, the plan violates federal environmental laws. The National Marine Fisheries Service didn’t evaluate alternative plans that would have required the Navy to avoid biologically important areas, the conservation groups said in a press release. Continue reading

Climate a huge factor in endangered species managment

New research helps narrow range of outcomes for resource managers

Dolphins off the coast of Florida have been exposed to more mercury than captive dolphins fed a controlled diet. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

New research shows how global warming may affect aquatic species. bberwyn photo.

Staff report

FRISCO — The ecological playing field has changed dramatically since the Endangered Species Act was passed 40 years ago. Along with continued environmental threats like pollution and habitat loss, global warming has emerged as a huge factor in the survival of numerous species.

Resource managers and scientists are still grappling with how warmer temperatures will affect ecosystems, but the range of possible outcomes is starting to become more clear. This month, federal fisheries scientists published a series of papers outlining several scenarios for the coming decades, including case studies for species ranging from chinook salmon to steelhead to 82 different types of coral. Continue reading


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