How will Arctic sea ice meltdown affect marine mammals?

‘These animals require sea ice …’

 Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A polar bear on Alaska’s North Slope. Photo via Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Enacting more endangered species regulations isn’t enough to reduce global warming threats to ice-dependent marine mammals in the Arctic, scientists say.

In a new report published in the journal Conservation Biology, a research team called for better monitoring, increased cooperation and more study of how increasing human activity in the Arctic will affect ecosystems.

The report assesses the status of all circumpolar species and sub-populations of Arctic marine mammals, including seals, whales and polar bears and underscores the precarious state of those mammals.

“These species are not only icons of climate change, but they are indicators of ecosystem health, and key resources for humans,” said lead author Kristin Laidre, a polar scientist with the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory. 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

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

Some lawmakers back alternate wolf conservation plan

Bipartisan letter from House members supports push to reclassify entire gray wolf population as threatened

Wolves surrounding a bison in Yellowstone National Park. PHOTO COURTESY DOUG SMITH/NPS.

Wolves surrounding a bison in Yellowstone National Park. Courtesy Doug Smith/NPS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A proposal to restructure the lawsuit-plagued recovery efforts for gray wolves may be gaining political traction, as 79 members of the U.S. House recently signed on to a letter supporting the plan to reclassify all wolves in the U.S. as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

Conservation advocates see their request as a reasonable alternative to taking wolves completely off the endangered species list. A “threatened” status would enable the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue restoration efforts where needed, while giving states more flexibility in managing the predators. Continue reading

Lawsuit targets more protection for Florida manatees

Critical habitat needed to protect marine mammals

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Florida manatees resting at Crystal Springs. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wildlife advocates say they will the sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to adequately protect Florida’s endangered manatees. The formal notice of the lawsuit filed this week specifically takes aim at commercial tours that bring hundreds of swimmers into small shallow warm-water lagoons to touch otherwise resting manatees.

Florida manatees are one of the most endangered marine mammals in U.S. coastal waters. Despite their large size, they have low levels of body fat and a very slow metabolism, making them extremely vulnerable to cold and unable to survive long in water colder than 68 degrees Fahrenheit. But the rare shallow warm-water springs manatees need in the winter are precisely those targeted by the increasingly popular swim-with tours. Continue reading

Environment: Logging industry fails yet again to strip Pacific Northwest protection for marbled murrelets

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Marbled murrelet in a moss nest. Courtesy USFWS.

Fifth lawsuit rejected by courts

Staff Report

FRISCO — Marbled murrelets along the Pacific Northwest Coast will continue to benefit from the protection of the Endangered Species Act, as a federal appeals court last week rejected yet another logging industry attempt to open more coastal old-growth forest to logging.

The robin-sized birds feed at sea but nest only in old-growth forests along the Pacific Coast, laying their eggs (one per female) on large, moss-covered branches in old growth Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and redwood trees.  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

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