Do seals compete with commercial fishermen?

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Do seals compete with commercial fisheries? @bberwyn photo.

New UK study tries to answer the age-old question

Staff Report

Like in other countries, some Irish fishermen have been complaining that seals are increasingly eating up valuable commercial fish stocks, but a new scientific study says that’s generally not the case, with the possible exception of wild Atlantic salmon.

The work done by researchers with Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, shows that seals don’t have a significant impact on herring, mackerel, cod, haddock, whiting and 30 other species caught for commercial purposes along the south and west coasts of Ireland, from counties Galway to Waterford. Continue reading

Study offer new clues in sea star wasting epidemic

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

A 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.

Unique student research project tracks immune response to virus at genetic level

Staff Report

Biological sleuthing by a group of young marine-disease researchers from around the country may help solve the mystery of a massive sea star die-off along the West Coast.

Millions of the animals have died the past few years. Scientists still don’t why. They suspect a common ocean virus is at fault, and the new study, published this week in PLOS ONE, has contributed key information about the sea stars’ immune response when infected with this virus, which causes the marine creatures to develops white lesions on its limbs and within days dissolve or  into a gooey mass. Continue reading

Are hungry seals hampering Scottish cod recovery?

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Atlantic cod.

‘We may have to live with smaller cod stocks if we want to protect our seals’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Efforts to rebuild commercially important cod stocks off the west coast of Scotland have been hampered by hungry seals, scientists said. The research by marine biologists at the  University of Strathclyde suggests that, as fishermen have cut back on their catches by half, predation by seals has rapidly increased.

The seals may be consuming more than 40 percent of the total stock of cod, up to  7,000 tons per year off the west of Scotland, where landed catches now amount to only a few hundred tons. The research paper has been published in the Journal of Applied Ecology. Continue reading

Are jellyfish taking over Puget Sound?

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A NASA Earth Observatory satellite image shows Puget Sound.

Study shows dramatic shift in marine species

Staff Report

FRISCO — Biologists looking at 40 years of fisheries data from Puget Sound have documented a dramatic shift in marine species. Key fish in the food chain, like herring and smelt, have declined, while the number of jellyfish has increased exponentially, to the detriment of the marine ecosystem.

“On land people see the changes that come with human population increases, but underwater the changes are much harder to discern,” said Correigh Greene, with NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center. “What this tells us is that when you look over time, you can see that the underwater landscape of Puget Sound is changing too,” said Greene, lead author of the new study published in Marine Ecology Progress Series. Continue reading

Climate: Some fish species may be able to adapt quickly to warming ocean temperatures

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Three-year study to look at transgeneration climate adaptation.

New study to track epigenetic triggers may shed light on adaptation

Staff Report

FRISCO — Numerous recent studies have focused on how warming ocean temperatures caused by global warming negatively affects fish and other marine life.

But some species apparently have the capacity to adapt to higher temperatures quickly, as offspring born to parents that were exposed to higher temperatures are already acclimatised to the warmer conditions. It’s thought that epigenetic changes triggered by the environment are responsible for the fast adaptation, and a new three-year research effort will delve into the details. Continue reading

Oceans: Researchers identify starfish-killing virus

Mutation or environmental changes may have triggered recent epidemic that has wiped out entire populations

This is a SSWD-affected star. The fatal disease leads to behavioral changes, lesions, loss of appendages, and disintegration. Credit: Photo by Neil McDaniel.

This is a SSWD-affected star. The fatal disease leads to behavioral changes, lesions, loss of appendages, and disintegration. Photo credit: Photo, Neil McDaniel.

Staff Report

FRISCO — With 10 million viruses in every drop of seawater, it wasn’t easy to identify the pathogen that’s caused a recent widespread die-off of starfish along North America’s Pacific Coast. Already, entire populations have disappeared in less than two years — 20 different species, from Alaska to Baja, have been affected.

But using museum collections, researchers from Cornell University and the California Science now say they can attribute the mass mortality to a Densovirus that has been present in echinoderms like sea stars and urchins for at least 72 years.

The study suggests the disease may have recently risen to epidemic levels because of sea star overpopulation, environmental changes, or mutation of the virus. The results may help marine biologists as they try to develop conservation strategies, important, because sea stars are voracious predators, with a key role in regulating the ecology of the ocean floor. Continue reading

Deadly starfish disease explodes on Oregon coast

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

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

Staff Report

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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