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

Oceans: Does tagging aquatic animals affect behavior?

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A female loggerhead sea turtle equipped with two tags heads for the Gulf of Mexico from a beach in Dry Tortugas National Park. Photo courtesy Kristen Hart/USGS.

New study could help scientists come up with better tagging techniques

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Well-meaning scientists have long been tagging all sorts of critters to try and get a better idea of where they go to feed, breed or just hang out. The data from such studies helps inform conservation planning, but it turns out the tags may have a negative impact on at least some aquatic animals.

In a new study, American and Canadian researchers quantified the energy cost to aquatic animals when they carry satellite tags, video cameras and other research instruments.

Studying fiberglass casts of sea turtles in a wind tunnel, the team found that, while most commercially available tags increased drag by less than five percent for large adult animals in the wild, these same devices increased drag by more than 100 percent on smaller or juvenile animals. Continue reading

New smartphone app to help seahorse conservation

Citizen scientists can team up with researchers to help track one of the ocean’s most enigmatic animals
Seahorses are difficult to study in the wild because of their small size and ability to blend into their surroundings. Photo: Edwin van der Sande/Guylian Seahorses of the World

Seahorses are difficult to study in the wild because of their small size and ability to blend into their surroundings. Photo: Edwin van der Sande/Guylian Seahorses of the World.

By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Marine biologists may soon have a wealth of new information about enigmatic seahorses, thanks to a new citizen science app launched by the University of British Columbia, the Zoological Society of London and the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

With iSeahorse Explore, anyone, anywhere in the world can become a citizen scientist and contribute to marine conservation with a few taps of their phone. The iPhone app is designed for people to quickly log seahorse sightings whenever they encounter an animal in the wild. Continue reading

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