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Oceans: Satellite data shows leatherback sea turtles ranging far and wide in search of jellyfish

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A leatherback sea turtle at sea. Photo courtesy NOAA.

New study to help inform conservation efforts along East Coast and Caribbean

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Threatened leatherback sea turtles like to hang out off the northeastern U.S. coast in late summer and fall, when mature jellyfish are abundant in the area, scientists said last week, sharing the results of a long-term study based on satellite data of tagged sea turtles.

“Our study provides new insights about how male and immature turtles behave, how they use their habitats and how that differs from adult females,” said University of Massachusetts researcher Kara Dodge. “Resource managers for protected marine species have lacked this key understanding, especially in coastal regions of the U.S. and Caribbean where leatherbacks and intense human activity coincide.” Continue reading

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Sea turtle conservation efforts need more international collaboration

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A leatherback sea turtle. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Long-line fishing still seen as key threat

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Efforts to protect leatherback sea turtles urgently require better communication between scientists and fisheries managers, a team of researchers said after analyzing satellite data on sea turtle migration.

The last large populations of the leatherback turtle are at risk because their migratory routes in the Atlantic Ocean clash with the locations of industrial fisheries, according to the study.

The researchers used data from satellite transmitters attached to the turtles to track their movements across the Atlantic Ocean. These movements were then overlapped with information on high pressure fishing areas to identify where the turtles are most susceptible to becoming entangled and where they may drown.

The international study was jointly led by Dr. Matthew Witt, of the University of Exeter and Dr, Sabrina Fossette, of Swansea University, found that urgent international efforts are needed to protect the iconic species. Continue reading

NOAA to update marine sanctuary guidelines

Pink coral at Rose Atoll in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Pink coral at Rose Atoll in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Agency taking comments to help shape the nomination and designation process

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wants to take a grassroots approach to designating new national marine sanctuaries, so the agency is launching a round of public input to update the criteria for the process.

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries in 1995 deactivated the previous process for nominating national marine sanctuaries. Since then, members of Congress, state officials, tribes, non-governmental organizations, and others have expressed interest in pursuing new national marine sanctuaries. Continue reading

Whales can die a slow death when tangled in fishing gear

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North Atlantic right whales. Photo courtesy NOAA.

New study measures effects of entanglement

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Stray fishing gear has long been a problem in the ocean, and a new collaborative study shows exactly how whales struggle when they get wrapped up in abandoned lines. By carefully tracking tangled whales, the scientists documented how the predicament hinders whales’ ability to eat and migrate, depletes their energy as they drag gear for months or years, and can result in a slow death. Continue reading

Biodiversity Is commercial fishing altering ocean food webs?

New study shows how the diet of pelagic birds has changed over time

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Studying isotopes in the bones of pelagic seabirds helped researchers track changes in thePacific ocean food chain. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Some in-depth biological detective work suggests there have been drastic changes in open-ocean food webs since the onset of industrial fishing, with potentially significant implications for threatened seabirds.

The key to detecting the changes was analyzing the bones of Hawaiian petrels. The crow-sized oceanic birds range widely over the northeast Pacific, and their diets integrate food webs from that vast area. What the petrels have eaten is recorded in the chemistry of their bones. By extracting protein from bones and feathers and studying stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen in the protein, the scientists were able to assess the birds’ diet and how it changed over centuries. Continue reading

Climate: Parts of western Atlantic reach record-high temps

NOAA documenting shift in marine species as water warms

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Looking down the East Coast from Cape Cod toward Long Island from the International Space Station. Visit this NASA Earth Observatory page for more information.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With sea surface temperatures at a 150-year high off off the mid-Atlantic and New England coastlines, scientists are document significant shifts in the distribution of commercially important marine species, with as-yet uncertain consequences for the entire ecosystem.

Those temperatures reached a record high of 57.2 degrees in 2012, exceeding the record high set in 1951. The average sea surface temperatures in the region — extending from the Gulf of Maine to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina — has typically been lower than 54.3 degrees during the past three decades, according to a NOAA advisory. Continue reading

Global warming threatens Atlantic cod stocks

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Atlantic cod are facing climate change pressure.

New study to take close look at climate impacts to commercially important cod fishery

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With Atlantic cod already moving into waters around Spitsbergen — into Arctic cod territory — fisheries biologists are keeping a close eye the commercially important species to determine the consequences of climate-related migrations. Specifically, researchers want to how how the fish are responding to warmer and more acidic water, and at which stages of life the changes are most dangerous to them.

In the next two and a half years, biologists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, together with scientists from Kiel, Bremen, Düsseldorf and Münster, will study all life stages of the fish and their genetic patterns: from spawn and the development of the larvae, through the juvenile fish and their favorite food, the copepod, to the mature parent fish. Continue reading

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