Feds propose taking some humpback whale populations off the endangered species list

Conservation efforts seen as successful

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Some humpback whale populations are no longer endangered. Map courtesy NOAA.

A humpback whale in the Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

A humpback whale in the Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — With humpback whales rebounding after 40 years of conservation efforts, federal biologists this week said they want to revise the marine mammals’ endangered species status, taking some of the geographically separate populations off the endangered species list.

Reclassifying humpbacks into 14 distinct population segments would enable tailored conservation approach for U.S. fisheries managers. Currently, humpback whales are listed as endangered throughout their range, but 10 of the 14 populations don’t need the highest level of protection anymore, according to NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. Continue reading

Feds tout progress in rebuilding fisheries

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Fishing and shrimping boats at anchor in Appalichola, Florida. @bberwyn photo.

6 valuable fish stocks removed from overfishing list, according to annual fisheries report

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal biologists said they’re making progress rebuilding important fisheries, including valuable species like bluefin tuna in the western Atlantic, which along with five other species, was removed from the “overfishing” list.

Overall, the number of domestic fish stocks listed as overfished or subject to overfishing has dropped to an all-time low since 1997, according to a report released in mid-April by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. Continue reading

El Niño arrives – better late than never?

Impacts unclear, though Gulf Coast could see rain surplus

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NOAA’s El Niño map shows widespread above-average sea surface temperatures.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A long overdue El Niño once anticipated as a potential drought-buster for California has emerged, but may not have a huge impact on North American weather.

Forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center made the announcement this week after measuring ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific. Those temps have been running above average for several months but just now crossed the El Niño threshold. the climate experts said in their monthly outlook. Continue reading

Coral reefs to take big global warming hit this year

NOAA scientists say warm oceans pose risk to reefs

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Vast areas of the world’s oceans are so warm that coral reefs may take a big hit this year, according to the latest coral-bleaching outlook from NOAA.

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.

Staff Report

FRISCO — After reporting major coral-bleaching events in 2014, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are warning that continued warm ocean temperatures are setting the stage for a repeat in 2015.

The warning is spelled out in the most recent outlook from NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch, a weekly product that forecasts the potential for coral bleaching up to four months in the future. Just last summer, the federal government put 20 coral types on the Endangered Species List, citing climate change as a major threat. Continue reading

Oceans: New report says pirate fishing still widespread

Access to U.S. seafood market at stake for some countries

Fishermen in the harbor in Saranda. Albania.

Fishermen in the harbor in Saranda. Albania. bberwyn photo.

FRISCO— In a new report to Congress, federal fisheries biologists fingered six countries as still sanctioning pirate fishing. Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nigeria, Nicaragua, and Portugal could all lose certifications from the U.S. because they aren’t doing enough to stop illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

Violations include fishing in restricted areas, discarding tuna, misreported catch, and improper handling of turtle entanglement. NOAA Fisheries will work with each of the cited nations to address these activities and improve their fisheries management and enforcement practices. Continue reading

Ozone hole about the same size as last year

A depiction of the ozone hole over Antarctica, courtesy NOAA.

A depiction of the ozone hole over Antarctica, courtesy NOAA.

Ozone-depleting chemicals decreasing in atmosphere, but weather plays big role in year-to-year variability

Staff Report

FRISCO — The ozone hole over Antarctica didn’t change much from last year, scientists said this week, pointing to weather and climate variability as key factors in year-to-year variability.

The single-day maximum area was similar to that in 2013, which reached 9.3 million square miles. The largest single-day ozone hole ever recorded by satellite was 11.5 million square miles) on Sept. 9, 2000. Overall, the 2014 ozone hole is smaller than the large holes of the 1998–2006 period, and is comparable to 2010, 2012, and 2013. Continue reading

Study: Tornado season becoming more variable

A new NOAA study tracks the occurrence of seasonal tornadoes across the U.S.

A new NOAA study tracks the occurrence of seasonal tornadoes across the U.S.

Fewer outbreaks, but more twisters?

Staff Report

FRISCO — Tracking tornado trends is a big deal in the global warming era, as researchers seek to determine whether climate change will result in more catastrophic and life-threatening weather events.

Since the 1950s, researchers say, the overall number of annual tornadoes has remained steady, but a new analysis of data shows  there are fewer days with tornadoes each year, but on those days there are more tornadoes.

A consequence of this is that communities should expect an increased number of catastrophes, said lead author Harold Brooks, research meteorologist with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory. Continue reading

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