Environment: Plastic debris takes toll on endangered species

A red-shafted flicker, which is a forest bird, died after getting entangled in abandoned fishing line in Summit County, Colorado.

A red-shafted flicker, which is a forest bird, died after getting entangled in abandoned fishing line in Summit County, Colorado.

Whales and sea turtles hit especially hard 

Staff Report

FRISCO — Not long after researchers managed to quantify the unbelievable amounts of plastic waste going into the world’s oceans, another team of scientists at Plymouth University said they’ve traced how many species are affected by the debris.

In all, nearly 700 species of marine animals have been recorded as having encountered man-made debris such as plastic and glass, the scientists said after looking at records of 44,000 animals and organisms that became entangled in, or swallowed debris. Continue reading

Trade court deal to help marine mammals worldwide

I've always thought of dolphins as being all curves.

A court-ordered settlement will protect marine mammals.

Seafood imports to U.S. must meet high marine mammal protection standards

Staff Report

FRISCO — In what conservation advocates are calling a landmark settlement, the U.S. government this week agreed to implement a long-ignored provision of the Marine Mammal Protection Act that will require foreign fisheries to meet the same standards required of U.S. fishermen or be denied import privileges. Continue reading

Environment: Plastic microfibers building up in deep sea sediments

Do you know where your plastic shopping bag ends up?

Do you know where your plastic shopping bag ends up?

‘It is alarming to find such high levels of contamination, especially when the full effect of these plastics on the delicate balance of deep sea ecosystems is unknown’

Staff Report

FRISCO — After researchers found plastic litter even in some of the remote reaches of the Arctic Ocean a few years ago, it’s probably not surprising to learn that the deep sea is becoming a collecting ground for plastic waste.

Floating mats of plastic have become a breeding ground for bacteria that could bring invasive pathogens to the open sea, and in another study, researchers documented how crabs are ingesting plastic through their gills.

A new study, published this week in Royal Society Open Science, shows how plastic debris breaks down into microfibers that are piling up in the deepest parts of the sea. The scientists with the Plymouth University and Natural History Museum say there could be around four billion microscopic plastic fibers could be littering each square kilometer of deep sea sediment around the world. Continue reading

Activists seek Aleutian Islands marine sanctuary

Climate change, fossil fuel exploitation seen as key threats

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A satellite view of the Aleutian Islands. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A marine sanctuary designation could help protect Alaska’s Aleutian Islands from a series of growing threats, including overfishing, oil and gas development and increasing commercial shipping.

Those threats are being aggravated by climate change, rising sea-level and ocean acidification, according to a formal nomination for sanctuary status. The conservation push is being led by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and several other national marine conservation organizations. Continue reading

Study pinpoints threats to Mediterranean dolphins

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Can Mediterranean dolphins survive the rising tide of tourism? bberwyn photo.

Pollution, boat strikes contribute to decline of Balearic population

Staff Report

FRISCO — Growing tourism, fishing, pollution and general marine traffic is threatening a small population of bottlenose dolphins living in coastal waters off the Pityusic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, according to a study led by University of Barcelona researchers.

The biologists said they were able for the first time to get an accurate population count of the dolphins during spring and summer, crucial seasons for the marine mammals. Continue reading

Oceans: Will new regs ease pressure on Atlantic bluefin tuna?

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Atlantic bluefin tuna are in trouble. Photo courtesy NOAA.

NOAA amends rules to protect Gulf of Mexico spawning areas

Staff Report

Federal resource managers this week said they’ll tweak fishing regulations to try and protect Atlantic bluefin tuna to help ensure compliance with international quotas set to maintain sustainable stocks of the commercially valuable fish.

The species is categorized as endangered on the IUCN red list. By some estimates, there has been a global decline of between 29 percent and 51 percent based on summed spawning stock biomass from both the Western and Eastern stocks over the past 21–39 years. Continue reading

Environment: Polluted runoff from farms and cities in Hawaii causes sea turtle tumors

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An endangered green sea turtle swims along the sea bottom. Photo courtesy NOAA.

‘We’re drawing direct lines from human nutrient inputs to the reef ecosystem, and how it affects wildlife’

Staff Report

FRISCO — What goes on your lawn and garden doesn’t stay there — and that’s bad news for sea turtles in Hawaii, Duke University biologists said this week, explaining that pollution from urban areas and farms is causing often-deadly tumors in the endangered animals.

A new study, published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed open-access journal PeerJ, shows that nitrogen in the runoff ends up in algae that the turtles eat, promoting the formation of tumors on the animals’ eyes, flippers and internal organs. Continue reading

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