Report: Australia’s humpback whales are thriving

A humpback whale near Hawaii. Photo courtesy NOAA.

A humpback whale near Hawaii. Photo courtesy NOAA.

FRISCO — While many Australian animal species are being pushed toward extinction, humpback whales off both the country’s east and west coasts are making a strong comeback from the whaling era.

Recent research suggests humpback populations are growing at about 10 percent annually, and that populations have recovered to between 60 and 90 percent of pre-whaling numbers, according to a new study published in the journal Marine Policy. Continue reading

Industrial pollution threatens European porpoises

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Porpoises trail a fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico near Florida. @bberwyn photo.

‘Almost 20 percent of sexually mature females showed evidence of stillbirth, foetal death or recent abortion …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even though PCBs were banned in the UK more than 30 years ago, researchers are still finding moderately “moderately high” levels of the toxic chemicals in the tissue of harbor porpoises.

The marine mammals around parts of the British Isles are struggling to successfully reproduce as a result of chemical pollutants found in European waters, according to new research led by the Zoological Society of London. Continue reading

Study maps biodiversity in Bering Sea canyon

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New research reveals biodiversity secrets deep beneath the surface of the Bering Sea.

Protection could benefit entire Bering Sea ecosystem

Staff Report

FRISCO — An undersea canyon in the Bering Sea is a biodiversity hotspot, scientists said in a new report that reinforces a push to establish protection for the area.

The study, conducted by the Marine Science Institute at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) and Greenpeace concluded that Pribilof canyon is the most significant location for deep sea corals and sponges along the entire eastern Bering Sea shelf.

With protections in place for coral and sponge habitat, Bering Sea fish and king crab populations could increase, according to conservation advocates. The study, published in Global Ecology and Conservation, also found that restricting bottom-contact fishing in Bering Sea canyons would not have significant negative impacts on the fishing industry. Continue reading

Environment: GOP takes aim at ocean protections

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Commercial shrimp boats at anchor in Appalichicola, Florida. @bberwyn photo.

Proposed House measure would threaten decades of progress on restoring fisheries

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — After years of attacking public land protections with little to show for their efforts, anti-environmental Republicans in Congress are now taking aim at the oceans.

House Resolution 1335, cooked up in the witch’s kitchen of the House Natural Resources Committee, would slash rules that, for decades, have helped rebuild fisheries and protected ocean species from extinction. 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

Court finds fatal flaws in U.S. Navy training plan

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A federal court ruling may help protect marine mammals from harmful military activities in the Pacific Ocean. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Environmental study for Pacific Ocean military exercises violates several federal laws

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A federal court this week rejected a U.S. Navy plan for training activities off the coast of California and around the Hawaiian Islands after finding that the naval exercises would harm multiple species of marine mammals — in violation of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The plan, sanctioned by the National Marine Fisheries Service, fails to meet basic requirements of federal environmental laws, said  Judge Susan Oki Mollway, of the U.S. District Court for Hawaii, calling the government’s documents so fundamentally flawed that they need to be totally rewritten. Continue reading

Conservation groups seek to rebuild New England cod fishery

An Atlantic cod at the Atlantic Sea-Park in Ålesund, Norway. PHOTO BY HANS-PETTER FJELD.

An Atlantic cod at the Atlantic Sea-Park in Ålesund, Norway. PHOTO BY HANS-PETTER FJELD.

Petition would end targeted fishing, lower incidental take limit

Staff Report

FRISCO — After decades of short-sighted exploitation by commercial fishing outfits, Gulf of Maine cod are at the brink of “commercial extinction,” according to conservation advocates who this month petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service today to end targeted fishing of the species.

The petition also seeks to cap the incidental catch limit at 200 metric tons. The once-plentiful fish have declined 90 percent since 1982, when monitoring began, and 77 percent in the past five years. Currently Gulf of Maine cod are at 3 percent to 4 percent of what a well-managed stock should be, the petition asserts. Continue reading

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