Genetics help pinpoint origins of lionfish invasion

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Red lionfish are swarming the western Atlantic and Caribbean. Photo courtesy USGS.

New data may help control efforts

Staff Report

FRISCO— Biologists and resource managers grappling with invasive red lionfish in the Caribbean have some new clues based on genetic research.

Without natural predators, lionfish have spread throughout the western Atlantic, displacing native fish and disrupting ecosystems.

In a new study released this week, U.S. Geological Survey researchers say the invasion probably started in multiple locations. Florida had been fingered as the likely source, but the analysis suggest that multiple introductions occurred, with some potentially coming from the more southern parts of the range. Continue reading

Climate: Oceans die quickly, take millennia to recover

‘We humans have to think carefully about the planet we are leaving for future generations’

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Using driftwood logs as paddles, local fishermen head out to set nets along the northern coast of Jamaica. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — It may take oceans thousands of years to recover from global warming impacts, California-based scientists said after study a seafloor sediment core sample that tracked the impacts of ancient climate upheavals.

The study, led by scientists with the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory and Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute, looked at more than  5,400 invertebrate fossils, from sea urchins to clams, in a 30-foot sediment core from offshore Santa Barbara, California.

The core sample documents changes in the ocean ecosystem between  3,400 and 16,100 years ago, during the last major deglaciation, which was a time of abrupt climate warming, melting polar ice caps, and expansion of low oxygen zones in the ocean. Continue reading

Environment: Deep-sea fish not immune to pollution

New study finds liver damage and tumors in fish living a mile deep off the coast of France

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Even fish living deep in remote oceans are tainted by pollution.

Staff Report

FRISCO — As big and as deep as Earth’s oceans are, they’re still feeling the sting of human-caused pollution. Even a mile down, some fish have liver pathologies, tumors and other types of health problems that are often linked with exposure to toxic chemicals and carcinogens, according to a new study conducted in the Bay of Biscay, off the coast of France.

The study also discovered the first case of a deep water fish species with an “intersex” condition, a blend of male and female sex organs. The sampling was done in an area with no apparent point-source pollution, and appears to reflect general ocean conditions.

“Deep in the ocean one might have thought that the level of contamination and its biological impact would be less,” said Michael Kent, an Oregon State University microbiologist who co-authored the new study. “That may not be the case. The pathological changes we’re seeing are clearly the type associated with exposure to toxins and carcinogens,” said Kent, one of the study’s co-authors. Continue reading

Scientists say dynamic, adaptive management of ocean resources would benefit fisheries, conservation

‘We know too much about the world now to keep managing the ocean in the same old way’

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Shrimp boats in Apalachicola, Florida. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dynamic, adaptive management is needed to manage ocean resources, including protected species and commercial fisheries, according to San Diego State University researchers, who say such a shift could benefit both commercial fishing fleets and conservation-focused stakeholders.

The need for a new paradigm is illustrated by the growing threats to ocean ecosystems, including overfishing, ever-busier shipping routes, energy exploration, pollution and other consequences of ocean-based industry, according to SDSU biologist Rebecca Lewison.

There’s plenty of data available to help managers make real-time decisions, but they often can’t react quickly enough to new information, Lewison said, after outlining a framework for “dynamic ocean management” in a paper published today in the journal BioScience. Continue reading

Environment: NOAA doubles size of marine sanctuaries along northern California coast

Just 50 miles northwest of San Francisco, Cordell Bank teems with life above and below the surface. This thriving 'underwater island' is the centerpiece of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which NOAA has now expanded to protect additional areas like Bodega Canyon along the continental shelf.

Just 50 miles northwest of San Francisco, Cordell Bank teems with life above and below the surface. This thriving ‘underwater island’ is the centerpiece of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which NOAA has now expanded to protect additional areas like Bodega Canyon along the continental shelf. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones home to 25 threatened and endangered species

Staff Report

FRISCO — A pair of marine sanctuaries off the coast of northern California are doubling in size, offering more protection for globally significant and productive marine ecosystems. The sanctuaries encompass estuarine wetlands, rocky intertidal habitat, open ocean, and shallow marine banks.

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, located 42 miles north of San Francisco, will expand from 529 square miles to 1,286 square miles. Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary will expand from 1,282 square miles to 3,295 square miles of ocean and coastal waters. Continue reading

Environment: Scientists say proposed seismic testing off the Atlantic Coast would be devastating to marine life

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Whales and other marine mammals would take a big hit from millions of air gun blasts proposed to uncover fossil fuel deposits beneath the sea floor of the Atlantic. Photo courtesy Tim Cole, NMFS.

Air gun blasting has a huge environmental footprint and poses ‘unacceptable risks’ to marine life

Staff Report

FRISCO — Proposed seismic testing for oil and gas beneath the Atlantic Ocean floor is likely to have significant, long-lasting, and widespread impacts on the reproduction and survival of fish and marine mammals, scientists warned last week in a letter to President Barack Obama.

The letter was written in response to the administration’s announcement last month that it will, for the first time, open areas off the U.S. mid-Atlantic and south Atlantic coasts for fossil fuel exploitation. Continue reading

Great Barrier Reef corals found to ‘eat’ plastic

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A satellite view of the Great Barrier Reef, via NOAA.

Plastic micro-pollution adds insult to injury for stressed coral reefs

Staff Report

FRISCO — Widespread micro-plastic pollution may take a toll on the famed Great Barrier Reef, scientists said this week after discovering that coral organisms will ingest the tiny plastic particles.

“Corals are non-selective feeders and our results show that they can consume microplastics when the plastics are present in seawater,” said Dr, Mia Hoogenboom, a researchers with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.

“If microplastic pollution increases on the Great Barrier Reef, corals could be negatively affected as their tiny stomach-cavities become full of indigestible plastic,” Hoogenboom added. Continue reading

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