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

Is it time to rethink governance of high-seas fisheries?

‘We should use international waters as the world’s fish bank …’

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Shrimp boats in Apalachicola, Florida. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Growing exploitation of open-ocean resources will soon require  the world to rethink the way it manages the high seas, including a potential ban on commercial fishing that would help distribute fisheries income more equitably among the world’s maritime nations, according to research from the University of British Columbia.

After studying fisheries data, the researchers concluded that maintaining or boosting fish stocks in the high seas would help boost coastal fisheries. If increased spillover of fish stocks from protected international waters were to boost coastal catches by 18 per cent, current global catches would be maintained. When the researchers modeled less conservative estimates of stock spillover, catches in coastal waters surpassed current global levels. Continue reading

Environment: Study says at least 5 million metric tons of plastic waste entering the world’s oceans each year

‘We’re being overwhelmed by our waste’

86597_webStaff Report

FRISCO — There are plenty of studies showing how hundreds of ocean species, from zooplankton to marine mammals, are affected by the plastic waste that keeps accumulating in the world’s oceans, and the problem is likely to get worse before it gets better. 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

Oceans: Biologists report progress on abalone restoration

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A world without abalone?

Improved hatchery spawning and rearing may help rebuild populations

Staff Report

FRISCO — West Coast fisheries biologists say they’re making progress toward restoring abalone populations with improved laboratory spawning and rearing. If the shellfish can withstand the effects of ocean acidification, resource managers may be able to rebuild populations off the coast of California. Continue reading

Oceans: Whale sharks get a little love from tuna fishermen

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Whale sharks are getting some protection from purse-seining in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

New fishing regs protect world’s largest fish from harmful tuna netting practices

Staff Report

FRISCO — Whale sharks in the Pacific Ocean are getting a little help from an international fishing group that recently banned the practice of placing purse-seine tuna nets around the world’s largest fish.

Whale sharks are so docile that humans often swim alongside them without concern, snapping photographs of their incredible size. But it is exactly their enormous bulk that made them an accidental target of commercial fishermen, who know that tuna like to gather in schools around whale sharks (as well as other large floating objects).

Tuna fleets often use fish-aggregating devices to attract tuna to an area, making it easier to find and encircle the tuna in the purse seine nets much more efficient. When fishermen deploy nets around whale sharks to capture tuna swimming beneath it, the encircled whale sharks are often caught in the net, where they are injured or die. Continue reading

Oceans: What triggers phytoplankton blooms?

New study will deepen understanding of plankton’s role in global carbon cycle

A European Space Agency satellite image shows a phytoplankton bloom near the Falkland Islands.

A European Space Agency satellite image shows a phytoplankton bloom near the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Scientists working in the Gulf of Mexico are tracking BP's spilled oil as it works its way up the food web, from bacteria to plankton. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

How does ocean phytoplankton respond to global warming?

Staff Report

FRISCO — It’s well-known that ocean phytoplankton are a key link in the global carbon cycle, and a new study this year will help expand that understanding.

A researcher with Oregon State University will lead a $30 million NASA-funded study to look at a phytoplankton hot spot stretching from Woods Hole, Massachusetts to the Azores and north to Greenland’s southern tip.

The research could challenge conventional wisdom about when and why phytoplankton bloom and help show how global warming will change the oceans. Continue reading

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