Global warming: Outlook for coral reefs gloomy, scientists say at Prague conference

‘We will have algal-dominated, rubble-strewn, slowly eroding limestone benches’

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Limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius may not be enough to save ocean ecosystems, according to scientists.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even if this year’s COP21 talks in Paris result in a global climate treaty, it may not be enough to save the world’s coral reefs. A global temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius — targeted by the talks — means most reefs could be dead by mid-century, according to presentations at the Goldschmidt conference in Prague.

Speaking to the world’s major gathering of geochemists, Professor Peter F Sale (University of Windsor, Canada) spelled out the stark choice facing climate scientists in the run-up to the Paris conference.

“Even if Paris is wildly successful, and a treaty is struck, ocean warming and ocean acidification are going to continue beyond the end of this century,” Sale said.

“I find it very unlikely that coral reefs as I knew them in the mid-1960s will still be found anywhere on this planet by mid-century. Instead, we will have algal-dominated, rubble-strewn, slowly eroding limestone benches,” Sale said. Continue reading

U.S. takes huge step to boost global marine mammal protection

Proposes fishery rule could prevent tens of thousands of unnecessary whale and dolphin deaths

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Porpoises and other marine mammals could benefit from a new rule that would require other countries to meet protective U.S. marine mammal standards. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The National Marine Fisheries Service wants to boost global efforts to protect marine mammals with a new set of proposed rules that would require commercial fishing operations in other countries to meet U.S. standards.

As proposed, seafood imports from other countries could be banned if they don’t meet those requirements. Scientists estimate that each year more than 650,000 whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals are caught and killed in fishing gear. These animals are unintentional “bycatch” of commercial fisheries and either drown or are tossed overboard to die from their injuries. Continue reading

German tour operators halt cruises to Faroe Islands in response to continued whale slaughter

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Bloody whale killing on the beaches of the Faroe Islands, Photo via Sea Shepherd.

Activists say unnecessary whale killing must stop

Staff Report

FRISCO — Two big German tour operators have announced that they are cancelling cruise ship visits to the Faroe Islands in reaction to the country’s annual slaughter of hapless whales.

Wildlife advocacy groups have been stepping up the pressure on the Faroe Islands to try and stop the annual event, called the  grindadráp. Islanders defend the practice as an important cultural tradition, but activists say the killing must stop. This year, more than 250 pilot whales where killed late July in a bloodbath on beaches near  Bøur and Tórshavn. Continue reading

NOAA to webcast deep-sea explorations

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer systematically explores the deep oceans of the world. (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer systematically explores the deep oceans of the world. (Credit: NOAA)

Research voyage begins Aug. 1; scientists say they expect to find new species

Staff Report

FRISCO — Ocean enthusiasts will have a chance to do some armchair exploring the next few months as NOAA scientists deploy unmanned submarines to explore protected areas in the central Pacific Ocean.

Starting Aug. 1, anyone with an internet connection can join the expedition in real time at oceanexplorer.noaa.gov. NOAA’s research ship, the Okeanos Explorer, will visit deeper waters in and around Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, and the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Continue reading

NOAA steps up efforts to track West Coast toxic algae

A nice haul of blue crabs.

Toxin-producing algae is threatening West Coast fisheries.

Grant funding to help pinpoint cause of outbreak

Staff Report

FRISCO — After sending extra scientists to help track the spread of toxin-producing algae along the West Coast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this month said it will help fund more monitoring and research. The agency is committing $88,000 in grant and event response funding for Washington state.

According to NOAA, the money will go to supporting researchers and state and tribal managers in collecting and analyzing additional samples to test for abundance and concentrations of toxins. The information, along with analysis of ocean and weather conditions, will help identify factors contributing to the outbreak and its severity. Continue reading

Better info, more public awareness is the key to reducing shark attacks, researchers say

No evidence that culling sharks cuts risks

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There are more great white sharks and more people in the ocean along the California coast, but the risk of shark attacks has decreased since the 1960s. Photo courtesy NOAA.

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Researchers say shark attacks are more likely in the evening than during the day. @bbberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even as many more people take to the water along the California Coast, the risk of being attacked by great white sharks has dropped considerably since the 1950s, according to Stanford University researchers who took a close look at shark attack statistics.

Their findings show that empowering people with information about how to avoid sharks is far more effective for public safety than trying to cull sharks. The scientists released their study results after a recent wave of shark attacks in North Carolina made headlines.

“You have a higher chance to win the lottery, a much higher chance to drown in the ocean, than to be attacked by a shark,” said Stanford researcher Francesco Ferretti. “At the same time, people need to approach the ocean with precaution and respect. We are entering the realm of predators and they are fulfilling their ecological role,” Ferretti said. Continue reading

Climate: Coral reefs taking a big hit this year

A diverse coral reef in the U.S. Virgin Islands. PHOTO BY CAROLINE ROGERS/USGS.

Coral reefs in the Caribbean, like this one in the U.S. Virgin Islands, are at risk of bleaching as global warming heats up the world’s oceans. Photo by Caroline Rogers/USGS.

Warm oceans leading to widespread reef bleaching

Staff Report

FRISCO — Ocean researchers have updated their warnings of potential coral reef bleaching based on unusually warm ocean temperatures across the north Pacific, equatorial Pacific, and western Atlantic oceans this summer.

Scientists with NOAA’s coral reef watch say they expect  bleaching of corals on Northern Hemisphere reefs through October, potentially leading to the death of corals over a wide area and affecting the long-term supply of fish and shellfish.

“The bleaching that started in June 2014 has been really bad for corals in the western Pacific,” said Mark Eakin, NOAA Coral Reef Watch coordinator. “We are worried that bleaching will spread to the western Atlantic and again into Hawaii.” Continue reading

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