Global warming: Goodbye to sea scallops?

A northward shift of the Gulf Stream could warm waters off the New England coast significantly, according to a new NOAA study. Graphic courtesy NASA.

Rapidly warming ocean temperatures off the New England coast are affecting many marine species. Graphic courtesy NASA.

New vulnerability assessment to help guide fisheries management

Staff Report

Rapidly warming ocean temperatures off the coast of the Northeastern U.S. are likely to have a big impact on nearly all fish and other marine life in the region. Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration carefully surveyed 82 species in a recent study, trying to identify which are the most vulnerable to global warming.

“Our method identifies specific attributes that influence marine fish and invertebrate resilience to the effects of a warming ocean and characterizes risks posed to individual species,” said Jon Hare, a fisheries oceanographer at NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) and lead author of the study. “This work will help us better account for the effects of warming waters on our fishery species in stock assessments and when developing fishery management measures.” Continue reading

Sharks at risk in key Atlantic fishing zones

A whitetip reef shark. Photo courtesy NOAA.

A whitetip reef shark. Photo courtesy NOAA.

New research can guide conservation efforts

Staff Report

A four-year study that followed about 100 tagged sharks shows that commercial fishing operations overlap with shark hotspots in the ocean. The findings suggest that sharks are at risk of being overfished in some areas.

“Our research clearly demonstrates the importance of satellite tagging data for conservation,” said Neil Hammerschlag, director of the shark research program University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. “The findings both identify the problem as well as provide a path for protecting oceanic sharks,” Hammerschlag said. Continue reading

Study: Most ocean fish still tainted by toxic chemicals, but levels are gradually decreasing

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Levels of pollutants in seafood vary widely in different regions. @bberwyn photo.

More research needed to determine risk to consumers

Staff Report

Fish in all the world’s oceans are still tainted by a stew of potentially toxic chemicals, but concentrations of the pollutants have decreased in the past 30 years, according to a new study by researchers with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

The scientists said their findings included both good and bad news. On the up side, the findings suggest that the global community responded to the calls-to-action, such as in the Stockholm Convention, to limit the release of potentially harmful chemicals into the environment. Continue reading

CO2 could take huge toll on ocean fish by mid-century

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Can the world’s oceans survive the global warming era?

Not much time left to cut greenhouse gas pollution

Staff Report

Building levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans could have a widespread and devastating effect on many fish by 2050, Australian researchers warned in a new study.

“Our results were staggering and have massive implications for global fisheries and marine ecosystems across the planet,” said Dr. Ben McNeil, a researcher at the University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre. “High concentrations of carbon dioxide cause fish to become intoxicated … a phenomenon known as hypercapnia. Essentially, the fish become lost at sea. The carbon dioxide affects their brains and they lose their sense of direction and ability to find their way home. They don’t even know where their predators are,” McNeil said. Continue reading

Climate study suggests rapid warming ahead for New England coastal waters

A northward shift of the Gulf Stream could warm waters off the New England coast significantly, according to a new NOAA study. Graphic courtesy NASA.

A northward shift of the Gulf Stream could warm waters off the New England coast significantly, according to a new NOAA study. Graphic courtesy NASA.

Temperature surge likely to have dramatic impacts on aquatic life

Staff Report

There may be more trouble ahead for New England-based fishermen, as a new NOAA study shows that ocean temperatures along the U.S. Northeast Shelf are projected to warm twice as fast as previously projected and almost three times faster than the global average. The findings are based on a complex analysis of several different climate models.

“We looked at four GFDL models and compared their output to ocean observations in the region,” said said Vincent Saba, a NOAA fisheries scientist and lead author of the study.”Prior climate change projections for the region may be far too conservative,” Saba said in NOAA press release. Continue reading

Oceans: Scientists sound warning on harmful algae blooms

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A NASA satellite captured a large bloom of phytoplankton off the coast of New York and New Jersey in Aug. 2015. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

More research needed to track trends

Staff Report

Scientists tracking the northward track and seasonal shift of potentially harmful plankton are warning that the trends do not bode well for ecosystems and human health.

Presenting recent findings at an international conference, biologists said  the future may bring more harmful algal blooms and called for changes in research priorities to better forecast these long-term trends.

The intense toxic phytoplankton blooms off the west coast of North America this summer appear to be associated with unusual warming-related conditions. Scientists also suspect such blooms may be a factor in a die-off off endangered right whale calves off the coast of Argentina.

“Does this large scale harmful algal bloom provide a window into the future?” said Dr. Vera Trainer of NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center. “While it still is unclear, there is reason for substantial concern.” Continue reading

Environment: Are toxic algae blooms killing whales?

This is a right whale calf washed up at Peninsula Valdes, Argentina. New research indicates a likely connection between the deaths of hundreds such calves starting in the mid-2000s and blooms of the toxic algae Pseudo-nitzschia. Andrea Chirife, Southern Right Whale Health Monitoring Program

This is a right whale calf washed up at Peninsula Valdes, Argentina. New research indicates a likely connection between the deaths of hundreds such calves starting in the mid-2000s and blooms of the toxic algae Pseudo-nitzschia. Photo courtesy Andrea Chirife, Southern Right Whale Health Monitoring Program.

Study examines juvenile right whale deaths off coast of Argentina

Staff Report

Biologists suspect that blooms of toxic algae may have been responsible for a sudden surge in mortality among young right whales off the coast of Argentina during the past decade.

The baby whales started dying in increasing numbers in 2005, with the average number of deaths per year at Peninsula Valdes jumping more than 10-fold — from fewer than six per year before 2005 to 65 per year from 2005 to 2014.

The area is an important calving ground for southern right whales, and researchers had never seen such a dramatic spike in deaths. Even more striking, 90 percent of the deaths from 2005 to 2014 were very young calves fewer than three months old. The mystery killer appeared to be targeting the nearly newborn, sometimes more than 100 calves of the endangered species each year. Continue reading

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