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Global warming aids spread of invasive fish in Mediterranean Sea

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A juvenile rabbitfish, an invasive species blamed for wiping out huge areas of ocean habitat. Photo courtesy Zafer Kizilkaya.

Ocean ecosystems at risk from fish that kills algal forests

Staff Report

FRISCO — The spread of invasive tropical fish into previously temperate waters is also affecting the Mediterranean Sea, according to Australian scientist monitoring the spread of rabbitfish which have already devastated algal forests in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Global warming may help the fish spread into the entire Mediterranean Basin, researcher warned in a new paper published in the Journal of Ecology (Authors: Dr. Adriana Vergés, of the University of New South Wales, Australia, and Dr. Fiona Tomas of the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies in Spain). Continue reading

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Global warming driving invasive lionfish northward

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The lionfish are coming, for better or worse.

New study takes detailed look at changing ocean temperatures

Staff Report

FRISCO — Careful study of ocean temperatures shows how tropical fish are likely to expand northward along the Atlantic coast into the temperate ocean zone off the Carolinas. Invaders could include the poisonous lionfish, which is already causing problems on coral reefs in the Caribbean.

Researchers with NOAA and the University of North Carolina-Wilmington combined year-round bottom water temperature data with 2006-2010 fish community surveys in water depths from 15 to 150 feet off the coast of North Carolina. The study revealed that the fish community was primarily tropical in the deeper areas surveyed, from 122 to 150 feet, with a winter mean temperature of 21 degrees Celsius (69.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

Many of the native tropical fishes, usually abundant in shallow, somewhat cooler reefs, tended to remain in the deeper, warmer water, suggesting that temperature is a main factor in controlling their distribution. The findings were published in the September issue of Marine Ecology Progress Series. Continue reading

Biodiversity: California blue whales make huge comeback

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.

Conservation works! Protective measures have helped restore blue whale populations in the eastern Pacific.

‘We think the California population has reached the capacity of what the system can take as far as blue whales’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Marine scientists say the population of California blue whales, living the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean from the equator up into the Gulf of Alaska, has rebounded to about 2,200 individuals, which may be near the historic pre-whaling level.

According to the new study, published the journal Marine Mammal Science, it’s the only population of blue whales known to have recovered from whaling after being nearly hunted to extinction.

“The recovery of California blue whales from whaling demonstrates the ability of blue whale populations to rebuild under careful management and conservation measures,” said Cole Monnahan, a University of Washington doctoral student in quantitative ecology and resource management and lead author of the paper. Continue reading

Environment: NOAA lists 20 coral species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act

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Widespread threats lead to “threatened” listing for 20 coral species under the Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Conservation and recovery plans will be crafted in partnership with coastal communities

Staff Report

FRISCO — Twenty types of coral in the Pacific and Caribbean will be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, federal officials announced this week, citing declines of up to 90 percent in some species. Continue reading

Oceans: Pacific bluefin tuna on the brink as feds seek input on new fishing regulations

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Even the imminent decimation of tuna populations hasn’t stopped sport fishermen from harvesting the desirable fish in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere. bberwyn photo.

Not enough adults left to replenish populations

Staff Report

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FRISCO — Pacific bluefin tuna won’t last long at any sustainable level without immediate and drastic intervention by fisheries managers, according to ocean advocates who are urging the federal government to adopt strict limits on bluefin tuna catch.

Overall, many tuna populations are on the brink of collapse. Five of eight tuna species have been assigned threatened or near-threatened status on the international Red List maintained by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

In the Gulf of Mexico, for example, the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster spewed millions of gallons of oil into the species’ prime breeding grounds, and a 2010 report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists showed how illegal fishing and inadequate enforcement are decimating tuna stocks all over the world. Continue reading

Environment: Microplastic pollution gets inside crabs via gills

Caption: This image depicts polystyrene microspheres inside the gills of a shore crab. Credit: Andrew Watts

This image depicts polystyrene microspheres inside the gills of a shore crab. Image by Andrew Watts, University of Exeter, UK.

Is there a risk higher up the food chain?

By Bob Berwyn

* Read more Summit Voice stories on ocean plastic pollution here.

FRISCO — By some estimates, humankind now produces about 288 million tons of plastic per year, and about 10 percent of that likely ends up in the world’s oceans as a finely ground, totally human-produced source of pollution. Floating about in the seven seas, the microplastics can form rafts that harbor non-native bacteria and scientists know that the plastic is being eaten  by marine critters. Continue reading

Seabed dredging linked to coral reef disease

Study findings to help inform coastal management

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Dredging near coral reefs can lead to chronic disease and decline.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with the stress of global warming and the disappearance of reef-grazing fish, corals are also beset by the increasing pace of coastal development — specifically dredging — which can increase the frequency of diseases affecting corals.

Australian researchers with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies made their findings after studying a site near Barrow Island, off the West Australian coast, where an 18-month, 7-million cubic metre dredging project took place, developing a channel to accommodate ships transporting liquefied gas to a nearby processing plant. The site was in otherwise very good condition. Continue reading

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