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

Climate: Conservation group tries new path to limiting CO2 emissions

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Increasingly corrosive ocean waters pose a serious threat to shell-building species and other marine life.

‘Future generations will look back and wonder why we didn’t do everything we could to save the world’s oceans …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Citing the growing threat to the world’s oceans, environmental advocates want the federal government to regulate carbon dioxide under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The regulations have been used to limit emissions of other harmful chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons, PCBs and asbestos.

“Time’s running out to avoid a mass extinction of wildlife in our oceans,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It may not look like a toxic chemical, but when there’s too much CO2 in the ocean, it turns seawater corrosive and dissolves the protective shells that marine animals need to survive,” Sakashita said. Continue reading

Climate: Genetic study shows some corals may have fighting chance to survive warmer oceans

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Can a genetic ‘mix-and-match effort save some coral species from global warming? Photo courtesy NOAA.

Mixing and matching corals from different latitudes may boost reef survival

Staff Report

FRISCO — If global warming can be capped at a reasonable level, some coral reefs may have a fighting chance to adapt to warmer ocean waters, according to new genetic research.

The new study suggests some coral species already have genetic variants necessary to tolerate warm ocean waters, and humans can help to spread these genes, said a team of scientists from The University of Texas at Austin, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and Oregon State University. Continue reading

Oceans: Scientists track spread of toxic algae along West Coast

Is the outbreak linked to global warming?

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Ocean temperatures along the west coast of North America have been well above average for many months, possibly contributing to a widespread outbreak of toxin-producing algae.

A nice haul of blue crabs.

Crab fishing and other seafood harvesting has been shut down along the West Coast because of an algae outbreak.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Top federal scientists suspect that a widespread bloom of toxin-producing algae along the West Coast is linked to months of well above-average ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific, but say it’s too early to tell for sure.

The researchers may know more in a few months, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle is mobilizing extra scientists to track the widespread algal bloom along much of the West Coast. The epidemic has triggered numerous closures of important shellfish fisheries in Washington, Oregon and California. Continue reading

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