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Oceans: USGS study helps inform rigs-to-reef plans

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A school of fish gather around the base of an offshore drill rig. Photo courtesy BSEE.

Few contaminants found in fish living around offshore drilling rigs

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The idea of turning old offshore drilling rigs into artificial reefs has been floating around for a while, and USGS scientists recently reported that there’s no sign that fish living near the rigs are contaminated by oil from the drilling operations.

To help provide some baseline data for “rigs-to-reef” proposals in California, the agency compared contaminant levels in fish living around oil platforms with fish from nearby natural sites off the coast of California in the Santa Barbara Channel and the San Pedro Basin. The new and recent USGS reports are available online.

“As part of this study, we developed methods capable of detecting the extremely low levels of contaminants that we anticipated in these ocean fishes, especially since they avoid natural oil seeps,” said USGS scientist Robert Gale. “These results will assist decision-makers in helping to protect the environment off the coast of California.” Continue reading

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New data could help reduce collisions between whales and commercial ships in Southern California coastal waters

Study to help inform routing of ships in busy coastal waters

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Blue whales are threatened by collisions with commercial ships. Photo courtesy NOAA.

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Pinpointing whale densities helped researchers develop a map of shipping routes that could reduce the number of collisions.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —After tracking whales for seven years off the coast of Southern California, scientists have assessed the risk of deadly collisions with commercial ship traffic. By predicting the density of endangered humpback, fin and blue whales in different areas, the study may help identify shipping routes the reduce those risks.

Based on their analysis, the scientists estimated that the number of the number of blue whales likely killed by ships exceeds levels established by the Marine Mammal Protection Act to ensure sustainable populations.

The study, published this week in the scientific journal Conservation Biology, merged observed whale sightings with oceanographic conditions to identify the habitat preferred by the different whale species. Scientists from NOAA Fisheries, the Marine Mammal Commission and Cascadia Research Collective collaborated on the project. Continue reading

Oceans: Shipping lane adjustments may help reduce whale strikes off the coast of California

Gray whale breaching, NOAA photo

Gray whale. Photo courtesy Merrill Gosho/NOAA.

Maritime authorities seek to protect marine mammals, ease shipping flow

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Whales off the busy California coast will get a bit more breathing room, as the International Maritime Organization will adjust several shipping lanes, including  routes that cross three national marine sanctuaries.

“This is a win-win situation, backed by NOAA research, that allows for enhanced protection of endangered whales and natural resources while at the same time increasing maritime safety,” said William J. Douros, west coast regional director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. “We are pleased with the shipping industry and the IMO’s decision to support the proposed amendments.” Continue reading

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