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Oceans: Sharks, manta rays win CITES protection

Hammerhead sharks received much-needed protection from unsustainable trade. Photo courtesy Florida Museum of Natural History.

Hammerhead sharks received much-needed protection from unsustainable trade. Photo courtesy Florida Museum of Natural History.

International group sanctions restrictions on trade of endangered species

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Years of efforts by ocean conservation advocates yielded results last week, as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species adopted new protections for five species of highly traded sharks, as well as two species of manta rays and one species of sawfish.

Japan, Gambia and India unsuccessfully challenged the Committee decision to list the oceanic whitetip shark, while Grenada and China failed in an attempt to reopen debate on listing three hammerhead species. Colombia, Senegal, Mexico and others took the floor to defend Committee decisions to list sharks. Continue reading

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Argentina creates new marine reserves in Patagonia

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Parts of Patagonia‘s spectacular coastline will have more protection following the designation of two new marine preserves.

Isla Pingüino and Makenke Coastal Marine Park provide habitat for seabirds and marine mammals

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Dolphins, penguins, seabirds and sea lions along the coast of Patagonia will get more protection in a pair of new marine protected areas designated by Argentina this week.

Both areas were identified as priority conservation sites under the collaborative Patagonia Coastal Zone Management Plan project, covering an area where Charles Darwin traveled, and where Ferdinand Magellan executed and marooned a group of mutineers intent on aborting what would become the world’s first circumnavigation of the globe.

Darwin first described the wildlife of Isla Pingüino in 1833, during his seminal voyage aboard the HMS Beagle — now, the  Isla Pingüino Coastal Marine Park will protect about 720 square miles, including habitat for large populations of South American sea lions, red-legged cormorants, and one of the largest colonies of imperial cormorants found anywhere (with more than 8,000 breeding pairs). Isla Pingüino also boasts one of the only colonies of rockhopper penguins on the coast of Patagonia. Continue reading

New model to help coral reef conservation planning

In 2007, these Acropora corals in the Tumon Bay Marine Preserve in Guam bleached, likely due to higher-than-normal water temperatures caused by global climate change. Photo courtesy Dave Burdick/NOAA.

Simplified assessment could help resource managers decide where to focus efforts

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Global warming has spurred dire warnings about the future of coral reef ecosystems, with warnings that many reefs could be wiped out by bleaching, sending biologists scrambling to develop conservation strategies.

A sometimes bewildering array of coral reef environments makes the task daunting, but a new study may illustrate a way to streamline coral reef conservation decisions.

Heat-tolerant species living in areas with continuous background temperature variability have the best chance of surviving climate change, according new studies by the Wildlife Conservation Society and other researchers. These corals should be the focus of conservation efforts, the study concludes. Continue reading

Environment: Grassroots conservation pays off in Fiji

This image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on Aqua shows Fiji’s second-largest island, Vanua Levu, and the Cakaulevu Reef that shelters the island’s northern shore.

Local communities on the front line in marine protection

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Local grassroots efforts to protect marine habitat are paying off in Fiji, which is making progress toward the goal of protecting at least 30 percent of Fiji’s inshore habitats.

A new study by researchers from the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, and the Wildlife Conservation Society outlined some of the successes — along with some of the remaining challenges.

“The results of the study are remarkable given that locally managed marine area networks in Fiji and the Western Pacific region are generally established only to meet local objectives, most notably to improve food security,” said Dr. Morena Mills, lead author of the paper. Continue reading

Oceans: Mysterious mantas tracked by satellite

A giant manta swimming in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico. Image courtesy NOAA.

New study to help inform conservation policy

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — While images of manta rays are ubiquitous on brochures and websites for popular seaside tourist destinations, very little is known about where the ocean giants live and what they need to survive.

But that’s starting to change, thanks to an international study that used satellite tracking technology to study manta rays off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula over a 13-day period. The tracking devices were attached to the backs of six individuals —four females, one male, and one juvenile.

“The satellite tag data revealed that some of the rays traveled more than 1,100 kilometers during the study period,” said Dr. Matthew Witt of the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute. “The rays spent most of their time traversing coastal areas plentiful in zooplankton and fish eggs from spawning events.” Continue reading

Caution urged on Arctic shipping and development

Bowhead whales. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

Impacts to marine mammals a big concern with more traffic in Bering Strait

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Conservation experts and indigenous people in the far north urged caution as trans-Arctic shipping increases in the formerly ice-choked waters of the Arctic ocean.

The rapid increase in commercial ship traffic poses a significant risk to the region’s marine mammals and the local communities that rely on them for food security and cultural identity, according to Alaska Native groups and the Wildlife Conservation Society, who convened at a recent workshop.

“The disappearance of summer sea ice from the region’s coastal areas is leading to major changes in this part of the world,” said Dr. Martin Robards, Director of the World Conservation Society’s Beringia Program and one of the event’s organizers. Continue reading

Whale culture: Singing a different tune

Study sheds light on Indian Ocean humpback whales

Humpback whales are slowly recovering from near extinction and new research on Indian Ocean populations may help inform conservation efforts. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —Humpback whales on opposite sides of the Indian Ocean are singing different songs, a team of marine biologists say, explaining that that their findings are unusual because humpbacks in the same ocean usually all sing very similar tunes.

The differences in song between the Indian Ocean humpback populations most likely indicate a limited exchange between the two regions and may shed new light on how whale culture spreads. Continue reading

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