Category: ocean conservation

Pollution from China disrupts ocean ecosystems

Shifting nutrient balance shapes plankton blooms

A plankton bloom in the Arctic waters of the Barents Sea. Photo courtesy NASA.
A plankton bloom in the Arctic waters of the Barents Sea. Photo courtesy NASA.

Staff Report

Pollution from Chinese factories is changing the nutrient balance in the ocean, say scientists who studied depositions of chemicals and plankton blooms in the East China Sea. These waters are increasingly threatened by harmful algal blooms that choke off vital fish populations, according to the new study, led by researchers at the University of California, Irvine.

“There has been massive growth in emissions from China’s factories and cars over the past few decades, and what comes out of the smokestacks and tailpipes tends to be richer in nitrogen than phosphorus,” said Katherine Mackey, assistant professor of Earth system science at UCI and lead author of the study, published recently in Frontiers in Marine Science. Continue reading “Pollution from China disrupts ocean ecosystems”

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Conservation groups eye emergency rescue plan for vaquitas

‘We are watching this precious native species disappear before our eyes’

vaquita
Can vaquitas be saved by keeping them in captivity? Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

For more background, check the Summit Voice vaquita archive.

With perhaps fewer than 100 vaquitas remaining in the Gulf of California, conservation experts say they will start a last-ditch recovery effort by trying to capture several of the marine mammals and keeping them in a temporary sanctuary. The emergency action plan will be led by the Mexican government and supported by a consortium of marine mammal experts from more than a dozen organizations around the world.

Despite substantial efforts by the Mexican government to protect vaquitas, the recovery team recently reviewed the latest results from advanced acoustic monitoring technology that showed the vaquita population continuing to rapidly decline.

“We are watching this precious native species disappear before our eyes,” said Rafael Pacchiano, Mexico’s secretary of the environment and natural resources. “This critical rescue effort is a priority for the Mexican government and we are dedicated to providing the necessary resources in order to give the plan its best chance of success.” The plan will be implemented in tandem with ongoing efforts to remove the threat of gillnets in the Upper Gulf of California and eliminate illegal fishing. Continue reading “Conservation groups eye emergency rescue plan for vaquitas”

No seismic blasting off East Coast — for now

Obama denies six fossil fuel exploration permits

dolphins Deepwater Horizon spill
The Obama administration has blocked the use of seismic blasting along the Atlantic Coast, helping to protect marine mammals and other ocean animals from harmful noise pollution. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Ocean animals along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. will remain safe from excessive noise pollution at least for the foreseeable future, as President Obama last week moved to deny six permit applications for oil and gas exploration from Florida to Delaware — including requests to use intrusive seismic blasting.

The administration had previously blocked leasing in the area through 2022. The latest decision was greeted with relief by conservation advocates. Obama also recently permanently withdrew 31 canyons in the Atlantic from future oil and gas leasing. Continue reading “No seismic blasting off East Coast — for now”

Study IDs key humpback whale habitats near Madagascar

A humpback whale near Hawaii. Photo courtesy NOAA.
A humpback whale near Hawaii. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Increase in offshore energy development spurs conservation concerns

Staff Report

Humpback whales have always congregated in near-shore breeding areas, which makes them more susceptible to pressures from land-based and near-shore human activity, and the populations in the southwestern Indian Ocean are no exception. Scientists tracking the great cetaceans off the east coast of Africa say there are several areas near Madagascar that need protection from expanding offshore energy exploration.

After tagging several whales and tracing their movements via satellite, the scientists said their data can define potentially sensitive areas that should be protected from the disruption of seismic testing or other industrial development that could be destructive to the humpback population and this globally important marine habitat. Continue reading “Study IDs key humpback whale habitats near Madagascar”

Satellite mapping could help avert whale-ship crashes

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.
A new satellite mapping program could help avert collisions between whales and ships . Photo courtesy NOAA.

‘No ship captain or shipping company wants to strike a whale’

Staff Report

Satellite data about whale movements and ocean conditions have helped scientists create monthly whale hotspot maps that could help avert collisions between ships and marine mammals.

Developed by researchers with NOAA Fisheries, Oregon State University and the University of Maryland, the WhaleWhatch program alerts ships where there may be an increased risk of encountering these endangered whales.  NASA helped fund the project, which draws on ocean observations from NASA and NOAA satellites. Continue reading “Satellite mapping could help avert whale-ship crashes”

Pacific bluefin tuna may get endangered species status

A rampant black market and lax regulations are quickly leading to the demise of the eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna.
Overfishing is pushing bluefin tuna toward extinction.

Unsustainable fishing is pushing the species to the brink of oblivion

Staff Report

Federal regulators are one step closer to putting Pacific bluefin tuna on the endangered species list, as humankind’s insatiable appetite for resources drives the fish to the edge of extinction. The announcement by the National Marine Fisheries Service came in response to a petition filed by conservation groups, who say bluefin tuna populations have declined by about 97 percent since the advent of industrial fishing operations. Continue reading “Pacific bluefin tuna may get endangered species status”

New federal study outlines impacts of seismic air gun blasting in Gulf of Mexico

Oil and gas exploration would have widespread effects on marine mammals

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Seismic blasting is bad for marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Conservation advocates have long been saying that blasting the Gulf of Mexico with seismic airguns to find more oil and gas beneath the seafloor would result in unacceptable harm to marine mammals and other marine life, and a new draft environmental study by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management seems to confirm those concerns.

The study was completed under the terms of a court-ordered settlement of a lawsuit brought by environmental groups. It shows that the blasting would have widespread impacts on marine life, including injuries to endangered sperm whales and Bryde’s whales. The draft report outlines possible mitigation measures, including closure areas where seismic blasting would be banned, and reductions in the amount of activity permissible each year. Continue reading “New federal study outlines impacts of seismic air gun blasting in Gulf of Mexico”