Pod-cast: New app streams whale songs for web users in real time [11/19/2018]
- Researchers have developed a web application to enable citizen scientists to listen for the sounds of a population of killer whales off the northeast Pacific coast in real time. - A network of underwater microphones will stream underwater sounds from the area to citizen scientists, who can then report any unusual noises and help decode orca language. - The researchers have found that human listeners can readily detect unusual sounds amid a stream of underwater noise, and their participation can complement machine-learning algorithms being developed.
Panama, Namibia plan to reveal fishing fleet data via online map [11/19/2018]
- Panama and Namibia have planned to publicly share information on their fishing fleet in their waters via the open-access mapping tool by Global Fishing Watch (GFW). - Both nations say such a move would be crucial in improving transparency in fisheries management and protecting their oceans. - GFW’s mapping platform provides both general data for the public and more detailed information seen only by authorities. - The tool helps identify if a boat is fishing during the closed season of a particular species; if it enters an unauthorized area; or if it sails into a protected area.
Peru shares its fisheries surveillance data with the world [11/16/2018]
- Late last month, the Peruvian government made public its satellite surveillance data on 1,300 commercial fishing vessels plying Peru’s waters via the open-access platform Global Fishing Watch. - Only the Peruvian government and companies in the fishing sector had access to the data previously. - With this move, Peru became the second country in the world, following Indonesia, to make public data from fishing vessels’ Vessel Monitoring Systems, a method of satellite surveillance. - The country aims to use GFW as a tool to fight illegal fishing and overfishing.
Latam Eco Review: Rampant roadkill and shrinking seaweed stocks [11/16/2018]
The top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, investigated Colombia’s roadkill rates; Chile’s marine forests; and Chinese energy projects in Ecuador. Mammals pay highest toll on Colombia’s highways Plans to double Colombia’s highway network by 2035 represent a major threat to wildlife conservation. A roadkill app and research have documented some 11,000 roadkill incidents, […]
High sea levels thousands of years ago aided island formation [11/15/2018]
- A recent study has found that high sea levels were critical to the formation of coral reef islands in the Indian Ocean thousands of years ago. - The findings suggest that rising sea levels driven by climate change might not destroy all coral reef islands. - However, the authors caution that the same higher-energy waves that help build these islands could also destroy the infrastructure on them that humans depend on. - They also say that, for coral reef island formation to occur, the reef must be healthy to begin with — something that risks being negated by rising water acidity and temperature, both the result of climate change.
Audio: A Half-Earth progress report from E.O. Wilson [11/13/2018]
- On this episode, a progress report on the Half-Earth Project direct from legendary conservation biologist E.O. Wilson. - When Mongabay contributor Jeremy Hance spoke with Dr. Wilson back in January of 2017, Wilson said he’d found the goal of Half-Earth was energizing for people — and he tells us on this episode of the podcast that this continues to be true, as the conservation community has responded eagerly to the Half-Earth goal. - Wilson also discusses why he sees Half-Earth as a “moonshot” and how close we currently are to protecting half of Earth’s lands and waters.
PNG to create 7,500 square kilometers of new marine protected areas in Bismarck Sea [11/13/2018]
- Papua New Guinea has announced its commitment to creating 7,500 square kilometers of marine protected areas in the Bismarck Sea by 2021. - The new MPA network will encompass 2,500 square kilometers of coastal areas around Tikana and Lavongai islands including key coral reef systems in the Bismarck Sea, as well as 5,000 square kilometers of offshore areas identified as high priorities for marine conservation in New Ireland Province. - The PNG government has pledged to triple the coverage of its current MPA network, and this new 7,500-square-kilometer (nearly 2,900-square-mile) commitment will achieve that goal. According to WCS president and CEO Cristián Samper, the new MPAs will also help the country meet its Aichi Target goal of protecting 10 percent of its territorial waters and coastline by the year 2025.
Chile: Mining waste continues to be expelled into the sea [11/13/2018]
- A major mining company is dumping its waste into the sea off the Chilean city of Huasco without authorization from environmental authorities. - The waste suffocates marine life, destroys habitat and contaminates the water column with toxic heavy metals. - Despite sanctions against the company for violating regulations, it continues to dump mining waste into the sea as it has for 40 years.
Indonesia leans on businesses to do more about plastic waste [11/12/2018]
- The Indonesian government will issue a policy this year requiring producers and retailers to take greater responsibility for the waste generated by their products. - Under the extended producer responsibility (EPR) policy, producers will have to boost the percentage of recyclable content in their products and packaging, as well as provide post-retail recycling solutions. - The country is the second-biggest contributor, after China, to the plastic trash crisis in the ocean.
Are deep sea reefs really a lifeboat for our vanishing corals? [11/07/2018]
- Mesophotic reefs are little-known ecosystems that range from 30 to 150 meters (100 to 500 feet) below the ocean’s surface. - A new study has cast doubt on the extent to which mesophotic reefs may be a refuge for shallower species hit by overfishing, warming waters and extreme weather. - It finds that mesophotic reefs are just as vulnerable as shallower reefs to warming seas and ocean acidification — both impacts of climate change — and storm damage. - Climate change remains the gravest threat to coral ecosystems, both shallow and mesophotic.
Parrotfish, critical to reef health, now protected under Mexican law [11/07/2018]
- The government of Mexico added 10 species of parrotfish to its national registry of protected species in October. - In a letter to the government, the environmental NGO AIDA argued that parrotfish and other herbivorous fish, whose numbers have been declining due to fishing, are necessary to maintain the health of coral reefs. - AIDA has embarked on a three-year project to work with policymakers to protect herbivorous fish in Mexico and five other Latin American countries.
Local fishers oppose $2.7 billion deal opening Madagascar to Chinese fishing [11/05/2018]
- Two months ago, a little-known private Malagasy association signed a 10-year, $2.7 billion fishing deal — the largest in the country’s history — with a group of Chinese companies that plans to send 330 fishing vessels to Madagascar. - Critics of the deal include the country’s fisheries minister, who said he learned about it in the newspaper; environmental and government watchdog groups; and local fishers, who are already struggling with foreign competition for Madagascar’s dwindling marine stocks. - Critics say no draft of the deal has been made public and the association that signed it did not conduct an environmental impact assessment or any public consultation. - The issue has drawn media attention in the run-up to the presidential election on Wednesday. The incumbent and a leading candidate, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, was present at the fisheries deal’s signing, although he later claimed not to be familiar with it.
How porpoise sounds helped researchers test acoustic devices [11/02/2018]
- A team of scientists used playbacks of recorded and artificial porpoise clicks to develop an adaptable method to assess the area in which acoustic monitoring devices can reliably detect these sounds - Researchers need to know how far away they can expect acoustic data loggers to capture the sounds of target animals to estimate the density of those animals from the recordings. - The cetacean data loggers could reliably detect the click signals up to nearly 200 meters (656 feet), which translated to a circular sampling area of 11 hectares (27 acres) per device. - The data logger algorithms could correctly classify the clicks as porpoise sounds only up to 72 meters (236 feet), representing a reliable sampling areas of just 1.6 hectares (4 acres) that could be used to estimate the density of a specific species, an issue affecting researchers working with more than one echolocating species.
Latam Eco Review: Killing jaguars for arthritis creams and wine [11/02/2018]
The top stories last week from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, followed the fate of Suriname’s hunted jaguars, Bogota’s urban forest preserve, and Chile’s Humboldt Archipelago. Suriname’s jaguars killed for arthritis creams and wine Suriname’s jaguar population is being decimated for the Asian market in arthritis cream, soap, aphrodisiacs and even wine, according to an […]
Call to protect dwindling wilderness ‘before it disappears forever’ [11/01/2018]
- Just 23 percent of wilderness on land and 13 percent of wilderness at sea remains, according to new maps of global human impacts. - Five countries — Russia, Canada, Australia, the United States and Brazil — contain 70 percent of the remaining wilderness. - The authors of the suite of studies argue that wilderness protection should move to the forefront of the conservation agenda.
Coral bleaching events cause behavioral changes in key reef fish species [11/01/2018]
- New research suggests that higher ocean temperatures and coral bleaching are also triggering rapid behavioral shifts in reef fish. - Over the course of two years, an international team of researchers spent more than 600 hours underwater observing butterflyfish, a species that is considered a key indicator of coral reef health, both before and after a global coral bleaching event in 2016. - The researchers found that aggressive behavior had decreased in butterflyfish by an average of two thirds, with the biggest behavorial changes observed on reefs where bleaching had killed off the most coral.
17 new brilliantly colored species of sea slugs described [11/01/2018]
- Researchers have just described 17 stunning new species of sea slugs that live among coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific region. - All the species belong to the genus Hypselodoris, and come in a wide variety of colors. - Researchers reorganized the genus Hypselodoris, adding new-to-science species to the group, and revealing secrets of the evolution of their brilliant color patterns.
Chile mine and port project nears approval despite scientific opposition [10/31/2018]
- The Chilean agency responsible for marine reserves did not take scientific information specified by its regional office into consideration when considering a proposed mining and port project. - The Dominga project would be established within the foraging zones of species living in neighboring marine reserves. - Two hundred scientists sent a letter to President Sebastián Piñera explaining the need to protect this space. Marine science experts like them say that the project’s area of influence underestimates impacts and will affect nearby protected areas. - In April 2018, the Environmental Court ruled in favor of the project, but it is currently before the Supreme Court after an NGO lodged an appeal to invalidate the ruling.
$10bn pledged in new commitments to protect the world’s oceans [10/30/2018]
- Representatives of governments, the private sector, civil society groups and philanthropic organizations have pledged billions of dollars to protect vast swaths of the world’s oceans. - The impacts of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and climate change on the world’s oceans were a focus of recently concluded Our Ocean Conference in Bali, Indonesia. - Cooperation between governments is needed to prevent the world’s oceans from experiencing devastating damage from an onslaught of factors led by climate change.
In Bali and beyond: An urgent focus on coral conservation (commentary) [10/29/2018]
- Millions of people depend on coral for their nutritional health and well-being. - But we are damaging coral reefs today: with sediment that flows from rivers, caused by development and deforestation on land; with overfishing that upsets the delicate balance of species on reef; with chemicals, like cyanide, that are used to catch fish when there are few left to catch; with the rise in temperature caused by our continued dependence on fossil fuels. - There is reason for hope, though. Some coral reefs around the world are stronger, more flexible, and more resilient than others to changes and threats in their environment. These reefs need to be protected. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Whales and dolphins change the way they communicate in a noisy ocean [10/26/2018]
- Two independent teams of biologists looked at the impact of ambient sound from ships on whales and dolphins. - The research on whales revealed that noise from a passing ship led humpbacks in the vicinity to stop singing, sometimes for 30 minutes after the ship had passed. - In the study on dolphins, the scientists showed that dolphins abbreviated their whistles in response to the sound. - Both teams raised concerns about whether sound in the ocean increases the stress on marine mammals and how it might affect their ability to communicate with fellow members of the same species.
Scientists map the impact of trawling using satellite vessel tracking [10/17/2018]
- Using satellite tracking data, researchers have come up with new maps showing the impact of trawling in 24 regions around the world. - Trawling produces a sizable portion of the world’s seafood but is also seen as destructive and indiscriminate. - The team found that trawlers fished 14 percent of the ocean in the areas they studied, leaving 86 percent untouched. - But the study did not include parts of the world known to have high levels of trawling activity, leading one researcher to question whether the authors “over-interpreted” their results.
Latam Eco Review: Millennial trees and Pacific coral larvae [10/12/2018]
Top recent stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, include a multi-country series on illegal logging, traveling coral larvae, and a treaty to protect environmental defenders. Peru’s millennial trees could disappear in 10 years Peru’s Shihuahuaco trees (Dipteryx micrantha) take hundreds of years to grow but could be lost in a decade. Listed as critically […]
Top Madagascar shrimp co. moved millions among tax-haven shell companies [10/11/2018]
- Aziz Ismail, 85, a French citizen born in Madagascar, bought into Madagascar’s shrimp business in 1973. His empire, known generally as Unima, now includes at least eight privately held companies in Europe and Africa that are mainly involved in seafood from Madagascar, where operations are centered. - Ismail has also owned a British Virgin Islands-based shell company called Ergia Limited since 2000. In the last decade, Ergia appears to have had financial transactions totaling several million dollars with another apparent shell company in Mauritius that has close ties to Unima, and with Unima companies in Europe. - Although owning and using offshore companies is generally legal, tax and law enforcement officials are increasingly scrutinizing transactions through tax havens like the British Virgin Islands and Mauritius. Tax inspectors from Madagascar and other experts said Unima’s use of multiple offshore companies raises the risk of lost taxes for one of the world’s poorest countries. - Files obtained from the now-defunct Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca as part of the “Panama Papers” were the basis for this investigation by Mongabay and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Whales not enough sustenance for polar bears in fast-changing climate [10/10/2018]
- Scientists believe that whale carcasses may have helped polar bears survive past upswings in temperatures that melted the sea ice from which they usually hunt seals. - As the current changing climate threatens to make the Arctic ice-free during the summer, this strategy may help some populations of polar bears to survive. - But according to new study, whale carcasses won’t provide enough food for most bear populations because there are fewer whales than there once were, and human settlements, industry and shipping could affect the bears’ access to any carcasses that do wash ashore.
Plastic trash from the ‘sachet economy’ chokes the Philippines’ seas [10/09/2018]
- The Philippines generates an enormous amount of trash and is the third worst ocean plastic polluter in the world, according to a 2015 study in the journal Science. - The trash is piling up on land, clogging coastlines, spilling into the sea, and traveling to remote corners of the globe as the country fails to meet targets for improved waste management that it signed into law 18 years ago. - The central government claims it’s done all it can, and that the onus is on local governments and the Philippine people to solve the problem. - But environmental advocates disagree, saying the government could do more, including pressuring multinational corporations to change how they package their products.
Latam Eco Review: Kissable sharks and spectacled bears [10/05/2018]
The most popular stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, followed a new green-eyed shark species in Belize, salmon farms in Patagonia, blast fishing in Peru, a cocaine-laden plane in a Peruvian park, and an Andean bear mystery, also in Peru. Belize’s tiny sixgill shark species at risk “A little shark so adorable, you want […]
Agreement bans commercial fishing across much of the Arctic, for now [10/04/2018]
- Nine jurisdictions — Canada, Norway, Russia, the U.S., China, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands) and the European Union — have signed a legally binding agreement that bans commercial fishing in the high seas portion of the Central Arctic Ocean, covering 2.8 million square kilometers, or an area about the size of the Mediterranean Sea, for at least 16 years. - As part of the agreement, the signatory parties have committed to a joint scientific research and monitoring program to gain a better understanding of the changing Arctic ecosystem and determine the region’s potential for commercial, sustainable fisheries in the future. - The moratorium will initially cover 16 years, but this can be extended in five-year increments, if the parties agree to do so.
Young right whale dies, likely from entanglement in fishing gear [10/03/2018]
- A young North Atlantic right whale died off the coast of Massachusetts in August, probably as the result of entanglement in fishing gear. - After centuries of hunting, the right whale population in the North Atlantic has failed to recover, in large part because they’re prone to getting entangled in fishing gear. - Only about 450 of the animals remain, after 17 died between late 2016 and 2017, and no new calves were observed last winter.
Jakarta cancels permits for controversial bay reclamation project [10/02/2018]
- The Jakarta administration has revoked permits to develop 13 of 17 artificial islands that are part of a $40 billion land reclamation project off the coast of the Indonesian capital. - The project aimed to slow the high rate of land subsidence in Jakarta, but its critics, including the current governor, say it harms the environment and threatens the livelihoods of local fishing communities. - An NGO leading the opposition to the project has called for permanent measures to halt the project, given that earlier suspensions to the same effect were eventually lifted. - Four of the affected islands have already been completed; the city administration says it will put these to use in the public interest.
A ‘monoculture of jellyfish’ threatens the oceans as we know them (insider) [10/01/2018]
- Jeremy Hance writes about how jellyfish could come to dominate the world’s oceans - Overfishing has removed fish from marine ecosystems at astounding rates, which has opened the door for jellyfish to take their place. - Eutrophication is another human-caused change in the ocean that has likely contributed to jellyfish explosions. - This is an insider story. To read, please become a member.
Largely banned industrial chemicals could wipe out killer whales, study warns [10/01/2018]
- New research shows that despite countries phasing out polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) more than 40 years ago, the chemicals remain a major threat to killer whales around the world, and could wipe out most populations in just 30 to 50 years. - Killer whale populations that occur in least PCB-polluted parts of the ocean, such as those around the poles, Norway and Iceland, still have a large number of individuals and are at low risk. - However, populations occurring in waters that have had historically high concentrations of PCBs, such as those around Japan, Brazil, the northeast Pacific, the Strait of Gibraltar, and the U.K., are all tending toward complete collapse in the next few decades, according to the study’s modeled scenarios.
In an Indonesian village, compressor diving for fish is a dangerous business [09/27/2018]
- At least 11 men from Indonesia’s Seriwe village, on the island of Lombok, have died in compressor diving accidents. Others have suffered varying degrees of paralysis. - The accidents are made more likely because the divers use cheap, makeshift rigs that tend not to include pressure gauges. - When their husbands suffer an injury and are unable to work, responsibility for providing for the family falls on the divers’ wives.
New species of neon-colored fish discovered off Brazil [09/26/2018]
- While diving in the waters surrounding Saint Paul’s Rocks, an archipelago off Brazil, in June last year, researchers discovered a stunning pink-and-white neon-colored fish that’s new to science. - The researchers were so taken by the colorful fish that they did not notice a large six-gill shark swimming very close to them. For its “enchanting” beauty, they named the fish Tosanoides aphrodite, or the Aphrodite anthias, after the Greek goddess of love and beauty. - Aphrodite anthias is the only known species of the genus Tosanoides found in the Atlantic Ocean. All the other known species of Tosanoides live in the Pacific Ocean.
New species of blood-red coral found off Panama coast [09/21/2018]
- Researchers have found a new species of bright red coral in Hannibal Bank, an underwater seamount off Panama’s Pacific coast. - The new coral, Thesea dalioi, is only the second known species of Thesea found in the eastern Pacific, the researchers say. - Researchers named the new coral after Ray Dalio, a U.S. philanthropist and hedge fund manager whose foundation supports ocean exploration. - The reefs on Hannibal Bank, where T. dalioi was discovered, occur in low-light environments that are thought to be fragile habitats made of a high diversity of corals, algae and sponges.
Deep reefs were not spared by 2016 mass bleaching event on Great Barrier Reef [09/19/2018]
- New research finds that the mass bleaching event that led to the death of 30 percent of shallow-water corals on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 also had a substantial impact on deep reefs. - Occurring at depths lower than 30 to 40 meters below the surface of the sea, deep coral reefs, also known as mesophotic reefs, were previously thought to be “ecological refuges from mass bleaching” thanks to cold water rising up from deeper in the ocean, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications this month. - But researchers determined that deep reefs’ ability to offer “ecological refuge” to coral has some important limitations, and that both shallow and deep reefs are at risk of mass bleaching in the future.
How much plastic is too much plastic for sea turtles? [09/14/2018]
- Researchers in Australia examined the digestive tracts of 246 dead sea turtles collected from along the coast of the state of Queensland and counted up to 329 pieces of plastic. - Younger turtles were found to have consumed considerably higher amounts of plastic pieces than adult turtles, the study found, possibly because they are less selective about what they eat. The young turtles also drift with ocean currents, just like plastic debris tends to do, and both might end up aggregating in the same places. - The higher the number of plastic pieces a turtle has inside its gut, the higher the chance of it being killed by the plastic. For an average-sized turtle, ingesting more than 14 pieces of plastic translates into a 50 percent likelihood of death.
Tagging and tracking the Tour de Turtles [09/13/2018]
- The Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Tour de Turtles kicked off last month, tagging and tracking 17 sea turtles during a marathon migration. - Turtles wear small transmitters during the annual event as they travel thousands of miles to from their nesting beaches to feeding grounds. - Data collected from satellite telemetry help scientists gain a clearer understanding of how four species of turtles behave at sea, furthering efforts to protect endangered species.
The search for survivors in a post-nuclear reefscape [09/10/2018]
- The United States tested its largest thermonuclear bomb in 1954 over Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, generating radioactive fallout downwind, including over remote Rongelap Atoll. - We surveyed protected reefs of Rongelap and neighboring Ailinginae Atoll, finding extremely variable coral condition and widespread evidence of recent ocean warming. - Variation in reef condition underscored an increasing need to assist diver-based surveys with improved satellite and aircraft imaging to assess the health of the coral reefs. - Climate change mitigation is paramount to coral reef survival, as increasing ocean temperature could trump earlier nuclear radiation as a driver of reef degradation in the Marshall Islands.
Diverse family of algae could help corals survive warming seas [09/05/2018]
- Scientists have found that some algae that associate with corals are much more diverse and much older than previously thought. - The origin of certain algae occurred at around the same time corals began building reefs on a grand scale around the world, the researchers showed. - The diversity of these algae could boost corals’ resistance to higher ocean temperatures.
Indonesia, a top plastic polluter, mobilizes 20,000 citizens to clean up the mess [09/04/2018]
- On a Sunday last August, thousands of Indonesians gathered at 76 locations across the Southeast Asian country to participate in a massive cleanup of plastic trash. - Government officials and NGO activists hoped the event would raise awareness about plastic pollution, especially among the youth. - Indonesia is the world’s second-largest plastic polluter, with 10 billion plastic bags in the country alone dumped into the environment each year.
New Zealand penguins make ‘crazy’ 7,000-km round trip for food [09/03/2018]
- Until recently, researchers did not know where the Fiordland penguins of New Zealand, known locally as tawaki, went to hunt during their pre-moult summer period. - A new study that tracked 17 penguins has found that the birds made a round trip of up to 6,800 kilometers (4,225 miles) in 2016, making it one of the longest-known pre-moult penguin migrations to date. - The penguins went nearly halfway to Antarctica, traveling to the sub-tropical front south of Tasmania or to the sub-Antarctic front to hunt, the researchers found. - It’s not clear why they went so far, given that other penguin species in New Zealand seem to find enough food in the waters near their breeding colonies. Researchers say more studies over several seasons and involving more individual penguins are needed.
Madagascar: Where young whale sharks party [08/31/2018]
- Whale sharks don’t need help being spectacular. The world’s biggest fish is impressive in nearly every aspect, growing as long as 12 meters (40 feet) and weighing up to 21 tons. - A new study in the journal Endangered Species Research used photo-identification techniques based on the sharks’ distinctive spots to discover a new hotspot for juvenile whale sharks around the tiny island of Nosy Be, in northwest Madagascar. - This is a rare bit of good news for a species that, like many other sharks, is struggling to survive in oceans increasingly subject to the negative impacts of human activity.
Underwater tech unlocks the secrets of The Bahamas’ Exuma Sound [08/30/2018]
- Scientists in The Bahamas plunged 800 meters (2,624 feet) into the Exuma Sound in manned submersibles for two separate expeditions, carried out in April and August this year. - Using high-tech cameras, lights and sensors, researchers mapped the underwater terrain, collected samples and obtained footage of rare and undocumented deep-sea species. - The team hope their research will further conservation efforts in the area, specifically the creation of new marine protected areas that include deep-water habitats.
As Bali reclamation project dies, activists seek conservation status [08/30/2018]
- Activists in Bali have welcomed the automatic cancellation of a permit for a reclamation project in the Indonesian resort island’s Benoa Bay. - The permit expired after the developer failed to secure government approval for its environmental impact assessment for the project. - The planned development would have cleared large areas of the bay’s mangrove ecosystem for new artificial islands to host a convention center, hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues. - The activists have called on the government to restore the bay’s status as a strictly protected area for future conservation.
A new dimension to marine restoration: 3D printing coral reefs [08/27/2018]
- Australian group Reef Design Labs submerged a 3D-printed artificial coral reef earlier this month in the Maldives, with the hope that this advanced engineering method will help coral regeneration efforts. - Their product, called Modular Artificial Reef Structure or MARS, enables the user to build and install an adjustable structure by hand rather than barge or crane. - 3D printing cannot fix ocean acidification, bleaching, and other dire threats reefs face, but it can facilitate desperately needed research on reef restoration and resilience.
Latam Eco Review: Land trafficking in Lima’s hill ecosystems, oil spills in Venezuela, floods in Colombia [08/25/2018]
The most popular stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, this past week investigated how land trafficking is destroying Lima’s fragile hill ecosystems; government inaction and oil spills in Venezuela; open borders for wildlife trafficking in Belize and Guatemala; massive floods in Colombia; and community reforestation in Bolivia. Land trafficking erodes Lima’s fragile hill ecosystems Land […]
The Arctic’s oldest, thickest ice is breaking up [08/22/2018]
- Strong southerly winds pushed sea ice away from Greenland’s north coast twice this year — a possible first. - We’re unlikely to see a new record sea ice extent minimum in the Arctic Ocean come September 2018. Sea ice extent in the Arctic is currently clocking in at 5.396 million square kilometers (about 2.1 million square miles). That’s the good news. - But the melt-out above Greenland has alarming implications for the future. If even the thickest, oldest ice is now susceptible to increased warming and changes in weather, what hope is there for the rest of the Arctic?
Latam Eco Review: Hunger for wildlife, mercury rising, and a black jaguar sighting [08/17/2018]
The most popular stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, in the last week investigated how human hunger is driving hunting in Venezuela (and danger for zoo animals, pictured above), how gold miners are contaminating Bolivia’s rivers with mercury, and news of Ecuador’s first wildlife corridor. Economic crisis in Venezuela: Hungry citizens hunt wildlife and zoo […]
The Japan pig is a tiny colorful pygmy seahorse smaller than a fingernail [08/17/2018]
- Scientists have described a new species of pygmy seahorse that’s colorful and smaller than the average fingernail. - The researchers have officially named the tiny seahorse Japan pig, or Hippocampus japapigu, because local people believe the animal resembles a “tiny baby pig.” - Unlike other pygmy seahorses, the newly described species has an elevated ridge on its upper back made of triangular bones, the purpose of which is still unclear. - The Japan pig is now the fifth pygmy seahorse species to be recorded in Japan.
New Caledonia votes to protect coral reefs [08/16/2018]
- The government of New Caledonia voted on Tuesday to establish marine protected areas across 28,000 square kilometers of waters around the French overseas territory. - The move safeguards coral reefs, marine habitats, and critical bird nesting areas. - New Caledonia is known for its rich marine life, including nesting grounds for turtles, humpback whales, and sea birds.
Tracking tools identify regional hubs of whale shark activity [08/16/2018]
- Researchers tracked 17 juvenile whale sharks tagged at three sites in the Philippines to understand how their movements related to food sources and fishing grounds in Southeast Asia. - They found that juvenile sharks moved quickly and widely through the Bohol and Sulu seas but remained near their feeding sites within Philippine waters. - In combination with other studies, these findings suggest that locally focused whale shark conservation efforts are critical and must consider the movements juvenile whale sharks make within zones of several hundred square kilometers.
Scientists say endangered whale sharks can live up to 130 years [08/15/2018]
- Scientists at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in the United States led a team of researchers who used minimally invasive methods for examining the growth patterns of whale sharks in the South Ari Atoll of the Maldives. The team repeatedly took measurements of free-swimming sharks over a 10-year period using three different approaches: visual, laser, and tape measures. - The team built models of whale shark growth patterns based on the measurements they had taken from 186 encounters with 44 sharks and determined that male whale sharks reach maturity at about 25 years of age, can grow to nearly 62 feet in length, and can live as long as 130 years. - Approximately 75 percent of the global whale shark population lives in the Indo-Pacific region of Earth’s oceans, with the other 25 percent occurring in the Atlantic Ocean. According to the IUCN Red List, combined data from both regions shows that the global whale shark population has likely declined by more than 50 percent over the past 75 years.
‘Biological passports’ show whale sharks travel less than we thought [08/15/2018]
- A study looking at chemical signatures in whale shark tissue and using photographic identification has revealed that young sharks in three countries along the western rim of the Indian Ocean don’t typically stray more than a few hundred kilometers from their feeding sites. - Of the more than 1,200 sharks photographed, only two traveled between different feeding sites — in this case, about 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) between Mozambique and Tanzania. - The authors of the study say their findings demonstrate that local conservation of these populations is important because if whale sharks are wiped out in an area, they’re unlikely to repopulate it later on.
Technological breakthroughs are changing how researchers observe the world’s fishing fleet [08/14/2018]
- Three new scientific papers describe methodologies for working with automatic identification system, or AIS, signal data, and what the information reveals about global fishing activities. - Two of the studies analyze how AIS data can be used to observe transshipment, which is when a fishing vessel transfers catch onto another vessel instead of bringing it into port itself. - A third paper uses AIS data to shine new light on which countries dominate industrial fishing and in what areas they’re particularly active.
Industrial fishing is dominated by just a few of the world’s wealthiest nations [08/14/2018]
- A study led by researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) in the United States shows that wealthy countries’ industrial fishing fleets don’t just dominate Earth’s oceans, they have a virtual monopoly on them, especially on the high seas. - The researchers found that vessels registered to wealthy countries are responsible for 78 percent of trackable industrial fishing in the waters of less-wealthy countries and a whopping 97 percent on the high seas, international waters that are outside of any one country’s jurisdiction. - Five higher-income countries are responsible for a disproportionate amount of the industrial fishing effort on the high seas: China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Spain (in order of dominance).
Predatory coral bring down jellyfish by working together [08/14/2018]
- For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that corals can work cooperatively to capture jellyfish. - The team observed the bright orange Astroides calycularis, which lives on sea walls and caves in the Mediterranean Sea, snagging mauve stinger jellyfish that became trapped by ocean currents. - Coral polyps first grab onto a jellyfish’s bell, and then others will begin ingesting the jellyfish’s arms in a process that takes just a few minutes.
Latam Eco Review: Turtles at risk, jungle fracking, and a mafia land grab [08/10/2018]
The most popular stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, last week followed what is causing an 80 percent decline in some sea turtle populations in Peru, mafias and deforestation in Colombia, and fracking in Bolivia. Banner image: The hook in the photo above can cause internal damage that is fatal for sea turtles. Image courtesy of […]
Industrial fishing fleets traveling farther to reel in fewer fish [08/08/2018]
- According to a recent study in the journal Science Advances, the average distance industrial fishing fleets travel from their home ports to fishing grounds is twice what it was in the 1950s, expanding the total area of the world’s oceans that are fished from 60 to 90 percent. - Despite ranging farther afield and fishing in new waters, however, the fleets of the top 20 fishing countries — collectively responsible for 80 percent of the global industrial fishing catch — are hauling in far smaller amounts of fish. - Today, about 7 metric tons of fish are caught per 1,000 kilometers (about 621 miles) traveled by those 20 countries’ fleets, less than a third of the more than 25 metric tons they caught per 1,000 kilometers traveled in the 1950s.
Ocean acidity stifles coral-anchored communities [08/06/2018]
- Researchers working in the seas around Japan found that higher levels of carbon dioxide, like those found around volcanic vents in the ocean floor, diminish the diversity of corals and other lifeforms. - The study took place at the convergence of marine temperate and subtropical climates. - Their findings indicate that rising acidity could inhibit coral growth and reduce the number of species living in these ecosystems.
Indonesia demands cleanup after coal spill pollutes beach [08/06/2018]
- A coal barge spilled 7,000 tonnes of the fossil fuel just off a beach in northern Sumatra on July 30. - The coal was reportedly destined for a nearby cement plant run by a subsidiary of Swiss giant LafargeHolcim, but now blankets a popular beach. - Local fishermen and activists say the coal has damaged coral and killed marine life, devastating the livelihoods of the community. - Officials have called on the cement firm and barge operator to clean up the coal, while environmental experts are pushing for a lawsuit against the companies.
Largest king penguin colony in the world has shrunk by 90% [08/06/2018]
- In 1982, researchers estimated that there were more than 500,000 breeding pairs and over 2 million king penguins on the remote Île aux Cochons, or Pig Island, a French territory in southern Indian Ocean. - More than three decades later, by 2017, the number of king penguins on the island had dropped drastically to just about 200,000 penguins, including some 60,000 breeding pairs, researchers report in a new study. - The reasons for this decline are still unknown, but the researchers hope that further field studies will be able to verify the massive drop and identify the factors that led to it.
Latam Eco Review: Harlequin frogs, sustainable ranching, and miracle coral [08/03/2018]
These were the most read stories published by our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, last week: Scientists in Colombia strive to understand what is happening with the Athelopus frog genus in order to save them from extinction, while a cattle ranch in Bolivia opts for an ambitious sustainable tourism project, and more. Keep up to date with […]
Fish find it harder to smell in acidic oceans, study finds [07/27/2018]
- Even tiny decreases in seawater pH (or increases in ocean acidity) are enough to weaken the European sea bass’s sense of smell, which it relies on to find food and mates and to evade predators, a new study has found. - In waters containing high carbon dioxide levels predicted for the end of the century, the sea bass had to be on average up to 42 percent closer to the source of the smell in order to detect it, compared to when they were exposed to waters containing present-day levels of carbon dioxide. - The researchers also found that in fish that were exposed to more acidic waters, the expression of genes for smell receptors in their nose was decreased.
Global marine wilderness has dwindled to 13 percent, new map reveals [07/26/2018]
- New research examining the effects of 19 human stressors on the marine environment shows that only 13 percent of oceans can still be considered wilderness. - Of the remaining wilderness, much of which is located in the high seas and at the poles, less than 5 percent falls under protection, and climate change and advances in technology could threaten it. - The authors of the study call for international cooperation to protect the ocean’s wilderness areas, including a “Paris Agreement for the Ocean,” which they hope will be signed in 2020.
New tagging tech for great white shark tracking in New York waters [07/25/2018]
- Mongabay editor Erik Hoffner joined a research team studying juvenile great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) just offshore of Long Island, New York, an area that has been identified as a great white ‘nursery.’ - Some of the technology being deployed via tags on sharks for this study will return unprecedented information on the species. - Here we present a series of images from the program and of this particular shark’s capture and release.
As planned excise flops, Indonesia ponders how to give up plastic bags [07/23/2018]
- The proliferation of free plastic shopping bags, coupled with a lack of recycling infrastructure and a general disregard for waste management have turned Indonesia into one of the major contributors to the global plastic waste crisis. - The government has backed down from imposing an excise on plastic shopping bags, planned for this month, following opposition from manufacturers and the Industry Ministry. - The plan is the second to fall through, after a pilot program to charge consumers for plastic bags was abandoned by retailers in 2016. - Plastics producers say the main problem is the inadequate waste management system to deal with all the waste.
New species of shark named after pioneering ‘Shark Lady’ Eugenie Clark [07/20/2018]
- Scientists have just described a new species of shark from the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic Ocean. - The new species was formally named Squalus clarkae or Genie’s Dogfish, in honor of the late marine biologist Eugenie Clark, best known for her pioneering work on sharks, which earned her the nickname of “Shark Lady.” - The newly described big-eyed shark belongs to the dogfish family, a group of small sharks that live primarily in deep waters and reproduce slowly.
Plant communities roar back after rat removal from Pacific islands [07/19/2018]
- In a multi-year study, scientists found that tree seedlings were more than 5,000 percent more abundant after rats were eradicated from Palmyra Atoll, a group of 25 small islands in the Pacific Ocean. - Invasive rats, brought by ships over the past few centuries, eat tree seedlings and vegetation, in addition to driving down seabird numbers. - Managers eradicated the islands’ rats in 2011, and within a month, seedling densities had increased.
First fern genomes sequenced — and they hold a lot of promise [07/18/2018]
- Despite being one of the most diverse groups of plants on the planet, ferns were until recently the only major plant group to not have their genomes sequenced. - Now, for the first time ever, biologists have sequenced the genomes of two tiny ferns, Azolla filiculoides and Salvinia cucullata, and their findings have some major implications for agriculture. - The fern experts now hope to sequence other fern genomes and unravel more fern secrets.
Red flags abound as a warming Arctic opens up to shipping [07/18/2018]
- Ship traffic through the Arctic is expected to increase dramatically as global warming renders a growing proportion of the region ice-free. - Conservationists warn that the higher number of vessels raises the risks of pollution, oil spills, and disturbances to marine mammals from propeller noise. - They propose a slate of regulatory measures that could help mitigate the anticipated impacts, which could then be extended to other vulnerable maritime regions.
Pushing Vietnam’s shrimp industry toward sustainability [07/17/2018]
- Shrimp farming is one of the biggest industries in Vietnam, and the government is pushing to expand it, having announced plans last year to boost exports from $3 billion in 2016 to $10 billion by 2025. - But there are significant environmental problems associated with current farming methods, which contribute to deforestation, erosion, land subsidence and rising salinity levels that are threatening the stability of the entire Mekong region. - The Vietnamese government and a range of international development partners are working to improve the way the country farms shrimp, with an emphasis on small-scale operators. - However, the reality is that most farmers are reluctant to change.
Bold initiative aims to protect coral reefs in the Dominican Republic [07/16/2018]
- Coral reefs of the northern Caribbean have undergone widespread change over the past century, driven by coastal development, pollution, over-fishing, the introduction of invasive species, and increasing ocean temperatures. - A new and unique marine protected area, the Southeast Marine Sanctuary, has recently been declared, covering 786,300 hectares of reef environment, thus making it one of the largest protected areas in the Caribbean. - The marine sanctuary will be divided into two zones, each to be co-managed by a diverse group of stakeholders organized into a nonprofit. The structure of its oversight – a collaboration among numerous stakeholders, from the federal government to local fishermen and from environmental groups to hotel associations – makes this new marine sanctuary remarkable.
Protecting PNG’s oceans: Q&A with marine activist John Aini [07/16/2018]
- John Aini is a prominent indigenous leader in his native Papua New Guinea who has won multiple awards for his grassroots activism in marine conservation. - In a recent speech Aini outlined a number of threats to the country’s environment and indigenous peoples, including logging, mining, palm oil plantations and, most recently, the world’s first underwater mining operation, which is slated to begin production next year. - This is the second of Mongabay’s two-part interview with Aini at the recent International Marine Conservation Congress in Malaysia.
Mangroves and their deforestation may emit more methane than we thought [07/13/2018]
- A recently published study finds mangroves release more methane than previously estimated. - Methane packs much more of a global warming punch than carbon dioxide, and the study indicates this methane could be offsetting around 20 percent of a mangrove’s soil carbon storage rate. - Deforestation of mangroves releases much of the carbon stored by mangroves, including methane.
Latam Eco Review: Spectacled bears in the spotlight [07/13/2018]
Among the most read stories at our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, this past week were articles about camera traps providing new insights into the spectacled bear’s natural habitat in Peru, and in Ecuador both private and governmental initiatives which are successfully fighting to protect the dry forest ecosystem in the southern part of the country. The […]
‘Decolonizing conservation’: Q&A with PNG marine activist John Aini [07/12/2018]
- John Aini is a prominent indigenous leader in his native Papua New Guinea who has won multiple awards for his grassroots activism in marine conservation. - One of the defining points of his activism is the push to “decolonialize” conservation by engaging local and indigenous communities to a greater degree than typically practiced by large international NGOs. - This is the first of Mongabay’s two-part interview with Aini at the recent International Marine Conservation Congress in Malaysia.
Solution to ocean’s plastic waste problem ‘starts with product design’ [07/12/2018]
- Solutions aimed at tackling the problem of plastic in the ocean need to focus on the design of plastic products, a group of researchers said at the ESOF18 conference in Toulouse, France. - Some of the proposed solutions, such as those aimed at gathering plastic rubbish at sea with nets, are “concerning,” chemist Alexandra Ter Halle said, as they could also harm marine life. - Though plastics themselves do pose significant dangers to marine life, plastic products can also help to limit our environmental footprint, marine biologist Richard Thompson said, so we should find ways to make them reusable and easily recyclable.
Krill fishing companies pledge to protect key food of Antarctic animals [07/12/2018]
- A majority of krill fishing companies have announced their commitment to voluntarily stop harvesting the tiny crustaceans from vast areas of the Antarctic Peninsula, including around important breeding penguin colonies. - These companies are all members of the Association of Responsible Krill harvesting companies (ARK), representing 85 percent of the krill fishing industry in the Antarctic. - The companies have also pledged to support the creation of a network of large-scale marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Antarctic, the details of which will be finalized by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) at a conference in Australia later this year.
Coral reefs thrive next to rat-free islands, new study finds [07/11/2018]
- A team of ecologists examined the impacts that invasive rats on tropical islands have on coral reef ecosystems. - Because rats eat seabird eggs and young, they can decimate seabird populations. - With fewer seabirds depositing their guano on islands, coral reef ecosystems near rat-infested islands can’t support as much life. - The findings suggest that eradicating rats from tropical islands could be a straightforward way of bolstering the health of coral reefs.
Investigation reveals illegal trade cartels decimating vaquita porpoises [07/09/2018]
- An investigation has exposed new details of the illegal trade in the totoaba fish’s swim bladder. - Totoaba swim bladders are used in traditional medicine and can fetch thousands of dollars per kilogram in Chinese markets. - Illegal fishing for totoaba is the primary reason vaquita porpoises are headed toward extinction. - Elephant Action League’s investigation has identified the people involved and the routes they use to smuggle the bladders to buyers in China.
Ice-free passage for ships through the Arctic could cause problems for marine mammals [07/09/2018]
- A new study suggests that increased ship traffic in the Arctic, as ice there melts due to climate change, could disturb marine mammal species. - In their assessment of 80 subpopulations living along the Northwest Passage and Russia’s Northern Sea Route, 42 are likely to be affected by a greater number of commercial ships, researchers found. - The team suggests that mitigation measures, such as those employed in other parts of the world to protect North Atlantic right whales, could be effective.
And then there were 12: Why don’t we hear about extinction until it’s too late? (commentary) [07/06/2018]
- Species threatened with extinction often don’t get the public’s attention until they no longer exist. - The author, zoologist Sam Turvey, argues that more attention to these critical cases is required. - Ahead of International Save the Vaquita Day on July 7, Turvey points out that the world’s most endangered marine mammal is dangerously close to extinction, and it’s not alone. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Rare nursery for baby manta rays discovered in Gulf of Mexico [07/03/2018]
- Adult giant manta rays can be seen in subtropical and tropical waters around the world, but baby and juvenile mantas are rarely encountered. - So when marine biologist Joshua Stewart saw several baby and juvenile mantas at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary off Texas and Louisiana, he was surprised. - By looking through 25 years of dive data from the sanctuary, including photographs of manta rays, Stewart and his team confirmed that the sanctuary was a nursery ground for the mantas.
Belize Barrier Reef gets UNESCO upgrade [06/28/2018]
- UNESCO has announced that the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, which it added to the World Heritage List in 1996, has been removed from its list of ‘sites in danger.’ - The system’s seven sites are a significant habitat for threatened species, including sea turtles, manatees, and marine crocodiles. - The area is also a popular tourist destination and global hotspot for diving. - The site was added to UNESCO’s list of sites in danger in 2009 due to the destruction of mangrove forests and marine ecosystems, the looming threat of offshore oil extraction, and unsustainable coastal development.
Citizen science makes easy work of penguin time-lapse image bounty [06/28/2018]
- A multinational research team has deployed time-lapse cameras at various penguin breeding colonies to enable a widespread, long-term study of these top predators in the Antarctic ecosystem. - Volunteers have played a critical role in processing the millions of images resulting from the multi-year study to better understand reproductive behavior and nest success rates across the Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, and South Georgia. - Citizen scientists can help produce large data sets needed to train artificial intelligence algorithms.
The plastic crisis sinks to a new low in the deep sea [06/28/2018]
- Plastic water bottles and snack-food packaging can be found in the deepest parts of the oceans, a new study has found. - By poring over the three decades of deep-sea videos, researchers have found that fragments of plastic made up one-third of the debris, of which, 89 percent were single-use items such as plastic bags and water bottles. - However, how all that plastic reaches the deep sea and affects deep sea creatures is still unclear.
On India’s Kerala coast, a man-made solution exacerbates a natural problem [06/28/2018]
- Coastal erosion in the southern Indian state of Kerala has destroyed hundreds of homes, forcing families into temporary shelters, many of whom have been stuck there for several years now. - Experts say a major factor for the erosion is, ironically, the series of seawalls built by authorities along the coastline to prevent the problem. - The cyclical nature of the erosion has traditionally meant that sediment swept out to sea is later deposited back on land. But the seawalls prevent the latter from happening. - Other factors have also been cited, including a cyclone that struck the region last year, as well as intensive sand mining along the coast.
Let there be light — but be mindful of the wildlife [06/26/2018]
- Artificial lights affect biological processes, such as plant photosynthesis, animals’ orientation and migrations, and human circadian rhythms. As communities replace older lights with energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) lamps, they must weigh the needs of people with damage to local wildlife. - Researchers have developed an tool that categorizes LED lamps by their output, energy efficiency and predicted impacts on wildlife, people and the darkness of the night sky. - The researchers predict that filtered yellow-green and amber LEDs should have lower effects on wildlife than high-pressure sodium lamps, and that blue-toned light will affect wildlife — including birds, insects, fish, and sea turtles — more than orange- and yellow-toned light. - Their results are presented on an updatable website to guide lighting designers and local government officials in installing lighting technologies that are both energy-efficient and less likely to harm wildlife.
Coral reef ‘oases’ that thrive amid threats give hope for conservation [06/22/2018]
- Scientists have identified 38 coral reef “oases” in the Pacific and western Atlantic that have either “escaped,” “resisted” or “rebounded” from declines in coral cover, even as neighboring reefs have not. - While these success stories do not discount reports that many coral reefs across the world are under grave threat, they do offer examples of places where corals are doing better, or not as bad, as coral communities elsewhere, scientists say in a new study. - The researchers are hopeful that the framework they’ve developed to identify the coral reef oases will be helpful in pinpointing oases across other ecosystems as well.
There’s now an app for mapping seagrass, the oceans’ great carbon sink [06/14/2018]
- A new online tool aims to crowdsource an image and location database of the world’s seagrass, in a bid to shed light on the threatened and fast-receding underwater flowering plants. - Anyone with a camera and internet access can upload images of seagrass beds and location info to SeagrassSpotter, available on desktop and mobile apps. - Project Seagrass, the group behind the mapping tool, hopes it will help countries that are seagrass hotspots but lacking data, like Indonesia, to improve efforts to conserve these vitally important carbon sinks. - Globally, the group hopes to obtain at least 100,000 records by engaging people from all around the world to collect data about seagrass in their locality. All collected data will be made freely available.
Shark fisheries hunting dolphins, other marine mammals as bait: Study [06/13/2018]
- Global shark fisheries have for decades engaged in the deliberate catch of dolphins, seals and other marine mammals to use as bait for sharks, a new study has found. - The researchers found the practice picked up when prices for shark fin, a prized delicacy in Chinese cuisine, went up from the late 1990s onward. - The researchers have warned that the targeting of these species could hit unsustainable levels, and have called for more studies into the species in question as well as better enforcement of existing law protecting marine mammals.
Audio: How soundscapes are helping us better understand animal behavior and landscape ecology [06/12/2018]
- On today’s episode, we take a look at soundscape phenology and the emerging role it’s playing in the study of animal behavior and landscape ecology. - The Mongabay Newscast previously looked at how soundscapes are being used in phenological studies when we talked about the great Sandhill crane migration on the Platte River in the US state of Nebraska. Today, we take a deeper dive into soundscape phenology with researcher Anne Axel, a landscape ecologist and professor at Marshall University in the US state of West Virginia. - Axel tells us all about this new field of study and plays a few of the recordings that have informed her research in this Field Notes segment.
Citigroup limits financing for mines that dump tailings at sea [06/12/2018]
- Following pressure from advocates, Citigroup said last month that it will not fund any future mining projects over $50 million that dispose of mine waste in the oceans. - Tailings, a fine-grained, often toxic slurry left over after the processing of mined ore, are still disposed of in oceans, lakes and rivers in several countries. - Mines in Papua New Guinea, Norway and Chile are proposing to dispose of tailings in the ocean. - Local communities are often most affected by pollution from mines and have vocally opposed tailings disposal in the ocean in Norway and Papua New Guinea.
Super plane, satellites help map the Caribbean’s hidden coral reefs [06/08/2018]
- Satellites, aircraft and scuba divers are creating the first ever high-resolution map of coral reefs throughout the Caribbean region. - Layers of data with 10-centimeter (4-inch) resolution will reveal the extent of damage from recent hurricanes and identify pockets of living coral to protect, as well as ailing coral that can be restored. - The maps will be used to declare new marine protected areas, guide management plans and select areas for post-hurricane restoration.
Innovative ideas sought for new conservation tech prize [06/08/2018]
- The non-profit Conservation X Labs has launched a competition aimed at encouraging teams with diverse skillsets to propose novel technology solutions to conservation challenges. - The competition offers prizes of $3,500 to 20 finalists — who will compete for a grand prize of $20,000 — based on the proposed solutions’ novelty, sustainability, and feasibility. - Applicants must submit their proposals by June 30, 2018, and winners will be announced in July.
Bust of shark smugglers in Galápagos waters leads to breakthrough in global transshipment data [06/08/2018]
- Global Fishing Watch, a publicly available platform launched by the NGOs Oceana and SkyTruth in partnership with Google, adds a new layer to its map today on “encounters” at sea. - The new layer gives unprecedented visibility to the practice of transshipment, which is when vessels meet at sea to transfer fish or even people from one to the other. Transshipment is often used to disguise illegal fishing. - Global Fishing Watch now also contains a layer that shows clusters of night lights out at sea where they’re not expected.
Government subsidies serving to prop up destructive high-seas fishing: study [06/08/2018]
- More than half of fisheries on the world’s high seas would be running a loss without the billions of dollars in government subsidies that keep the ecologically destructive industry afloat, a recent study suggests. - The researchers described the annual subsidies as being far in excess of the net economic benefit from fishing in these international waters. - They called for greater transparency by governments and substantial reforms of high-seas fisheries in a bid to improve the management of the industry they labeled as ecologically and economically unsustainable.
A global coral reef monitoring system is coming soon [06/04/2018]
- Coral reef conservation efforts will soon get a major boost with a global monitoring system that will detect physical changes in coral cover at high resolution on a daily basis. - The satellite-based system will enable researchers, policy makers, and environmentalists to track severe bleaching events, reef dynamiting, and coastal development in near-real time. - The system will leverage Planet’s daily high resolution satellite imagery, running the data through cloud computing-based algorithms to map reefs and chart changes over time.
Indonesia targets illegal fishing vessel owners under new bill [05/31/2018]
- Indonesia’s fisheries ministry has submitted to parliament a bill of amendments aimed at strengthening the 2009 Fisheries Act through more stringent provisions. - These include recognizing, for the first time, the criminal culpability of the owners of vessels engaged in illegal fishing activities. Under the bill, these owners would face longer prison sentences and heavier fines than their crews. - While legal experts and sustainable-fishing activists have welcomed the bill, concerns remain over the less-than-clear language of some of the provisions, which could open up loopholes. - The government expects the bill to be passed this year, and says it will bring much-needed transparency to the fisheries industry.
Fishing gear poses the greatest danger to young great whites off the West Coast of the U.S. [05/22/2018]
- Fishing lines and nets pose the most significant threat to the survival of young white sharks in the waters off Mexico and southern California, according to a new study. - A team of scientists used a relatively “untapped” but ubiquitous storehouse of data to develop a statistical model for the survival rates of juvenile white sharks. - The researchers calculated that 63 percent of young white sharks living in this part of the Pacific survive annually, but that nearly half probably come in contact with gillnets set by commercial fishers. - The findings point to best practices, such as barring gillnets from inshore “nurseries” and asking fishers to check their nets for trapped sharks more regularly, that could help protect great whites.
Audio: Sylvia Earle on why we must act now to save the oceans [05/15/2018]
- On today’s episode, renowned marine biologist Sylvia Earle joins us for an in-depth conversation about marine conservation. - Legendary oceanographer, marine biologist, and environmentalist Sylvia Earle, sometimes known as “Her Deepness” or “The Sturgeon General,” is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and former chief scientist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A documentary film about her work called Mission Blue won a 2015 News & Documentary Emmy. - She joins us today to discuss how effective marine protected areas are at conserving the oceans and their inhabitants, her Hope Spots program that is identifying some of the most valuable marine environments on the planet, and the latest advances in marine conservation that she is most hopeful about.
Scientists highlight 9 potentially new reef fish species off West Papua [05/14/2018]
- Scientists in Indonesia may have discovered nine new reef fish species in the waters off West Papua province. - The discovery highlights the importance of protecting the region’s marine ecosystem for its vast and rich biodiversity. - However, the researchers also found indications of blast fishing in the protected areas, and have called for sustainable management of the ecosystem.
Longest recorded whale shark migration eclipses 20,000 kilometers [05/14/2018]
- Scientists followed the movements of a whale shark for nearly two and a half years as she swam more than 20,000 kilometers (over 12,000 miles) from the coast of Central America to the Marianas Trench near Asia. - Whale sharks, whose numbers have dropped by more than half in the past 75 years according to the IUCN, are taken by fishing boats for their fins, cartilage, meat and teeth, and studies have shown that boats bringing tourists to swim with the largest fish in the ocean change the species’ behavior. - Given these threats, scientists hope studies such as this one will help guide conservation policy aimed at protecting these animals throughout their migrations.
A boon for birds: Once overlooked, China’s mudflats gain protections [05/11/2018]
- The shoreline of the Yellow Sea has been transformed dramatically over the last half-century as mudflats have been filled in with rock and soil, replacing dynamic, natural tidal zones with solid ground for ports, chemical plants and farmland. - Losing the intertidal flats has proved devastating for the millions of shorebirds that funnel through the Yellow Sea during migration. - In January, the Chinese government announced a sweeping package of reforms aimed at ending much of the land reclamation taking place on the mudflats. - “Stunned joy” is how one bird conservationist described her reaction to news of the reforms, which she said could avert one of the biggest extinction crises facing migratory birds — if they work.
South Georgia declared ‘rat-free’ in largest-ever rodent eradication program [05/09/2018]
- Ships of sealers and whalers arriving on South Georgia brought with them rats and mice that spread over much of the island, eating eggs and chicks of the native birds. - To counter the problem of invasive rats, the South Georgia Heritage Trust launched a $13.5 million rodent eradication operation in 2011, using helicopters to drop poisoned bait in every part of the island that could be infested with rodents. - In the final phase of monitoring that concluded in April this year — a six-month survey that included three trained sniffer dogs — the SGHT team found no signs of rats or mice.
Humpback whales near Antarctica making a comeback, study finds [05/08/2018]
- Humpback whales living around the Western Antarctic Peninsula seem to be recovering rapidly, indicated by females showing high pregnancy rates, a new study has found. - Researchers also found a high proportion of females that are both lactating and pregnant, which is a sign that the humpback whale population there is growing. - So far, changing climate in the Western Antarctic Peninsula has been beneficial for the humpbacks because of more ice-free days and more access to food. But long-term trends of climate change may be more problematic, the researchers write.
Noisy reefs help young fish find their home [05/04/2018]
- Young reef fish use the chorus of sounds made by other fish to find and settle in suitable habitat, but damage to reefs from storms and coral bleaching affects these sounds and thus the ability of juvenile fish to find a home. - Researchers compared the effects of sounds of intact and degraded reefs on juvenile fish behavior; they found that soundscapes of degraded reefs lacked the volume and complexity of those of intact reefs and attracted far fewer juveniles. - Limiting future bleaching by reducing carbon emissions that lead to warmer seas is considered key to the survival of coral reefs.
Australia to invest $379 million to protect the Great Barrier Reef [05/03/2018]
- Australia is set to invest more than 500 million Australian dollars ($379 million) in funding to protect the Great Barrier Reef. - The investment will help restore water quality, tackle crown-of-thorns starfish attacks on coral, and fund research on coral resilience and adaptation. - Some critics are, however, concerned that the funding aims to target strategies that have already being tried in the past, and have seen limited success.
New study finds mangroves may store way more carbon than we thought [05/02/2018]
- A new study finds mangrove soil held around 6.4 billion metric tons of carbon in 2000. - Between 2000 and 2015, up to 122 million tons of this carbon was released due to mangrove forest loss – roughly equivalent to the annual emissions of Brazil. More than 75 percent of these soil carbon emissions came from mangrove deforestation in just three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar. - Mangroves provide a slew of benefits in addition to storing carbon, reducing flooding and erosion from storms, acting as nurseries for fish, and filtering pollutants from water. - Research indicates at least 35 percent of the world’s mangrove forests may have been lost between 1980 and 2000. Mangroves are deforested for many reasons, including to make room for shrimp farms and other forms of aquaculture, as well as for their wood. Mangroves also depend on the presence of freshwater and can die when dams and other developments stem the flow of rivers. Scientists also believe they’re at risk of mass drowning as global warming raises sea levels.
More than 800 totoaba swim bladders confiscated by Mexican authorities in smuggling busts [05/01/2018]
- In two separate arrests of Chinese nationals, Mexican police confiscated more than 800 swim bladders from a large fish called the totoaba. - Totoaba swim bladders are used in traditional medicine and can fetch thousands of dollars per kilogram in Chinese markets. - Fishing for totoaba has also pushed a small porpoise called the vaquita close to extinction. One recent estimate puts the number of animals left in the wild at 12.
One-stop shop for digital global maps launched [04/30/2018]
- A new online platform called Resource Watch makes over 200 geographically referenced global-scale data sets available for viewing and analysis. - You can view and overlay spatial data layers on your own or explore analyses produced by the platform’s research staff. - The developers hope that assembling a broad collection of environmental, economic, infrastructure, and social data in a single platform will promote understanding of the connections between human activities and natural systems and encourage more sustainable decision-making.
‘We are going to self-destruct’: Development plans threaten Malaysian island [04/30/2018]
- The Langkawi archipelago off Malaysia’s northwest coast is made up of more than 100 islands, including the main island – the country’s third largest. For years a well-kept secret of pristine beaches, unspoilt rainforest and unique limestone outcrops, tourism began to take off in the 1990s after the island was declared duty free and luxury resorts began to open. - Some 3.5 million people visited Langkawi last year. Now the authorities want even more – 5.5 million by 2020 – and have ambitious plans to transform the island with high-rise hotels and apartments, coastal roads on reclaimed land, and other trappings of a 21st century tourist destination. - But critics say little has been done to upgrade the island’s basic infrastructure – sewage systems, water supply, and waste management – adding to the strain on an already fragile environment.
Photos: Meet the 2018 ‘Green Oscars’ winners [04/27/2018]
- The six winners of 2018 Whitley Award are Munir Virani of Kenya; Shahriar Caesar Rahman of Bangladesh; Kerstin Forsberg of Peru; Dominique Bikaba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Anjali Chandraraj Watson of Sri Lanka; and Olivier Nsengimana of Rwanda. - Each recipient was awarded £40,000 ($56,000) in project funding over one year at an awards ceremony held at the Royal Geographic Society in London, U.K., on April 25. - A seventh conservationist, Pablo “Popi” Garcia Borboroglu from Argentina, who won the Whitley Award in 2010, received the Whitley Gold Award for his commitment to safeguarding the world’s penguin species.
Indonesia’s crackdown on illegal fishing is paying off, study finds [04/23/2018]
- Indonesia’s crackdown on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in its waters is paying off for domestic fisheries and fish recovery, according to a new study. - But for Indonesia to continue to reap the benefits from its anti-IUU fishing policies, the country needs to ensure that domestic fishing efforts are also well-managed, the paper’s authors noted. - Indonesia’s success in tackling illegal fishing provides an example that can be implemented in other countries plagued by overfishing by foreign vessels, the researchers concluded.
Conservation Effectiveness series sparks action, dialogue [04/23/2018]
- Our in-depth series examined the effectiveness of six common conservation strategies: Forest certification, payments for ecosystem services, community-based forest management, terrestrial protected areas, marine protected areas, and environmental advocacy. - We also examined how four of the biggest groups that dominate today’s conservation landscape — The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Conservation International (CI), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) — make decisions about which conservation strategy to employ. - Our series generated a lot of discussion and attracted a wide variety of feedback. - We hope to keep our databases of scientific studies and our infographics alive and relevant by developing a platform that allows researchers to update them by adding studies. We welcome ideas on this effort.
Island logging must go beyond current ‘best practices’ to avoid erosion: New study [04/23/2018]
- In a new study, a team of ecologists modeled what would happen if companies were allowed to log the forests of Kolombangara Island under several management scenarios, including those designed to minimize soil erosion and protect water quality. - As the model simulated higher proportions of land clearance, the most stringent methods couldn’t stop the soil erosion that would foul clean water and agricultural land for the island’s people, as well as the habitats of local aquatic plants and animals. - The Kolombangara Island Biodiversity Conservation Association is spearheading an effort to get intact forests at elevations higher than 400 meters (1,310 feet) designated as a national park on the island.
Fish tales: Six amazing journeys to celebrate World Fish Migration Day [04/20/2018]
- April 21 marks World Fish Migration Day, a biennial event that strives to foster appreciation for the importance of migratory fish and their aquatic swimways. - Healthy fish stocks with unimpeded migrations are essential to feeding humankind and maintaining the ecological equilibrium of the world’s waters. - But fish migrations are being increasingly stressed by a worldwide boom in the building of dams that block their essential riverine passage, pollution, overfishing, lowering of water levels for agriculture and drinking water, and climate change. - Here are six notable fish migrations to consider on this day.
Scientists stumble upon hundreds of octopus moms in the deep sea [04/19/2018]
- Scientists have discovered a large nursery of octopus mothers some 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) deep in the Pacific Ocean. - The octopuses are an unknown species of the genus Muusoctopus, a group of deep-sea octopuses generally known to lead solitary lives. - The octopuses and their eggs will likely not survive, researchers say, because the animals are exposed to warmer temperatures than they are used to. - But the presence of this large, “suicidal” population of octopuses suggests that there must be many more octopuses living in cooler, more livable crevices on the seafloor, researchers add.
Earth Day founding organizer calls for end to plastic pollution [04/18/2018]
- Denis Hayes was the principal national organizer of the first Earth Day in 1970, and he took the event to the international stage in 1990. - Earth Day 2018 is slated for April 22 and focuses on plastic pollution, so Mongabay asked him about this event and what else is on the mind of this key leader of the international environmental movement. - Earth Day is said to be the most widely observed secular holiday in the world, with activities happening in most countries around the world. - Hayes is also active in sustainability issues in the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. and his work is housed in one of the greenest office buildings in the world.
‘Boom and bust’ cycle of deep-sea trawling unsustainable, study finds [04/18/2018]
- Researchers have built a global picture of deep-sea fish catches from bottom trawling from 1950 to 2015. - Deep-sea trawling can be extremely destructive for fish populations, while providing minimal economic benefits, the study found. - Researchers also found that large quantities of fish caught in the deep sea go unreported.
You don’t need a bigger boat: AI buoys safeguard swimmers and sharks [04/05/2018]
- A new tech-driven device may help reduce harmful interactions with sharks and improve people’s tolerance of one of the ocean’s top predators. - The system, called Clever Buoy, combines sonar to detect a large object in the water, artificial intelligence to determine that the object is a shark close enough to threaten beachgoers, and automated SMS alerts to lifeguards that enable them to take action. - Local governments have deployed the system at popular beaches and surfing sites to test its capacity to protect swimmers and surfers without harming marine wildlife.
NOAA publishes global list of fisheries and their risks to marine mammals [04/02/2018]
- The list, published in draft form in late 2017 as part of requirements laid out by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, includes nearly 4,000 fisheries across some 135 countries. - NOAA says the list represents ‘a strong step forward’ in developing sustainable fisheries. - These fisheries have until 2022 to demonstrate that the methods they use to catch fish and other marine animals either pose little risk to marine mammals or employ comparable methods to similar operations in the United States.
Brazil creates four massive marine protected areas [03/30/2018]
- The four newly designated marine protected areas (MPAs) will cover an area of more than 920,000 square kilometers (355,200 square miles) in the Atlantic Ocean. - Two of the MPAs will cover waters around the archipelago of Trindade, Martin Vaz and Mount Columbia, located more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) east of the Brazilian mainland. - The remaining two MPAs will be located around the São Pedro and São Paulo archipelagos, some 900 kilometers (560 miles) off the northeast coast. - However, some marine biologists worry that these large, remote MPAs may do little to safeguard biodiversity.
‘Ropeless’ consortium aims to end entanglements of declining North Atlantic right whales [03/29/2018]
- ‘Fishermen, engineers, manufacturers, scientists and managers’ have come together to develop ropeless fishing gear to keep North Atlantic right whales from getting entangled. - Only 451 right whales are left, and it’s likely that fewer than 100 are breeding females. - Research teams have recorded no new calves this breeding season, which ended this month. - Scientists warn that the North Atlantic right whale could go extinct if the trend in their numbers doesn’t change.
Australia opens vast swaths of famed marine parks to fishing [03/29/2018]
- Australia is known for protecting its sea life in a 3.3 million square kilometer (1.3 million square mile) system of marine parks that cover 36 percent of the country’s oceans. - The protection of those parks is now at stake, as the government last week approved five long-awaited management plans covering 44 parks. The new plans open an area almost the size of Japan to commercial and recreational fishing compared to the original plans formed by the previous government when the parks were proclaimed in 2012. - A coalition of opposition parties attempted to block the new plans in parliament on Tuesday but failed. - Conservation groups and hundreds of marine scientists have voiced vehement opposition to the government’s new plans.
Under the sea: Life is the bubbles in newly described deep-reef zone [03/28/2018]
- Scientists have recently described a layer of the deep ocean zone as the “rariphotic,” calling it home to an array of unidentified reef fish and a refuge for species from shallower waters drive out of their coral habitats by warming waters. - Nearly 4,500 fishes were observed representing 71 species, nearly half of them new species, the researchers reported. - The scientists are calling for more exploration into deeper marine ecosystems to better understand the deep-reef ecosystems and the impact of changes taking place in shallower zones.
‘Annihilation trawling’: Q&A with marine biologist Amanda Vincent [03/27/2018]
- For years marine biologists have been raising concerns about bottom trawling, a fishing technique that unintentionally scoops up non-targeted creatures as bycatch and disrupts marine habitat. - While the technique is widely acknowledged to be destructive, seahorse expert Amanda Vincent is calling attention to a new problem: in Asia and elsewhere, bottom trawlers are no longer targeting particular species at all but going after any and all sea life for processing into chicken feed, fishmeal and other low-value products. - In an interview with Mongabay, Vincent describes her observations in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Study reveals the Pacific Garbage Patch is much heftier than thought — and it’s growing [03/26/2018]
- A recent survey of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch revealed that the aggregated plastic there weighs in at 79,000 metric tons (87,100 short tons). - The plastic is floating across an area larger than Mongolia at 1.6 million square kilometers (618,000 square miles). - Around 75 percent of the pieces that are larger than 5 centimeters (2 inches) in length, and old fishing nets make up a minimum of 46 percent of the total mass. - The scientists calculated that 94 percent of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in the patch are microplastics.
“Save the Krill” urges Greenpeace report [03/23/2018]
- A recent report by Greenpeace International describes the role of krill in Antarctica’s marine food chain and calls for nations to restrict their krill fishing in areas under consideration for protected status designation. - Automatic identification system signals from commercial krill-fishing vessels allowed Greenpeace to map the precise routes these ships take around the Antarctic Peninsula and to identify transfers of catch and fuel between ships. - The report warns that krill fishing competes for food with other marine wildlife, and that anchoring and pollution from the ships could damage the larger ecosystem. - Video footage and samples collected from submarine dives by a recent Greenpeace expedition will be analyzed and presented at meetings this summer to support the creation of marine protected areas in the Weddell Sea and other regions around Antarctica.
Microplastic pollution in world’s oceans poses major threat to filter-feeding megafauna [03/23/2018]
- A study published in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution last month looks at how filter-feeding marine animals like baleen whales, manta rays, and whale sharks are impacted by microplastic pollution in the world’s oceans. - Filter-feeding megafauna must swallow hundreds to thousands of cubic meters of water every day in order to catch enough plankton to keep themselves nourished. That means that these species are probably ingesting microplastics both directly from polluted water and indirectly through the consumption of contaminated plankton prey. - Microplastic particles can block nutrient absorption and damage the digestive tracts of the filter-feeding marine life that ingest them, while toxins and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) found in plastic can accumulate in the bodies of marine wildlife over time, changing biological processes such as growth and reproduction and even leading to decreased fertility.
Will Madagascar’s industrial shrimp trawlers make way for local fishers? [03/14/2018]
- Shrimp is one of Madagascar’s most lucrative exports. - But local fishers and environmental groups say shrimp trawlers are harming the country’s marine environment and leaving too few fish in the sea for the fishing communities that depend on them. - Until now, relatively little has been done to address the issue. - But there are small signs that may be starting to change, with fishing communities raising their voices to press for exclusive access to Madagascar’s coastal waters.
Analysis: U.S. call to drill off all coasts, economic and ecological folly? [03/14/2018]
- 90 billion barrels of recoverable oil, plus 327 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lie untapped offshore on the U.S. continental shelf. In January, the Trump administration ordered that the entire coast, in the Pacific, Atlantic, Gulf, and Arctic, be opened to drilling. - Environmentalists and the coastal states fear oil spills that could devastate tourism. They also are concerned about the massive infrastructure (pipelines, terminals, refineries, pumping stations and more) that would be needed to support the industry. - The executive branch has moved forward with efficiency to create a surge in U.S. oil and gas production: the Interior and Energy departments, and the Environmental Protection Agency have all worked to slash regulations and open additional lands and seas to oil and gas exploration, with the plan of achieving U.S. “energy dominance” around the globe. - Most coastal states are resisting the federal oil and gas offshore drilling plan; Florida has already been exempted, while other states are likely to fight back with lawsuits. The irony is that a flood of new U.S. oil could glut the market and drive prices down, resulting in an economic disaster for the industry.
Gaza City residents’ water problems continue to compound [03/12/2018]
- Locked between increasingly-polluted seascape and the borders of one of the most tightly-controlled enclaves in the world, Gaza City residents say the water has become so polluted they can no longer go swimming. - Situated at the borders of Egypt, Israel, and the Mediterranean Sea, Gaza’s 2 million residents fear that an ongoing electricity crisis has pushed their maritime ecosystem past the brink. - 80 percent of Gaza’s Mediterranean Sea coastline is thought to be polluted and families who used to rely on it for livelihoods and leisure now fear its waters.
Cambodia creates its first marine national park where pirate fishers prowl [03/12/2018]
- In February, Cambodia announced the establishment of its very first marine national park, covering 524 square kilometers (202 square miles) in the Gulf of Thailand. - Koh Rong Marine National Park takes in the seven islands of the Koh Rong archipelago and the web of coral, seagrass and mangrove ecosystems around them. - Wedged between Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia’s tiny territorial waters have long been plundered by illegal fishing gangs feeding an ever-rising demand for seafood. - But the declaration of the new park does nothing to protect the environment, at least in the short term, with no new patrols of the heavily fished waters until next year and a $2 billion island development plan allowed to continue unhindered.
Plastic not so fantastic for Bali’s iconic manta rays [03/09/2018]
- Two recent videos from a diving site in Bali known for its manta rays have garnered global attention for highlighting the dire state of plastic pollution in Indonesia’s waters. - While the local government and volunteers have made efforts to clean up the garbage, a lack of proper planning and poor awareness of waste disposal means huge volumes of trash continue to be dumped into the ocean daily. - Indonesia produces around 130,000 tons of plastic and solid waste every day, and is the second-largest plastic polluter in the world, behind China.
Only 12 vaquita porpoises remain, watchdog group reports [03/08/2018]
- The International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita reported in 2017 that there were just 30 vaquita left in the Upper Gulf of California, the body of water that separates Baja California from mainland Mexico and the species’ only known range. - Mongabay contacted Andrea Crosta, director of the international wildlife trade watchdog group Elephant Action League, just before his return to Mexico in early March 2018. - After his previous trip in February 2018, Crosta said his sources reported that no more than a dozen vaquitas remain. - The primary cause of death for the vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is becoming entangled in gillnets used to illegally catch totoaba, a giant Mexican fish whose swim bladders are in high demand, especially in China.
Mangrove deforestation may be releasing more CO2 than Poland, study finds [03/02/2018]
- A new study calculates that, worldwide, mangroves were storing 4.19 billion metric tons of carbon in 2012, representing a 2 percent loss since 2000. It estimates that number had dropped further to 4.16 billion metric tons by 2017. - In total, the study estimates that this lost carbon translates to as much as 317 million tons of CO2 emissions per year, equivalent to the annual emissions of around 67.5 million passenger vehicles in the U.S. and more than the 2015 emissions of Poland. - The researchers found Indonesia harbors the lion’s share of the world’s mangroves – around 30 percent – while also experiencing the biggest proportion of its 2000-2012 mangrove carbon loss, with deforestation there accounting for more than 48 percent of the global total. Other parts of Southeast Asia, such as Myanmar, are also undergoing high rates of mangrove deforestation, making the entire region a hotspot of global mangrove carbon loss. - Previous research estimates that between 30 and 50 percent of the world’s mangroves have been lost over the past 50 years. Deforestation for shrimp, rice and palm oil are among the biggest drivers of mangrove decline.
New thumbnail-sized pygmy squid discovered in Australia [03/02/2018]
- The new species of pygmy squid belongs to the genus Idiosepius, a group of tiny, squid-like marine animals that are believed to be the world’s smallest cephalopods. - Researchers have named the new species Idiosepius hallami, or Hallam’s pygmy squid after Australian malacologist Amanda Reid’s son, Hallam, who helped her collect live animals for further comparisons. - Pygmy squids are generally found in shallow waters among seagrass and mangroves, some of the most threatened marine habitats.
Easter Island votes for world’s newest marine reserve [02/27/2018]
- The Rapa Nui Marine Protected Area encompasses 740,000 square kilometers (286,000 square miles) of Pacific Ocean surrounding Easter Island, or Rapa Nui. The reserve was approved by a 73 percent majority in a September 2017 referendum of islanders. - The MPA is intended to eliminate the pressures of commercial fishing and mining on the unique and isolated ecosystem of Rapa Nui. Supporters of the project cite public support and participation as an encouraging sign of the reserve’s long-term potential. - The Rapa Nui people and government of Chile are currently planning how the reserve will be enforced and monitored, prior to the official signing ceremony on February 27. Many in and outside Rapa Nui believe the reserve will aid relations between the island and the mainland, although there is lingering distrust among some islanders toward Chile.
New maps reveal industrial fishing in over half of world’s oceans [02/24/2018]
- Researchers poring through billions of ship-tracking data points have found that industrial fishing vessels operated across more than 55 percent of ocean, or over 200 million square kilometers (77 million square miles), in 2016 alone. - While most countries fished predominantly within their own exclusive economic zones, five nations — China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea — accounted for more than 85 percent of observed fishing in the high seas. - Mapping the fishing fleets also showed that global fishing patterns were strongly linked to holidays and periods of fishing closures.
‘Adaptation Bangladesh: Sea Level Rise’ film shows how farmers are fighting climate change [02/22/2018]
- A recent documentary looks at how Bangladeshi farmers are adapting to rising sea levels. - The film documents how Bangladeshi farmers are keeping their farms from flooding by building floating gardens made of water hyacinth and bamboo. - The film won the Best Short Film at the New York WILD Film Festival, which begins on Feb. 22. - Mongabay interviewed cultural anthropologist Alizé Carrère to learn more about why she chose to focus on Bangladesh and why this story is important.
Seychelles announces two new marine protected areas the size of Great Britain [02/22/2018]
- The government of Seychelles has announced the creation of two new marine protected areas covering 210,000 square kilometers, the size of the island of Great Britain. - The first marine protected area includes 74,400 square kilometers of waters surrounding the extremely isolated Aldabra archipelago that is home to the world’s largest population of rare giant tortoises. - The second marine protected area covers 136,000 square kilometers of a commercially important stretch of ocean between the Amirantes group of islands and Fortune Bank. - The creation of the marine protected areas is part of a debt-for-nature deal that will allow the Seychelles to restructure its national debt in exchange for protecting 30 percent of its exclusive economic zone.
Watch: A minke whale’s view of the Antarctic [02/16/2018]
- Scientists in Antarctica have attached a “whale cam” to the back of a southern minke whale for the very first time. - The video footage is giving scientists a sneak peek into a day in the life of a minke, one of the most poorly understood baleen whales. - At one point, the camera slid down the side of the animal and this side view ended up capturing remarkable footage of the whale feeding.
Queen conch dying out in the Bahamas despite marine parks [02/16/2018]
- There has been a major decline in the population of protected queen conchs in the Bahamas’ Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park over the last 20 years. - The most recent survey found predominantly older queen conchs, with a shortage of juveniles to replace them. - Researchers believe overfishing in upstream areas has depleted the park’s larval supply. Increased predator density within the park may also be a problem for juveniles. - Queen conch fisheries outside protected areas in the Bahamas are experiencing intense fishing pressure and are near collapse.
Webs under water: The really bizarre lives of intertidal spiders [02/15/2018]
- Scientists have discovered a 15th species of intertidal spider, a family of unusual arachnids that live in coastal habitats that are submerged during high tides. - The newest species, named after singer Bob Marley, was discovered living on brain coral off the Australian coast. - Scientists know that some species create air pockets with their hairs, while others build waterproof webs, but little is known about most of these fascinating spiders. - Intertidal spiders face a number of threats, including rising sea levels due to climate change, and pollution.
New population of extremely rare ‘red handfish’ discovered off Tasmania [02/14/2018]
- Last month, divers discovered a new population of the critically endangered red handfish off Tasmania’s coast. - The new site, currently undisclosed, potentially harbors about 20 to 40 individuals, doubling the number of known red handfish on Earth. - The new population is helping scientists understand the rare fish better.
Duterte orders navy to fire on foreign poachers in Philippine waters [02/14/2018]
- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has called on the navy to open fire at foreign vessels suspected of poaching or extracting natural resources in the Southeast Asian nation’s exclusive waters. - Duterte made the decision to address concerns about territorial rights over Benham Rise, an undersea plateau off the country’s northeastern coast believed to be rich in oil, gas and fisheries. - A number of Southeast Asian nations, notably Indonesia, have recently taken a tough stance against marine poaching in the region, which is home to some of the world’s richest underwater ecosystems and threatened by overfishing.
Illegal ‘white gold,’ South Africa’s abalone, pouring into Hong Kong: TRAFFIC [02/13/2018]
- South African abalone imports into Hong Kong have progressively increased from 3,000 tonnes in 2000 to 6,170 tonnes in 2015, according to a new report by TRAFFIC. - During this period, South Africa was the largest source of dried abalone to Hong Kong among other African countries. Much of these imports were illegal, the researchers found. - While most abalone traders in Hong Kong seem to be aware that South African abalone is frequently poached, fewer consumers know about the illegal trade.
Whale of a tale: Protecting Panama’s humpbacks from ship collisions [02/08/2018]
- The key to alleviating whale strikes in the Panama Canal ended up being inspired by a solution used on land — and led to a years-long struggle for a Panama Canal pilot and a whale biologist to help reduce whale strikes in the Gulf of Panama, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. - Similar to how roads are now sometimes built to curve around the natural habitats of land creatures, Traffic Separation Schemes (TSS) create shipping lanes that restrict marine traffic to certain areas. - But in order to get all shipping to abide by this system, countries need the approval of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a UN body that regulates shipping safety and navigation around the world.