Antarctica now shedding ice six times faster than in 1979 [01/14/2019]
- Antarctica’s ice is melting about six times faster than it was in the late 1970s. - Between 1979 and 2017, melting ice caused the global sea level to rise by around 14 millimeters (0.55 inches). - The pace at which ice is melting is also increasing: Through 1990, the continent lost 40 billion metric tons (44 billion tons) per year; between 2009 and 2017, that figure jumped to 252 billion metric tons (278 tons) annually.
Latam Eco Review: Resistance, hope and camera traps [01/11/2019]
The recent top stories from Mongabay Latam, our Spanish-language service, include a call to cover climate change, the dangers of opposing Colombia’s largest hydropower plant, and the most inspiring conservation news of 2018. ‘We are not doing enough’: 25 media groups commit to cover climate change “Journalists across the continent have a profound obligation to […]
Ocean warming projected to accelerate more than four-fold over next 60 years: Study [01/10/2019]
- 2017 currently holds the record for hottest ocean temperatures, but, according to a new study, 2018 is likely to take the top spot as hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans as global warming’s impacts accelerate. - The mean speed of ocean warming over the past 60 years, from roughly 1958 to 2017, was 5.46 zettajoules per year, according to the study. The oceans will warm at an even more rapid pace over the next 60 years, with the mean speed of ocean warming projected to be 23.78 zettajoules per year. - If we proceed with “business as usual,” the upper ocean (above a depth of 2,000 meters) will warm by 2,020 ZetaJoules by 2081-2100, six times more than the total ocean warming recorded over the past 60 years, the researchers found. If we were to meet the emissions reductions targets that countries committed to under the Paris Climate Agreement, however, we could cut total ocean warming within that timeframe nearly in half to about 1,037 zettajoules.
Protecting India’s fishing villages: Q&A with ‘maptivist’ Saravanan [01/10/2019]
- Fishing communities across the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu are fighting to protect their traditional lands as the sea rises on one side and residential and industrial development encroaches on the others. - To support these communities, a 35-year-old local fisherman is helping them create maps that document how they use their land. - By creating their own maps, the communities are taking control of a tool that has always belonged to the powerful. - Their maps allow them to speak the language of the state so they can resolve disputes and mount legal challenges against industries and government projects encroaching on their land and fishing grounds.
‘Everything’s moving’: Indonesia seeks global pushback on illegal fishing [01/06/2019]
- Officials in Indonesia, home to one of the world’s biggest fisheries, say their fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing continues to be stymied by the complex web of offshore holdings that own much of the illegal fishing fleet. - Enforcement efforts have failed to net the owners of these vessels, instead only going as far as punishing the crew caught on board the boats. - Indonesia’s fisheries minister, Susi Pudjiastuti, has long called for an international consensus to recognize IUU fishing as a transnational crime, putting it in the same bracket as drug trafficking and human smuggling, which would enable greater international cooperation to identify and prosecute owners of illegal fishing boats.
Worst mass extinction event in Earth’s history was caused by global warming analogous to current climate crisis [01/03/2019]
- The Permian period ended about 250 million years ago with the largest recorded mass extinction in Earth’s history, when a series of massive volcanic eruptions is believed to have triggered global climate change that ultimately wiped out 96 percent of marine species in an event known as the “Great Dying.” - According to Justin Penn, a doctoral student at the University of Washington (UW), the Permian extinction can help us understand the impacts of climate change in our own current era. - Penn led a team of researchers that combined models of ocean conditions and animal metabolism with paleoceanographic records to show that the Permian mass extinction was caused by rising ocean temperatures, which in turn forced the metabolism of marine animals to speed up. Increased metabolism meant increased need for oxygen, but the warmer waters could not hold enough oxygen to meet those needs, and ocean life was left gasping for breath.
Cyclone harmed Fijian crab fishery in 2016, research finds [01/03/2019]
- Research published in the journal Climate and Development demonstrates that Tropical Cyclone Winston damaged mud-crab fisheries in Fiji in 2016. - Surveys of the mostly women crab fishers in Bua province before and after Winston, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere, revealed that mud crabs were smaller and less numerous following the cyclone. - The research could help government agencies address the lingering impacts of natural disasters to community fisheries.
Research links specific 2017 extreme weather events to climate change [01/02/2019]
- According to the seventh annual special report by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) probing the causal links between rising global temperatures and extreme weather events, issued last month, climate change made the Northern Great Plains drought of 2017 some 1.5 times more likely and greatly enhanced its intensity by driving long-term reductions in soil moisture. - For the second year in a row, scientists were able to identify specific extreme weather events that cannot be explained without factoring in Earth’s warming global climate. - A team of 120 scientists from 10 different countries used historical observations and model simulations to produce the 17 peer-reviewed analyses collected in the BAMS special report examining extraordinary weather events from around the globe that were made more likely or exacerbated by anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change.
Top 10 happy environmental stories of 2018 [12/31/2018]
- Throughout 2018, efforts to protect habitats and conserve threatened species were driven by governments, scientists, NGOs and indigenous communities. - The world pledged more conservation funding to protect the oceans, while protections for coastal ecosystems were also boosted. - Conservation initiatives steered by indigenous communities continue to garner attention and praise, not least because they tend to be more sustainable and effective than top-down programs. - These were among the upbeat, happy environmental and conservation stories we reported on in 2018.
China seizes totoaba swim bladders worth $26 million, arrests 16 [12/29/2018]
- Chinese customs officials have confiscated 444 kilograms (980 pounds) of totoaba swim bladders, estimated to be worth about $26 million. - The ongoing Chinese investigation also led to the arrest of 16 people known to be part of a major totoaba trafficking syndicate. - The illegal totoaba fishery has spelled doom not just for the totoabas themselves, but also for the vaquita, the world’s smallest and rarest porpoise, also found only in the Gulf of California.
10 ways conservation tech shifted into auto in 2018 [12/28/2018]
- Conservation scientists are increasingly automating their research and monitoring work, to make their analyses faster and more consistent; moreover, machine learning algorithms and neural networks constantly improve as they process additional information. - Pattern recognition detects species by their appearance or calls; quantifies changes in vegetation from satellite images; tracks movements by fishing ships on the high seas. - Automating even part of the analysis process, such as eliminating images with no animals, substantially reduces processing time and cost. - Automated recognition of target objects requires a reference database: the species and objects used to create the algorithm determine the universe of species and objects the system will then be able to identify.
Drone 3D models help assess risk of turtle nesting beaches to sea level rise [12/27/2018]
- In a recent study, researchers took drone-based images to map the structure of sea turtle nesting beaches in northern Cyprus to determine their susceptibility to flooding from sea level rise. - Automated drone flights with on-board cameras can record sequences of photos of the surface below, which can be merged in a process called photogrammetry to construct three-dimensional models of the survey area. - The fast pace of innovation and versatility of drones can improve sea turtle conservation efforts through cheaper, more efficient monitoring.
After the loss of a ship, deep sea mining plans for PNG founder [12/26/2018]
- In 2011, Nautilus Minerals was granted a license to mine precious minerals from the seabed off the coast of Papua New Guinea, the first project in the world to gain deep-sea mining rights. - Nautilus said the project would be less destructive than land-based mining, but met with protests due to the potential impact on the complex deep-sea ecosystems as well as coastal communities. - A year ago, Nautilus failed to make a payment on a specialized ship being built for the project. Now the ship has been sold to another company, making it unlikely Nautilus will be able to fulfill its mining ambitions.
A development project in a Bali mangrove bay gets a new lease on life [12/25/2018]
- A controversial plan to reclaim land in Bali’s Benoa Bay for a commercial and entertainment development project was thought to have ended in August when its permit expired. - In late November, Indonesia’s maritime ministry issued the developer a new permit that effectively revives the plan. - Reclamation can only proceed, however, if the developer can obtain approval for its environmental impact assessment from the environment ministry. Its failure to do so earlier this year was what led to its initial permit expiring. - Activists say they will continue to oppose the project, which they fear will destroy the mangrove-rich ecosystem and harm the livelihoods of thousands of local fishermen.
Photos: Top 10 new species of 2018 [12/25/2018]
- Every year, researchers describe new species of animals and plants, from forests and oceans, after months, or even several years, of trials and tribulations. - In 2018, Mongabay covered many of these new discoveries and descriptions, some a result of chance encounters. - In no particular order, we present our 10 top picks.
2018’s top 10 ocean news stories (commentary) [12/24/2018]
- Marine scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, share their list of the top 10 ocean news stories from 2018. - Hopeful developments included international efforts to curb plastic pollution and negotiate an international treaty to protect the high seas. - Meanwhile, research documenting unprecedented ocean warming, acidification, and oxygen decline spotlighted the real-time unfolding of climate change. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
DNA test helps officials spot dodgy shark shipments [12/21/2018]
- Researchers have developed a rapid DNA testing method to detect the presence of nine trade-restricted shark species in shipments of wildlife products. - When tested on shark fins collected from retail markets in Hong Kong, the protocol reliably detected the presence of these species in less than four hours, at a cost of less than $1 per sample. - The protocol doesn’t determine which specific CITES-listed species is illegally present, only that at least one is, which is sufficient to justify customs officials holding a shipment for more detailed inspection. - The approach enables amplification and detection of long DNA fragments, which ultimately allows customization to detect for other types of wildlife that cannot be visually identified.
The female park rangers protecting turtles from traffickers in Nicaragua [12/21/2018]
- The female park rangers in Nicaragua’s San Juan del Sur area patrol the beaches against the theft of eggs from endangered sea turtles that nest there. - Species like the leatherback turtle have dwindled to less than 3 percent of their population in the eastern Pacific in the last three generations. - In Nicaragua, an estimated more than 6,000 dozen turtle eggs are sold every month, with restaurants by the coast offering them in dishes as part of their menus. - The NGO that hires the rangers say they manage to preserve 90 percent of turtle nests on the beaches they patrol, compared to 40 percent on government-patrolled beaches.
Deep-sea survey of Australian marine parks reveals striking species [12/19/2018]
- A monthlong survey of deep-sea seamounts in and around Australia’s Huon and Tasman Fracture marine parks has revealed a spectacular range of species, from feathery corals and tulip-shaped glass sponges to bioluminescent squids and ghost sharks. - Researchers surveyed 45 seamounts and covered 200 kilometers (124 miles), collecting 60,000 stereo images and some 300 hours of video. - Close to the surface, they recorded data on 42 seabird species and eight whale and dolphin species. The researchers also used a net to collect some animals from the seamounts for identification, many of which are potentially new to science.
U.S. whale entanglement figures steady in 2017 [12/19/2018]
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recorded 76 whale entanglements in U.S. waters in 2017. - Floating fishing gear and other trash in the sea can impede a whale’s ability to feed and swim. - Humpback were most often seen entangled; historically, the species usually accounts for about two-thirds of reports in a given year. - Despite North Atlantic right whales only having been involved in two known entanglements in 2017, scientists say that any run-in with gear or trash threatens the recovery of the species, which now numbers around 450 animals.
Photos highlight evolving roles of AI, citizen science in species research [12/17/2018]
- A recent observation by an amateur naturalist of a fiddler crab species hundreds of kilometers north of its known range challenged the complementary strengths of computer vision and human expertise in mapping species distributions. - The naturalist uploaded this record to the iNaturalist species database used by amateurs and experts to document sightings; expert input correctly identified the specimen after the platform’s computer vision algorithms did not acknowledge the species outside its documented range. - Citizen naturalist observations can be used to document rapid changes in species distributions. They also can improve modeling and mapping work conducted by researchers and play an increasing prominent role in building environmental databases.
Latam Eco Review: Jaguar protection plan signed by 14 Latin countries [12/15/2018]
A 14-country jaguar conservation plan, efforts to protect the last 7 female southern right whales in Peru and Chile, and unexpected biodiversity discovered along Chile’s north coast were among the top stories last week by our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam. Jaguar protection plan signed by 14 Latin countries Fourteen countries launched a plan to secure […]
Hobby-grade drones can monitor marine animals beneath the surface [12/14/2018]
- Researchers in The Bahamas have been testing just how good drone videos can be for estimating the abundance and distribution of large marine animals found just beneath the ocean’s surface. - They flew aerial surveys using commercial-grade drones along six tidal creeks facing high and low human impact, to count sharks, rays, and sea turtles — groups that are both threatened and difficult to monitor. The findings from multiple sites suggest that shoreline development negatively affects the abundance and distribution of various marine species. - The study also showed that using lower-cost consumer drones equipped with video cameras could help researchers effectively and non-invasively estimate abundance of these marine megafauna in shallow waters and compare data across sites.
Madagascar auctioning a large swath of virgin waters for oil exploration [12/14/2018]
- In September, Madagascar announced the opening of a large area of marine territory to oil exploration: 44 concessions totaling 63,296 square kilometers (24,440 square miles) in the Mozambique Channel off the country’s west coast. - Members of the hydrocarbon industry expressed excitement about the news, but civil society groups oppose the sale, arguing that the potential projects’ environmental and social impacts have not been evaluated. - Some of the 44 blocks overlap with a marine protected area, territory marked for potential future marine protected areas, or areas managed by local fishing communities.
Argentina creates two new marine parks to protect penguins, sea lions [12/14/2018]
- Argentina has officially created two large marine protected areas: the Yaganes Marine National Park, lying off the country’s southern tip, and the Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank II Marine National Park in the South Atlantic. - Together, the two parks cover a total area of about 98,000 square kilometers (37,000 square miles). - Industrial fishing is both an important source of revenue for Argentina and a threat to the country’s marine life. But the areas destined to become protected areas have had little fishing activity in recent years, which helped move negotiations in favor of the marine parks.
Feed a fishery, starve a seabird [12/12/2018]
- Industrial fisheries increased their share of fish taken by 10 percent, while seabirds’ take dropped by nearly 20 percent, between 1970-1989 and 1990-2010, new research has found. - The study mapped out 40 years of data comparing the takes of seabirds and fisheries during that timeframe. - Scientists say that seabirds, which also face threats from pollution, plastic garbage and possible entanglements, could also face starvation as a result of the competition with large-scale fisheries for the same resource.
Audio: The true story of how 96 critically endangered sea turtle hatchlings survived New York City [12/11/2018]
- On this episode, the true story of how 96 critically endangered sea turtles survived a New York City beach — with a little help from some dedicated conservationists. - This past summer, beachgoers in New York City spotted a nesting Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle on West Beach, which is on National Park Service land. - Luckily, two of those beachgoers had the presence of mind to call the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation’s 24-hour hotline to report the nesting turtle — which very likely saved the lives of 96 Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle hatchlings.
Brazilian regulators deny French oil giant Total license to drill near Amazon Reef [12/11/2018]
- Brazil’s environmental regulatory agency, Ibama, announced last Friday that it was denying French oil company Total license to drill for oil near the Amazon Reef. - Greenpeace announced earlier this year that a team of scientists onboard one of the environmental group’s ships had documented a reef formation under one of Total’s drilling blocks, contradicting Total’s Environmental Impact Assessment, which stated that the closest reef formation was 8 kilometers away. - In a statement about the rejection of the environmental licenses Total was seeking in order to begin drilling in the Foz do Amazonas Basin, Ibama president Suely Araújo said that there were “deep uncertainties related to the Individual Emergency Plan (PEI) of the enterprise, aggravated by the possibility of eventual oil leakage affecting the biogenic reefs present in the region and marine biodiversity more broadly.”
Tiny bits of ocean plastic threaten the survival of sea turtle hatchlings [12/05/2018]
- Smaller and smaller pieces of single-use plastic are ending up in the stomachs of juvenile sea turtles off the coast of Florida. - Of 96 stranded sea turtle hatchlings collected in a study, more than half died, while all the survivors passed plastic fragments through their bodies. - Increasing amounts of plastic entering the ocean and disintegrating into microscopic bits have increased the risk that sea turtles will choke on or struggle to pass plastic debris, making it harder for them to reach adulthood.
Bits of DNA in ocean water can reveal white sharks swimming nearby [12/04/2018]
- Environmental DNA in small samples of seawater can show whether white sharks are in an area. - In a pilot study, researchers found genetic material from white sharks along two southern California beaches where drones and tagging data indicated white sharks were present. - Refining this technique could minimize dangerous human-shark interactions and improve shark conservation efforts.
‘Drifters of opportunity’: Seabirds track energy in tidal currents [12/03/2018]
- A recent study used location data from GPS-tagged seabirds called razorbills to track currents in the Irish Sea. - When a team of biologists compared the movements of resting birds on the surface of the water with a mathematical model that lays out the currents, they found that the birds provided solid information on the speed and direction of the flow of water. - The researchers suggest that similar research using data from resting seabirds could help identify areas for the harvest of renewable tidal energy.
For the birds: Innovations enable tracking of even small flying animals [12/03/2018]
- Advances in satellite communications have revolutionized wildlife telemetry, yet tracking the movements of small animals, especially ones that fly, and marine species, which rarely break the ocean’s surface, has remained a challenge. - In a November 20th virtual meetup on next-generation wildlife tracking, three speakers introduced developments that have broadened telemetry’s reach to new species and new types of data being collected. - Recent innovations — including the ICARUS tracking system, hybridization of communications platforms, and miniaturization of sensors — are producing tiny solar-powered tracking tags and tags carrying various environmental sensors that function within private networks flexible enough to use the most efficient of several communications technologies available at a given site.
Trump Admin moves closer to authorizing oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic coast [11/30/2018]
- The Trump Administration announced today that it will issue five Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs) for airgun blasting off the Atlantic coast. Seismic airgun blasting is used to search for oil and gas deposits deep beneath the floor of the ocean. - Seismic surveying involves ships towing airgun arrays that continually blast intense bursts of compressed air into the water every 10 to 12 seconds as a means of determining what resources might lie beneath the ocean floor. These seismic airguns are so loud that the noise can travel as many as 2,500 miles underwater. - Environmentalists were quick to decry the Administration’s decision to issue the IHAs on the grounds that marine mammals will face severe threats as a result of seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean.
Latam Eco Review: Microbial memories of Venezuela’s lost glaciers [11/30/2018]
Microbiomes of Venezuela’s lost glaciers, mile-high Andean lizards, and starving baby seals are among the recent top stories from Mongabay Latam, our Spanish-language service. The abandoned microbes of Venezuela’s last glaciers Venezuela will be the first country where glaciers disappear. In 30 years, from 1978 to 2008, its glaciers lost 9 vertical meters a year […]
Whale stress levels influenced by human activity, earwax study suggests [11/28/2018]
- Using earwax collected from baleen (filter-feeding) whales in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, scientists have been able to map the animals’ stress levels in relation to human activities over 146 years. - Between 1870 and 2016, the whales’ stress levels closely corresponded to activities such as industrial whaling, naval operations during World War II, and rising sea-surface temperature, the study found. - The effects on the whales of climate change, increased fishing and krill harvests, and sea ice decline need to be studied further, the researchers say.
Women in small-island states exposed to high levels of mercury: study [11/27/2018]
- Tests of hair samples from hundreds of women in small-island countries and territories found 75 percent had mercury levels high enough to cause fetal neurological damage. - Nearly 60 percent of the women had mercury levels exceeding a threshold beyond which brain damage, IQ loss, and kidney and cardiovascular damage can occur. - The report attributed the mercury pollution in fisheries in these regions to air emissions of the toxic heavy metal emanating from coal-fired power plants and artisanal gold mining. - The researchers have called for a complete ban on the trade in and use of mercury, and urged a transition away from coal power to renewables.
Catalyzing action on sea litter in Brazil and beyond [11/26/2018]
- The impact of plastic on the world’s oceans has been garnering a lot of attention of late. - In Brazil, a key catalyst for raising awareness on the issue of sea little has been Menos 1 Lixo, an educational platform that runs online campaigns and organizes beach clean-ups to spur behavior change. - Menos 1 Lixo was founded by Fe Cortez, a Brazilian TV presenter, social media expert, and environmental activist. - Cortez is speaking December 1 at the Global Landscape Forum in Bonn, Germany.
Chile fishers brace for fallout after massive mining port is approved [11/26/2018]
- The iron ore export terminal was approved for an area rich in marine resources that artisanal fishing communities rely on, and is just 29 kilometers (18 miles) from the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve and the Choros and Damas Islands Marine Reserve. - The project’s approval went practically unnoticed at a time when attention was focused on a debate over the planned construction of another mining port, Dominga, just 5 kilometers (3 miles) to the south. - Once completed, the Cruz Grande port will serve 75 ships a year carrying away 13.5 million tons of iron ore — less than 300 meters (1,000 feet) from fishing sites that hundreds of families rely on for their incomes. - This section of the coast is an important whale migration corridor and is also home to 122 species of birds, among them the Humboldt penguin. Chile’s only colony of bottlenose dolphins also lives there, as do 68 species of fish and 180 species of microalgae and invertebrates.
Filling in the gaps: Managing endangered species on the high seas [11/23/2018]
- Information about how marine animals move through the oceans has become vitally important as efforts progress to create a global plan for securing sustainable fish stocks in the high seas. Researchers are integrating new technologies and applying new approaches to data sets to find answers. - A recent examination of the long-term Tagging of Pelagic Predators (TOPP) data set has mapped the travel patterns of marine predators — certain whale, turtle, tuna, shark, and seabird species — through their life cycles. - The study showed that many of these predators spend over half their time on the high seas, supporting the need for global strategies to protect and monitor the high seas. Vessel identification systems paired with several emerging satellite technologies can help.
Turtles exposed to record levels of microplastics on Mediterranean beaches [11/23/2018]
- Beaches in northern Cyprus have the second highest recorded amount of microplastics among beaches studied across the world, a new study has found. - The Cyprus beaches are crucial nesting sites for green and loggerhead sea turtles, and high levels of microplastics in their nesting sites could pose a significant threat to turtle hatching success, researchers say. - The current magnitude of microplastic contamination is likely underestimated, the researchers warn.
New picture of coral reef health opens avenues for saving them [11/21/2018]
- New research has identified five potential phases, or “regimes,” of coral reef health, helping scientists and ecosystem managers better assess the condition of reefs. - The study also revealed that certain transitions from one phase to another were more likely to result from human-induced changes to the ocean. - The authors of the study say the research could help identify new opportunities to save and improve the health of reefs.
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 North America’s northeast Pacific coast in real time. - A network of underwater microphones will stream sounds from under the sea 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.
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.