Plans to drill for oil near newly discovered Amazon Reef alarm scientists [04/26/2017]
- The reef system is believed to extend 9,500 square kilometers (or nearly 3,700 square miles), from the territorial waters of French Guiana to Maranhão State in northern Brazil. - Exploratory drilling could start as soon as this summer, with the closest well to be drilled just 28 kilometers (17 miles) from the reef, according to Greenpeace. - But there are hurdles yet to be cleared by oil companies hoping to drill near the Amazon Reef. A spokesperson for the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), told Mongabay that Total and BP are still awaiting permits to begin exploratory drilling, the aim of which would be to verify the existence of the oil reservoirs beneath the ocean floor.
Namibia’s low cost, sustainable solution to seabird bycatch [04/25/2017]
- Accidental take of marine animals by commercial fisheries is a serious global environmental problem, with 40 percent of the world’s ocean fishing totals disposed of as bycatch annually. - Roughly 63 billion pounds of unwanted wildlife — seabirds, marine mammals and sea turtles, countless fish species, rays, and cephalopods — are killed as bycatch due to the swallowing of baited hooks or entanglement in nets. - Nambia, once known as the “world’s worst fishery” regarding avian bycatch is addressing the problem. It has installed “bird-scaring” lines on the nation’s 70 trawlers and on its 12 longline fishing vessels, and has also adopted other low cost methods to minimize avian bycatch, which once killed more than 30,000 birds annually. - The Meme Itumbapo Women’s Group, known for its seashell necklaces and other jewelry, is now sustainably manufacturing and supplying the bird-scaring lines from their headquarters “Bird’s Paradise,” in Walvis Bay, Namibia. The hope is that these combined efforts will reduce avian bycatch by 85-90 percent in the near future.
Is a property boom in Malaysia causing a fisheries bust in Penang? [04/19/2017]
- Driven by high demand for housing, developers in Malaysia's Penang Island are artificially expanding the coastline and planning to construct new islands. - Local fishers say building works have already damaged their livelihoods, and fear further construction will destroy their fishing grounds. - Mangroves and endangered bird species are also threatened, and the mining and transport of construction materials could spread adverse environmental impacts beyond just Penang.
Scientists launch global search for 25 ‘lost’ species [04/19/2017]
- The first phase of the this campaign, launched today by the Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC), will see groups of scientists spreading out across the world in search of "25 most wanted lost species". - Collectively, these 25 species have not been seen in more than 1,500 years. - The top 25 species include 10 mammals, three birds, three reptiles, two amphibians, three fish, one insect, one crustacean, one coral and one plant, found across 18 countries.
Officials, Greenpeace nab four boats for illegally fishing near Guinea-Bissau [04/03/2017]
- Between March 21-24, Greenpeace and officials from Guinea-Bissau’s Fisheries Surveillance Department sent four boats into the port of Bissau, where the companies that own the boats face sanctions for unpaid fines for past violations, improperly indicating the names of vessels, and what’s known as ‘illegal transshipment.’ - Two of the boats were owned by a Spanish company, and the other two were owned by companies based in China, which has by far the most ‘distant-water fishing’ boats at sea of any country. - The UN Food and Agriculture Organization found that, in 2009, the fisheries off West Africa had the highest rates of overexploitation in the world.
UN launches campaign to take out ocean trash [03/30/2017]
- UNEP launched a global campaign last month aimed at eliminating two of the chief sources of ocean trash by 2022: microplastics frequently used in cosmetics and single-use plastic products like shopping bags. - Ten different countries had already joined the campaign at the time of its launch, according to UNEP. Indonesia, for instance, pledged to reduce marine litter by 70 percent by 2025, while Uruguay announced a tax on single-use plastic bags slated to take effect later this year. - It’s estimated that more than 600 marine species are impacted by marine litter in the oceans, and that 15 percent of those species that are harmed by ingesting or becoming entangled in ocean trash are already endangered.
Sand mining ban lifted on beach in Suriname, causing public backlash [03/27/2017]
- Sand mining could decrease the ability of Braamspunt beach to protect Suriname’s capital city from rising sea levels and storms surges. - Conservationists also fear for sea turtles nesting on the beach, which may be disturbed by the bright lights and loud noises of the industrial activity. - Sand mining in coastal environments has become a global industry, threatening biodiversity and natural defenses against climate change.
Military base-building destroys coral reefs in the South China Sea [03/26/2017]
- The Spratly Islands, located in the South China Sea, are an underwater biodiversity hotspot. - But China's military base-building on these islands has destroyed huge expanses of coral reef. - A new study finds up to a 70 percent reduction in coral reef cover on atolls with military bases
Damage to Raja Ampat 12 times higher than previously thought [03/25/2017]
- Raja Ampat is home to one of the most spectacular coral reefs in the world. - The cruise ship that hit the reef on March 4 damaged 18,882 square meters of coral reef, the Indonesian government said this week. - A preliminary estimate had identified only 1,600 square meters of damaged reef.
Marine protected areas suffer from lack of funds, staff [03/22/2017]
- About 65 percent of the 433 surveyed MPAs reportedly suffered from inadequate budget for the management of the protected areas. - Nearly 91 percent of MPAs lacked sufficient staff to carry out critical management activities. - The findings suggest that effective biodiversity conservation is not just dependent on environmental conditions or MPA features (such as MPA size, fishing regulations), but is also heavily dependent on available capacity.
Catching up to the Ruby Seadragon: new species raises new questions [03/20/2017]
- The ruby seadragon (Phyllopteryx dewysea) avoided scientific detection for so long due to its deepwater habitat and the fact that bodies changed color after they perished. - The discovery has raised new questions about the evolution of seadragons. - Researchers don’t know how threatened the ruby seadragon is, but have petitioned the government for proactive protections.
Climate change-induced bleaching decimating Great Barrier Reef [03/15/2017]
- In 2016, scientists reported the largest die-off ever on the Great Barrier Reef. - Some 70,000 people depend on the Great Barrier Reef for employment in the tourism industry, and it’s worth about $5 billion annually. - The study’s authors report that repeated exposure to higher-than-normal sea temperatures submarines the corals’ chances at recovery. Even corals that survive don’t appear to be more tolerant of extreme temperatures, and high water quality – important for coral regrowth – doesn’t seem to offer much protection against bleaching.
Cruise ship wrecks one of Indonesia’s best coral reefs at Raja Ampat [03/09/2017]
- The ship ran aground on an uncharted shoal off the coast of New Guinea after it was caught in low tide. - An official evaluation team is assessing the damage. One investigator told Mongabay the company should pay $1.28 million-$1.92 million in compensation. - The company responsible, UK-based tour operator Noble Caledonia, said it deeply regretted the incident and that it was cooperating with authorities.
Rare beaked whale filmed underwater for the first time [03/07/2017]
- True's beaked whale is difficult to spot at sea, and remains a poorly studied species. - By analyzing stranding data and live sightings of the whale, researchers confirm that the Azores and Canary Islands may actually be a hotspot for studying the natural behavior of the species. - For the data-scarce whale species, live sightings and video recordings are highly valuable because they add to information that helps identify a species accurately. - This in turn can help scientists monitor the status of their populations and protect them.
Need a Trump break? Meet Obama’s fish [03/02/2017]
- Researcher names new species of deep coral fish after the 44th President of the U.S. - Scientists don’t know if the new species is threatened, but it is found in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. - Discovery hints at how many species still await names.
SpongeBob SquarePants and the ‘last frontier’ of the Philippines [02/23/2017]
- The 100-hectare resort, announced last month, is to be part of the Coral World Park, which bills itself as the 'largest Marine Reserve and Coral Reef Conservation program in Asia.' - Local environment activists say they have never heard of Coral World Park, or of conservation programs funded by its parent organization, the Dr. AB Moñozca Foundation. - Palawan, a globally significant biodiversity hotspot, is already grappling with the social and environmental impacts of a rapidly growing tourism industry.
How acoustic monitoring gave us a last chance to save the vaquita [02/22/2017]
- Monitoring the vaquita’s vocalizations has allowed scientists to closely and accurately monitor the species’ unfortunate decline. - Illegal fishing for totoaba is the biggest threat to the vaquita. They are killed as bycatch, drowning in nets meant for the fish. - Conservationists say the next step is to capture vaquitas for captivity, a highly controversial plan with major risks.
A Thai oil firm, Indonesian seaweed farmers and Australian regulators. What happened after the Montara oil spill? [02/14/2017]
- The 2009 Montara oil spill was the worst such offshore disaster in Australian history. The company behind it acknowledges "mistakes were made that should never be repeated." - But while the firm has paid a penalty to the Australian government, it has yet to compensate Indonesia, which says it too suffered from the spill. - Now, thousands of seaweed farmers are suing the Thai-owned oil and gas giant, seeking compensation in Australian court. The Indonesian government has also launched a lawsuit. - The dispute highlights the complexity of regulating transnational corporations operating in maritime borderlands like the Timor Sea, a relatively narrow body of water rich in oil and gas reserves and surrounded by multiple countries.
Ecological trap ensnares endangered African penguins [02/10/2017]
- Juveniles of the Western Cape population of African penguins, an IUCN-listed endangered species, still frequent a subpar hunting ground, even though other options are within reach. - This population of penguins has declined by 80 percent in recent decades. - The current research projects that Western Cape penguin numbers are half of what they would be without this ecological trap.
Fish magnet boom creates headaches in Indonesia’s war on overfishing [02/09/2017]
- Recent comments by Indonesian fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti indicate the government will crack down on fish aggregating devices, which have proliferated in the Southeast Asian nation's waters. - Experts agree the issue deserves more attention from Jakarta but urge President Joko Widodo's administration to consider the impact a purge of the devices will have on small fishers. - Minister Pudjiastuti has said that many of the devices are owned by large companies.
Audio: An in-depth look at Mongabay’s collaboration with The Intercept Brasil [02/07/2017]
- Branford is a regular contributor to Mongabay who has been reporting from Brazil since 1979 when she was with the Financial Times and then the BBC. - One of the articles in the series resulted in an official investigation by the Brazilian government before it was even published — and the investigators have already recommended possible reparations for an indigenous Amazonian tribe. - We also round up the top news of the past two weeks.
Protecting Marine Protected Areas [02/01/2017]
- Worldwide, there are more than 13,500 MPAs, according to the Marine Conservation Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Seattle. These MPAs are created for many reasons, from preserving historical shipwrecks and cultural sites to conserving biodiversity and marine species. - With restrictions that vary by location, it can be difficult for mariners to know what kinds of regulations apply in any given ocean space, or even to be aware that they have entered into a marine protected area. - To improve awareness and management of marine protected areas, a team of technology experts, mapping specialists, and lawyers partnered with private enterprises and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to make it easier and more affordable for marine protected areas to live up to their names.
First-ever underwater photos of newly discovered Amazon Reef have surfaced [01/30/2017]
- Extending from French Guiana to Maranhão State in northern Brazil, the Amazon Reef is a 9500-square-kilometer (or nearly 3,700-square-mile) system of corals, sponges, and rhodoliths (a colorful marine algae that resembles coral) located where the Amazon River meets the Atlantic Ocean — a region currently threatened by oil exploration activities. - When the reef was discovered in April 2016, Fabiano Thompson of Brazil’s Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, who was part of the team of scientists who made the discovery, told Mongabay that “The oceanographic conditions (biogeochemistry and microbiology) of this system are unique, not found in other places of the planet.” - The mouth of the Amazon River basin also provides valuable habitat for a range of species, including the American manatee, the yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle, dolphins, and giant river otters, which are listed as Endangered on the IUCN’s Red List.
Fish for all? The fish-free fishmeal challenge [01/10/2017]
- The aquaculture industry is growing faster than the human population, at about eight percent each year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. - About 20 percent of the world’s fish goes to aquaculture, depleting wild-caught forage fish such as anchovies and krill to provide essential oils and protein for the development and growth of these cultivated foods. - The first team to sell 100,000 metric tons of fish-free feed or, if that threshold isn’t reached, that sells the most feed by the end of the contest, on September 15, 2017, will be named the winner of the F3 challenge.
‘Too rare to wear’: new campaign targets tourists to end Hawksbill turtle trade [01/09/2017]
- The Hawksbill turtle’s striking shell is carved into jewelry, combs and other trinkets, which is then sold in markets across Latin America and the Caribbean. - The campaign, Too Rare to Wear, will help people learn about turtleshell souvenirs and how to avoid buying them while traveling in those regions. - The campaign includes a coalition of conservation organizations, tour operators, and media partners.
Restoring seagrass under siege [01/02/2017]
- The flowering plants – not to be confused with seaweed – are considered “coastal canaries.” - These sensitive indicators of ocean health will die when water runoff carries high loads of nutrients or sediment, or when boating activity disrupts their root systems. - Changing water conditions, ocean warming, and acidification may also predispose these plants to the wasting disease that once wiped out most of the seagrass along the U.S. Atlantic coast.
2016’s top 10 developments for the world’s oceans [12/28/2016]
- Marine scientists from University of California, Santa Barbara share their top 10 list of game changing developments for the ocean in 2016. - Massive new ocean protected areas and transformative policies to fight illegal fishing brought hope. - The world’s worst coral bleaching event, record sea ice lows, and coastal flooding revealed the ever-growing influence of climate change. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2016 [12/28/2016]
- Some animal species showed signs of recovery after years of decline. - In 2016, the world became serious about protecting our oceans by establishing some of the largest marine protected areas ever. - Countries moved towards ending domestic ivory trade, and researchers discovered the world’s tallest tree.
‘Casper’ the octopod threatened by deep-sea mining [12/27/2016]
- Casper the octopod lays its eggs on stalks of dead sponges attached to nodules rich in manganese on the ocean floor. - The stalked sponges require the presence of manganese nodules as a substrate for their survival, and the removal of nodules can cause a collapse of the sponge populations. - This would suggest that, like the sponges, the octopods would also be vulnerable to the removal of nodules by commercial exploitation, the researchers say.
Expedition finds serious damage to Southeast Sulawesi’s marine ecosystem [12/08/2016]
- A WWF-led expedition in Southeast Sulawesi found severely reduced hard-coral cover in nine out of 38 sampling sites. - Researchers point to sediment created by the province's nickel mining industry as one of the primary drivers of reef destruction. - An outbreak of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish is also contributing to the problem.
Mexico to get its largest ever protected area [12/05/2016]
- The new reserve will be spread across several municipalities, including Isla Mujeres, Benito Juárez, Puerto Morelos, Solidaridad, Cozumel, Tulum, Bacalar and Othón P. Blanco. - Mexico’s Natural Protected Areas Commission, or CONANP, will be responsible for the administration and monitoring of the reserve, while the Navy will be in-charge of enforcing protection. - The marine portion of the reserve will cover an area of about 5.725 million hectares while the land portion of the reserve will cover about 28,589 hectares of coastal areas and wetlands.
Great Barrier Reef suffered worst coral die-off on record in 2016: new study [11/29/2016]
- On some reefs in the northern part of the Great Barrier, nearly all corals have died. - But the central and southern part of the Great Barrier seem to have fared better, suffering “minor” damage compared to the northern region. - Scientists expect that it will take at least 10-15 years for corals in the northern region to regrow, but a fourth bleaching event could strike the region before the reefs have had the chance to recover completely.
New species of pea-sized crab discovered — inside a mussel [11/28/2016]
- Scientists have discovered a new species of tiny pea crab within a large date mussel collected in the Solomon Islands. - The crab has been named Serenotheres janus after Janus, the Roman two-faced god because of a large plate that covers its upper carapace, giving it the illusion of being two-faced. - S. janus is the second known species within the pea crab genus Serenotheres, members of which parasitize rock-boring mussels of the subfamily Lithophaginae, the researchers write.
More than just prosthetics: The role of 3D printing in wildlife conservation [11/28/2016]
- 3D printed material is restoring natural structures, from a toucan’s bill to a coral reef. - This technology is rapidly gaining relevance as a tool for wildlife and ecosystem, even helping clean our oceans and combat poaching. - The ease with which 3D printing allows scientists and practitioners to reliably reproduce usable products has great potential for assisting research and conservation.
Distinctive sperm whale cultures reveal dramatic population shifts in the Galápagos [11/23/2016]
- Researchers studied distinctive communication clicks among sperm whales to track several cultural clans in the Pacific Ocean. - Two clans dominated the waters near the Galápagos decades ago, but whales from two different clans have since moved in from across the Pacific basin. - Managing sperm whales may require tracking their populations culturally, rather than geographically.
Humpback whales learn habitat loyalty from their mothers, Alaskan study shows [11/22/2016]
- Marine biologists studied relationships among humpback whales in Glacier Bay and Icy Strait, Alaska, over a 30-year period. - The whales’ loyalty to their feeding grounds is passed down from mothers to calves and persists through the generations. - North Pacific humpback whales are making a comeback, and the new study shows how critical it is to protect their key habitats.
Deep sea mining plans for Papua New Guinea raise alarm [11/18/2016]
- Plans are moving forward to launch operations at the world's first deep sea mine, in Papua New Guinea's coastal waters. - Nautilus Minerals, Inc. claims the project will have less ecological and social impact than on-shore mines. - The mine's opponents say too little is known about the risks such projects pose to deep sea ecosystems and coastal communities. - Despite its mineral riches, Papua New Guinea has very poor indicators for human health and well-being, and a long history of unrest centered on resource extraction.
A data trove to support a hoped-for shark sanctuary in Indonesia [11/18/2016]
- Growing international demand for shark fins has caused a massive increase in shark catches. - Local groups in the Gili Islands want the government to create a sanctuary for sharks there. It would be Indonesia's first. - To build their case, conservationists are gathering data about the abundance of species in the area, which they hope will convince the government to establish the sanctuary.
New atlas bolsters global perspective of fisheries – book review [11/03/2016]
- The Global Atlas of Marine Fisheries draws on 10 years of fisheries data. - More than 350 scientists around the world were involved in an effort to provide a more complete look at global fisheries. - The team reconstructed fisheries datasets going back to 1950 to fill in gaps that exist in Food and Agriculture Organization’s State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture.
Illegal fishing threatens Easter Island’s natural resources [11/02/2016]
- Plastic pollution on the island exceeds permissible levels for sustainable management. - The Chilean government established Motu Hiva Motiro Marine Park near Easter Island in 2010, but officials say it has no official management plan. - The Rapa Nui community has proposed an alternative conservation plan for the area.
World’s largest marine protected area created in Antarctica [10/31/2016]
- Last week, 25 governments unanimously agreed to create the world’s largest marine protected area off Antarctica. - The new marine protected area, expected to come into force in December 2017, will set out to protect some 1.55 million square kilometers of the Ross Sea around Antarctica. - According to the agreement, 72 percent of the marine area will be set aside as a “no-take” zone, in which all forms of fishing will be banned. The protections will end in 35 years.
Is it time for a moratorium on commercial fishing of Pacific bluefin tuna? [10/26/2016]
- According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, projections show that Pacific bluefin tuna numbers have less than a one percent chance of recovering within two decades barring immediate and decisive action from fisheries managers. - The two regional fisheries management organizations that have the ability to put in place measures that would give Pacific bluefin some breathing room — the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) — have so far failed to adopt a Pacific-wide recovery plan to put an end to overfishing so that the fish’s population can return to healthy levels. - After failing to reach an agreement on management measures for Pacific bluefin tuna when it met in July of this year, the IATTC met again last week. But the organization was once again unable to produce the breakthrough the species needs.
Irregular Arctic climate reduces sea ice to another record low [10/24/2016]
- The annual minimum Arctic ice melt appears to have been reached in early September 2016. - Arctic ice cover, which serves the crucial role of reflecting large amounts of incoming solar radiation, has declined more quickly than most scientific models forecast. - Sea ice extent for 2016 (a measurement derived by satellite) as reported by both the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado and Japan's JAXA space and aeronautics agency indicate that this year's minimum sea ice extent is the second-lowest as recorded by modern instrumentation. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Belize suspends oil exploration near World Heritage Site after public outcry [10/24/2016]
- Following public outcry, Belize officials have agreed to suspend their activities, and plan to hold a consultation with the stakeholders to chart out their future course of action. - The seismic surveys, which involve blasting shockwaves through the water using air guns, are proposed to occur less than a mile from this World Heritage site. - This could endanger the site’s marine wildlife, and threaten the livelihoods of more than 190,000 people in Belize who support their incomes through tourism and fisheries, conservationists say.
Economic impacts of climate change on global fisheries could be worse than we thought [10/14/2016]
- Previous research has shown that global warming will cause changes in ocean temperatures, sea ice extent, salinity, and oxygen levels, among other impacts, that are likely to lead to shifts in the distribution range and productivity of marine species, the study notes. - In all, the UBC researchers found that global fisheries could lose approximately $10 billion in annual revenue by 2050 if climate change continues unchecked — a 10 percent decrease, which is 35 percent more than has been previously estimated. - Countries that are most dependent on fisheries to feed their populations will experience the biggest impacts, according to the study.
New tool lets anyone find out if deep sea mining is happening in their ocean backyard [10/13/2016]
- Marine scientists at the University of California Santa Barbara’s Benioff Ocean Initiative developed the web-based tool, Deep Sea Mining Watch, to allow anyone to watch vessels engaged in deep sea mining activities anywhere in the world. - Deep sea mining is relatively new, but it’s exactly what it sounds like: mineral extraction from the ocean floor, at depths ranging from 800 to 6,000 meters (about 2,600 to 20,000 feet). - The team of scientists behind Deep Sea Mining Watch have already used the tool to comb through the mountain of global vessel data generated by all the world’s ships in order to extract high-resolution GPS tracks showing where mining activities have already started.
Scientists dive deep to discover new fish species at 150 meters [10/11/2016]
- The new species, discovered during an expedition in 2014, belongs to a group of fish called groppos that are typically found at depths of over 100 meters, according to a new study. - Finding a new species of groppo without the use of submarines or other indirect methods is surprising, scientists say, and makes this the deepest new fish discovery done by diving to date. - The team has named the pink-and-yellow-hued fish Brianne’s Groppo or Grammatonotus brianne after co-author Brian Greene’s wife, Brianne Atwood.
A week of grim tidings for critically endangered right whales [10/06/2016]
- The population of critically endangered North Atlantic right whales numbers just 500. - The whales' population has grown in recent decades, but its growth rate appears to be declining due to a combination of human-caused deaths and a drop in calving, researchers say. - The recent spate of deaths and entanglements, combined with the flagging population, an unexplained shift in habitat, and the poor health of many whales spotted this summer has researchers concerned for the future of the species.
The salmon crisis in Chile’s Chiloé Island [10/05/2016]
- The salmon industry says the crisis was caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon. - Greenpeace pointed to industrial salmon fishers, who it says dumped 9,000 tons of dead fish into the sea shortly before the crisis. - Preliminary reports from a government-sponsored research mission confirm that weather conditions were conducive to forming a "red tide," and say salmon dumping did not cause the fish kills. - Losses for fishers persist. Many have turned to alternate sources of income.
House of Mussels: an artificial reef off the coast of Jakarta [10/05/2016]
- The underwater sculpture Domus Musculi, or House of Mussels, is "a remembrance of what the Jakarta Bay has been famous for: its mussels, which nowadays are no longer exist due to heavy pollution," according to the artist Teguh Ostenrik's website. - The sculpture uses Biorock technology, a patented artificial reef system that involves coursing electricity into the sculptures’ steel frames. - Ostenrik has installed other artificial reefs in the waters off Lombok and the Wakatobi islands.
Poisoned lives: five decades of pollution in Chile’s Quintero-Ventanas Bay [10/04/2016]
- Three oil spills have affected the bay since 2014, with discharges exceeding 38,000 liters. - Government studies have found high levels of arsenic and mercury in seafood from the coast. - In 2011 more than 30 children and nine adults were struck ill by a chemical cloud that reached the school of La Greda located in Puchuncaví.
NOAA proposes rule to protect deep sea coral off U.S. Atlantic coast [10/03/2016]
- The proposed rule, if finalized, would create the first protected area at the national level under the new deep sea coral provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. - The area proposed for protection by NOAA stretches along the continental shelf off the Mid-Atlantic coastline between New York and North Carolina and encompasses all of the area out to the boundary of the U.S.’s Exclusive Economic Zone. - The proposed rule, also known as Amendment 16 to NOAA’s Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery Management Plan, came less than two weeks after President Barack Obama announced the creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, the U.S.’s first national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean.
Study suggests commercial fishing depletes key nutrients in coral reefs [09/29/2016]
- Maintaining and, where necessary, rebuilding coral reef fish communities is key to the food security and livelihoods of billions of people around the world, according to the authors of an article published in the journal Nature Communications last month note. - A 2015 study found that reef fish biomass can take 35 to 60 years to recover from heavily depleted levels. - The authors of the Nature Communications article write that the results of their study suggest that “in addition to well-acknowledged conservation targets such as biodiversity protection, a broader perspective that incorporates predictable impacts of fishing pressure on nutrient dynamics is imperative for effective coral reef conservation and management.”
Chile creates largest marine park in Southeast Pacific [09/29/2016]
- This area has great diversity and endemism: "72 percent of the species that live there are found nowhere else in the world; fish biomass is the highest of all the islands of the Pacific with 2.5 tons per hectare," said the Chilean Minister of the Environment. - In the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park species may reproduce and help contribute to the recovery of currently overexploited or depleted species in the South Pacific Ocean, such as mackerels. - Two days after the Chilean government officially established the creation of the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park, U.S. president Barack Obama announced the extension of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument which now covers 1.5 million square kilometers making it the largest marine protected area in the world.
Slave-linked fishing firm thought to have resumed operations in Indonesia [09/29/2016]
- Indonesian fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti told reporters she had reopened an investigation into PT Pusaka Benjina Resources. - The company's licenses were revoked after the Associated Press exposed slavery and human trafficking in its operations in eastern Indonesia last year. - Pudjiastuti said she had received a report that the company had been buying fish from local fishermen for almost a month and processing them in its factory on Benjina Island north of Australia.
Searching for sawfish following the clues of environmental DNA [09/26/2016]
- Environmental DNA (eDNA) is genetic material extracted directly from environmental samples, such as soil, water and air, rather than from an evident biological source. eDNA analysis is revolutionizing species detection and genetic analyses for conservation, management and research. - Researchers in northern Australia are using eDNA to locate and help conserve critically endangered largetooth sawfish. - eDNA technology is rapidly evolving; it could become completely field-based and be used to determine abundance and applied to meta-genomic ecosystem surveys to predict spatial and temporal biodiversity patterns.
Whalesong, interrupted [09/23/2016]
- Baleen whales broadcast complex songs over long distances underwater, but maritime noise pollution from ships and other sources is squeezing their ability to communicate. - With regulatory and technical solutions to ocean noise slow to spread, some researchers are optimistic that whales themselves will be able to change their vocalizations to overcome the din. - Meanwhile, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last week released a strategy to study and mitigate rising noise levels and their effect on marine life.
Leonardo DiCaprio launches global campaign to protect sharks and rays [09/20/2016]
- The Global Partnership for Sharks and Rays (GPSR) is collaborative effort supported by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, and Oceans 5. - The campaign aims to “halt the global overexploitation of sharks and rays, prevent species extinction, and restore shark and ray populations worldwide.” - The GPSR fund will target coastal fishing countries that have some of the largest direct and incidental take of sharks and rays, have a significant domestic demand, and high biodiversity; as well as countries that have outsized demand for shark and ray products.
Obama creates Atlantic Ocean’s first marine national monument [09/19/2016]
- The newly designated marine protected area comprises of underwater canyons and mountains that are home to numerous rare and endangered marine species like the Kemp’s ridley turtles, sperm, fin and sei whales and vibrant deep-sea corals. - The marine protected area lies in a region that is projected to warm nearly three times faster than the global average, and the warming waters are threatening majority of fish species in the region including salmon, lobster, and scallops, the White House said. - While recreational fishermen will be allowed within the boundaries of the monument, red crab and lobster fisheries will be permitted seven years to exit the monument area.
$48 million fund to help expand marine protected areas [09/16/2016]
- At the ongoing U.S. State Department’s Our Ocean 2016 Conference, in Washington, D.C., the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Waitt Foundation, the blue moon fund (bmf), and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), together announced a commitment of $48 million to expand and improve marine protected area (MPA) coverage across the world’s oceans. - The $48 million funds will be used for activities such as outreach to stakeholders, working with local governments to get MPAs created, and supporting management of MPAs. - Funds will initially be used to expand MPAs in the tropics in areas with high biodiversity that also have a high human dependence on the marine environment.
High seas treaty negotiations ended at UN last week with boost from IUCN Conservation Congress [09/14/2016]
- The second in a series of Preparatory Committee meetings to negotiate provisions of a new international treaty to protect marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, which make up as much as two-thirds of the world’s oceans and 43 percent of Earth’s total surface area, were held at the UN’s NYC headquarters from August 26 to September 9. - The first PrepCom, as the Preparatory Committee meetings are referred to in UN parlance, was held earlier this year. - The negotiations themselves garnered a huge show of support from the government and NGO representatives at the Union for Conservation of Nature’s Conservation Congress when they voted to approve Motion 49.
Ocean warming is “greatest hidden challenge of our generation,” according to IUCN [09/06/2016]
- A report released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on Monday finds that the effects of global warming on oceans are not a concern for the future — fish, marine mammals, seabirds, and even humans are already being impacted by rising temperatures in oceanic waters. - More than 93 percent of the global warming that has resulted from human activities since the 1970s was absorbed by Earth’s oceans, and data show a “sustained and accelerating upward trend in ocean warming,” according to the report. - Entire groups of species such as plankton, fish, jellyfish, turtles and seabirds have been driven up to 10 degrees of latitude towards the Earth’s poles as they seek to keep within the environmental conditions to which they’re adapted.
US creates world’s largest marine reserve off Hawaii [08/29/2016]
- The monument, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to more than 7,000 marine species, including endangered sea turtles, whales, Hawaiian monk seals, Laysan albatross, Pritchardia palms, and several recently discovered species. - While non-commercial fishing is allowed in the monument region by permit, commercial fishing and future mineral extraction activities are banned within the expansion area, the White House said. - The expansion of Papahānaumokuākea is in response to proposals put forward by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz and other native Hawaiian leaders earlier this year.
Rising sea levels could actually help coral reefs survive global warming: Study [08/25/2016]
- Rising levels of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere will cause significant changes to ocean temperatures and chemistry over the next 100 years, thereby increasing the frequency and severity of mass bleaching and other stresses on coral reefs and reef systems, scientists say. - The University of Western Australia’s Ryan Lowe led a team of researchers who studied a reef system off the coast of northwestern Australia, as well as other reef systems across the globe, in order to develop a new model for predicting how rapid sea level rise will impact daily water temperature extremes within these shallow reefs over the next century. - The researchers found that an atmospheric exchange of surface heat drives the greatest temperature fluctuations in reefs located in shallow, low-tide waters. That means that rising sea levels could reduce local reef water temperatures by a substantial amount, helping protect them from becoming stressed and bleaching as a consequence.
Indonesia must do more to protect whale sharks, conservationists say [08/23/2016]
- Most whale sharks live in the Indo-Pacific, where Indonesia lies. - The giant fish is a protected species in Indonesia, but that hasn't stopped poachers from hunting it for its fins, skin and oil. - Advocates want the Indonesian government to crack down on traffickers and do more to promote sustainable ecotourism that contributes to the creature's conservation.
Atauro island has highest average reef fish diversity in the world [08/23/2016]
- Conservation International’s (CI’s) Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) conducted a week-long survey was conducted in Atauro Island in July. - During the course of the survey, CI’s team recorded a total of 642 reef fish species around the island. - In one site, the team identified 315 species, which is the third highest globally, the researchers say.
Two new species of glowing spook fish discovered [08/22/2016]
- Barreleyes, with their large transparent heads, are one of the rarest and "most peculiar and unknown fish groups in the deep-sea pelagic realm", researchers say. - Some barreleyes have special organs on their bellies called "soles", covered with pigmented scales, that reflect light emitted from luminous organs inside their bellies. - By comparing the pigment patterns on the soles of barreleyes fish collected near American Samoa and New Zealand with long-preserved specimens previously caught near the mid-Atlantic ridge and Australia, researchers found that two species are new to science.
Watch how corals ‘violently’ bleach as sea temperatures rise [08/22/2016]
- Researchers placed individuals of the solitary coral, Heliofungia actiniformis, into a 10-litre aquatic tank and began heating the water up. - Within the first two hours of raising the water temperature, the H. actiniformis began expelling Symbiodinium, the tiny algae that lives inside its tissues, in a process called pulsed inflation. - The intensity and magnitude of the expansion-contraction pulses increased with time, with the coral inflating to up to 340 percent of its original state.
New species of extinct dolphin discovered in museum collection [08/19/2016]
- The fossil, an incomplete skull about nine inches long, was discovered by geologist Donald J Miller in 1951 in Alaska. - For the next six decades, the skull remained in Smithsonian's collection, until researchers decided to examine it. - The researchers have found that the dolphin skull is among the oldest fossils from Platanistoidea, a group that once included a large, diverse family of marine mammals, but is now represented by a single freshwater river species, the South Asian river dolphin Platanista gangetica.
400-year-old Greenland shark might be oldest vertebrate on Earth [08/16/2016]
- By carbon dating the eyes of Greenland sharks, researchers estimate that the oldest of the sharks was 392 years old when it was caught four years ago. - Given a wide margin of error of 120 years, the study estimates that the sharks likely have lifespans of 272 to 512 years. - The previously known longest living vertebrate — the bowhead whale — can live for around 211 years, which is still less than the lower estimate of a Greenland shark’s lifespan.
Could kelp forests keep ocean acidification at bay? [08/12/2016]
- The ocean is absorbing some of the excess carbon dioxide humankind is emitting into the atmosphere. As a result, seawater is becoming more acidic, with profound repercussions for marine life across the food web. - Scientists theorize that by sucking up carbon dioxide from seawater just like land plants do from the air, kelp forests could help provide local refuges against ocean acidification. - A five-year project launching this winter aims to test this theory by planting a kelp forest in the waters of Washington’s Puget Sound and monitoring its effect on water chemistry.
Fish-farm escapees are weakening Norwegian wild salmon genetics [08/10/2016]
- Norwegian scientists conducted a genetic analysis of 21,562 wild-caught juvenile and adult Atlantic salmon from 147 rivers — a geographical sampling representing three-fourths of Norway’s salmon population. - The researchers found genes from farmed salmon in every wild population they tested, and “significant” genetic mixing in nearly half the rivers they sampled. - “The extensive genetic introgression documented here poses a serious challenge to the management of farmed and wild Atlantic salmon in Norway and, in all likelihood, in other regions where farmed-salmon escape events occur with regularity,” the authors write in the paper.
From Boom to Glug glug: Indonesia’s new anti-poacher policy [08/09/2016]
- Since taking office in 2014, one of Indonesian President Joko Widodo's signature policies has been to explode fishing boats that trespass in the archipelagic country's waters (after evacuating the crews). One hundred and seventy-six vessels have already been destroyed in this way. - Now, the government is changing its policy. Beginning on August 17, Indonesia's independence day, the boats will be sunk in such a way as to promote the formation of coral reefs. - A fisheries ministry official said foreign countries had already gotten the message, so there was no need to keep exploding boats. - Another reason for the change is an accident that happened with the MV Viking, which leaked oil onto a popular beach in southern Java after it was scuttled in March.
Sites targeted for deep-sea mining teeming with new species [08/09/2016]
- Using a Remotely Operated Vehicle, researchers identified more than 6,000 individuals belonging to over 170 tentative species in a small part of their study site in the eastern portion of the CCZ. - Many of these species are rare or new to science, the team found. - The study’s preliminary results also found that the polymetallic nodules have the highest diversity of megafuana, suggesting that mining could be disastrous for the deep-sea marine species in the CCZ.
Should you be concerned about plastic and other human debris in your seafood? [08/08/2016]
- A study published in the journal Scientific Reports last September noted that marine debris is found in just about every ocean habitat, from the open ocean and the deep seas to coral reefs, estuaries, and shallow bays. - Ocean trash has also been found in hundreds of marine wildlife species, including fish and bivalve species like tuna, swordfish, mussels, and oysters — the types of species you might be more familiar with as “seafood.” - There are several ways this can affect human health: marine debris can cause physical harm such as inflammation and lacerations of tissues in the gastrointestinal tract of humans who ingest it via seafood, for instance, while consuming marine debris can also increase the levels of hazardous chemicals in humans.
Humpback whales rescue seals and other animals from killer whales [08/05/2016]
- After reviewing over 100 interactions between humpback whales and killer whales, researchers have found that not only do humpbacks aggressively protect their own calves from killer whales, they also tend to rush to the aid of other distraught species like seals. - A humpback might be able to fight a killer whale because of its gigantic size and massive flippers, researchers say. - One possible reason for the humpbacks’ seemingly selfless act could be to increase the chance of protecting their own calves from killer whales. Sometimes this ends up protecting other species.
Indonesian fisheries czar promises to end subsidized fuel scam [08/04/2016]
- On an inspection in Bali this week, fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti discovered that a number of boats had had their sizes marked down in order to receive subsidized fuel meant for smaller boats. - Pudjiastuti responded with a threat to limit the fuel subsidy to boats under five gross tons, down from 30 now. - Before Pudjiastuti was appointed minister, boats over 30 gross tons could receive the cheaper fuel.
Manatees to make a comeback in Guadeloupe for the first time in over a century [08/03/2016]
- Kai and Junior, two male manatees, will be sent to the Grand Cul-de-sac Marin, a protected bay in Guadeloupe that will keep the manatees away from boating traffic. - They will soon be joined by 13 more manatees from various zoological institutions, forming the founding group. - This group’s future offspring will then be reintroduced to the wild, Singapore’s River Safari team says.
Like Indonesia, Malaysia to sink illegal foreign fishing boats: minister [07/29/2016]
- Instead of bombing vessels that trespass in its waters, Malaysia will sink them in a way that promotes the formation of artificial reefs and fish breeding, a Malaysian minister said after a fisheries summit in Jakarta. - Under president Joko Widodo, Indonesia has evolved into something of an enforcer of the seas. - The announcement from Malaysia is the latest sign of international approval for the policies of Jokowi, as he is known.
Rio Olympic organizers fail to meet all environmental goals [07/28/2016]
- Rio de Janeiro, host of the 2016 Olympic Games, is plagued by waterways polluted with garbage, raw sewage and untreated hospital waste. - In 2009, as part of its Olympics Legacy commitment, Brazil’s government dedicated itself to cleaning up Rio’s rivers and estuary in time for the Games. That initiative — conducted by federal, state and city government, as well as private companies, has been a near total failure. - As a result, participants in Olympic sailing and swimming events may be exposed to dangerous levels of unhealthy viruses and bacteria. - Of particular concern: scientists have found superbugs — antibiotic resistant bacteria — in the waters at several locations where aquatic events are being held.
New species of orange-red scorpionfish discovered in the Caribbean [07/28/2016]
- The fish was discovered using a manned submersible, Curasub, operated by Smithsonian Institute's Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP). - The scientists have named the newly discovered scorpionfish Scorpaenodes barrybrowni in honor of freelance photographer Barry Brown. - The fish's common name is Stellate Scorpionfish, which the authors say is in reference to the star-shaped yellowish spots on the fish's pectoral fin and radiating pigment markings highlighting its eyes.
The ‘raven’ whale: scientists uncover new beaked whale [07/27/2016]
- In 2014, a teacher stumbled upon a strange-looking whale that had washed up on a beach in Alaska. - The new whale looked similar to Baird's beaked whale, but was darker and had a larger dorsal fin and a unique skull. - Recently released genetic evidence shows the whale is indeed a new species, as distinct from Baird's beaked whale as it is from its closest Antarctic relative. - Beaked whales are the world's deepest-diving mammals – surpassing even the sperm whale. Many species remain little studied.
On World Mangrove Day, 9 things to know about these tough plants [07/26/2016]
- The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared July 26, 2016, the first “International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem” — aka World Mangrove Day. - Over half of the world’s mangrove forests have been lost in the last century, many of them to aquaculture, agriculture, and development. - The dozens of diverse mangrove species, which live in tropical and subtropical tidal flats around the world, have in common a tolerance for salt water. - Mangrove forests provide important habitat for a diverse array of marine species and protect coasts from storms.
Mexico bans gillnets to protect rare vaquita porpoise [07/26/2016]
- From September, Mexico will permanently ban the use of gillnets throughout the range of vaquita porpoise in the upper Gulf of California. - Night fishing will also be phased out by the end of this year. - Fishermen will have to use specific landing and unloading sites to help enforce protection measures, according to Mexico’s National Aquaculture and Fisheries Commission.
Whale sharks inch closer to extinction [07/19/2016]
- Whale shark numbers have plummeted by more than 50 percent in the last 75 years. - Threats to the whale shark include habitat destruction, accidental entanglement in fishing nets, vessel collisions, and hunting for their meat, fins and oil. - Numbers of the winghead shark have also declined by at least 50 percent in the last 40 years, mostly due to unregulated fishing.
9 new natural sites added to World Heritage List [07/18/2016]
- The World Heritage Committee yesterday added nine new natural sites to the World Heritage List during its 40th session in Turkey. - The list includes diverse landscapes such as Khangchendzonga National Park in India, Canada’s Mistaken Point, and Iran’s Lut Desert. - The list also has little-known places such as the Ahwar of Southern Iraq, which includes Iraqi marshlands once drained by Saddam Hussain as well as ancient cities of Uruk, Ur and the Tell Eridu.
South China Sea ruling slams China for poaching, reef destruction [07/14/2016]
- A tribunal in The Hague ruled that China's construction of artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago was a huge violation of UNCLOS proscriptions against marine environmental degradation. - The Chinese authorities were found to have sanctioned the harvesting of threatened or endangered species such as sea turtles and giant clams by Chinese fishing vessels. - China was also deemed to have actively tolerated the destruction of coral reefs by Chinese fishing boats.
Warming seas causing massive die-off of Australia’s reef forests [07/14/2016]
- Before 2011, kelp forests covered more than 70 percent of the rocky southern reefs. - In just two years, the 2011 heatwave killed around 43 percent of kelp forests on the west coast. - The worst hit, according to the study, are the kelp forests in the reef’s north-western tip that have still not shown any signs of recovery.
5 Tech Projects That Are Protecting Sharks [06/30/2016]
- Annually, approximately 100 million sharks are killed by commercial fisheries. - Shark Week is the longest running cable TV program and has aired every summer since 1988; educating millions of viewers on the intricate and elusive nature of sharks. - In celebration and support of Shark Week 2016, we are excited to highlight five different organizations and technologies that are being used to protect shark species.
Amid illegal fishing crackdown, Indonesia to buoy legal catch [06/30/2016]
- Fishing boats across the archipelago were forced into port for months during the government's licensing freeze, part of a bid to root out illegality in the sector. - Now, president Joko Widodo's administration has issued a new batch of licenses and announced plans to expedite its permit-issuance process. - Experts urge the government to make sure environmental considerations are introduced into the permit-issuance regime.
Widespread coral bleaching event to hit US hard for third straight year [06/21/2016]
- Coral reefs in Hawaii, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Florida Keys, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are at greatest risk of mass bleaching, according to NOAA. - Once La Nina conditions set in, coral reefs in the Pacific island nations of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia have a 90 percent likelihood of widespread coral bleaching, NOAA predicts. - The ongoing bleaching event has already extensively damaged or injured coral reefs in the U.S, researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia said.
Protected areas grow populations of shark — and disenfranchised fishers [06/15/2016]
- Globally, sharks are likely not reproducing fast enough to maintain stable populations in the face of widespread fishing. - Indonesia is the world’s largest source of shark fins and fishers targeting sharks. - A new study based on 2012 research found more sharks in two no-take zones compared with an open-access fishing area in West Papua, Indonesia, justifying a regency-wide ban on shark fishing implemented the same year. - However, fishermen and other members of fishing communities interviewed for the study felt marginalized by the process of protecting sharks and the study authors conclude that shark conservation measures may inadvertently result in displacing fishing effort to unprotected regions.
Drink beer, help the ocean? [06/14/2016]
- Saltwater Brewery has launched a prototype of biodegradable six-pack rings made from wheat and barley left over from the brewing process, which are non-toxic and disintegrate comparatively quickly in the ocean. - The innovation could significantly reduce marine plastic pollution and protect hundreds of thousands of sea creatures harmed or killed annually by plastic rings. - The brewery is perfecting the edible rings design, plans to eventually package all its cans using the technology and hopes investors and other breweries will support, adopt and popularize it.
Malaysia gets its largest marine park [06/13/2016]
- Malaysia has formally established its largest marine park — the Tun Mustapha Park — off Sabah Province in Borneo. - The park is the result of more than 13 years of negotiations between government authorities, international partners, local communities, and non-governmental organizations, including WWF-Malaysia. - The park will allow local communities and commercial fisheries to operate in designated regions in a bid to ensure “sustainable use of resources”.
How is Indonesian president Jokowi doing on environmental issues? [06/12/2016]
- In 2014, Joko Widodo became Indonesia’s first head of state to emerge from neither the political elite nor the military. - The election of the former furniture salesman to the nation’s highest office represented a break from its authoritarian past, and Jokowi, as he is known, was expected to enact major reforms. - Last year, it was the environment that served up what will perhaps be remembered as the defining challenge of Jokowi’s presidency. - Jokowi responded to the disaster with some of his most drastic measures.
Top 10 stories you should be aware of this World Oceans Day, according to Carl Safina [06/08/2016]
- Safina’s latest book, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, came out in 2015, and is due for a paperback release on July 12 via Picador. - “It’s about the thought and emotional range of non-human animals, but including humans,” Safina told Mongabay. - Safina's list of stand-out stories includes several oceans and marine life stories, a couple that just show how similar to humans animals can really be, and a few that will interest anyone concerned with the plight of the natural world.
How do we keep the oceans from becoming the world’s plastic trash can? [06/08/2016]
- Experts believe that 5-14 million tons of plastic enter the oceans every year. - According to a report published in Science, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, China and Indonesia account for up to 60 percent of global waste leakage annually. - A recent report from the Ocean Conservancy offers some comprehensive solutions to reduce net plastics disposal in these five biggest sources of ocean plastic pollution.
International treaty targeting illegal fishing takes effect [06/03/2016]
- Illegal fishing puts the world’s already-strained fish stocks at risk, capturing as much as 26 million metric tons of fish valued at up to $23 billion each year. - The treaty, known officially as the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing, will enter into force this Sunday, June 5. - It represents an international effort to shore up the global seafood supply by preventing vessels from landing illegal catches.
The dark side of China’s foreign fishing boom [06/02/2016]
- China is the largest consumer, producer and exporter of fish, with a distant-water fleet operating in 93 countries. - But Chinese boats are routinely getting into scuffles with foreign authorities for fishing illegally in their waters. - Analysts say government subsidies and poor oversight promote overfishing and rogue activity.
Sharks have personalities just like you and me [06/01/2016]
- A team of researchers from Macquarie University in Australia who observed the behavior of sharks off the east coast of Australia found that individual sharks had distinct and consistent responses when exposed to an unfamiliar environment or stressor. - This stable set of behaviors, the researchers say, shows that each of the animals have personalities all their own. - Documenting animal personality is a new frontier in behavioral ecology studies, and so far “personalities” have been demonstrated to exist in various species of amphibians, birds, fishes, insects, mammals, molluscs — and now sharks.
Scientists puzzled by slowing of Atlantic conveyor belt, warn of abrupt climate change [05/27/2016]
- Limited ocean measurements have shown that "the Atlantic conveyor belt" is far more capricious than models have previously suggested. - From 2009 to 2010, the average strength of key ocean currents in the North Atlantic dropped by about 30 percent, causing warmer waters to remain in the tropics rather than being carried northward. - “The consequences included an unusually harsh European winter, a strong Atlantic Basin hurricane season, and — because a strong AMOC keeps water away from land — an extreme sea level rise of nearly 13 centimeters along the North American coast north of New York City,” according to Eric Hand, author of a Science article published this month.
One-third of North America’s birds at risk of extinction, report says [05/23/2016]
- The 2016 State of North America’s Birds report was released by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) last Wednesday at the Museum of Nature in Ottawa, Canada. - The report — for the first time — assessed the conservation status of 1,154 native bird species that breed in the U.S, Canada and Mexico, as well as oceanic birds that occur off these three countries. - The report found that 432 species — or about 37 percent — are “most at risk of extinction without significant conservation actions to reverse declines and reduce threats”.
Shell spills 88,200 gallons of oil into Gulf of Mexico [05/20/2016]
- On May 12, an estimated 2,100 barrels of oil — nearly 90,000 gallons — spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. - The oil had leaked from an undersea pipeline system operated by the oil company Royal Dutch Shell, some 97 miles south of Port Fourchon off the Louisiana coast. - Shell claims that its joint response efforts with the U.S. Coast Guard has helped recover 2,012 barrels (about 84,000 gallons) of oily-water mixture from the spill area.
Hard labor in India’s fisheries: an interview with researcher Divya Karnad [05/19/2016]
- Commercial, industrialized fishing operations seem to be seeking out migrant labor to fulfill their large manpower needs. - The conditions aboard these vessels, however, are unhygienic and unsafe, according to fisheries researcher Divya Karnad. - The workers spend most of their time on board the vessels, working long hours, receiving little or no medical care, and without access to clean water to bathe, Karnad added.
From Soup to Superstar: the story of sea turtle conservation along the Indian coast – book review [05/19/2016]
- Kartik Shanker is on the faculty of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India. - In his new book, From Soup to Superstar, Shanker lifts the veil of some of the mystery shrouding the lives of sea turtles, and the course of sea turtle conservation in India. - The chapters are deeply researched, reflecting Shanker’s decades-long experience working with sea turtles and sea turtle conservationists.
Company responsible for last year’s oil spill near Santa Barbara, California hit with criminal charges [05/17/2016]
- A grand jury has reportedly indicted the company on 46 criminal charges, including four felonies, while one of its employees has been indicted on three criminal charges. Plains All American is also facing up to $2.8 million in fines, in addition to other penalties. - “This is the first step in holding Plains accountable and we are committed to putting all the resources that are necessary into seeing this case through,” California Attorney General Kamala Harris said at a Santa Barbara press conference. - The company denied any wrongdoing and vowed to fight the charges.
Biodiversity makes reef fish more resilient in the face of climate change, research confirms [05/16/2016]
- After analyzing data from more than 4,500 fish surveys of reefs around the world to compare the effects of biodiversity and other environmental factors on global reef fish biomass, the authors of the study found that biodiversity was one of the strongest predictors of fish biomass, second only to mean sea-surface temperature. - Temperature actually has a more complex relationship with fish biomass — while warmer ocean temperatures tend to boost fish biomass, wider temperature fluctuations have the exact opposite effect. - Biodiversity, on the other hand, only makes fish communities more resilient against the changing climate, the researchers found. The researchers found biodiversity can even help buffer against temperature swings.
Only 60 vaquita porpoises remain in the world [05/16/2016]
- In 1997, about 570 vaquita porpoises (Phocoena sinus) were estimated to occur in the world. - Now, only about 60 vaquitas remain, in a small 1,500 square-mile area in northern Gulf of California, according to a recent report. - Conservationists say that last year’s emergency two-year ban on gillnet fishing throughout the vaquita range, implemented by the Mexican government, must become permanent for vaquita population to recover.
‘Heart wrenching’: India’s coral reefs experiencing widespread bleaching, scientist says [05/11/2016]
- Rohan Arthur’s team has observed bleaching in each of the reefs they have surveyed this year in the Lakshadweep Archipelago. - The present El Niño has hit the reefs in Lakshadweep before they could completely recover from 2010's catastrophic El Niño. This is “heart wrenching”, Arthur said. - But Lakshadweep’s reefs have recovered in the past (following the 1998 El Niño event), and Arthur hopes that the reefs will show resilience once again.
Five Pacific islands have already disappeared due to sea level rise [05/10/2016]
- According to a study published last week in the journal Environmental Research Letters, five reef islands in the Solomon Islands have been completely lost to sea-level rise and coastal erosion, and six more islands have suffered severe erosion. - This is believed to be the first scientific evidence confirming the impacts climate change is having on Pacific islands. - Many coastal communities have been forced to relocate to inland villages, often on an ad hoc basis with no support from local government or international climate funds, researchers said.
Lake Maracaibo: an oil development sacrifice zone dying from neglect [05/03/2016]
- Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo is a Caribbean estuary that for many years supported a strong commercial fishery. But over the past century the vast briny lake’s underlying oil deposits became a cash cow for the oil-dependent Latin American nation. - Today, hundreds of working and abandoned oil wells mar the surface of Lake Maracaibo, and more than 25,000 kilometers of crumbling pipeline crisscross the bottom of the estuary ecosystem. Spills have increased since 2009 when the 76 companies that replaced and repaired the pipelines were taken off the job by the government. - According to a report by state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), 15 “minor” spills — leaking about eight barrels of oil every day, nearly 3,000 barrels per year — are flowing from the poorly maintained pipelines into the estuary. - Fishermen say that many commercial species have declined or disappeared completely since the Venezuelan economy hit hard times and oil cleanups have largely ceased in Lake Maracaibo — which seems to have become an oil infrastructure sacrifice zone.
Taiwanese chemical spill thought to cause mass fish die-off in Vietnam [05/03/2016]
- Taiwanese-owned Formosa Plastics is building Southeast Asia's largest steel mill in central Vietnam. - Since April 4, when the plant is suspected to have released a torrent of toxic chemicals into the sea, more than 70 tons of dead fish have washed up on Vietnam's shores. - Aggressive efforts to spin the news have made little headway against a rising tide of criticism on Facebook and online political blogs.
Scientists just discovered an Amazon reef system in an area targeted for oil exploration [04/22/2016]
- Extending from the southern tip of French Guiana to the Maranhão State of Brazil, the extensive sponge and coral reef system is 1,000-km (600-mile) long and unlike any tropical reef that has ever been studied. - The scientists who made the discovery have published a study in the journal Science detailing their findings. - The authors say that the unique reef system could provide insights into how coral ecosystems might respond to accelerating global warming.
Hundreds of baby dolphin deaths linked to BP oil spill [04/15/2016]
- Between 2010 and 2014, more than a thousand common bottle-nosed dolphins washed ashore in the Gulf of Mexico. - A large proportion of the dead dolphins were perinates: late-term dolphins that had died inside the womb or very young newborns. - Exposure to the 2010 BP oil spill could have caused late-term abortions of in-utero dolphins, or early death of newborns, researchers conclude in a new paper published in Diseases of Aquatic Organisms.
New ways to fight human-rights abuses in the global seafood industry [04/14/2016]
- Slavery, child labor, abuse, and murder are well documented occurrences in seafood supply chains. - New approaches to improving the industry’s human-rights record have emerged that often involve adding a social dimension to sustainable-seafood certification schemes or improving oversight via technological fixes. - However, experts have yet to agree on which approaches are likely to work or which to embrace.
Last best place on earth: Who will save the Caribbean’s great coral reef? [04/14/2016]
- Lighthouse Reef in Belize is part of the Caribbean Sea’s Mesoamerican reef system, the world’s second largest. It is stubbornly resilient, and one of the last best places in the western Atlantic in need of total preservation. But virtually no action is happening to conserve it. - To save it, the entire reef needs to be a “no take zone,” allowing minimal livelihood fishing by local families, but banning the Guatemalan fishermen who the government of Belize has licensed to legally fish for sharks — exported for shark fin soup to China, at $100 per bowl. - The only thing that can save this World Heritage site is full protection: a ban on all large-scale commercial fishing, and the encouragement of eco-tourism to support the local people economically and to generate the funds needed for enforcement and high-tech monitoring. - Belize cannot, and will not likely, do the job alone. If this aquatic treasure is to be preserved for the future, the international conservation community will need to awaken to its likely loss, and rally vigorously to the cause of permanently protecting it — now, before it is gone.
Fishing nets kill ‘high proportion’ of adult loggerhead turtles in the Mediterranean [04/13/2016]
- Researchers tracked 27 female loggerhead turtles using satellite devices over a ten-year period from 2001 to 2012. - The year-long survey revealed, for the first time, that the turtles were using multiple nesting sites hundreds of kilometres apart, researchers say. - Three of the 27 turtles died within the first year of being followed due to entanglement in fishing nets, suggesting an annual mortality rate of 11 percent, which the team says is “alarmingly high”.
Climate change is drying up small islands, study says [04/12/2016]
- According to a new study published in Nature Climate, climate change may dry out 73 percent of the world’s small islands by 2050. - This could affect about 16 million people living on the islands. - Some of the island groups to be affected the most, according to the study’s projections, include the Juan Fernandez ‘Robinson Crusoe’ Islands, Chile, Easter Island, Chile, the Lesser Antilles, the Tuamotus, French Polynesia, and the Azores.
Half of World Heritage Sites threatened by ‘harmful industrial activities’, new report finds [04/11/2016]
- Natural World Heritage Sites of “outstanding universal value” are increasing being threatened by “harmful industrial activities and operations,” a new report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warns. - Of the 229 natural and mixed World Heritage Sites across the world, 114 sites are currently threatened by harmful industrial activities, the report found. - Industrial activities are not just damaging the sites and endangering their biodiversity and ecology, but also putting the livelihoods and well-being of people at risk, the report says.
First round of UN negotiations to regulate high seas fishing concludes [04/08/2016]
- About 40 percent of commercial fish species spend time on the high seas, where they are caught with few limitations. Experts fear they are being severely depleted. - Today countries conclude the first round of negotiations at the United Nations in New York City toward a new treaty aimed at conserve biodiversity on the high seas. - The treaty is expected to be finalized by 2019, at the earliest.
Scientists say we need to be far more ambitious about protecting oceans [04/08/2016]
- Under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, 168 signatory countries committed to the creation of marine protected areas encompassing 10 percent of the world’s oceans by 2020. - Given that just over two percent of the sea currently enjoys some sort of protected status, 10 percent is still a politically ambitious goal, 24 years after it was first adopted. - But University of York researchers say that even that is not enough to ensure the health of the ocean ecosystem and all of the services it provides to humanity.
Fiery end for the last of the toothfish pirates [04/06/2016]
- Toothfish, often sold as “Chilean sea bass” have long been targeted by poachers in the remote and hostile Southern Ocean. - Poaching has not only harmed toothfish stocks, but rendered the study and sustainable management of them all but impossible. - The conservation group Sea Shepherd launched a campaign in late 2014 to disrupt illegal toothfish fishing. With the scuttling of the Viking, six of the worst offenders have either been destroyed or apprehended.
What’s being done to secure justice for SE Asia’s seafood slaves? [03/23/2016]
- Hundreds of Southeast Asian mainlanders who were trafficked onto Thai-run fishing boats in Indonesia have been rescued and repatriated in recent months. - Al Jazeera tracked down four ex-slaves to their homes in Myanmar. None had received the compensation they were promised when they agreed to return to the country. - “If we don’t get our money, I will have to accept it,” one of the men said. “I can’t do anything.”
U.S. plan to develop offshore aquaculture stirs dissent [03/18/2016]
- In January, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a final rule allowing offshore aquaculture in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. - The plan includes several measures the agency says will help protect the Gulf environment. For instance, aquaculture sites will be located away from environmentally sensitive areas and waters used for commercial fishing. And companies may only grow fish native to the Gulf and must limit the amount of fish they raise. - So far no company has applied for a Gulf aquaculture permit yet, but NOAA officials say it's early and companies may start to apply soon.
Obama administration will not allow oil drilling off Atlantic coast [03/16/2016]
- Early last year, the Obama administration announced that it would open up - for the first time - a vast lease area of the southern Atlantic Ocean, 50 miles off the coasts of four U.S. states (Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia), for offshore drilling between 2017 and 2022. - However, following uproar from coastal communities and environmental groups, the Obama administration announced Tuesday that it was reversing its proposal, and will not allow oil exploration off the Atlantic coast. - Other aspects of the draft proposal, however, such as plans to offer leases in the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico, still remain on the table.
End of the line for foreign-made fishing boats in Indonesia? [03/14/2016]
- Foreign companies have allegedly used shell companies to skirt Indonesia's laws on foreign fishing. - Fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti is now cracking down on such practices. - Last year, Pudjiastuti audited 1,132 foreign-made boats, and she believes all of them are fraudulent.
Want to end illegal fishing? Make all ships trackable, say researchers [03/11/2016]
- Some ships already carry automatic identification systems (AIS) — devices that transmit publicly available data about the vessel’s identity, position, and course. But commercial fishing vessels are exempt in many jurisdictions. - A group of researchers argues that new policies, including mandating that commercial fishing vessels carry AIS devices, are needed to curb illegal fishing, especially over vast stretches of ocean. - Making vessels trackable will also help prevent collisions with whales and enable officials to monitor undersea mining, among other benefits, the researchers argue.
The week in environmental news – March 04, 2016 [03/05/2016]
- Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmental and indigenous rights activist was gunned down in her home. - Fourteen members of an organized crime gang have been convicted of plotting to steal rhino horn and Chinese artifacts estimated to be worth over 80 million dollars. - A recent count of both West Indian manatees and monarch butterflies showed that their populations are continuing to see a rise in numbers.
Scientists discover ‘friendly cartoon ghost’ octopod in deep ocean off Hawaii [03/05/2016]
- NOAA researchers discovered what may be a new species of 'dumbo' octopod at a depth of 4,290 meters during a deep ocean expedition near Hawaii's Necker Island. - The 'ghost-like' octopod was spotted by Deep Discoverer, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) from NOAA's Okeanos Explorer. - 'This ghostlike octopod is almost certainly an undescribed species and may not belong to any described genus.'
New ‘Blue Economy Challenge’ wants your solutions to transform the aquaculture industry [03/04/2016]
- The Blue Economy Challenge is seeking entries that can help develop “aquaculture technologies and systems that grow economies, improve the lives of disadvantaged people in the developing economies of Indian Ocean region, and achieve positive environmental and social impacts.” - The Challenge is open to both experts and non-experts. - Online applications will be open until 30 June 2016, and the winners will be announced sometime between September to October, 2016. Winners can receive grants of up to AU$750,000 (~US$550,000) for any single idea.
Indonesia’s war on maritime slavery continues [03/03/2016]
- More than 1,300 trafficking victims have been repatriated from slave ships in eastern Indonesia since March 2015. - Only 24 are still waiting in Ambon Port, a focal point of the effort, to go home, though other slaves are probably still out there. - Going forward, the fisheries ministry is planning new measures to combat illegal fishing, including a new human rights certification scheme.
The longest global coral bleaching event in history isn’t over yet [02/25/2016]
- The current global coral bleaching event began in the Pacific Ocean in the middle of 2014. - By October 2015, as the current El Niño event was just beginning to gain strength, scientists officially declared the third global bleaching event in history was underway. - Research due to be presented today at the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting in New Orleans, LA found that this bleaching event has persisted for 20 months and could reach into next year.
Ubiquitous microplastic pollution in oceans found to disrupt oyster reproduction [02/17/2016]
- Researchers have estimated the world generated 275 million metric tons of plastic waste in 2010 alone, and that as much as 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons of that entered the ocean. - Scientists at the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea studied how microplastic pollution impacts Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) and found it leads to offspring that are 18 percent smaller and 41 percent fewer in number. - A 2014 study estimated that there is a minimum of 5.25 trillion particles of plastic weighing as much as 268,940 tons polluting the world’s oceans.
‘Fluorescent flashlights’: Newly discovered glow-in-the-dark polyps light up snails in the Red Sea [02/17/2016]
- Researchers first found the mud snails, and the tiny polyps that were embellishing their shells, during a night dive at Hindiya Reef on Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia, in October 2014. - The green glow of these polyps is localized around their “mouth”, the team found, making them different from the previously known fluorescent sea hydroids. - The ecological role of the fluorescence in these polyps however remains unclear, study says.
Photos: ‘Extremely rare’ baby albino turtle spotted in Australia [02/11/2016]
- On Sunday, volunteers from the Coolum and North Shore Coast Care group spotted Alby, an albino green turtle hatchling, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. - The volunteers measured Alby, took his photos, and let him walk into the ocean and swim away. - Such albino hatchlings are extremely rare, scientists say, probably occurring at the rate of one in many hundreds of thousands of eggs that are laid.
The week in environmental news – Jan 22, 2016 [01/23/2016]
- As sea ice melts, species such as gray whales, killer whales and northern gannet birds are traveling to waters they haven't seen in thousands of years. - Researchers were surprised to find a rare muriqui monkey hideout in an area of Brazil’s Caparao National Park where the species had never been recorded before. - A 23-year-old American woman traveled for more than a year across the Southern Hemisphere to collect stories from locals about how they’re being affected by climate change.
32 million metric tons of global fish catch goes unreported every year, study finds [01/21/2016]
- Currently, member countries mostly collect, and report, fisheries catch data of industrial or large-scale fisheries, but underreport catch from other fisheries sectors like small-scale or artisanal, subsistence, and recreational fisheries. - To find “true” global fish catch, scientists reconstructed and estimated historic catches of more than 200 countries between 1950 and 2010, with the help of an international network of 400 people. - The researchers found that FAO’s official data underestimates global fish catch by around 32 million metric tons every year.
Quantifying the aquarium trade to help it become more sustainable [01/20/2016]
- Between 18 and 30 million marine aquarium fishes are traded globally each year, but a paucity of data makes it difficult to know the actual volume. - While some observers argue that the trade can be a force for reef conservation and socio-economic development, some of the same voices also caution that the trade as it is currently practiced may be tough on reef ecosystems and fisher communities in certain places. - A pair of researchers have developed new technology to quantify the trade in hopes of putting it on a path to sustainability. After successfully using it to analyze US imports, they are now attempting to assess the world’s most important source country for marine aquarium fishes — the Philippines.
Indonesia’s ore-smelting ambitions augur rain of poison in Sulawesi [01/19/2016]
- Chinese companies are rushing to build smelters in Southeast Sulawesi, one of the world's most abundant sources of nickel. - Mining in the Indonesian province has wreaked havoc on the environment and people's health, but the problems receded somewhat when Jakarta banned raw ore exports for companies without smelters in 2014. - Now, dozens of smelters are in the pipeline, and it is unclear whether officials will be able to keep the reawakened industry in check.
Are prosthetic reefs the answer to Indonesia’s coral die-off? [01/14/2016]
- Manmade "fish apartments" are springing up all over Indonesia in response to the shrinking acreage of natural reefs. - The popular Biorock system for reef building was dreamed up in the 1990s by a German scientist who envisioned floating cities made of the electrically charged material. - Marine biologists give Biorock mixed reviews as a conservation tool.
‘Aquatic cocaine’: Illegal trade in swim bladders of rare fish puts world’s rarest porpoise at risk of extinction [01/12/2016]
- Dried swim bladders of totoabas (also called “maw”) have been dubbed “aquatic cocaine” due to the high prices they fetch mainly in Chinese markets. - Illegal trade in the swim bladder of the totoabas, has placed not just the totoabas but also the world’s smallest and rarest marine mammal, the vaquita, at risk of extinction, according to report. - EIA’s investigation has also identified numerous online platforms, such as Facebook, that actively trade in fish maw, including discussions on best routes to smuggle maws into Hong Kong and China.
New study identifies acoustic sanctuaries for marine mammals [01/12/2016]
- A new study has identified some of acoustic sanctuaries off the coast of British Columbia in the hope that they may be protected. - Researchers emphasize that these opportunity sites can be protected with little change to current shipping patterns, which makes them a relatively easy target for conservation. - Seizing the opportunity to protect acoustic sanctuaries now, is invaluable to the longevity of protected marine mammals.
Peru to protect world’s largest-known population of giant Manta Rays [01/07/2016]
- On December 31, 2015, Peru’s Ministry of Production passed a resolution banning fishing of manta rays, according to a release by WildAid, a nonprofit organization. - The regulation also mandates, among other requirements, that all mantas caught as bycatch be immediately released back into the ocean. - The new regulation, however, does not protect mobula rays that belong to the same taxonomic family as the manta rays.
Marine protected areas are helping the Mesoamerican Reef recover [01/06/2016]
- Coral cover in the Mesoamerican Reef is up 10 to 16 percent since 2006, according to a report by the Healthy Reef Initiative. - Fully protected areas were found to have 10 times more biomass of important commercial fish species like snapper and grouper than regions with little or no protection. - Only 7 percent of the protected marine areas in the Mesoamerican Reef are under “full protection,” per the report.
Giving the handfish a hand [12/31/2015]
- Estimating the population size and density of rare, cryptic species poses a logistical and statistical challenge - Adapting off-the-shelf GPS and camera equipment to work in concert underwater allows researchers to try out new techniques. - Knowing an endangered species’ distribution and density is key information for assessing its status.