Monday, November 7, 2016

Week in Review--100 Nations Discuss Whale Hunting, Two-headed Sharks, Drones Get WiFi

1. International Whaling Commission Attendees Discuss Hunting and Sanctuary

Focus at the recent International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting ranged from discussions about accidental ship strikes, fishing gear ensnarement, hunting, poaching, scientific allowances and the economic evaluation of harvesting vs tourism. 
Seventy years ago, the IWC first convened. The international community and a successful global campaign to protect marine mammals has proved successful and today an aboriginal subsistence whaling license is required to hunt whales.
Whaling nations exploit loopholes and continue to harvest whales in large numbers.  The recent meeting found representatives from over eighty nations discussing topical issues. Additional pressure was applied to traditional whaling nations; such as Japan, Norway, and Iceland. A  proposal was introduced to institute a South Atlantic whale sanctuary.

Click to Read More. 


2. A Scientific Review of International Whaling Regulations

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the United States of America recently published, "Whales, Science, and Scientific Whaling in the International Court of Justice". The author, Mark Mangel, University of California at Santa Cruz, researched the success of whaling regulations established by the International Convention on Regulation of Whaling in 1986.
Mangel's studies suggest that the regulations fall short of their intended outcome and suggest modifications that if integrated, could yield better results.  Click to Read More.


3. Ocean Drones May Soon Have Their Own WIFI

Recently a forty-five day oceanographic expedition to the Arctic Circle used underwater drones to explore a submerged mountain's topography flora and fauna. The drones surfaced every few minutes to send the data they had collected. However, ocean scientists are seeking for a more efficient way to communicate information complied by their autonomous, robotic fleets. Project Sunrise, which brings together forty European marine researchers and computer scientists is striving to create a vast network of underwater modems docked to wireless modems. Boosting data capacity and speed isn't the only goal of the researchers. They are also analyzing ways that would allow for all of the research devices and technology to "speak" to one another as well. The Sunrise team is using Janus, a specialized coded language, for this digital communication. Click to Read More.

4. Could Genetic Mutations in Sharks be Due to Over Fishing?

A two-headed cat shark embryo was recently observed among other specimens. Researchers dissected the transparent egg to learn more about what may have caused the mutation. Lead scientist Valentin Sans-Coma believes the mutation was due to artifact since it was conceived "in vitro" or in a laboratory.
Many marine biologists believe there is an increase in two headed mutations in the open ocean. The implication is that these are caused by indirect consequences of shark overfishing. Click to Read More.

For additional reading, consult the 2011 study "Embryonic Bicephaly in the Blue Shark, Prionace glauca, from the Mexican Pacific Ocean."  Click to Read More.


5. NASA Unveils Online Visualization Focused on Arctic Sea Ice Loss

The oldest sections of the frozen sheath of seawater located on the Arctic Ocean has been under serious pressure over the past twenty years due to climate change. Normally, only the newly formed sea ice would melt during the spring and summer months, but the latest research shows foundational ice to be less stable and shrinking, making the structure more vulnerable. According to NASA, only 110,000 square kilometers of older sea ice was left in September of this year. Their new online visualization tool takes the viewer on a journey that shows the changes in Arctic sea ice mass from 1984 to present day.  Click to Read More.


6. Australia Examines Marine Reserve Recommendations

New recommendations that would affect Australia's marine reserves have recently been announced. A marine reserve is an area of the ocean where numerous types of commercial activities are allowed, such as mining and fishing, but in a restricted way. Marine reserves can also contain marine national parks where commercial activities are banned. Currently, less than 1% of the world's oceans are no-take zones. This year the Ocean Science Council of Australia submitted a scientific report encouraging the government to protect at least 30% of the marine ecosystems. It also seeks to quantify the benefits of the continent's marine reserve to improve public perceptions of their value. Unfortunately, the most recent recommendations are advocating the removal of up to 127,000 square kilometers of marine national parks. This change would reduce the Coral Sea National Park by 25% . Click to Read More.


7. Big Data has Power to Transform Renewable Energy

Currently, the European Union has the world’s largest capacity for connected wind and solar energy. Now they are focusing on the “industrial internet” to create a virtual grid that will maximize the efficiency of their existing renewable infrastructure. Sensors are already being installed on wind turbines in the North Sea. This will determine how the wind and wave conditions affect the collected outcome. Collecting and analyzing this data, along with technology from 35,000 weather stations, incoming geospatial information, as well as tidal phases and equipment usage, allows researchers to “predict” future patterns while ensuring the turbines are operating at maximum efficiency. Click to Read More.


8. Future Sea Level Rise Predictions Result in New Marin County Laws

Marin County, located in Northern California, has been bracing itself for rising sea levels. They began working on their coastal plan almost eight years ago. A recent proposal drafted by the California Coastal Commission would drastically alter the current plan, if passed. The California Coastal Commission is identifying flood zones that match a 100-year "worst case scenario" prediction using current climate models. If the new proposal passes, it would impede the completion of ocean front repairs or renovations. Which is not well received by homeowners needing to protect their investments. Click to Read More.


9. Dam Removals - Scientists Project Migratory Fish Populations Will Climb

Researchers from the Maine Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit of the United States Geological Survey are studying how dam removal will impact regional ecosystems.
Three dams built on the Maine's Penobscot River in 1830, rendered the river uninhabitable for migratory fish species, such as shad, alewives, and blueback herring.
Removal of two of theses dams was completed in 2013.  Researchers counted approximately 8,000 shad and 500 Atlantic salmon completing the upstream journey this year. Previously, less than twenty shad had passed through the dams over several decades. Scientists were also surprised to discover a previously unknown population of endangered shortnose sturgeon successfully making the trek upstream. Click to Read More.


Sea Save Foundation is committed to raising awareness of marine conservation. The Week in Review is a team effort produced by the Sea Save staff to provide a weekly summary of the latest in marine research, policy, and news.