Friday, April 21, 2017

Week in Review: Robots Culling Lionfish, Fish Larvae Eat Plastic, Indiscriminate Shark Cull and More...

1. Robots Culling Lionfish


lionfish
In Bermuda, a new robot has been unveiled that stuns and captures lionfish at depths that humans can’t dive.  “Robots in Service of the Environment” was founded in 2015 to solve the lionfish problem.  Lionfish are native to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, but have been introduced to the Atlantic and Caribbean where they are decimating fish from local coral reefs. They eat all the native fish, who do not fear the invader, and they reproduce at a rapid rate. They have no natural predators in those locations.

                                             

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2. Proof That Fish Larvae Eat Plastic

plastic-eating fish larvaScientists from Plymouth University have proven that fish larvae eat microplastics and microfibers. Microplastics are plastic fragments that are less than 5mm in size and microfibers come from the washing of synthetic clothes.  Both are a problem in the ocean, where animals from the bottom of the food chain ingest these microplastics.  It biomagnifies on up the food chain until top level predators, including humans, ingest the plastic along with their food.
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3. Death of Young Woman Spurs Calls for Indiscriminate Sharks Slaughter

surfboard with great white shark bite

On April 17, 2017 a 17-year-old Australian woman, Laeticia Brouwer, was fatally attacked by a shark in Western Australia.  This was the third fatal attack in the last year.  This has gotten the federal and state governments interested in shark culling again.  Shark culling is the use of traps to kill sharks in an attempt to stop attacks on humans, but it has controversial and has not been shown to stop attacks.
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4. March for Science - Scientists Collectively Demanding that Research be Used in Decision Making - First Time in History


March for Science LogoThe March for Science will take place on April 22, 2017 and is based in Washington D.C. and in 400 locations all around the world.  Thousands of scientists and science supporters are expected in a non-partisan “celebration of science and part of a movement to defend science’s vital role in society.” David Kaiser, a science historian at MIT says, “It’s a cluster of issues: cutbacks in basic research across many domains, the censure and censorship regarding data collected by the government or the ability of government scientists to speak, and a range of threats to academic freedom and the research process generally.”
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5. Great Barrier Reef Tourism - Can We Have it All?  

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Reports earlier this month found back-to-back coral bleaching occurring along two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef off of Austalia.  People are still visiting the Great Barrier Reef, and tourism employs 64,000 people and brings in 5.2 billion dollars.  But “not a single reef tourism operator has been forced to seek out new ground to take visitors.”  Is the demise of the reef being overblown?  Some tourism operators think so, but the 2 million visitors a year on the reef aren’t complaining yet.
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6. New Worrisome Crack in Greenland Glacier


crack in Petermann GlacierA large crack has been found in one of Greenland’s largest glaciers, the Petermann Glacier.  A break is significant because the entire glacier melting could cause a one foot sea level rise. Pieces several times larger than Manhattan has been lost in 2010 and 2012. It is also worrisome because the crack is forming in the middle, when cracks usually form on the sides. The ice breaking off could be 50-70 square miles in size.
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7. Sawfish Mating Grounds Found



Sawfish with trackerScientists studying the smalltooth sawfish have found a mating ground in the Everglades of Florida.  The area was originally thought to be a pupping ground, but researchers caught sawfish with fresh mating injuries.  They used ultrasound and hormones to confirm the females were prepping for pregnancy.  The smalltooth sawfish is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
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8. Eels Rely Upon Electromagnetic Field to Navigate
european eel


European eels, which are born in the Sargasso Sea, use subtle differences in the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate to their adult freshwater homes off of North Africa and Europe.  They hitch a ride there using the Gulf Stream, which they find with their “sixth sense.”  Other animals that use electromagnetic fields to navigate include salmon and sea turtles.
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Be sure to "LIKE" http://facebook.com/SeaSave to ensure our "Week in Review" is delivered to your newsfeed every Friday. 

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.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Week in Review: Whales Keep Carbon Out of Atmosphere, Octopuses Can Edit RNA to Influence Quick Evolution

1. Whale Activity Facilitates the Absorption of Carbon from Atmosphere - And That is Good


whale tail or fluke

Pacific Islanders realize that whales have strong economic value, attracting throngs of tourists to the area. Now there is evidence that healthy whales reduce greenhouse gas.   Whales help with carbon absorption by kicking oceanic photosynthesis into high gear by cultivating phytoplankton. Phytoplankton's photosynthetic process absorbs carbon. When whales dive they circulate the plankton, pushing it to the surface where it can absorb sun rays and their fecal matter fertilizes the plankton triggering essential carbon absorption.

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2. Octopuses Can Edit RNA to Influence Quick Evolution


Octopus Vulgaris or Common Octopus

Scientists have found that cephalopods, including squid, octopuses and cuttlefish, can edit their RNA on the fly, meaning they don’t have to wait for evolution to work on their DNA like the rest of us.  One scientist summarizes it by saying, “Mutation is usually thought of as the currency of natural selection, and these animals are suppressing that to maintain recoding flexibility at the RNA level.”  It may be why these short-lived creatures are so smart--learning how to open jars, camouflaging so well and communicating with one another.
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3. Last Chance for the Vaquita Porpoise

Vaquita Porpoise
The world’s most endangered marine mammal is the vaquita porpoise, which lives off Mexico's Gulf of California. It is believed there are only an estimated 30 still alive  Gill nets used to catch another endangered species, the totoaba fish are also mistakenly catching these porpoises as well. Totoaba fish bladders sell for $120,000 on the Chinese market. In a last ditch effort to save the vaquita porpoise, Navy trained dolphins are being used to round up the remaining vaquita into sea pens, where it is hoped they will be able to breed and increase the population.

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4. The Newest Plastic Pollution Problem: Flip Flops


flip flops

Three billion people a year purchase new flip flops, with an average lifespan of two years. What happens to all those discarded flip flops? They end up in garbage dumps and in waterways that lead to the ocean.  Approximately ninety tons of flip flops end up on East Africa beaches due to currents from places such as Asia, India and China.
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5. Coral Reef Loss Due to Climate Change Could Cost $1 Trillion Worldwide

bleached coral

The loss of the Great Barrier Reef alone could cause the loss of 10,000 jobs, 1 million visitors, and $1 billion.  Worldwide coral reefs support 500 million people from 50 countries.  Over the next 2 to 3 decades, bleaching events are expected to become more frequent and severe.  Scientists say that the only way to protect the reefs is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally.
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6. Illegal Shark Fins Found Aboard Chinese Fishing Vessels

dried shark fins


In West Africa, shark fins were found on board several Chinese fishing vessels. West African fishing laws prohibit this type of activity, and each of the vessels were fined 250,00 euros. Among the carnage were the carcasses of hammerheads, and manta rays.
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7. Will the United States Mine Deep-sea Seabeds?

A rich deposit of rare earth elements including tellurium was found 300 miles off of the Canary Islands.  The tellurium, which is used in solar panels, found in the seabed was 50,000 times higher than land deposits.  The other rare earth elements found are used in wind turbines and electronics.  Will this start a rush to deep-sea mining soon?

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8. Sardine Fishery Remains Closed



Sardine numbers remain low on the West Coast of the United States and the fishery is to remain closed.  This is the third year in a row that the fishery has been closed.  Sardine biomass is estimated to be 106,000 metric tons, below the cut-off levels of 150,000 metric tons for commercial fishing.

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9. Three-quarters of Deep Sea Animals Are Bioluminescent

bioluminescent deep sea animal
Scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute have found that three-quarters of all deep sea animals in Monterey Bay from the surface to 4,000 meters deep make their own light through bioluminescence.  During the study scientists counted all animals caught on video greater than one centimeter which totaled roughly 350,000 individuals on 240 different ROV (remotely operated vehicle) dives.






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Be sure to "LIKE" http://facebook.com/SeaSave to ensure our "Week in Review" is delivered to your newsfeed every Friday. 

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.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Week in Review: Poaching Vessels Blown to Smithereens, Tourists Witness Illegal Harpooning and More ...

1. Foreign Fishing Boats, Confiscated from Poachers and Blown Up

Indonesia blows up illegal foreign fishing vesselsThe Indonesian government recently blew up 81 mostly foreign fishing boats caught illegally fishing in their waters.  Since 2014 and under President Joko ''Jokowi'' Widodo , Indonesia has blown up 317 fishing boats.  Most of the boats were from Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand.  Countries have fishing jurisdiction over the 200 mile Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) from their shores out to sea.

                                              
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2. Two Killer Whales Are Harpooned in Front of Whale Watching Boat: The Confrontation


two orcas breaching
In St. Vincent in the Caribbean, whale watchers were horrified to witness the killing of two killer whales.  The tourists were from a nearby cruise and had paid for a whale watching trip.  Thomson Cruises has canceled whale watching tours with Fantasea, and is considering no longer cruising near St. Vincent.  The St. Vincent government is now considering legislation to ban the killing of orcas.
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3. Chinese Waters Are Depleted, Fishermen Now Turn their Gaze to Other Nations' Waters

Chinese diners under the sea
China's growing middle class is demanding luxury goods including seafood such as fish and shark fins.  Unfortunately, this demand means China has overfished its waters and is turning its attention to the high seas and to sometimes fishing illegally in other nation's territorial waters. "Within China’s own exclusive economic zone (of 200 miles from shore), the nation has lost “one-half of its coastal wetlands, 57% of mangroves, and 80% of coral reefs, most of which are critical spawning, nursing, or feeding grounds for fish,” according to a 2016 study undertaken by a team of international experts."
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4. Carbon Dioxide Levels to Hit Levels Unseen in 50 Million Years

carbon dioxide in our atmosphere
By mid-century, worldwide temperatures could go up 18 degrees Fahrenheit, a level only seen 50 million years ago.  Then there was little permanent ice, and “palms and crocodiles inhabited the Canadian Arctic.”  Since the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has gone from 280 parts per million to now almost 410 ppm.  Temperature has risen 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
                                              

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5. Could Climate Change Produce Too Many Female Sea Turtles?

sea turtle hatchlings headed to the oceanSea turtles’ sex is determined by the temperature of their nest, and with increased temperatures due to climate change, scientists are studying whether or not there are more females than males.  Scientists have a test to determine sea turtle sex, and now they need to establish a baseline of female-to-male sex ratio.
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6. U.S. Bipartisan Bill to Address Marine Debris



A bipartisan coalition of Senators has introduced the Save our Seas (SOS) Act.  This bill would allow NOAA Administrator to declare and fund “severe marine debris events.”  It would reauthorize NOAA’s Marine Debris Program through 2022 which “conducts research on the source of marine debris and takes action to prevent and clean up marine debris.”  It also “encourages the Executive Branch – led by the U.S. State Department – to engage with the leaders of nations responsible for the majority of marine debris, support research into ocean biodegradable plastics, examine the causes of ocean debris, develop effective prevention and mitigation strategies, and quantify the economic benefits for treaty nations in addressing the crisis.”
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7. It is Essential to Monitor Mercury in Both Oceans and Seafood

fish contamination testing
Mercury, a heavy metal toxin, in the environment and in our bodies is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be in the "top ten chemicals of major public concern." In high enough concentrations, mercury can cause brain and nervous system disorders.  Over 1 billion people depend on protein from the oceans, so monitoring mercury is of major worldwide concern.

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8. Can Waste Plastic be Transformed into Valuable Fuel?

A Ph.D. organic chemist and a sailboat captain have come together in an effort to rid the world of plastic waste by creating a market for it. This week the pair presented their results at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). Although, they claim that their process is cost-effective on a small scale, runs at lower temperatures and is mobile it still raises questions about how to collect all the plastic. How would the collection of the plastic effect the cost/benefit ratio?

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9. Manatees: No Longer Endangered But Still Threatened

Although some are delighted at the news of Manatees being downgraded from endangered to threatened on the the Endangered Species list some are concerned that the reclassification will seriously undermine the chances of securing the manatee's long-term survival.

                                              









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10. Enhanced Standards in Whale Conservation in the Pacific

A three day conference, held in Tonga yielded enhanced whale conservation standards across the Pacific region. Orphaned fishing gear targeted as one of the top threats to cetacean longevity.  

                                              




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11. The Salmon Farming Crisis

In our attempt to manage fisheries, we created constructs that enable us to “farm” salmon and other fish. Now opponents to these methods are calling fish farms “toxic toilets” and warning that diseases are rife, waste out of control and the use of chemicals is growing fast and polluting surrounding open ocean.

                                              

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12. Sea Otters: The Come Back Kids of Morro Bay, CA

A new, stable resident southern sea otter population has been established in Morro Bay. This new and isolated population is a huge step toward removing these charismatic mammals from the endangered species list.  This new population also protects the species from any unexpected illness that could have easily wiped out the southern sea otters.


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13. Shark Fins Found in Hold of Shrimp Boat in Florida

A shrimp boat was boarded Wednesday by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers.  They discovered a hold filled with shark fins.  Shark finning is illegal in Florida, but is still a problem. Conservation and fishery groups are waiting to see what penalties will be levied on these alleged poachers if found guilty.

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Be sure to "LIKE" http://facebook.com/SeaSave to ensure our "Week in Review" is delivered to your newsfeed every Friday. 

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.