Monday, March 23, 2020

Sea Save Foundation "Ocean Week in Review" March 21, 2020: We Gather News; You Stay Informed

Coronavirus directly connected to wildlife, Sharks used to smuggle cocaine, Observing plankton from space, acidification results in forgetful oysters and more...

1. Coronavirus is directly connected to our relationship with wildlife

Novel Coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, a respiratory illness traced back to a live animal market in Wuhan, China, has changed the world as we know it. Initial review suggests that the virus jumped from bat to Pangolin (an endangered species sold in Chinese markets)
As the world population grows and if exotic animals continue to be brought together in unhealthy market conditions could future pandemics be unavoidable? 

Read more from "PBS"

Editorial Comment: For the past decade, 
Sea Save Foundation has been working diligently at CITES trying to curb the international import and export of exotic wildlife to China and other nations. This is unsustainable, and now we discover, lethal. It threatens global human and economic health.

2. Yucatán company found using frozen sharks to transport cocaine from Costa Rica to Mexico

A Yucatán company is under investigation for drug trafficking after they were found shipping narcotics in the carcasses of frozen sharks. Santiago Nieto Castillo, head of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), made the announcement of the organized crime operation which he explained, used frozen shark carcasses to transport cocaine from Costa Rica to the port of Progreso and then a majority was forwarded to Jalisco, where it awaited its final destination. Nieto Castillo added that the frozen sharks were also sent from Yucatán to Florida, “and is related from a series of companies that are used as facades to carry out operations,” he explained.

3. Observing phytoplankton from space

Thanks to a new algorithm, researchers at the AWI can now use satellite data to determine in which parts of the ocean certain types of phytoplankton are dominant. In addition, they can identify toxic algal blooms and assess the effects of global warming on marine plankton, allowing them to draw conclusions regarding water quality and the ramifications for the fishing industry.

4. Ocean acidification impacts oysters’ memory of environmental stress

As oceans absorb more carbon dioxide, they are becoming increasingly acidic and shifting the delicate balance that supports marine life. How species will cope with ocean acidification and the other consequences of global climate change is still very much unknown and could have sweeping consequences. Researchers from the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences have discovered that ocean acidification impacts the ability of some oysters to pass down “memories” of environmental trauma to their offspring.

5. Department of Conservation concerned over number of endangered juvenile great white sharks killed by fishers

In a statement today, the Department of Conservation said Northland was particularly bad, with 12 of the shark species captured since March last year around the upper North Island. Five were caught on Ninety Mile Beach, with the latest just last week, and recreational fishers using kontiki and ‘torpedoes’ to set longlines off beaches were responsible for at least seven of the shark fatalities recorded, DOC shark expert Clinton Duffy said. “The number of juveniles being caught on fishing lines is a concern because these sharks are endangered, and it means they won’t grow to maturity and contribute to the breeding population,” Mr. Duffy said.

6. Global warming influence on extreme weather events has been frequently underestimated

A new Stanford study reveals that a common scientific approach of predicting the likelihood of future extreme weather events by analyzing how frequently they occurred in the past can lead to significant underestimates—with potentially significant consequences for people's lives. Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh found that predictions that relied only on historical observations underestimated by about half the actual number of extremely hot days in Europe and East Asia, and the number of extremely wet days in the U.S., Europe and East Asia.

7. Opening plastic bags and bottles may generate microplastics

Opening plastic packaging, such as plastic bags and bottles may contribute to the generation of small amounts of microplastics—small plastic particles less than 5 mm long—during daily tasks, according to a study published in Scientific Reports. Microplastics are generally believed to originate directly from industry, for example as cosmetic exfoliates, or indirectly from the breakdown of larger plastic items over time. However, the contribution of daily tasks such as cutting, tearing or twisting open plastic packaging and containers has not been fully understood.

8. Heat stress may affect more than 1.2 billion people annually by 2100  

Heat stress from extreme heat and humidity will annually affect areas now home to 1.2 billion people by 2100, assuming current greenhouse gas emissions, according to a Rutgers study. That’s more than four times the number of people affected today, and more than 12 times the number who would have been affected without industrial-era global warming. Rising global temperatures are increasing exposure to heat stress, which harms human health, agriculture, the economy and the environment. Most climate studies on projected heat stress have focused on heat extremes but not considered the role of humidity, another key driver.

9. NASA data reveals Greenland lost 600B tons of ice last summer


Greenland lost 600 billion tons of ice last summer due to an exceptionally warm season, according to a study released Wednesday.  Last summer’s ice loss in Greenland is enough to raise global sea levels by nearly a 10th of an inch — or 2.2 millimeters — in two months, based on a study by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the University of California, Irvine.

10. New chlamydia species discovered deep under the Arctic Ocean

When people hear the word chlamydia, they usually think about sexually transmitted infections. And it's true that the specific bacteria that causes chlamydia typically depend on interactions with other organisms to survive. So when a team of researchers discovered several new chlamydia-related species deep below the Arctic Ocean, in a place with no oxygen and without an apparent host organism, they were surprised. "Finding Chlamydiae in this environment was completely unexpected, and of course begged the question what on earth were they doing there?" Jennah Dharamshi, a PhD student at Uppsala University in Sweden and the lead author of a recent study, said in a news release.

Read more from "CNN"

11. 'Could have been substantially worse': U.S. offshore oil lease sale weakest since 2016

A major sale of oil and gas leases in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday generated $93 million in high bids, the lowest total for any U.S. offshore auction since 2016, reflecting caution in the drilling industry amid a steep slide in oil prices. Firing up offshore drilling is a crucial part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda to maximize domestic production of crude oil, natural gas, and coal. But the energy industry is in crisis as the coronavirus outbreak decimates world demand for fuel and crushes prices. “While bidding did take a tough hit, it could have been substantially worse,” said Erik Milito, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, which represents the offshore oil and gas drilling industry.

12. Virgin Islands' soft corals recover from hurricanes, but stony corals suffer

Soft corals at three sites in the U.S. Virgin Islands were able to recover from the destructive effects of nearly back-to-back Category 5 storms in 2017, but the story of these apparently hardy communities of colorful marine life is part of a larger, rapidly shifting narrative surrounding the future of coral reefs, according to a new study led by a University at Buffalo marine ecologist. The recently realized resilience of the soft corals is an important development toward our increasing understanding of these complex ecosystems, but the findings published in the journal Scientific Reports puts that seemingly good news in the context of an ecosystem that is dramatically changing.

13. Giant clam shells: Unprecedented natural archives for paleoweather

Paleoclimate research offers an overview of Earth's climate change over the past 65 million years or longer and helps to improve our understanding of the Earth's climate systems. Unfortunately, our knowledge of weather-timescale extreme events (i.e., paleoweather occurring in days or even hours and minutes), such as tropical cyclones, cold/heat waves, and rainstorms under different climate conditions, is almost absent because current paleoclimatic reconstructions rarely provide information with temporal resolutions shorter than a month. A new Chinese study may remedy this problem, though.

14. Deep-ocean conveyor belt current creates tsunami risk for Falkland Islands

The Falkland Islands are at risk from tsunamis caused by underwater landslides, according to new research. Scientists from Heriot-Watt University and the British Geological Survey found evidence of prehistoric submarine landslides in the Falkland Trough. The landslides are all in the same location and the scientists say the Subantarctic Front, a branch of one of Earth's strongest currents, was behind the formation of the landslides.

15. Endangered eel species on supermarket shelves

Imagine purchasing products from your local grocer, only to find out that those products are comprised of critically endangered species! That’s what a team from the University of Hong Kong, Division of Ecology and Biodiversity has recently discovered on Hong Kong supermarket shelves. A team led by Dr. David Baker from the University’s Conservation Forensics laboratory has recently published the results from an investigation into European eel products on sale in Hong Kong supermarkets.


16. State considers delaying new law banning plastic bags amid coronavirus spread

State leaders are having conversations about delaying the implementation of a new law banning single-use plastic bags as the coronavirus spreads across Maine. The new state law is set to take effect by April 22, 2020, and is intended to limit plastic pollution by encouraging shoppers to use reusable bags. A spokesperson for Governor Janet Mills confirms the Governor's Office is having conversations with legislative leaders about the new law, including a discussion about delaying the implementation.

17. Malaysia - Hope for sharks and rays

In Sabah, Malaysia, the State Government pledged to increase Marine Park Areas (MPA) to 13 percent by 2023. In recognizing the importance of MPAs for the conservation of shark species and other marine life,  Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said, this year,  the Department of Fisheries will be reviewing and strengthening the National Plan of Action (NPOA) for sharks and rays. He said this in his speech which was read by State Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Assaffal Alian at the opening of Shark Week 2020 event at Scuba Junkie Mabul Beach Resort in Semporna. 

18. Why an Indian ocean deep-sea mission will help the Maldives and Seychelles manage their oceans

Oceans cover over 70% of our “blue” planet and are vital to its health. For instance, carbon moves in and out of the ocean and can be stored there for thousands of years. Oceans are also a source of food and livelihood to millions of people, and to the economies of coastal countries. They are also the largest habitable space on the planet and house many different organisms. But there’s a great deal that scientists still don’t know about the world’s oceans.


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Sea Save Foundation is committed to raising awareness of marine conservation. The Ocean 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