Friday, April 3, 2020

Sea Save Foundation "Ocean Week in Review" April 3, 2020: We Gather News; You Stay Informed

Social distancing sparks novel ways to monitor whales, During COVID-19 environmental protections are reversed, Recycling questioned, Large companies allowed to ignore pollution laws, Reusable bags are banned and more...

1. Social distancing - Sparks innovative ways to monitor whale tracking - proves less invasive

Social distancing restrictions from coronavirus have actually led to a rare community effort: the tracking of an endangered species after a north Atlantic right whale mother and calf journeyed into the Gulf of Mexico. The last time that happened was in 2006. It’s a totally different environment than what the endangered mammals are used to -- shallower and hotter -- so researchers were concerned about the whale becoming stranded.

2. Should recycling stop during COVID-19?

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe and shut down most businesses, cities are grappling with what counts as essential. Most national governments around the world have agreed that garbage pickup will continue. In the U.S., recycling is regulated on the local level, and while most municipalities are promising to keep it, some smaller communities have already dropped it. Two main concerns have arisen when assessing recycling services during a pandemic. First, transmission:  The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found that coronaviruses can stay on commonly recycled materials for up to a few days, though it lasts longer on plastic and stainless steel than copper and cardboard. Cities also worry about having the manpower to continue services if workers fall ill.

3. Companies officially allowed to ignore pollution laws during pandemic

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has suspended its enforcement of environmental laws during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, signaling to companies they will not face any sanction for polluting the air or water of Americans. In an extraordinary move that has stunned former EPA officials, the Trump administration said it will not expect compliance with the routine monitoring and reporting of pollution and won’t pursue penalties for breaking these rules.

4. San Francisco bans reusable bags - citing concerns over COVID-19

San Francisco is banning reusable shopping bags to prevent outside germs from entering grocery stores as the coronavirus pandemic affects cities around the country, The new ordinance from the San Francisco Department of Public Health aims to reinforce existing social distancing protocols by restricting customers from bringing their own bags, mugs, or other reusable items to essential stores, according to a statement. San Francisco was one of the first cities in the U.S. to ban the use of plastic shopping bags in 2007 to reduce the environmental impact caused by plastic waste.

5. Surfers and beachgoers - at high COVID-19 risk

An atmospheric scientist at UC San Diego studying how viruses and bacteria are ejected from the ocean pleaded with surfers Monday to stay out of the water to minimize chances of contracting coronavirus, a report said. The scientist, Kim Prather, also urged people bicycling or walking along the coast to follow the same rules, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Prather explained surfers feel they are safe if they follow social distancing rules of six feet of separation  - but that is only true if the air isn’t moving, the newspaper reported.

6. Another climate shift factor revealed - cyclic annual coral bleaching

Rising ocean temperatures could have pushed the world’s tropical coral reefs over a tipping point where they are hit by bleaching on a “near-annual” basis, according to the head of a US government agency program that monitors the globe’s coral reefs. Dr Mark Eakin, coordinator of Coral Reef Watch at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told Guardian Australia there was a risk that mass bleaching seen along the length of the Great Barrier Reef in 2020 could mark the start of another global-scale bleaching event.

7. Fishing tournaments take a massive bite out of marine life

The volume of fish caught recreationally more than tripled in the 60 years to 2014, and a recent uptick in recreational shark hunting is damaging fragile populations. The United Nations agency that documents fishing statistics almost exclusively monitors commercial fisheries. To quantify the impact of pleasure fishing, Dirk Zeller at the University of Western Australia in Crawley and his colleagues reconstructed the amount of fish caught annually in 125 countries. The researchers analyzed reports from events such as fishing jamborees and gathered data on factors such as the number of licensed recreational fishers per state to scale up to a global estimate.

8. European Union COVID economic recovery will incorporate climate change needs

European Union leaders have agreed that the bloc’s coronavirus economic recovery plan should take heed of its aim to fight climate change. Following a six-hour video conference, the 27 EU leaders agreed late on Thursday to coordinate a coronavirus economic recovery plan. Europe is aiming to zero out greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century in its far-reaching environmental clean-up. Its Green Deal, which was launched recently, will overhaul everything from transport to energy production and agriculture, putting Europe’s ambitions on climate change ahead of most other major polluters. The coronavirus crisis has proved governments can act in response to a crisis - a lesson that they should use to tackle climate change said Andrew Parry, head of sustainable investment at Newton Investment Management said.

9. Can oceans be restored within 30 years?

The glory of the world’s oceans could be restored within a generation, according to a major new scientific review. It reports rebounding sea life, from humpback whales off Australia to elephant seals in the US and green turtles in Japan. Through rampant overfishing, pollution and coastal destruction, humanity has inflicted severe damage on the oceans and its inhabitants for centuries. But conservation successes, while still isolated, demonstrate the remarkable resilience of the seas.

Read more from "University of Connecticut"
Read more from original study in Nature

10. The incredible journey - massive migration in deep ocean

New research has finally demonstrated what many marine biologists suspected but had never before seen: fish migrating through the deep sea. The study, published this month in the Journal of Animal Ecology, used analysis of deep-sea photographs to show a regular increase in the number of fish in particular months, suggesting seasonal migrations. Tracking fish in the deep sea is challenging. They are sparsely distributed, the water is nearly devoid of sunlight, and the monitoring equipment has to withstand enormous pressure.

Read more from original study in Journal of Animal Ecology

11. Recent findings of rare sharks in Turkey

Angel sharks were once widespread throughout Europe’s surrounding waters, but their numbers have dwindled from much of their former range; over the past several decades overfishing and high bycatch has severely depleted and fragmented these populations. In fact, the angel shark family has been declared the second most threatened of all sharks and rays’ following the sawfish.

12. Record low
 oil drilling in four years

U.S. oil rigs saw the largest single-week drop in drilling activity in four years as low oil prices take a toll on the industry.  The number of active rigs dropped by about 44, falling to 728 this week, according to rig data provider Baker Hughes. Oil prices have declined to around $23 a barrel, the lowest price since 2003. As company revenues decline in the face of historically low prices, the industry may not have to funds to pay for the rigs used to drill new wells. Without new wells drilled, oil supply in the United States will decline.

Editorial Comment: When the buying stops, the drilling stops too!

13. Fish have diverse, distinct gut microbiomes

The rich biodiversity of coral reefs even extends to microbial communities within fish, according to new research. The study in Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences reports that several important grazing fish on Caribbean coral reefs each harbor a distinct microbial community within their guts, revealing a new perspective on reef ecology. "If you go snorkeling on a coral reef, you would never know about this incredible ecosystem feature because microbial communities are concealed to the naked eye," said Douglas Rasher, a senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and the senior author of the paper. "But the microbiome appears to be a defining feature of each herbivorous fish species, as unique as its size or feeding behavior."

14. As temperatures, warm ocean current will change

If circulation of deep waters in the Atlantic stops or slows due to climate change, it could cause cooling in northern North America and Europe—a scenario that has occurred during past cold glacial periods. Now, a Rutgers coauthored study suggests that short-term disruptions of deep ocean circulation occurred during warm interglacial periods in the last 450,000 years, and may happen again. Ironically, melting of the polar ice sheet in the Arctic region in a warmer world, resulting in more freshwater entering the ocean and altering circulation, might have caused previous coolings. Still, a rapid deep freeze like in the 2004 movie "The Day After Tomorrow" is highly unlikely.

15. Life on Mars?  Oceans may hold clues.

When scientists find microbial life thriving in some of the most extreme environments on Earth, it gives them hope that they may be able to find life on other planets. Now, researchers have discovered billions of bacteria living in tiny cracks in volcanic rocks beneath the ocean floor, more than nine miles below the surface of the ocean and an additional 300 feet below the ocean floor, according to a new study published Thursday. And they believe that similar tiny, clay-filled cracks in rocks on Mars or below its surface could be a similar hub for life.

16. Researchers and U.S. Coast Guard release three baby sea turtles

As the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic escalates, marine biologists at Florida Atlantic University acknowledge that "wild" life must go on. Three 6-month-old green sea turtles, the last batch of the 2019 hatchlings at the FAU Marine Laboratory at the Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex, were ready to be released. However, with closed beaches and scuba boats not permitted to travel, researchers from the FAU Marine Laboratory had to get creative.

Editorial Comment: How do these long antenna not cause study artifact?

17. Neanderthals ate mussels, fish and seals

The origins of marine resource consumption by humans have been much debated. Zilhão et al. present evidence that, in Atlantic Iberia's coastal settings, Middle Paleolithic Neanderthals exploited marine resources at a scale on par with the modern human

18. The ancient fossil suggests ontogeny of hands
An ancient Elpistostege fish fossil found in Miguasha, Canada has revealed new insights into how the human hand evolved from fish fins. An international team of paleontologists from Flinders University in Australia and Universite du Quebec a Rimouski in Canada have revealed the fish specimen, as described in the journal Nature, has yielded the missing evolutionary link in the fish to tetrapod transition, as fish began to foray in habitats such as shallow water and land during the Late Devonian period millions of years ago.


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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