Thursday, September 10, 2020

Sea Save Foundation "Ocean Week in Review" September 11, 2020: We Gather News; You Stay Informed

International shark trafficking ring dismantled, New Great Barrier Reef corals, Megalodon was much larger than previously believed and more:

1. International Crime Ring That Trafficked in Shark Fins Is Dismantled, U.S. Says

Shark fin soup, considered a delicacy in some countries, has long fueled demand forillegally 
harvested fins. But federal authorities in Georgia announced this week that they had dismantled at least one source for the ingredient: a multimillion-dollar organization they described as an international money laundering, drug trafficking and illegal wildlife trade ring. A dozen people, including Terry Xing Zhao Wu, 45, of Burlingame, Calif., and two businesses on opposite ends of the country face multiple charges, including fraud and money laundering, for their roles in what the authorities called the “Wu transnational criminal organization,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia said in a statement on Thursday.

Read more in "New York Times"

2. New corals discovered in deep-sea study of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

For the first time, scientists have viewed the deepest regions of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, discovered five undescribed species consisting of black corals and sponges, and recorded Australia’s first observation of an extremely rare fish. They also took critical habitat samples that will lead to a greater understanding of the spatial relationships between seabed features and the animals found in the Coral Sea. Using a remotely operated underwater robot to view high-resolution video of the bottom of the ocean floor, some 1,820 meters deep, the science team examined deep-sea bathymetry, wildlife, and ecosystems. The collaborative mission brought together scientists from Geoscience Australia, James Cook University, University of Sydney, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), Queensland Museum Network, and Queensland University of Technology, to answer a range of questions about the geological evolution and biology of the deep-sea canyons and reefs.

Read more in "Schmidt Ocean Institute"

3. True size of prehistoric mega-shark finally revealed 

To date only the length of the legendary giant shark Megalodon had been estimated but now, a new study led by the University of Bristol and Swansea University has revealed the size of the rest of its body, including fins that are as large as an adult human. There is a grim fascination in determining the size of the largest sharks, but this can be difficult for fossil forms where teeth are often all that remain. Today, the most fearsome living shark is the Great White, at over six metres (20 feet) long, which bites with a force of two tonnes. Its fossil relative, the big tooth shark Megalodon, star of Hollywood movies, lived from 23 to around three million years ago, was over twice the length of a Great White and had a bite force of more than ten tonnes.

Read more in "University of Bristol"

4. Ocean warming has seafloor species headed in the wrong direction

Ocean warming is paradoxically driving bottom-dwelling invertebrates—including sea scallops, blue mussels, surf clams, and quahogs that are valuable to the shellfish industry—into warmer waters and threatening their survival, a Rutgers-led study shows. In a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers identify a cause for the "wrong-way" species migrations: warming-induced changes to their spawning times, resulting in the earlier release of larvae that are pushed into warmer waters by ocean currents. The researchers studied six decades of data on 50 species of bottom-dwelling invertebrates and found that about 80 percent have disappeared from the Georges Bank and the outer shelf between the Delmarva Peninsula and Cape Cod, including off the coast of New Jersey.

Read more in "Rutgers University"

5. Blazing tanker sparks fears of a new Indian Ocean disaster

The Indian Ocean was on full alert again today as an oil supertanker caught fire off the coast of Sri Lanka and began spilling oil late evening on 3 September. 23 of the crew have been evacuated from the vessel with 1 still missing. The vessel, the MT New Diamond, is a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) and was reportedly carrying 2 million barrels of oil. This is double the amount of oil that is putting the entire Red Sea region at risk with a deteriorating, abandoned Yemeni tanker. The MT New Diamond was flagged in Panama, and had been travelling from Kuwait to India when an explosion occurred and a fire broke out in the engine room of the vessel early on Thursday morning.

Read more in "Forbes"

6. Recent data show Chinese fishing fleet still near Galapagos

Satellite data indicate that a large Chinese fishing fleet remained in international waters near Ecuador's Galapagos archipelago at the beginning of this month, even as China said it would temporarily ban fishing near the UNESCO world heritage site. Vessel tracking data displayed on the public map created by Global Fishing Watch, a group that tracks commercial fishing vessels, shows that the fleet was massed until at least Sept. 1 along the southern border of the exclusive economic zone around the Galapagos, which extends 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) from the islands. That is roughly where the fleet, estimated at several hundred vessels, had been since June, escalating concerns about overfishing and the threat to vulnerable marine species in the nutrient-rich waters around the archipelago that inspired Charles Darwin in the development of his theory of evolution.

7. These surfers are using sensors in their board fins to monitor ocean warming

Surfers around the world are using Smartfins to gather data about the health of oceans. The device is fixed to the tail of surfboards and contains a number of sensors. They can collect information in choppy coastal waters where traditional sensors struggle. Concerns about ocean warming are encouraging surfers to get involved. Who better to study the sea than a surfer? That’s the big idea behind Smartfin, a US-based non-profit that’s giving data-collecting “smart” surfboard fins to surfers. The fins collect a range of data, including temperature and location. The fins are needed because scientists need more data about the warming of our ocean. Since the 1970s more than 90% of the excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions has entered the sea.

Read more in "WeForum"

8. Study analyses impact of carbon dioxide on Earth’s climate 30 million years ago

One way to make better predictions of global warming in the coming centuries is to look at climate change in the geological past. In research published in Nature Communication (DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-17887-x) an international team of university experts from Germany, USA and UK – including the University of Southampton – has taken a closer look at the climate during the Eocene Epoch more than 30 million years ago, when global temperatures were around 14 degrees C warmer than present day. They discovered that the influence of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) on a warm Earth could be even greater than previously assumed.

Read more in "Mirage News"

9. Lack of visitors offers opportunity to explore human impact on Hawaiian marine ecosystems

The drastic reduction in visitors coming to Hawaii has afforded scientists a unique opportunity to see how one of the state’s most popular natural attractions fares without a human presence. Roughly 3,000 people per day were visiting the blue water and white sand of Hanauma Bay prior to the pandemic. Those 1 million annual visitors carry a major environmental footprint. The crescent-shaped inlet on Oahu’s southeast corner has been used as an example of both over-tourism and sustainably-managed tourism over the years. It was declared a marine conservation area in the 1960s, after decades of degradation from overuse. In an effort to help fund maintenance and reduce impact, visitors are now charged an entry fee and public parking is limited.

Read more in "Hawaii Public Radio"

10. There’s no catch: Legislation would have provided more protections for fish

In California and around the world, protected areas are proven to increase the number of fish available outside of the protected space. So even though certain areas are closed to fishing, we actually boost a fishery through what’s called the “spillover effect.” Beyond the direct benefits to habitats and species, marine protected areas also help create jobs, boost the economy, and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Commendably, AB 3030 went even further to “improve access to nature for all people in the state,” “with a specific emphasis on increasing access for communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities.” California is a leader in environmental protection, and moreover, California has become a leader in doing it the right way. This leadership is one of the many reasons I love California and am proud to have chosen this state as my home. 

Read more in "CalMatters"

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