Thursday, 29 September 2011

Marine News Roundup

Welcome to this week's Marine News Roundup... As ever, please feel free to leave us a comment and let us know what you think!

Rare turtle turns up in Auckland waters
A Department of Conservation ranger has rescued an endangered olive ridley turtle from a south Auckland beach. The stranded turtle was found floating in the water at Kariotahi Beach, on the Awhitu Peninsula near Waiuku, by a local resident while she was horse riding. The turtle is an adult male and there are no signs of external injury. Marine scientist Dan Godoy says the turtle had goose barnacles on its shell which indicated it had been floating for sometime and was unable to dive for food. "That's usually due to an illness that could be caused by the ingestion of marine debris such as plastic." Godoy says the turtle will be x-rayed and that will show whether it is the victim of marine pollution.

Humpback whale numbers are increasing but so are strandings
The annual Humpback whale migration begins in May as the mammals make their way up the West Australian coast from the food-rich Southern Ocean to breeding grounds in warm northern waters. But, experts say an increasing number are not surviving the journey. Of the 14 Humpback whales to die along WA's coast already this season, most have been young. The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) says calfs are showing signs of malnutrition. There has been a marked increase in sick and dying Humpback whales in recent years. The reason for the increase in deaths could also simply be because of a growing population. The DEC and a team of researchers from Murdoch University have begun taking blubber samples from a number of the dead whales to try to find out why they are dying. Whales are sensitive to their environment and when there is an imbalance, they can act as an early warning sign.

Divers pal up with friendly dolphin Billy
A friendly dolphin has been playing with divers after turning up alone in Plymouth Sound.
Billy, as it has been nicknamed, was first spotted during a commercial diving course off Fort Bovisand on Friday. Over the weekend, Billy was spotted again in Whitsand Bay.

BBC Doc Shows Whales and Dolphins are Self-aware and Emotional
The Ocean Giants documentary showed dolphins and whales using complex thought and planning to communicate, rear their young, overcome apprehension and feed. Stephen Fry began the narration of Deep Thinkers by telling us that bottlenose dolphins have one of the biggest brains in the animal kingdom, and that they are thought to be one of the most intelligent animals. Scientists believe that we should be able to 'talk' with bottlenose dolphins within five years. The documentary showed a captive dolphins experiment. A two-way mirror had been placed in the dolphins' pool. The dolphins were shown taking a keen interest in themselves, moving their heads to look at themselves at different angles. Only humans, great apes and elephants were previously known to be so self-aware. Human babies usually take about two years to reach that level; about the same time as they learn empathy.

Cornish fisherman finds rare slipper lobster
A rare slipper lobster has been discovered by a Cornish fisherman six miles (10km) east of Falmouth. The lobster, normally found in warmer waters, is one of only a few recorded in the UK since records began back in 1758. It was caught by St Mawes fisherman John Hayse on his boat who discovered it sitting on one of his crab pots. Staff at Blue Reef Aquarium are looking after 12cm (4.7ins) long Popeye, who has orange eyes and a dark brown body. The crustacean uses specially adapted plates on its head to burrow in search of food and to escape would-be predators. Historically, records of slipper lobsters in UK waters have been extremely rare. However, in the past decade sightings have risen.

Clothing Sheds Microplastics Into Sea
Washing a fleece jacket may add to the fog of microscopic plastic floating in the oceans, according to a new study. Researchers report that the majority of these plastic particles probably washed off synthetic fabrics. Although stories of large chunks of plastic trash trapped in the guts of seabirds are devastating, most plastic pollution in the oceans takes the form of tiny, even microscopic, fragments. In the 1990s, researchers started tracking the amounts of these particles and searching for possible sources, such as the plastic beads used as scrubbing agents in face cleaners and soaps. The particles' shapes and sizes indicated they were fibers of synthetic fabrics. They found that polyester made up about three-quarters of the plastics; the rest consisted of polyamide, polypropylene, and acrylic, a composition that matches that of textiles. So the researchers analyzed the water drained from frontloading washing machines after throwing fleece jackets, blankets, and synthetic business shirts into them. In one wash cycle, they found, a single piece of clothing shed more than 1,900 tiny fibers. The scientists also determined that the chemical composition of their coastal plastic samples matched that of microscopic plastic found in treated discharge they collected from two wastewater treatment plants in Australia. They concluded that plastic fragments from synthetic fabrics most likely flow from wastewater treatment plants down to the seashore, and perhaps out to sea.

West African Fisheries Decline Steeply as Government Fails to Act
The Senegalese Maritime Economy Ministry has failed to save its country’s diminishing fish stocks. This week, it slashed the biological recovery period of commercial fisheries because of pressure from national industrial lobbyists. The recovery period is vital because it gives fish populations time to regenerate between fishing intervals. Cutting the amount of time between fishing periods means fisheries don’t have a chance to recover before being fished again. Millions of Senegalese depend on the fish caught off shore for their basic protein needs, but because the West Africans waters are becoming increasingly overfished by European trawlers. Many species, including Thiof - the traditional Senegalese delicacy - are now threatened with extinction. Greenpeace has called on the Senegalese government to reconsider its decision, and reinstate the two month moratorium on commercial fishing.

Warning over 'extremely worrying plans' to close coastguard stations
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has reiterated his condemnation of "extremely worrying plans" to close or downgrade Scottish coastguard stations. Mr Lochhead said the plans suggest any key incident involving North Sea oil platforms would be managed by senior officers in the Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) which will be based in the Southampton and Portsmouth area. He said this is a departure from existing, well-established procedures which allow multi-agency teams, including MCA managers, police and oil company representatives, to be based at the Aberdeen MRCC at short notice and coordinate the response from there.

Birds Caught in Fishing Lines Dying by the Thousands
While it's no secret that keeping up with the world's demand for seafood puts terrible strain on ocean ecosystems, it turns out that fish aren't the only species feeling the pinch from overfishing. On the heels of a recent study which found that fishing nets and hooks in the U.S. kill around 4,600 sea turtles every year off the U.S. coast alone, a  new report suggests that seabirds are fairing even worse. According to researchers, the fishing industry may be responsible for inadvertently killing up to 320 thousand birds annually. And the problem is so bad, it could soon drive some bird species to extinction. Although there may be no way to ensure that birds, protected or otherwise, won't continue to be killed in fishing lines and nets, wildlife experts say that there are measures the industry can take to reduce the numbers. By making some small changes, like weighing down the nets or even just trawling at night, experts say that bird deaths could be minimized.

Scientists discover reef overfishing point
Fishermen and scientists questioning how many fish can be sustainably taken from a reef believe they've quantified the tipping point. In a report released today, researchers have demonstrated how overfishing can generate a predictable sequence of events that lead to the collapse of reef ecosystems.
It also offers targets in order to keep fisheries sustainable. As "fish biomass" - the number and weight of fish living on a reef - declines due to fishing, a number of tipping points are crossed, from which it is increasingly harder to return. The study shows that in well-protected areas, there are typically 1000 to 1500 kilograms of reef fish per hectare of coral reef. As this is reduced below 1000 kilograms, early warning signs such as increased seaweed growth and urchin activity begin to show up.
The researchers found that between 300 and 600 kilograms of fish per hectare was the "maximum sustainable yield". When fish stocks dropped below 300 kilograms/hectare the reef was in real trouble. The loss of hard corals, which had been thought of as a warning sign, was actually the last stage in the collapse of a reef, the study found.

That's it for this week - as always, please feel free to post a comment and let us know what you think!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Marine News Roundup

Welcome to this week's Marine News Roundup! The best of the week's marine stories all in one place!

Flex's relatives tagged by scientists
Last year, scientists tagged 'Flex', a rare western Gray whale, and watched in amazement as it left it's Russian home and sprinted 8,586 kilometres across the ocean to the west coast of North America. This month, they have tagged five more western Grays in the hope of discovering whether they regularly make international trips. A team co-ordinated by the International Whaling Commission hopes to fix satellite tags to at least 12 whales, which spend their summers off Sakhalin Island, Russia. The big question for researchers is whether the western whales mix with the eastern whales as they migrate between Mexico and Alaska. The western Grays were thought to be extinct before the tiny Sakhalin population was discovered about 15 years ago. Once the tagged whales start their migration they can be tracked on the Marine Mammal Institute website.

Jellyfish compete with fish to dominate the sea
A new study published in Science has found that blooms of brainless jellyfish have surprising ecological power to compete against free-swimming fish and can use their efficient, prehistoric methods to dominant vast expanses of the sea when offered the chance. Jellyfish have functionally replaced several overexploited commercial stocks and scientists have warned of, "a future ‘gelatinous’ ocean reminiscent of the early Ediacaran if fishing effort and other anthropogenic stressors remain unchanged".

Hollywood ending for dolphin's tale
Six years ago, a baby dolphin was rescued by fisherman after becoming trapped by a rope and being injured so badly that it's tail was partially severed and even its mother had abandoned it. Nursed back to health at a Florida aquarium, the dolphin - named Winter by staff - shed it's tail after a few days and might never have swum again, were it not for the unique artificial tail he was fitted with. The story has now been turned into a Hollywood film, starring Morgan Freeman, which will be released in the US this week and in Britain next month.

Deadly jobs: Working with water
A new blog by BBC Earth has uncovered three deadly jobs working with water. The first job is performed by fishermen in the Philippines. Some of the most dangerous techniques are adopted by the Pa-aling divers who inhabit the Palawan province. Diving down to 40 metres, these 100 strong crews take their lives in their hands on every trip.  Sadly the benefits do not outweigh the risks with each fisherman reportedly earning an average of $25 US dollars for a week’s work. The second deadly job involves the goose barnacle collectors of northern Spain. These fearless collectors of this strange looking shellfish, battle with ferocious crashing waves (also known as Atlantic Rollers) and jagged rocks to gather their prize. At up to 200 Euros per kilo it is easy to see what the attraction to this lifestyle is. The third deadly job involves fatherhood! In the Zanskar region of the Tibetan Plateau, the school run is an epic six-day trek along the semi-frozen river Zanskar. In the spring the smooth firm ice can start to give way, rapidly turning the trip from a habitual pilgrimage to a perilous expedition. Check out this BBC Earth blog for more details of these dangerous jobs!

Have you seen a Chinese mitten crab?
Chinese mitten crabs are officially listed as one of the World's 100 worst invasive species. They can cause damage to fishing gear and river banks, block intake screens, modify natural habitats and compete with native species. It is this economic and ecological damage that makes this crab such an unwelcome arrival. The full extent of these exotic pests in English and Welsh waters is currently unclear and a consortium of research institutes is requesting mitten crab sightings from members of the public, anglers and waterway workers, to clarify the distribution of this species. You can report your sightings by email, phone, text or online.

Sweden's west coast hit by 'substantial' oil spill
The Swedish coastguard has said that a recent oil spill near the Sweden's southwest coast is the worst in the area in years and the clean-up will take weeks. Coastguard official Birgitta Andersson said authorities suspect the petrol contaminated the sea following a collision between two boats off Denmark's west coast on September 10th. The cleanup operation will take several weeks, but decontaminating the affected beaches will likely take much longer. The coastguard has already collected more than 130 cubic metres (130,000 litres) from Sweden's southwest coast and up to 15 birds covered in petrol have already been discovered.

3,000 blue whales swarm off the coast of California
In a very rare event, a huge pod of blue whales hovers around the coast of Southern California. Weighing up to 150 tons and reaching lengths of 108 feet, these creatures are exceptional in both appearance and strength. Researchers estimate this particular pod consists of an astounding 3,000 whales, as part of the global population merely three times that size. This pod is already exposing eager marine researchers to behaviours uncommon in this setting. In addition to the fact that the pod is unusually close to shore, witnesses have noted that the species is actively courting, breaching the water's surface, as well as willingly approaching kayaks and boats. In combination with this rare mating behaviour, an NBC camera crew was able to record a blue whale song above water. Local experts exclaim that the opportunity to witness this serenade is undoubtedly a once in a lifetime experience.

New Dolphin Species May Already Be at Risk
A dolphin that was previously lumped in with other species of coastal-dwelling dolphins is actually its own Australian species, researchers say. And already, the new Burrunan dolphin may be in danger due to its small population and limited range. The new species of dolphins only live in a tiny region off southern and southeastern Australia, with two small populations making up the entire species (about 150 individuals). The other, more common dolphins in the area are well represented across the globe. This region is located close to many urban and agricultural centres, the runoff of which ends up in the dolphin's habitat. The populations are also in close proximity to major shipping ports, commercial and recreation fisheries, residential, industrial and agricultural stressors. Researchers believe the species should qualify for protection under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

'Porpicide': Bottlenose dolphins killing porpoises
A harbour porpoise that washed ashore last month at San Francisco's Fort Funston has been identified as a victim of 'porpicide', the deliberate slaying of a harbor porpoise by a surprising and, to most people, unlikely culprit - the bottlenose dolphin. The brutal battering wasn't an isolated incident. Scientists say there has been a dramatic increase in dolphin attacks on harbour porpoises along the California coast over the past few years. Since Aug. 12, six dead harbour porpoises have washed ashore at Ocean Beach, Fort Funston and Stinson Beach. It is not yet clear how they all died, but most of the injuries are consistent with bottlenose attacks. Well over 50 harbour porpoise deaths are believed to have been caused by bottlenose dolphins along the California coast since 2005, when the first fatal attack ever recorded in California was confirmed. A study published this year in the Marine Mammal Science journal documented 44 fatal attacks between 2007 and 2009, mostly off San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz and in Monterey Bay. Scientists do not know why the highly intelligent species would suddenly start battering its ocean brethren, but have said the perpetrators are probably young, sexually frustrated toughs defending their turf. The killings coincide with the expansion of dolphin territory, but it is believed that the primary motive is not territorial. The two species primarily feed on different things and do not generally frequent the same places at the same times, according to the porpicide study. Scientists are now proposing theories as to why these killings occur.

European fish stocks changing with warming seas
The first "big picture" study of the effects of rapidly rising temperatures in the northeast Atlantic Ocean shows that a major shift in fish stocks is already well underway. But it isn't all bad news. The research, published in Current Biology, shows that some fishes' losses are other fishes' gain. The study included more than 100 million fish, to explore how warming is affecting the commercially important European fishery. The data shows that fish in European waters have undergone profound community-level changes that are related to dramatic warming trends for the region. The vast majority - a whopping 72% - of common fish species have already shown a change in abundance that relates to the rising sea temperatures. Of those, three out of every four fish species have grown in numbers with warming. Catches of cold-loving species, including haddock and cod, have dropped by half in the past three decades, whereas landings of warm-loving species, including hake and dab, have more than doubled. The results show that studies focused only on changes to where particular fish species are found - species ranges - will miss the far more ecologically and economically relevant effects of warming. They also suggest there will be an unavoidable change in what's for dinner. There may be a further decline in cold-adapted species, many of which were the staple for our grandparents. The flip-side is a likely increase in species that for the UK may seem relatively exotic now, such as red mullet and John Dory. Over time, with effective management and an appropriate response in consumer demand, European seas have the potential to yield productive and sustainable fisheries into the future.

That's all for this week - don't forget to leave us a comment and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Focus on: Marine Conservation Society

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS), "is the voice for everyone who loves the sea"; they are the UK charity for the protection of our seas, shores and wildlife. They work to secure a future for our living seas and to save our threatened sea life before it is lost forever. Their work ensures that the sea’s rich wildlife can be restored, fish stocks grow more plentiful, and our beaches and seawater become cleaner. They depend entirely on the generosity and enthusiasm of their supporters to continue to care for our seas, shores and wildlife.

I have been volunteering for the MCS for more than nine years now, helping on the committee of the Plymouth Local Group by organising regular beach cleans, Seasearch dives and meetings and organising fundraisers with donations from local businesses. They are a brilliant charity to volunteer for and I would encourage anyone reading this blog to get involved somehow.

The MCS run many different projects and campaigns that you can join in with. They have an annual Beachwatch event each September, where they encourage people to clean their local beaches, both on land and underwater. They use the results of these beach clean surveys to tackle marine litter at source, at local, national and international levels.

Related to this, they run Litter Campaigns, such as "Don't Let Go!" and "No Butts on the Beach". They also encourage people to Go Plastic Bag Free and to Bag It and Bin It, Don't Flush It. They also produce the Good Beach Guide, a guide to Britain's cleanest beaches.

The MCS run Fishonline, the buyer's guide to sustainable seafood. Fishonline is an in-depth guide to the fish types available to UK fishmongers, chefs and retailers, designed to complement the Good Fish Guide web pages that help consumers make a truly informed choice in seafoods. The Good Fish Guide is designed to help you make the best choice at the fish counter. It helps you choose fish from well-managed stocks and fish caught using methods that minimise damage to marine wildlife and habitats.

You can report Wildlife Sightings to the MCS, including jellyfish, basking sharks and marine turtles. You can even report active beach sewers on UK beaches. The MCS are campaigning for Marine Reserves and you can vote online to add Your Voice to their campaign to safeguard our seas.

The MCS works with Government, industry and the public to campaign for cleaner seas and beaches, better wildlife protection and sustainable fisheries. If you want to support the MCS, you can become a member, donate to an MCS appeal, adopt a turtle, leave a legacy, or fundraise for the MCS. Your company can support the MCS, you can volunteer and take other action and you can even make your own collection box to collect donations.

Involving people in the fight for ocean recovery is core to the MCS' work, so whether you join them, donate or support one of their many projects and campaigns, you can help our seas and wildlife recover.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Marine News Roundup

This weeks best marine news stories all in once place!

Keystone Pipeline Could Push Endangered Whooping Crane Into Extinction
The Canadian energy company TransCanada and the Obama administration is on the verge of approving a proposal that will place a route through which to move toxic, highly corrosive, sludgy crude oil on the same narrow corridor used by one of the world’s most endangered birds. If approved by the administration, the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline will move a half million+ barrels daily of Canadian crude 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada to the Texas coast as soon as 2013. The Whooping crane is one of the most highly endangered birds in the world and the cranes follow the proposed path of the pipeline annually each spring, as they migrate from Texas to their breeding grounds in Canada. Scientists are deeply concerned by the proposals and say that, in addition to the grave risk of catastrophic spill, Whooping cranes would be put at still further risk by the installation of aerial power lines that would be constructed to power pumping stations on the proposed pipeline route. The State Department has completely ignored the impacts of the proposed pipeline on the highly endangered Whooping crane and in so doing, ignored the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. The Obama administration could announce its decision whether to block this remarkably flawed proposal at any time.

Tesco Drops Biodegradable Bags
Tesco is eliminating a controversial type of additive which helped it to create biodegradable bags, according to news reports. A study backed by the UK's Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs suggested that bags containing oxo-biodegradable additives (OBD) could actually harm the environment. Tesco is replacing the bags with an alternative that is not biodegradable, but which does use 15% recycled material. Tesco handed out over two billion of the bags to customers last year.

The Great Garbage Patch exposed
Tim Silverwood sailed the wild seas with a research team in search of the North Pacific's heart of plastic. His journey started around four years ago when he travelled to India and saw huge levels of trash entering waterways and the ocean. This article is a personal account of what Tim found when he visited the North Pacific Garbage Patch. "Tiny shards of 'micro debris', just like the plastic sand of Kamilo Beach, glistened among a treasure-trove of biota almost like they were meant to be there. It doesn't take long to realise that the larger items we spotted were merely the forebears of future plastic sand. Time, friction, tide and the relentless sun would secure their fate. Despite the conditions, we completed dozens of trawls and found plastic in every trawl, from recognisable items like pen caps and a toothbrush to tiny pieces including the infamous 'nurdle', the pre-production pellets used in the manufacture of plastic." You can read more about the North Pacific Garbage Patch and the problems of plastics and other debris in the marine environment in our Marine Debris blog.

Marine survey uncovers a deep sea treasure trove
Building on UN Environment Program biodiversity assessments, the Sydney Centre for Policy Development has counted up the worth of nature hidden beneath the sea's surface. The first serious stab at the value of the ecological benefits to Australia of its huge marine domain is $25 billion. The greatest single value lay in the ocean's use as a carbon sink. The report also calculated dollar values of the oceans to the economy in recreational fisheries, providing ''nursery'' services to fish, and in disease control.

Arctic sea ice is melting at its fastest pace in almost 40 years
The Northwest Passage was, again, free of ice this summer and the polar region could be unfrozen in just 30 years. Arctic sea ice has melted to a level not recorded since satellite observations started in 1972 – and almost certainly not experienced for at least 8,000 years, say polar scientists. The German researchers said the record melt was undoubtedly because of human-induced global warming. Floating Arctic sea ice naturally melts and re-freezes annually, but the speed of change in a generation has shocked scientists – it is now twice as great as it was in 1972, according to the NSIDC, with a decline of about 10% per decade. Arctic temperatures have risen more than twice as fast as the global average over the past half century. The last time the Arctic was uncontestably free of summertime ice was 125,000 years ago, at the height of the last major interglacial period, known as the Eemian. This year, both the North-west and North-east passages were mostly ice free, as they have been twice since 2008. Last year (2010) tied with 2005 as the warmest year on record.

Endangered blue whale spotted off Boothbay Harbor
Naturalists from two whale watching companies based in Boothbay Harbor confirmed the sighting on Sunday afternoon of an endangered blue whale, the largest mammal on Earth. The whale was believed to be “logging” or sleeping in waters about 15 miles offshore from Boothbay Harbor. Blue whales can grow to enormous sizes, weighing on average 400,000 pounds and possessing tongues that weigh as much as an elephant. Whale watch boats based in Maine typically spot fin, humpback and sei whales in the Gulf of Maine.

Call for more marine parks
The Centre for Policy Development, releasing its report on marine economy security, says that Australia needs extra marine parks and increased fish stocks to protect ocean ecosystems from the effects of climate change such as acidity and rising temperatures. Ocean ecosystems add an extra $25 billion to the national economy each year including $15.8 billion a year in carbon storage, the report says. Researchers looked at the south-western region of Western Australia as a case study and found the region provided an extra $435 million a year in value than official figures showed. The report said extending a proposed marine protection area to cover coastal shelf, sea grass and coral reefs could protect a further $1.1 billion in economic benefits.

Dugongs and Turtles Face Mass Starvation After Storm
Northeastern Australia may have dried out after devastating floods hit the area early this year, but for dugongs and turtles off the Queensland coast, the natural disaster's effects seem to be just beginning. Hundreds of the animals have been washing up dead onshore near the Great Barrier Reef.
The green turtles and dugongs, vulnerable herbivores related to the Florida manatee, are believed to be victims of the aftermath of the floods and cyclone that hit Australia over the past year.

Coral reefs 'will be gone by end of the century'
A leading United Nations scientist has claimed that coral reefs are on course to become the first ecosystem that human activity will eliminate entirely from the Earth. He says this event will occur before the end of the present century, which means that there are children already born who will live to see a world without coral. The predicted decline is mainly downacidification, though local activities such as overfishing, pollution and coastal development have also harmed the reefs. He predicts that, that "we risk having no reefs that resemble those of today in as little as 30 or 40 more years". Though not all scientists agree with these precise timescales set, the crisis is clear, although there are signs that local conservation efforts can make a difference.

10 deadly animals you wouldn't want to meet
Another great blog from the BBC Earth team! Check on number 8 on their 'deadly animals you wouldn't want to meet' list: Aurelia Jellyfish. "The common jellyfish moves by pulsating its saucer shaped colourless body. Beware the tentacles which surround its body - they contain stinging cells which are used to catch prey."

Plan for marine nature reserves
Plans for a series of marine nature reserves off the coast of Plymouth and South East Cornwall have been submitted to government. They are among a total of 58 proposed “conservation zones” in the South West covering habitats from estuaries and coastal areas to deep water canyons. The aim is to develop a wider network of areas providing improved protection for marine life and habitats. Of the suggested sites (MCZs), 13 are in offshore areas and 32 in the inshore waters of the region. It is aimed at protecting a broad range of wildlife and habitats, including a type of nationally scarce lagoon worm, blue mussel beds, a shoaling fish known as smelt, seagrass beds, the pink sea fan, a fish known as the giant goby, a stalked jellyfish and long snouted seahorses. Next year the Government will following a public consultation, announce the final list of marine conservation zones which are being designated under the Marine and Coastal Access Act. The Marine Conservation Society welcomed the announcement, saying protected sites were desperately needed to conserve the seas around the UK coast to allow habitats and wildlife to recover from decades of degradation.

Twice as much litter fouling area's beaches
On a more personal note, I have been volunteering for the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) for nine years and during this time I have, among other things, arranged regular beach cleans on the Plymouth Local Group's adopted beach at Batten Bay. This weekend is the MCS Beachwatch weekend and we will be holding a cleanup at Batten Bay at 10.30am this Saturday, 17th September. Our local paper, The Herald, has published an article which, although it doesn't mention my name, directly quotes from my email to our volunteers. It's good to see the message getting out there and hopefully we will have a good turnout of volunteers on Saturday!

That's it for this week... Check back next Thursday for the next Marine News Roundup!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Blogs of Interest

If you're reading the Respect Our Seas blog, then chances are you have an interest in the marine environment and conservation. There are many different blogs out there that cover these topics and we thought you may be interested in reading a few of them. Here are our pick of the most interesting blogs around... Enjoy!

"Be the change... Peering through the eyes of a marine biologist."
Samantha Craven is a marine biologist working in Singapore and Malaysia. Her passion for the ocean started at a very early age, and her job has cultivated her interest in conservation in both marine and terrestrial environments. She is a keen photographer and strongly believes in the written word as a medium for sharing information about conservation issues.

It Starts With Me
"It's simple...everything we do (or don't do) has an impact on the world we live in. It starts with me and ripples to you..."
Cigarette butts are the #1 littered item worldwide... Danielle's local beach - Wrightsville Beach, NC - is no exception. With inspiration from her friend Sara who writes The Daily Ocean blog, she's started her own daily ocean. She's heads out to WB at varying beach accesses and picks up litter for 20 minutes. Her focus? Cigarette butts. Her mission? To help create a smoke-free beach and have proper cigarette butt disposal receptacles installed on WB.

The Daily Ocean
"365 non-consecutive days of collecting, weighing and documenting beach trash."
One day, Sara Bayles asked herself this question - "How many pounds of trash could I collect from the beach in one year?" She is now in the process of finding out. This blog documents her 365 day experiment. Sara aims to raise awareness of how much trash is out there on our beaches and getting into the ocean, that the solutions start with us right here on land, and that everyday we can make choices in what we consume and buy that can add up to make a difference.

The Plastic Ocean Project
This blog covers four ocean voyages sampling for plastic and the daily findings of Bonnie Monteleone and Jennifer O'Keefe. In 2009, they sampled the N. Atlantic Gyre. Bonnie went on to sample the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 2010, they traveled back to Bermuda to resample the Atlantic. And as of late, Bonnie participated in the 1st transect sampling for plastic across the S. Atlantic. They share their findings and comradery with those they meet along the way.

BBC Earth's Life Is
This is the BBC Earth Life Is blog. Within the blog they will be sharing some of Nature's most amazing stories, images and videos. Not all of these are marine or conservation oriented, but it's a fantastic blog and well worth a look. We often feature their marine-related posts in our weekly Marine News Roundups.

Take Nothing But Photos
"Interesting stuff about conservation and the environment."
Not all marine-related but certainly an interesting read. Written by Angela, a marine biologist with several years experience volunteering and working with conservation organisations. Angela is about to embark on a new adventure in the Middle East so I'm sure she'll have lots more to share soon!

The Flotsam Diaries
"A chronicle of human debris. Washed up, blown in, left behind."
Every father reaches that moment, when he knows he has to change the world for his little girl. One day, in March 2010, Harry visited Ocean Park in Maine. He found rope, a glove, a broken plastic spoon, fishing line, a torn beer can, its sharp edges poking up through the soft sand. And lobster traps, ripped from the deeps and dragged for miles, to be half-buried on the beach. The more he looked, the more he saw. Part of a red plastic cup, more nylon rope, bright rubber bands. It was everywhere. The next day, he went back to the beach, trash bag in hand. Two blocks, a leisurely half-hour stroll, and the bag was full. He didn't know what he wanted to do with it. He didn't know if there was anything he could do with it. But he knew he was at the beginning of something, and that this wasn't a bag just to be thrown in the dumpster and forgotten. Because this wasn't just his beach. This was his daughter's. And so he resolved to change the world. Somehow.

Team Marine
Team Marine is a group of Santa Monica students who are determined to help end climate change, slow and stop ocean acidification, and ban single-use plastics. They reach out to others through community events, student-led research, social networking, and social media.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Marine News Roundup

Welcome to this week's Marine News Roundup... As always, feel free to comment and let us know what you think!

"Fears in Miami That Port Expansion Will Destroy Reefs"
Miami's Department of Environmental Protection is on the verge of granting a final permit to the Army Corps of Engineers which will allow them to conduct 600 days of blasting to deepen, widen and dredge its port to accommodate supersize freighters. At the same time, environmentalists are attempting to protect threatened coral reefs and acres of sea grass that they say would be destroyed by the expansion.

"Happy Feet finally set free"
Following last week's story following "Happy Feet's" rehabilitation and journey to the Antarctic, we are pleased to report that Happy Feet the penguuin has now been released, about 700 kilometres south of New Zealand's South Island. He needed "some gentle encouragement" to leave the safety of his crate and is now expected to complete the 2,000 kilometer journey South to his Antarctic home. He has been fitted with a satellite tracker and microchip and his progress can be followed online.

"Dogger Bank to get special marine protection"
The UK section of the Dogger Bank is home to a fantastic array of sea life and habitats and has been submitted by the Government to the European Commission. It now has candidate Special Area of Conservation (cSAC) status, with over 12,000 square kilometers of species rich sandbank having become a marine protected area to safeguard the important sea life and habitats. This is the largest European Marine Site to be submitted by any Member State for protection and links up with the existing sites in Germany and the Netherlands. Candidate SAC status means that the site must be protected from damaging activities to ensure its features are conserved.

"Unbelievable photo of shark spotted along San Diego's coastline"
A two-mile stretch of coastline at Casa Reef in La Jolla, San Diego was shut down last week after several people reportedly spotted a twelve-inch dorsal fin in the water in an area close to a seal colony. The area was reopened on Thursday because lifeguards, patrolling the area since the early morning, found no evidence of a shark. This was the third confirmed shark sighting along San Diego's coastline in a week and it is believed that this shark was a 10-12 foot Great White.

"Hawksbill Sea Turtles Not Extinct In Eastern Pacific"
Until recently, scientists had assumed that the Hawksbill Sea Turtle was functionally extinct in the eastern tropical Pacific. However, a group of researchers in Central and South America are now saying this is not the case. The new findings, published this month in Biology Letters, show that Hawksbills went undetected because they are "living among in-shore mangrove estuaries rather than the coral and rocky reefs for which they [were] previously known to inhabit". The researchers believe that conservation efforts will be easier than for turtles in the ocean, although the turtles' mangrove habitats are also close to human populations, putting them at greater risk for destruction and habitat degradation. The habitats are under pressure from fishing, tourism, development and other human activities.

"Sharks likely to get more protection"
State fishery managers will recommend at this week's Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting in Naples that anglers can catch more sea trout but need to kill fewer sharks. The state regulatory board also begins reviewing a budget for the next fiscal year that proposes to institute a 10 percent cut ordered by the Florida Legislature. In fishery matters of interest to the Florida Keys, the FWC board on Thursday will hear staff proposals on protecting sharks. Tiger sharks and three species of hammerhead sharks (great, smooth and scalloped) all should be added to Florida's no-take list, which now includes 22 shark species, says the recommended action. A series of seven statewide workshops on sharks, including one in Key West, found widespread support for adding the four shark species to the protected list. Two other shark proposals, to require use of circle hooks in shark fishing, and to ban chumming from shore, did not get endorsed by FWC staff. Encouraging reports on the spotted sea trout fishery could lead to a year-around recreational season on the Gulf of Mexico food fish. The agency also will recommend extending the season for the "small" commercial fishery on sea trout. The FWC meets from Wednesday through Friday at the Naples Grande resort.

"Sardine fishery growing sustainably"
The South Australian sardine fishery has been developing quickly since 1991, but has not harmed the surrounding ecosystem, according to a seven-year study by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI). The fishery is Australia’s largest by weight, with around 30,000 tonnes harvested annually. Most of this goes to feed farmed tuna but is increasingly destined for human consumption. “This study shows that South Australia’s pelagic marine ecosystem is in good health. The evidence suggests that the precautionary approach to management that the sardine fishery has taken, is achieving its goal of ensuring ecological sustainability,” said Associate Professor Tim Ward, who has led the SARDI Wild Fisheries research team since 1998.

"Shark Savers congratulates California Senate for banning the shark fin trade"
The California state Senate has passed a historic bill to protect all shark species from the environmentally destructive shark fin trade. AB 376 makes it unlawful for any person to possess, sell, offer for sale, trade, or distribute a shark fin. The bill was sponsored by Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance and supported by a diverse coalition of organizations that included Shark Savers and thousands of individuals. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 25 to 9 and now moves to Governor Jerry Brown to be signed. Opposition was raised on the grounds that the bill was discriminatory to Asian communities but polls have indicated 70% of the Asian American community and 76% of California voters supported the shark fin ban. A companion bill, AB 853, was also passed that allow sales of shark fin until 1st July 2013 for all fin stock on-hand prior to January 1st 2012. Sharks are essential to the health of our oceans and maintain balance within the marine ecosystem and the AB 376 bill represents a fantastic step towards protecting sharks.

"Giant crabs make Antarctic leap" Scientists have found a large, reproductive population of King crabs in the Palmer Deep on the edge of Antarctica, probably as a result of warming in the region. The researchers believe the crabs may have been washed in during an upsurge of warmer water, and have warned that the crabs are likely to profoundly change the ecosystem of the area as the population spreads. It is estimated that they may be around 1.5 million King crabs in the basin and that they have been there for about 30-40 years. The species cannot tolerate water colder than 1.4 degrees Celcius but the seas there get warmer as you descend, and the crabs were only found below 850m. The crabs are voracious crushers of sea floor animals and local extinctions of other species are expected.

"Blind Cave Fish Tell Time On Biological Clocks"
How do animals that have evolved for millions of years underground, completely isolated from the day-night cycle, still "know" what time it is? A new study has attempted to tackle this question by investigating a species of cavefish, Phreatichthys andruzzii, which has lived isolated for 2 million years beneath the Somalian desert. The study has found that this cavefish has an unusual circadian clock; it ticks with an extremely long period (up to 47 hours) and is completely blind. The circadian clock is a highly conserved physiological timing mechanism that allows organisms to anticipate and adapt to the day-night cycle. The cavefish have given scientists a unique opportunity to understand how profoundly sunlight has influenced our evolution.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Marine News Roundup

Welcome to our weekly Marine News Roundup, bringing you the best marine stories of the week!

"The Strangest Creatures on Earth"
BBC Earth have revealed their top six strangest creatures on Earth, with the Wolf Eel at number 1 and the Giant Candiru - "a bizarre flesh eating parasitic fish that lives inside the Amazonian Catfish and makes the local piranhas seem positively tame", at number five! The BBC also have some lovely underwater videos, so make sure you take a look.

"New Zealand's lost penguin sets sail for home"
In mid-June, an Emperor Penguin was found on a beach in Wellington, more than 1,900 miles from his home in the Antarctic. He was weak and emaciated and needed surgery to remove sand and sticks from his stomach before being fed-up on a diet of fish milkshakes. The penguin, nicknamed "Happy Feet", has been recuperating for two months at Wellington Zoo but has now set sail for home in a custom-made crate. He will be released into the Southern Ocean, where it is hoped he will rejoin other Emperor penguins before making his way back to Antarctica. Good luck, Happy Feet!

"Hundreds of baby sea turtles lose their lives after Hurricane Irene"
In Florida, hundreds of baby sea turtles have been unearthed by Hurricane Irene, with higher waves and erosion affecting the chances of survival of eggs and hatchlings alike. The public are being advised to take any hatchlings not near the water to approved turtle rehabilitation centres.

"Scientists call for better management of the deep sea"
A recent study by a team of twenty researchers from all over the world has found that the deep sea (waters deeper than 200m) is being damaged by human activities. Exploitation is currently the number one problem, but climate change and dumped waste also play their parts. Scientists are now calling for better management and conservation of entire deep-sea ecosystems, which cover 360 million square kilometers - around half of the Earth's surface.

"Red grouper returns to menus as population rebounds"
The population of Red Grouper in the Gulf is back to healthy levels after years of federal management of the fishery. Grouper fisheries were closed in 2005 and grouper fishermen worked with the federal agency to create a program modelled on one used in 2005 to manage Red Snapper. The Red Grouper population is now strong enough that the NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service plans to increase the maximum amount commercial fishing operations can haul from the water to 5.2 million pounds, up from the 4.3 million it established at the beginning of 2011.

"Female seals drawn to deadly ship propellers because they sound like male mating call"
Experts at the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews University believe that female seals that have suffered mysterious "corkscrew" injuries have been drawn into ship propellers because the blades produce the same acoustics as a male seal's mating call. Acoustic tests carried out on both captive and wild seals seem to back-up the theory. The number of deaths from corkscrew injury has risen to 90 this year. It is hoped that, if the type of propeller making the noises can be identified, then it can be changed and these types of death avoided in future.

"15 Irrefutable Signs That Climate Change Is Real"
"From rising air and ocean temperatures to shrinking glaciers and widespread melting of snow and ice, evidence of a changing global climate is all around us." The article includes sign 4 - "Average Arctic temperatures have increased at almost twice the global average rate in the past 100 years." - and many others.

"Great white sharks 'could be in British waters'"
The chairman of the Shark Trust, Richard Peirce, has said that Great White sharks could be, "occasional vagrant visitors" to waters around the British Isles. He said that it is surprising that we do not have an established Great White population in our waters as the conditions here mirror those in parts of South Africa, Australia and northern California and the sea temperature here is within the tolerable range for Great Whites. British waters are already home to several species of predatory shark, including Mako and Blue sharks.

"Marine species discovered on Gorringe seamount"
International marine conservation organisation Oceana have discovered more than 100 marine species on the Gorringe seamount in the Portuguese Atlantic. Oceana have called for greater protection of the biodiverse area, which is home to spotted dolphins, Minke whales, sea pens, slipper lobsters, dense kelp forests, deep-sea sponge fields, black coral, extensive oyster beds and an array of fish, including orange roughies, longspine snipefish, morays and conger eels.

"Cuttlefish decline prompts extended protection zone"
Critically low numbers of giant cuttlefish have been found in the upper Spencer Gulf in South Australia this season - just 25,000 compared to 250,000 in the past. Whilst scientists try to find the reason behind this, a protection area has been expanded and it will now be illegal to fish for cuttlefish or squid within the area. Whilst the additional protection is a temporary measure, the area previously protected is being made permanent. A monitoring program will also ensure there is comparable data over the years.

And finally, not a news story as such, but we came across The Daily Ocean blog recently and wanted to share a heart-warming humpback whale rescue video that is featured on the blog. Enjoy.