Thursday, 12 January 2012

Marine News Roundup

Welcome to the first Marine News Roundup of 2012! Have you made nay marine-related New Year's resolutions? Perhaps you are going to spend more time at the beach, get involved with a beach clean, or do more to protect marine species? Whatever you're doing, leave us a comment and let us know!

Electrified cages jolt coral reef survival
A low-level electric current running through domed-shaped metallic structures in the waters off Bali is giving a jolt to coral reef survival there, according to news reports. The Biorock technology is seen by some conservationists as a means to repair coral reefs damaged by years of destructive cyanide and dynamite fishing practices, as well as steadily warming oceans.

Rare mussels found during marine surveys
The largest living collection of rare fan mussels in British waters has been discovered around Scotland’s Small Isles. More than 100 of the mussels, a species that fishermen used to believe fed on the bodies of drowned sailors, were located during a series of surveys of Scottish waters over the last year. Mussel fans were one of several rare species to be uncovered in waters where they were either unknown or hardly ever seen. They are the largest shellfish in British waters – growing up to 48cm long – and are among the rarest and most threatened.

Creatures found at deep-sea volcanic vent
A team of British scientists has captured images of very rare species, in some of the most inaccessible parts of the Indian Ocean. While they were surveying volcanic underwater vents, they found an array of creatures, including yeti crabs, scaly-foot snails and sea cucumbers. They believe some of the species may be new to science.

Marine surveys record 'brainless fish' off Orkney
Scotland's biggest horse mussel bed and a "faceless and brainless" fish-like creature were recorded during government-backed surveys this year. The work covered almost 2,200 square miles - equivalent to an area one and a quarter times the size of the Cairngorms National Park. The Scottish government has hailed the finds made during the surveys. WWF Scotland said the results highlighted the need to better protect the marine environment.

Seafloor "Bridges" Found to Span Earth's Deepest Trench
The Mariana Trench, located in the Pacific Ocean off the eastern coasts of Japan and the Philippines - at a depth of around 6.8 miles (11 kilometres) below sea level - is famous for being the deepest point on the planet's surface. Now, to add to the Mariana Trench's fame, marine geophysicists recently mapped a set of surprising seafloor features nearby. At least four underwater "bridges" span the depths of the trench, where the Pacific Plate dives under the Philippine Plate.

Whale and dolphin group reports big increase in strandings on coastline
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has said that the past year has seen a big increase in strandings of whales and dolphins compared to previous years. A total of 160 stranding and 1,565 sighting reports were logged during 2011. This is compares to 92 strandings in 2010.

World-first hybrid shark found off Australia
Scientists said on Tuesday that they had discovered the world's first hybrid sharks in Australian waters, a potential sign the predators were adapting to cope with climate change. The mating of the local Australian black-tip shark with its global counterpart, the common black-tip, was an unprecedented discovery with implications for the entire shark world.

Dead herring mystery for Norway as thousands wash up on beach
Norwegians have been left puzzled at the sight of thousands of dead herring carpeting a beach in the northerly district of Nordreisa with some wondering if a predator had driven them to their death or a storm had washed them ashore. Scientists were hoping to test the fish to see if they could ascertain the cause of death. Locals had more pressing concerns: how to clean up the 20 tonnes of dead creatures before they decay.

Tiny fish mimics octopus that mimics fish
A new film captures a circular game of copycat: a fish that mimics an octopus that mimics fish. First described by scientists in 1998, the remarkable mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) can shift its shape, movements and colour to impersonate toxic lionfish, flatfish and even sea snakes. Such mimicry allows it to swim in the open with relatively little fear of predators. The black-marble jawfish (Stalix histrio), on the other hand, is a small, timid fish. It spends most of its adult life close to a sand burrow that serves as its hideout if a predator comes along.

Marine biologist accused of feeding whales
A marine biologist who runs popular whale-watching tours on California’s Monterey Bay has been indicted for violating federal laws that protect marine mammals. The San Jose Mercury News reports Nancy Black was charged Wednesday in San Jose for the violations, including two alleging she fed a killer whale. Black is also charged with lying to investigators about altering a 2005 video to hide what authorities say was illegal contact with a humpback whale in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Prosecutors say charges were filed after an investigation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and US Department of Justice. Lawrence Biegel, Black’s lawyer, says she had a research permit to study the whales and denies she fed them.

High mercury levels found in Antarctic waters
A new study has found Antarctica is not as pristine as people might think. A team of French and Australian oceanographers have discovered the seabirds in the Southern Ocean have four times the mercury levels of aquatic birds elsewhere. The toxic element has come from both man-made and naturally occurring sources and while the birds seem to be coping, the same cannot be said for the region's fish. Seabirds like albatross and petrels are the mega-fauna above the water, while whales, seals and penguins are the big predators below.

Begging Whale Sharks Raise Concern In Philippines
Whale sharks begging for food in the central Philippines have sparked a debate on whether feeding the giant fish may ultimately be hurting the creatures, officials have said. While the mayor of the coastal town of Oslob insists that the practice of feeding the whale sharks does no harm and is good for tourism, environmentalists have recommended that it be halted. Fishermen in Oslob in the central resort island of Cebu have been feeding whale sharks with baby shrimp since the 1980s and now use this feeding to make the creatures rise to the surface of the water for the amusement of tourists. Expecting food, whale sharks might approach other boats and risk colliding with them. They also might be more vulnerable to poachers who will catch and kill them. Tourists are also barred from feeding or swimming with the whale sharks and the boatmen are required to use rowing boats and keep their distance to avoid hurting fish with their propellers or in collisions. The Philippines has banned the catching and killing of whale sharks and they have become popular tourist attractions in some towns.

Ocean waves power a prototype generator in Newport Beach
After testing their wave-powered turbine near the Wedge, the entrepreneurs behind Green Wave Energy Corp. want Newport Beach officials' permission to set up a more permanent trial. Waves at the Wedge are legendary for hurling bodysurfers into the air and sweeping tourists off their feet. But the walls of water that rise up at the end of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach also could serve a far more utilitarian purpose: producing electricity. A pair of Newport Beach entrepreneurs have been testing a wave-powered turbine near the famed bodysurfing spot for years and have now approached city officials for permission to set up a more permanent prototype, possibly off one of the city's two piers. But because of strict regulations and high costs, it will be a long time before their generators can be used for commercial purposes.

Crowds thrilled as whales feast on birds
A pod of four killer whales kept a crowd of wildlife watchers entranced for hours on a still afternoon in Shetland. An adult female orca led one immature whale and two even younger whales from the south west tip of Shetland at West Voe round to the east of the islands, swimming up to Mousa Sound where they were last seen in the afternoon as it got dark. More than 200 people were watching the whales by the afternoon, causing gridlock on the roads in the area as more people heard about their arrival.

Near Icy Waters, Marine Life Gets By Swimmingly
Almost two miles deep into the dark water off the coast of Antarctica, researchers say they've discovered about two dozen new species of marine animals lurking on the seafloor. Geyserlike hydrothermal vents are key to these creatures' survival. The vents release scalding-hot fluids with chemicals that support them. The Antarctic research team was able to take photos and video of the new species, including yeti crabs, starfish, barnacles, sea anemones - and potentially octopuses.

That's all for now - check back in two week's time for the next Marine News Roundup.

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