The Beacon: Andy Sharpless's blog

The Oceana Scanner: Sexy Invertebrate Edition

This week in ocean news,

...two new studies may upend previously accepted understanding of photosynthesis. A widespread type of cyanobacteria may not use as much carbon dioxide in photosynthesis as presumed, meaning the oceans are capable of less carbon dioxide absorption than scientists had thought...

...in other cyanobacteria news, scientists discovered that viruses may play a key role in prompting the phytoplankton to consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen...

...the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dropped buoys into the water off the coast of Massachusettes that will record sound for the next 30 months in an attempt to understand the effect of ocean noise on marine wildlife...


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The Oceana Scanner, Tenacious Critter Edition

This week in ocean news,

...a federal appeals court ruled that a Hong Kong company should not have been forced to give up the proceeds from 32 tons of shark fins seized by the U.S. Coast Guard in 2002 from the vessel King Diamond II. The 64,695 pounds of shark fins were valued at $618,956...

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When will sharks catch a break?

The brutal practice of shark finning got a boost this week as the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that a Hong Kong company should not have lost the proceeds from 64,695 pounds of shark fins seized by the Coast Guard in 2002.

Let me repeat that figure: 64,695 pounds of shark fins alone were on that boat. That's the weight of more than eleven Cadillac Escalades. Or eight female African elephants. Or 470 Oxford dictionaries.

Without knowing what species of sharks were on the boat, the King Diamond II, or the size of the sharks, it's hard to know how many sharks were killed. Consider this, however: A shark fin comprises just one to five percent of the animal's body weight. After the fins are sliced off, the sharks are thrown overboard to die.

Shark finning is illegal in the United States, but a loophole allowed the King Diamond II to carry shark fins it had collected from other fishing ships. A loophole big enough to drive a bevy of Escalades through? Time to close that one up.

[Image courtesy Sharkwater]


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The Oceana Scanner: Friendly Cetacean Edition

This week in ocean news,

...a federal advisory panel weighed a ban on salmon fishing in California after a dramatic decline in the fishery. "The situation now is unprecedented and off the charts," said the executive director of the Pacific Fishery Management Council...

...a University of Tasmania scientist discovered two new types of toxic algae in the Southern Ocean, which he believes must be calculated into fishing quotas to prevent further overfishing...


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A sea of stats

Perhaps because it was released the same week as Ben Halpern and colleagues' excellent human impacts map, the new U.N.


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The Oceana Scanner

This week in ocean news,

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The Oceana Scanner

This week in ocean news,

...scientists studying the sea floor near Antarctica discovered new species of fish, plankton and jellyfish. "We had some of the world's experts on Antarctic fish and they were completely, completely flabbergasted," said the leader of the expedition...

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A Pirate Ship No More

Here's one for the dustbin of history: This week, Australian authorities confirmed that one of the world's most infamous pirate fishing vessels was scrapped in a shipyard in India in December.

The Viarsa 1 was first spied illegally catching Patagonian toothfish (better known in restaurants as Chilean sea bass) in Australian waters in 2003. The resulting pursuit (scroll down for daily updates) by patrol vessels lasted 21 days and crossed 3900 nautical miles, inspiring Wall Street Journal reporter G. Bruce Knecht's acclaimed book, "Hooked: Pirates, Poaching and the Perfect Fish."

Many ships that participate in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Southern Ocean are owned by Spanish companies, including Viarsa 1, and fly under flags of convenience. The owner of Viarsa 1, Vidal Armadores S.A., still owns several pirate ships. Just last summer, the company's ship Magnus was apprehended while using illegal fishing gear in South Africa. The ship was sailing under the name Ina Maka with a North Korean flag.

It may go without saying that Vidal Armadores S.A. has received support in the form of subsidies from the Spanish government.

There is a way to clamp down on IUU fishing: stop allowing ships to fly flags of convenience. In addition, ships that have been caught pirating should not be allowed to obtain special fishing permits. Currently, the European Union is considering such a measure.


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The Oceana Scanner

...scientists found that up to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen washes off swimmers annually, and that the sunscreen contains chemicals that lead to bleaching corals. They estimated that up to 10 percent of corals were threatened by sunscreen-related bleaching...

..the Central Valley, California chinook salmon run, which had historically been one of the West Coast's strongest, fell to record lows this year, prompting concerns about collapse...

...researchers in North Carolina studied how to raise fish for consumption in tanks....

...a seafood consumer center in Oregon prepped for a program that would attach bar codes to salmon, allowing consumers to learn who caught the fish, where it was caught, and how it traveled to market...

...a wetlands restoration project near San Diego passed a milestone when its newly dredged basin was opened to the Pacific. It is hoped the area will become habitat for halibut, grunion, and bass, among other species...

...a study commissioned by the New York Times found mercury levels in city sushi far about recommended limits. A report released by Oceana found similar results in tuna sampled around the country...

...Ecuadorian authorities investigated the clubbing deaths of more than 50 sea lions on the Galapagos Islands...

...several cosmetics companies, including Unilever and L'Oreal, agreed to end the use of an emollient, squalene, that is obtained from the livers of deep sea sharks...

...and fifteen years after a Japanese six-year-old girl released a letter inside a balloon, a fisherman discovered it among his flatfish catch.


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This week in ocean news

....new protections that required longline tuna fishing fleets to use bird-scaring lines, or tori lines, went into effect.


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