Today’s expedition update, which comes to you from scientist-in-charge Dr. Michael Hirshfield, contains some good news about the Alabama Alps:
Sunday, September 12
After making several transects of the Alabama Alps today and comparing Oceana’s observations with those from previous scientific investigations, we believe to have a fairly good snapshot of the area.
Based on what we saw from the ROV footage and CTD scans, there are no obvious signs that this area was harmed by the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Here’s Oceana conducting a CTD scan:
The subject of today’s FOTD is the Christmas tree worm, or spirobranchus giganteus for those of you who prefer the scientific name.
Christmas tree worms are embedded in the surface of corals by the calcareous, shell-like tubes in which they live. They have two beautiful, feathery spirals (which look like little Christmas trees) that extend into the water column and are used for filter-feeding and breathing. At the slightest disturbance, the Christmas tree worm retracts into its tube in the coral for safety.
My favorite thing about these worms is their variety of vibrant colors and patterns- check it out!
See you tomorrow for another random FOTD! And if you’re like me and you just can’t wait for more, go to Oceana.org/Explore.
It’s hard to believe it has been almost a month since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank, and yet this weekend was the first sign of any kind of progress to contain the disaster bleeding into the Gulf.
Using a mile-long “insertion tube” to siphon the oil to a tanker ship, BP captured some of the oil gushing from the Gulf of Mexico seabed -- though the company still hasn't made any progress toward actually stopping the flow.
Scientists from NOAA are worried that the still-gushing oil spill will enter the powerful Loop Current, if it hasn’t already, which would take it through the biodiverse barrier reef that makes up the Florida Keys and up the East Coast.
The tanker, badly damaged and in danger of breaking apart, has already spilled 2 metric tons of heavy oil into the shoals off Queensland's coast in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. In 2007, the same shipping company, COSCO, was linked to the major spill in the San Francisco Bay.
This is Australia’s third recent major disaster, following the massive oil spill off Queensland and the Timor Sea oil platform blowout. Oil is extremely toxic to marine life and the damage to habitat can persist for years, even decades after a spill.
In the wake of the Obama administration’s recent decision to open up a huge swath of U.S. waters to offshore drilling, this should serve as a warning against adding more oil to our oceans.
Anna Gowan is a policy fellow at Oceana.
Happy Friday, everyone.
It's been a rough few weeks for the oceans at CITES, but now it's time to pick up the pieces. If CITES taught us anything, it's that the work of the ocean conservation community is more important than ever.
This week in ocean news,
....Rick at Malaria, Bed bugs, Sea Lice and Sunsets discussed one of the more shady aspects of CITES: the secret ballots, which were invoked for votes on bluefin tuna, sharks, polar bears, and deep water corals.
…The Washington Post reported that Maryland is cracking down on watermen who catch oysters in protected sanctuaries or with banned equipment. Once a principal source of oysters, the Chesapeake now provides less than 5 percent of the annual U.S. harvest.
…For the first time, scientists were able to use videos to observe octupuses’ behavioral responses. The result? The octupuses had no consistent reaction to one film -- in other words, they had no “personality.” Curiously, other cephalopods display consistent personalities for most of their lives.
…The New York Times wondered if the 700,000 saltwater home aquariums in the United States and the associated trade in reef invertebrates are threatening real reef ecosystems.
This is the ninth in a series of dispatches from the CITES meeting in Doha, Qatar.
As Oceana marine scientist Elizabeth Griffin put it: “This meeting was a flop.”
CITES has been a complete failure for the oceans. The one success -- the listing of the porbeagle shark under Appendix II -- was overturned yesterday in the plenary session.
“It appears that money can buy you anything, just ask Japan,” said Dave Allison, senior campaign director. “Under the crushing weight of the vast sums of money gained by unmanaged trade and exploitation of endangered marine species by Japan, China, other major trading countries and the fishing industry, the very foundation of CITES is threatened with collapse.”
Maybe next time -- if these species are still around to be protected.
The failure of CITES means that Oceana’s work – and your support and activism – is more important than ever. You can start by supporting our campaign work to protect these creatures.
Here's Oceana's Gaia Angelini on the conclusion of CITES:
This is the first in a series of posts from CITES. Read the rest of the dispatches here.
CITES is now in session in Doha, Qatar. Our team will be there for the next 10 days pushing for further trade restrictions on corals, sharks and the Atlantic bluefin tuna. They sent us this video dispatch of campaign director Dave Allison from the airport en route. Stay tuned for more!
As we speak, an Oceana team is headed to the CITES conference in Doha, Qatar, which begins tomorrow. We will be bringing you updates from the conference as we push for trade restrictions for bluefin tuna, corals and sharks.
CITES wasn't the only thing on the ocean radar this week, though. Check out the rest of this week's stories:
…Scientists have found that oxygen-starved pockets of the ocean, known as dead zones, can contribute to climate change. The increased amount of nitrous oxide produced in low-oxygen waters can elevate concentrations in the atmosphere, exacerbating the impacts of global warming and contributing to holes in the ozone layer.
… OK, this one’s a little gross -- but also really cool. Forensic researchers recently dropped several dead pigs into an ocean dead zone off Vancouver Island to gain insight into how fast cadavers in an ocean can disappear thanks to scavengers. Marine researchers took advantage of the study to do their own by using an underwater camera to see what kinds of animals fed on the disintegrating dead pigs -- and how long they could tolerate low-oxygen zones. While crabs, shrimp and starfish normally stay at shallower depths (where there’s more oxygen), the scavengers pushed their limits for the pig pickin’. Who knew swine could be such a boon for ocean science?
I've been bringing you updates from our folks in Copenhagen this week. Today I've got a brief, but related, break in the action for you. And it's about coral sex.
In this month's issue of Smithsonian Magazine, Megan Gambino follows renowned coral reef biologist Nancy Knowlton to Panama on her annual pilgrimage to watch tropical corals spawn.
Most corals are hermaphroditic "broadcast spawners," which means they release sacs containing both eggs and sperm, synchronizing their spawning with neighboring coral colonies. How do they know it's time to get busy? Scientists think the corals use three cues: the full moon, sunset, which they sense through photoreceptors, and a chemical that allows them to "smell" each other spawning. Pretty phenomenal, huh?