Oceana’s blog about the latest ocean news, policy and science.
In the Southern Hemisphere, humpback whales migrate between feeding grounds around Antarctica to breeding grounds in tropical waters, but an understanding of these stocks—divided into “Breeding Stocks A-G” for management purposes—has long been hazy because of a lack of data. But recently, researchers analyzed an unsuspecting feature of humpback whales to better understand their migration patterns: scars on their flukes.
- Scientists say that chemicals in soaps, lotions, sunscreen, and other fragrances have made it to Antarctic waters. The scientists also found traces of chemicals in clams, fish, and sea urchins, and say that some predators like seals could now possibly become exposed to the chemicals. The Guardian
Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Court rejected a lawsuit filed by Royal Dutch Shell roughly two years ago against 13 environmental and Alaska Native entities, including Oceana. Shell sued the groups in a “preemptive” move to keep them from being able to sue Shell over its plans to drill in the Arctic. The court ruled that this was a “novel” move by Shell—and one that wasn’t permitted under the United States Constitution.
- Recently, “exotic orcas”—orcas that are typically found off California’s continental shelf—have been converging in unusually high numbers in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Scientists suspect ocean temperatures and food availability are drawing the orcas closer to the coast, but they’re still investigating the cause. UPI
Sea urchins—related to sea stars, sea cucumbers, and more—may appear as alien-like creatures with their numberous spines and vibrant colors. But, don’t let their seemingly strange appearances fool you: These marine invertebrates are excellent at self-defense and play important roles in balancing ecosystems.
- Scientists are sounding the alarm on the Suez Canal expansion, saying it will invite invasive species from the Red Sea that could wreak economic and environmental damage in the Mediterranean Sea. Egypt is both widening the existing channel and adding an extra lane. The Guardian
Earlier this month, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) concluded its meeting in Genoa, Italy to discuss protections for various marine species, including bluefin tuna, sharks, and swordfish. At the same time, the IUCN World Parks Congress concluded its once-a-decade meeting with new protections for marine habitat and other developments for the ocean.
If you’re an avid scuba diver, you’re probably all too familiar with decompression sickness (DCS)—more commonly known as the bends—a disease that can strike astronauts, divers, and others, and arises after inadequately recompressing after changes in pressure gradients. In the marine environment, scientists long thought that many diving vertebrates—like sea turtles and marine mammals—were immune to DCS through various adaptations.
Editor’s Note: This is the last ocean roundup blog to be published before the Thanksgiving holiday, but be sure to check back on Monday, December 1 for more updates. Happy Thanksgiving!
- New 3D mapping around Antarctica found that sea ice surrounding Antarctica is thicker than thought. The scientists say it’s an important breakthrough to understanding how sea ice thickness and extent is changing. The Guardian
Australia is famous for its teeming, colorful biodiversity like sea turtles, giant clams, and coral, but it’s the Great Barrier Reef that often receives the most attention for its wildlife. Of course, other areas around Australia boast an incredible amount of unique wildlife, like the Ningaloo Marine Park along Australia’s West Coast, for example, that hosts whale sharks each March and April as they come to feed.