Ocean Roundup: Leatherback Coloration May Play Important Role, UK Sees New Voluntary Seafood Labeling Scheme, and More

Posted Wed, Sep 17, 2014 by Brianna Elliott to japan whaling, leatherback sea turtles, ocean acidification, UK Sustainable Seafood Coalition, vaquita

Leatherback pink spots may help with their migration

A leatherback sea turtle. Leatherback “pink spots” may play an important physiological role. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region / Flickr Creative Commons)

- Researchers have discovered that the “pink spot” on leatherback sea turtles’ heads may actually play a useful physiological role. It may detect sunlight patterns, clueing leatherbacks into changes in seasonal patterns to inform their migrational and foraging habits. Smithsonian

Continue reading...

Ocean Roundup: Vaquita Porpoise Needs Swift Protection, Atlantic Ocean behind Global Warming Slow Down, and More

Posted Fri, Aug 22, 2014 by Brianna Elliott to bottom trawling, coral reef regrowth, endangered species act, overfishing, vaquita

The vaquita will go extinct if North America doesn't cooperate to save it

A vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus), the most endangered marine mammal. (Photo: "Vaquita5 Olson NOAA" by Paula Olson, NOAA, Wikimedia Commons) 

- New research shows that the Atlantic and Southern Oceans may just be behind the slowdown of sea surface temperatures increases after years of rapid warming. Scientists say that heat-storing greenhouse gases have sunk to the depths of these oceans, and not the Pacific as previously assumed. The Guardian

Continue reading...

Baiji, Vaquitas, Extinction and You

Posted Thu, Oct 25, 2012 by Peter Brannen to baiji, extinction, gillnets, vaquita, yangtze river dolphin

The now-extinct baiji ©Wikimedia Commons

In this thought-provoking piece on the National Geographic's Ocean Views blog, Mediterranean Science Commission director general Frederic Briand discusses the precarious and uncertain fate of ocean creatures staring down extinction. About sharks and rays he writes:

These are not target species in Mediterranean fisheries but increasingly threatened, as unreported bycatch, by highly intensive fishing and bottom trawl. The status of many of them is unclear, even for species as conspicuous as the sawfish Pristis pectinata (last seen in 1902), the mako shark Isurus oxyrinchus, or the sandtiger sharks Carcharias taurus and Odontaspis ferox, once abundant and now presumed locally extinct.

But it is the baiji, or Yangtze River dolphin, the first marine mammal to go extinct in modern times, that captures the imagination--the passenger pigeon or dodo for our day.

Nearly blind, the baiji patrolled the turbid waters of the Yangtze River for millenia but has not been seen in almost a decade. It was declared extinct earlier this year by the Chinese government. The dolphin likely succumbed to decades of development, pollution, entanglements in fishing gear, ship strikes and an increasingly chaotic acoustic environment in the Yangtze that proved lethal to a species almost entirely dependent on sound to communicate, find food and find mates.

Now the vaquita, a porpoise in the Sea of Cortez (literally "little cow") takes up the unenviable mantle of most endangered cetacean in the world. The largest threat faced by the vaquita are gillnets.

Continue reading...