The Beacon

Blog Tags: Coral Reefs

Ocean Roundup: Filefish Use Chemical Scent to Camouflage, Bangladesh Oil Spill Threatening Endangered Dolphins, and More

The orange-spotted filefish uses chemical scents for camouflage

An orange-spotted filefish (Oxymonacanthus longirostris). These fish both look and smell like coral reef habitat to hide from predators. (Photo: jaredzimmerman [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

- Nicaragua's Pearl Cays region has seen a large increase in hawksbill sea turtle nests since 2000, from about 154 nests in 2000 to 468 in 2014. Poaching has also significantly decreased in the area by about 80 percent. ScienceDaily


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Coral Reefs Turning Silent from Overfishing, Other Human Impacts

Coral reefs are becoming silent from human activity

A coral community off of Chile. (Photo: Oceana / Eduardo Sorensen)

Did you know that coral reefs are home to about one fourth of all marine life? As the most diverse of the marine ecosystems, they’re aptly nicknamed “rainforests of the sea,” says the Smithsonian. With all of the spawning, feeding, and other activity occurring on coral reefs, it’s no surprise that coral reefs are actually pretty noisy environments.


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During Corals Week, a Look at the Value of Coral Reef Ecosystems (Photos)

Corals week is celebrated to raise awareness for corals

Coral in the Gulf of Mexico, pictured during a 2010 Gulf of Mexico expedition. (Photo: Oceana / Eduardo Sorensen)

You’ve probably encountered coral reefs in some form—whether that’s diving with them in tropical waters or seeing them depicted in movies, like Finding Nemo. As you know, coral reefs are absolutely breathtaking with their many vibrant colors and unique shapes. Not only are they beautiful, but coral reefs are said to be the most diverse marine ecosystem—home to about one-fourth of marine wildlife!


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Ocean Roundup: Shark-Eating Dinosaur Fossils Discovered, Germany Paving Way for Cheaper Wind Energy, and More

Germany is a leading nation for wind energy

Wind turbines off England. Germany is setting such a demand for wind power that the price of turbines is starting to decrease. (Photo: Vattenfall / Flickr Creative Commons)

- According to a study published last week, scientists have found fossil evidence of the first semi-aquatic dinosaur. Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, known to prey on sharks, is the largest predatory dinosaur known to roam Earth— even bigger than T. rex specimens. The Washington Post


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Ocean Roundup: Healthy Corals Mean More Sharks, Extinct Dolphin Found in Peruvian Desert, and More

Sharks depend on healthy coral reefs

Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi) over a reef. A new study found that reef health is important to shark abundance. (Photo: Oceana / Carlos Suárez)

- A new study shows that late-summer water temperatures near the Florida Keys are significantly warmer than they were a century ago. This temperature increase is causing slower coral growth, as well as increasing coral reef bleaching events. USGS News


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How Does Your Sunscreen Impact Marine Life?

Chemicals in sunscreen can cause coral reef bleaching

Sunscreen can cause coral reef bleaching. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters / Flickr Creative Commons)

Here in the U.S., many tourists and beachgoers just wrapped up trips to the beach for the season. That also means that millions of people lathered themselves in sunscreen to protect themselves from harmful sun rays — a precautionary measure that you’re taught to do at a young age. But while this lotion protects humans, a growing body of research shows that it has an impact on oceans.


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Ocean News: BP Wants Money Back for Overpayments, Obama Has a Big Opportunity to Protect Whales, and More

A group of long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas)

A group of long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas). (Photo: Oceana / Carlos Suárez)

- Scientists are predicting a slighter larger than average “dead zone” for the Chesapeake Bay this summer, meaning that nearly 2 cubic miles of the Bay will lack the needed dissolved oxygen for fish and crabs. The Gulf of Mexico, on the other hand, is predicted to have average-sized dead zone, caused by excessive nutrient pollution from wastewater and agriculture. The Baltimore Sun


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Photos: Celebrating the Most Beautiful Coral Reefs for World Ocean’s Day

Yellow-brown wrasse (Thalassoma lutescens) over a reef community off Chile

Yellow-brown wrasse (Thalassoma lutescens) over a reef community off Chile. (Photo: Oceana / Eduardo Sorensen)

This Sunday marks World Oceans Day, a day officially recognized by the United Nations to honor everything our oceans have to offer. We fight for the oceans every day at Oceana, but today, we’re celebrating one of the most beautiful—and threatened— organisms living under our seas: coral reefs. These precious ecosystems provide habitat for thousands of species and protect our shores from storms and sea level rise, but unfortunately, coral reefs are under threat from ocean acidification, deep-sea trawling, and pollution.


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Protecting Habitat in the Dry Tortugas a Boon to Fishermen

Two and a half hours west of Key West by boat is lonely Fort Jefferson, a Civil War-era fort marooned in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and encrusted in coral reefs. Here the color of the water ranges from cerulean to toothpaste-aquamarine as magnificent frigatebirds, masked boobies, and sooty terns haunt the coral-white beaches of this unfinished garrison, a former prison for union army deserters.

One of seven islands that make up the Dry Tortugas (so named for their lack of water and wealth of turtles at the time of Ponce de Leon’s discovery in 1513) Fort Jefferson is a monument to the ingenuity and industry of engineers and masons who slogged bricks from as far as Brewer, Maine, to the middle of the ocean to construct a fort that has survived in the crosshairs of two centuries of hurricanes. Now, the park is also a monument to the scientific principles of ecosystem management, proof that protecting habitat benefits all—environmentalists and fishermen alike.

In 2001, over the objections of local fishermen, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced that it would establish a 151-square nautical mile no-take zone in the area—the Tortugas Ecological Reserve. It was assumed that closing the well-known grouper and snapper spawning grounds of the Dry Tortugas to fishing would hurt the industry’s bottom line.

But that didn’t happen. The fish got bigger. And there were more of them.


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Threatened Corals Inch Closer to Protection

Coral reef at Palmyra Atoll. Photo courtesy Jim Maragos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

No, it’s not the annual full moon spawning event, but corals in the Pacific and Caribbean have something just as exciting to wave their tentacles at: possible protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

After many years facing changing ocean temperatures, acidification, and increased disease, corals have significantly declined in overall health and abundance. Scientists and conservationists have long studied and understood the plight of corals, but recently their efforts have prompted renewed action.

Three years after scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration received petitions from the Center for Biological Diversity to list 83 species of coral under the protection of the ESA, NOAA has responded with a proposal to protect 66 coral species through the ESA.

Protecting coral reefs which provide homes to countless colorful reef fish, ambling sea turtles, sharks, and an endless host of other vital marine creatures, is paramount to our own enjoyment and success as fellow inhabitants of this finite blue planet. Corals are estimated to provide the U.S. economy with an annual net benefit of over one billion dollars from tourism, recreation, and commercial and recreational fisheries. They provide shore breaks from storms, new pharmaceuticals to treat diseases, and act as biological reserves due to the unparalleled level of genetic diversity contained within the ecosystems they support.


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