Happy spring Friday!
Offshore drilling was on everyone's lips this week. And while we were disappointed with Obamaâ€™s decision to open new areas to drilling, he also cancelled four lease sales in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas that had been scheduled by President Bush and committed to conducting significant scientific research and monitoring before any new lease sales are held in those areas -- which is very good news for Arctic people and ecosystems.
In other ocean news,
â€¦U.S. Department of State banned imports of wild-caught Mexican shrimp if they are collected in ways that threaten endangered sea turtles; in other words, turtle excluder devices are now required in Mexicoâ€™s shrimp trawl nets.
â€¦NOAA administrator and marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco talked to Smithsonian Magazine about our changing view of the oceans, dead zones and a cohesive national ocean policy.
â€¦Anderson Cooper dove unprotected with great white sharks in South Africa with â€śshark manâ€ť Mike Rutzen. The video includes disturbing footage of a shark being finned and thrown back into the sea, still alive.
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:
â€¦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.
â€¦ OK, this oneâ€™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 thereâ€™s more oxygen), the scavengers pushed their limits for the pig pickinâ€™. Who knew swine could be such a boon for ocean science?
Happy Friday, ocean lovers! Lots of juicy ocean news to review this week.
...The big ocean story of this week was a positive one: the U.S. backed the bluefin tuna trade ban at the upcoming CITES meeting. The Washington Post published a great slideshow of bluefin photos and the New York Times ran an editorial urging the U.S. to convince the EU and others to follow their lead.
...Chile's fishing industry, which produces 4 percent of the world's annual catch of seafood, was hit hard by the recent earthquake. Meanwhile, the country's salmon farms, which are located hundreds of miles south of the quake's epicenter, suffered minimal damage, but have been affected by the slowdown in transportation.
...Turns out the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has a cousin in the Atlantic, hundreds of miles off the North American coast, roughly in the latitudes between Cuba and Virginia. Researchers from Woods Hole found more than 520,000 bits of trash per square mile in some areas.
Happy February Friday!
Things will be quiet around here next week as we head to Pennsylvania for Oceana's annual international all-staff meeting. Hopefully these links will tide you over until then:
This week in ocean news,
...Slow and steady wins the carbon footprint race. Danish shipping giant Maersk cut its cruising speed in half the last two years, which cut greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption as much as 30 percent. If global shipping were a country, it would be the sixth largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions.
...After being removed from the endangered list in November, the brown pelicanâ€™s recovery has hit a speed bump. Hundreds of pelicans have been found dead from a mysterious ailment that could be caused by ocean pollution or runoff.
...Miriam presented this monthâ€™s Carnival of the Blue in singable couplets. 'Nuff said.
...In case you didnâ€™t know, the Mariana Trench is really, really, really deep. And humans, by extension, are really small. Have a look at this scale illustration.
As youâ€™ve no doubt heard, Father Winter dealt the DC area a record-breaking series of blizzards this week, so itâ€™s been quiet on the blog. While we were breaking our snow shovels (at least I did) and fighting cabin fever, the oceans were making news. Here's your weekly digest:
â€¦A new study reports, unsurprisingly, that the world's first experimental marine protected area closed to fisheries has had immediate benefits for the endangered African penguin. The African penguinâ€™s population has decreased by 90 percent during the 20th century because their primary food source, sardines, have shifted due to overfishing and warming oceans.
â€¦ After last monthâ€™s freeze in Florida, more than 4,000 cold-stunned sea turtles were rescued. 200 to 300 injured sea turtles are still receiving treatment.
â€¦Both sides of the climate debate tried to use the East Coast's snowy winter as ammo. And while one frigid season does not a climate make, â€śthere is evidence that such events will probably become more frequent as global temperatures rise.â€ť
â€¦SeaNotes reports on the â€śimmortal jellyfishâ€ť, Turritopsis nutricula, which is able to perform transdifferentiation by reverting back from mature (medusa) to immature (polyp) life stages.
...Salt belongs in the oceans, not so much on roads. Discovery News points out that the 22 million tons of road salt used nationwide each year may help melt snow and ice, but it can also harm plants, aquatic life and groundwater. New techniques and chemicals are in development, but for now the salt assault continues.
Though we've been primarily reporting from Copenhagen this week, believe it or not, there were some other interesting ocean-related happenings. Check 'em out:
This week in ocean news,
...Fishery managers in Washington State predicted that 2010 will be a big comeback year for chinook salmon, with nearly half a million salmon (only 80,000 of which are wild fish) estimated to swim up the Columbia River next spring. It would be the largest run in the river since 1938.
...Using an underwater robot near Samoa, scientists have recorded the deepest underwater erupting volcano ever seen, at 4,000 feet deep. 80 percent of the earth's volcanic activity occurs in the sea (!) but this is the closest scientists have ever gotten to an eruption. Researchers will use the recording to study how deep-sea life is able to survive in such a harsh environment.
...In yet more evidence that cephalopods may be the coolest creatures in the sea, scientists have observed octopuses carrying coconut shells as temporary protective shelter, which is the first recorded example of tool use in invertebrates. The video at above link is very cool. Peek-a-boo!
...A 22-year-old Ohioan named Katie Spotz became the latest crazy person brave adventurer to attempt a solo row across the ocean. She will row 30 miles a day from Senegal to French Guiana, and could become the 110th rowboat to cross one of the oceans in the last nine years. Let's hope she packed plenty of snacks.
Happy Friday, everyone! Hopefully by now you've had a chance to fully digest your Thanksgiving leftovers, because I've got some ocean goodies for you to devour:
This week in ocean news,
...Wired Science pondered why blue whales' voices are growing deeper and deeper. Hypotheses revolve around increased noise pollution and the physics of sounds in increasingly warmer waters. Barry White Whale, anyone?
...For the first time, scientists were able to use DNA tools to trace the geographic origin of scalloped hammerhead shark fins in a Hong Kong fish market to their original location thousands of miles away. NPR ran a story about the DNA tool's potential to monitor endangered species trafficking several months ago.
...The Washington Post reported on the international efforts required to stop the overfishing of important marine species such as bluefin tuna and sharks. The article quotes Oceana's Courtney Sakai: "Shark fins are today's ivory tusks," Sakai said. "Like elephants, the world is realizing that sharks are more valuable alive than dead."
...Yesterday, after years of work by Oceana, federal regulations protecting 200,000 square miles of U.S. Arctic waters from industrial fishing went into effect.
...Conservation groups pled with the Obama Administration to protect the Okinawa dugong and other endangered wildlife -- including three species of sea turtle -- by cancelling plans to expand a U.S. military base near Henoko in Okinawa, Japan. There are only around 50 Okinawa dugong remaining in the world.
...Deep Sea News conducted an interesting thought experiment on why the largest animals in the sea, whales, aren't even larger.
This week in ocean news,
...the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas approved next year's Atlantic tuna quotas, disappointing conservationists who say that only a complete closure of the fishery will allow the great fish to avoid collapse.
...scientists recommended a lower pollock quota this year in the North Pacific fishery, the largest in the U.S., as the population still struggles to rebound. Spawning levels are at their lowest in 30 years.
...in Japan, scientists photographed a juvenile coelacanth for the first time. Long thought to be extinct, these ancient creatures were rediscovered in the early 20th century and little is known about them.
...the U.S. Senate's Commerce, Science and Transporation Committee passed the Shark Conservation Act of 2009, which would require all sharks be landed whole in the U.S. and eliminate loopholes that allowed the transfer of fins at sea in order to get around shark finning laws. The vote brought the Act one major step closer to becoming law.
This week in ocean news,
...Dot Earth reports that scientists have found yet more evidence of climate change -- an increase in record high temperatures and a reduction in record low nighttime temperatures across the United States.
...As Sea Notes celebrated, the brown pelican, now ubiquitous along the East and West coasts, has been been officially declared recovered and removed from the Endangered Species list decades after its populations were decimated by DDT.
...Wrap your brain around this: scientists have discovered that a species of deep-sea crab, the squat crab, survives on a diet of trees that have sunk to the ocean floor, supporting the theory that when a tree falls in the ocean... there is somebody there to snack on it.
...The fate of bluefin tuna again rested in the hands of The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which met this week in Brazil. Oceana continues to call for a complete moratorium on bluefin tuna fishing.
...A Japanese trawler tipped over when it tried to haul in a catch of several dozen giant Nomura's jellyfish. Yikes.