LB7C. Stay Current—One Global Ocean

2024-03-07. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef hit once more by mass coral bleaching. [] By Helen Regan, CNN. Excerpt: Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is suffering another mass bleaching event, the reef’s managers confirmed Friday, the result of soaring ocean temperatures caused by the global climate crisis and amplified by El Niño. This is the seventh mass bleaching event to hit the vast, ecologically important but fragile site and the fifth in only eight years….

2024-02-07. After mass coral die-off, Florida scientists rethink plan to save ailing reefs. [] By WARREN CORNWALL, Science. Excerpt: Four years ago, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) unveiled a $100 million coral moonshot. Over 2 decades, nearly half a million hand-reared coral colonies would be planted on seven ailing reefs in southern Florida, in a bid to revive them. …Today, the project looks as ailing as the coral it was meant to save. A record-breaking underwater heat wave that swept the Caribbean and southern Florida in 2023 killed most of the transplanted colonies….

2024-01-29. Shallow Seawater Chemistry May Make Reefs More Resistant to Ocean Acidification. [] By Sarah Stanley, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: …As carbon emissions increase, the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide. This causes a chain of chemical reactions that results in the formation of carbonic acid and overall ocean acidification. …Now, research from Palacio-Castro et al. sheds new light…. The researchers analyzed the carbonate chemistry of seawater collected at 38 different locations within the Florida Coral Reef system multiple times per year from 2010 to 2021. They found that seawater acidity increased …, specifically in reefs located somewhat deeper and farther from shore. …shallower inshore reefs, however, …often coexist with seagrass beds, and the new findings align with prior research suggesting that the effects of seagrass on carbonate chemistry could help protect reefs from acidification…. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7.

2024-01-15. Can foreign coral save a dying reef? Radical idea sparks debate. [] By Heidi Ledford, Nature. Excerpt: Corals in the Caribbean have been dying off for decades — and a devastating heatwave there last summer made matters worse. Researchers are now considering something that was once unthinkable: is it time to give up on native species, and transplant hardier corals from other oceans to struggling Caribbean reefs? It is a radical proposal that could leave the region forever changed. But it is important to explore the possibility now, because the region’s reefs are running out of time, said coral geneticist Mikhail Matz in a presentation at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology annual meeting in Seattle, Washington, on 4 January. …In the oceans of the Indo-Pacific region, many corals are continuing to thrive. Several coral species there are considered ‘super-recruiters’ because of how readily their larvae attach to and colonize reefs. Dominant coral species in the Caribbean, by contrast, are poor recruiters, hindering their ability to recovery from calamity1. …For years, conservation groups have focused on restoring barren reefs by planting thousands of young, native corals in the hope that they would flourish. For the most part, they have not, says Carlos Prada, a coral evolutionary biologist at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston….

2023-11-06. Algal outbreaks around the world are crowding out corals. [] By ELIZABETH PENNISI, Science. Excerpt: Edmunds and colleagues report today in Current Biology that these algae are spreading rapidly in the Caribbean Sea and elsewhere, killing existing corals and crowding out new ones. The authors don’t have a solid explanation for the algae expansion, although warming waters or another aspect of climate change may be a driver. But they and others worry this new menace will hasten the demise of ecosystems already decimated in many places by multiple bleaching events, many also linked to climate change. …These latest coral killers are a group of more than 140 hard to distinguish red algal species belonging to the Peyssonneliaceae family. Some scientists mistake them for coralline algae, which also form crusts on reefs but help promote growth of the living structures. Whereas coralline algae form thin, hard crusts that are pink or whitish, peyssonnelid algae make thicker, brown or dark red crusts that are often a little squishy above a hard base. Fish love to eat the former but tend to avoid the red algae, Edmunds says, allowing them to grow unchecked until they smother corals to death. Peyssonneliaceae also keep damaged coral from regenerating by preventing drifting coral larvae from settling and maturing into sedentary adult polyps….

2023-10-19. Scientists discover deepest known evidence of coral reef bleaching. [] By Alan Williams, University of Plymouth. Excerpt: Scientists have discovered the deepest known evidence of coral reef bleaching, more than 90 metres below the surface of the Indian Ocean. The damage – attributed to a 30% rise in sea temperatures caused by the Indian Ocean dipole – harmed up to 80% of the reefs in certain parts of the seabed, at depths previously thought to be resilient to ocean warming. …The findings, highlighted in a study published in Nature Communications, were discovered by researchers from the University of Plymouth….

2023-10-19. The collapse of eastern Bering Sea snow crab. [] By CODY S. SZUWALSKI et al, Science. Editor’s summary: Marine heatwaves, a component of our impact on the Earth’s climate, can bring both expected and unexpected environmental change. Between 2018 and 2021, after a period of historically high crab abundance and a series of marine heatwaves, the population of snow crab in the Bering Sea declined by 10 billion. Szuwalksi et al. used survey data to model the potential drivers of the decline in this ecologically and commercially important species. They found that the temperature of the water was not above the species’ thermal limits, but it did increase their caloric needs considerably (see the Perspective by Kruse). This increase, in conjunction with a restriction in range, led to an unexpected mass starvation event. —Sacha Vignieri. See also Are crabs in hot water? by GORDON H. KRUSE.

2023-09-07. Announcing $24.3M Investment Advancing Marine Carbon Dioxide Removal Research. [] By NOAA. Excerpt: The NOAA Ocean Acidification Program on behalf of the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP) announces $24.3M of funding aimed at bringing together academic researchers, federal scientists and industry to advance research in marine carbon dioxide removal. Funding supports research that expands understanding of various aspects of marine carbon dioxide removal approaches, risks and co-benefits including ocean acidification mitigation, and science needed to build regulatory frameworks for testing and scaling of marine carbon dioxide removal….

2023-08-23. Like hard-working farmers, corals cultivate and eat their resident algae. [] By MOLLY RAINS, Science. Excerpt: …How do vibrant corals flourish in often-barren ocean landscapes? Known as the Darwin Paradox, this mystery has continued to puzzle generations of oceanographers. A new study published today in Nature offers a solution. According to its authors, corals make up for nutrient scarcity by harvesting and feeding on their resident algae, like hungry farmers….

2023-07-13. Marine Protection Does Not Affect Fish Catches in Mexico. [] By Katherine Kornei, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Catches of species such as tuna and swordfish did not decrease after a marine protected area the size of New York State was established off the coast of Mexico in 2017. Marine protected areas are the oceanic versions of national parks: In the most stringently protected regions, fishing and other extractive activities are banned. Some critics in the fishing industry have long argued that such restrictions negatively affect fishers by reducing catches and forcing mariners to travel longer distances to fish. However, researchers have now analyzed maritime data to show that’s not true, at least for North America’s largest marine protected area. Their results were published in Science Advances….

2023-06-11. Visitors warned away from Texas beach after thousands of dead fish wash up. [] By AP and The Guardian Staff. Excerpt: Tens of thousands of dead fish washed up on the Gulf coast of Texas over the weekend, covering the shoreline with rotting carcasses and leading local officials to warn visitors to keep away. …Low levels of dissolved oxygen in the water made it difficult for the fish to breathe, Texas parks and wildlife department officials said. The phenomenon – known as a “fish kill” – is common as temperatures rise in the summer, the state department said. While no one has connected this specific incident to climate change, researchers have said such kills may become more prevalent as temperatures warm and oxygen levels in lakes across the United States and Europe drop…. See also Tens of Thousands of Dead Fish Wash Ashore on Gulf Coast in Texas.[] By Chris Cameron, The New York Times.

2023-06-01. Coral reefs are home to the greatest microbial diversity on Earth. [] By Elizabeth Pennisi, Science. Excerpt: Findings may inform understanding of reefs’ resilience to environmental changes. …Coral reefs, bastions of marine biodiversity because of the abundant fish, invertebrates, and algae they support, are also home to Earth’s greatest microbial diversity, according to a new estimate. …an international team of researchers …sequenced DNA from more than 5000 samples of three coral species, two fish species, and plankton. The team identified a half-billion kinds of microbes, mostly bacteria. …the team reports today in Nature Communications. …When the researchers extrapolated those findings to estimate the total reef microbial diversity across the Pacific, it was equivalent to Earth’s total, previously estimated microbial diversity. …they expect this high microbial diversity can help the reefs be more resilient in the face of heat waves, pollution, turbidity, and other stressors, acting as ecological insurance. Some bacteria on coral provide benefits—such as supplying vitamin B to their hosts—and their diversity suggests that at least some helpful microbes are likely to survive a particular environmental insult and can continue to support the coral….

2023-05-17. Cleaning up ocean ‘garbage patches’ could destroy delicate ecosystems. [] By Ashley Balzer Vigil, Science. Excerpt: The oceans are home to five major garbage patches …where strong currents swirl together, ferrying trash of all sizes. …The largest of these marine debris fields is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Spanning 1.6 million square kilometers …it was first observed in 1997 by Charles Moore, an oceanographer… …a crew sailed through the patch for 80 days, collecting samples [that] revealed high concentrations of three species that hover at the ocean’s surface. …blue button jellies…, by-the-wind sailors …, and violet snails…. Blue button jellies and by-the-wind sailors feed on plankton and serve as food for violet snails. …ocean currents shepherd all of these floating objects—both life and trash—in the same way, the team reports this month in PLOS Biology. …presence of these creatures implies a complex ecosystem in which they serve as food for predators like sea turtles and seabirds. “The food web they’re a part of affects the whole ocean.” That could complicate efforts to clean up these patches. Some environmental organizations aim to remove the waste by skimming the surface with nets. But just as similar fishing methods lead to bycatch–creatures like dolphins caught accidentally while targeting commercial species such as shrimp–such cleanup efforts would likely scoop up surface-dwellers along with the debris…. …a modeling study published last month in Aquatic Biology found such efforts could potentially threaten the survival of species that have flourished for millions of years….

2023-05-08. Brazil’s invasion of voracious lionfish has reached a worrisome phase. [] By Herton Escobar, Science. Excerpt: Lionfish are native to the Indian and Pacific oceans, but were introduced to the Atlantic decades ago. First spotted off Florida in the 1980s, they later spread across the Caribbean, reshuffling coral reefs and other ecosystems by feasting on fish unfamiliar with the voracious predator. Ocean currents that flow north—including the South Equatorial Current—and the freshwater plume created by the Amazon River slowed the fish’s spread, but scientists predicted it was just a matter of time before it moved into Brazilian waters. Still, they’ve been alarmed by just how quickly the invasion has progressed (see map, …). As of March, lionfish have been spotted along about half of Brazil’s coastline, from the northern state of Amapá to Pernambuco, just south of the nation’s eastern tip Now, researchers say the invasion is entering a worrying new phase. The fish have reached areas where the Brazil current flows south, speeding the spread of drifting larvae and putting vast new swaths of ecologically rich waters at risk. “I’ll be very surprised if they don’t reach [Brazil’s] southern states by the end of this year,” says Luiz Rocha, a Brazilian ichthyologist at the California Academy of Sciences….

2023-04-27. What the geological past can tell us about the future of the ocean’s twilight zone. [] By Katherine A. CrichtonJamie D. WilsonAndy RidgwellFlavia Boscolo-GalazzoEleanor H. JohnBridget S. Wade & Paul N. Pearson, Nature Communications. Abstract: Paleontological reconstructions of plankton community structure during warm periods of the Cenozoic (last 66 million years) reveal that deep-dwelling ‘twilight zone’ (200–1000 m) plankton were less abundant and diverse, and lived much closer to the surface, than in colder, more recent climates. We suggest that this is a consequence of temperature’s role in controlling the rate that sinking organic matter is broken down and metabolized by bacteria, a process that occurs faster at warmer temperatures. In a warmer ocean, a smaller fraction of organic matter reaches the ocean interior, affecting food supply and dissolved oxygen availability at depth. Using an Earth system model that has been evaluated against paleo observations, we illustrate how anthropogenic warming may impact future carbon cycling and twilight zone ecology. Our findings suggest that significant changes are already underway, and without strong emissions mitigation, widespread ecological disruption in the twilight zone is likely by 2100, with effects spanning millennia thereafter….

2023-04-18. Scientists discover pristine deep-sea Galápagos reef ‘teeming with life’. [] By Dan Collyns, The Guardian. Excerpt: Scientists operating a submersible have discovered deep-sea coral reefs in pristine condition in a previously unexplored part of the Galápagos marine reserve. Diving to depths of 600 metres (1,970ft), to the summit of a previously unmapped seamount in the central part of the archipelago, the scientists witnessed a breathtaking mix of deep marine life. This has raised hopes that healthy reefs can still thrive at a time when coral is in crisis due to record sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification. It also showed the effectiveness of conservation actions and effective management, they said. …[Ecuador] is collaborating with its northern neighbours Panama, Costa Rica and Colombia on a regional marine corridor initiative, which aims to protect and responsibly manage the ocean….

2023-03-07. Historic treaty could open the way to protecting 30% of the oceans. [] By Erik Stokstad, Science. Excerpt: After 2 weeks of intense negotiations, countries agreed this week on a historic treaty to protect biodiversity in international waters. The agreement, announced on 4 March at the United Nations, sets up a legal process for establishing marine protected areas (MPAs), a key tool for protecting at least 30% of the ocean, which an intergovernmental convention recently set as a target for 2030. The treaty also gives poorer countries a stake in conservation by strengthening their research capacity and creating a framework for sharing financial rewards from the DNA of marine organisms. …The treaty, which will enter into force once 60 nations have ratified it, would require a three-quarters vote of member countries to establish an MPA….. [See also article by Catrin Einhorn, The New York Times, Nations Agree on Language for Historic Treaty to Protect Ocean Life.]

2023-02-09. Oceans Away. [] By Erik Stokstad, Science. Excerpt: Hundreds of meter-long fish [salmon] swam vigorously in each house-size tank, while an overhead crane delivered a 1-ton sack of feed into an automated dispenser. Rumbling pumps and tanks filled with sand, separated from the fish tanks by a soundproof wall, treated wastewater that had been stripped of fish poop. Nitrogen and phosphorus were diverted to the vast greenhouse while cleansed water recirculated to the salmon. “Sometimes the water is so clean it looks like the fish are swimming in air,” says Summerfelt, an engineer who is head of R&D at the company, called Superior Fresh. …investors have pumped money into what many see as the next big thing in farmed fish. Over the past decade, global sales of pink-fleshed farmed salmon have nearly doubled to $12 billion, and demand is expected to keep growing. Traditionally, that bounty has been raised in large floating cages, called net pens, located in coastal waters. But environmental concerns and limited room for expansion have prompted companies to explore moving operations ashore….

2023-02-03. They Outlasted the Dinosaurs. Can They Survive Us?. [] By Andrew S. Lewis, The New York Times. Excerpt: The American caviar rush began on the lower Delaware estuary, a landscape today crowded with chemical plants, container ports and the sprawl of Philadelphia. But this was the 1870s, when nature edged up to the city’s limits, when probably nowhere else in the country was home to more Atlantic sturgeon: During the spring spawn, an estimated 360,000 adults thronged the reach that marked the brackish threshold between bay and river. …During the fishery’s peak, in 1888, 16,500 Atlantic sturgeon — they can live 60 years and grow to 14 feet and 800 pounds — were “harvested,” or killed. Most were female, and the millions of eggs that each could produce during a spawn never made it into the water within which they were meant to hatch. …For an estimated 10 to 15 million years, Atlantic sturgeon, or Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus, have spawned in as many as 38 rivers throughout eastern North America. An anadromous fish, it is born in fresh water, spends its adulthood in salt water and returns to its natal rivers to spawn. …today breeding populations remain in only 22 of its 38 natal rivers. In 2012, the species became protected under the Endangered Species Act. At the time, researchers estimated that the Delaware population consisted of 300 or fewer spawning adults per year. While the Delaware Atlantic sturgeon is just one branch of the species, its decline epitomizes the global biodiversity crisis….

2023-02-02. Swallowed fishing gear and plastic most likely cause of Hawaii whale’s death. [] By Associated Press. Excerpt: A sperm whale that washed ashore in Hawaii over the weekend probably died in part because it ate large volumes of fishing traps, fishing nets, plastic bags and other marine debris, scientists said on Thursday, highlighting the threat to wildlife from the millions of tons of plastic that ends up in oceans every year….

2022-11-25. Record heat over Great Barrier Reef raises fears of second summer of coral bleaching. [] By Graham Readfearn, The Guardian. Excerpt: Ocean temperatures over parts of the Great Barrier Reef have reached record levels this month, sparking fears of a second summer in a row of mass coral bleaching. Data from the US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) shows sea surface temperatures over the northern parts of the reef have been the highest for any November on a record going back to 1985. With the peak period for accumulated heat over the reef not expected until February, cooler weather conditions and cyclone activity before then could stave off a mass bleaching event. …Last summer’s mass bleaching, declared by the Great BarrierReef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), was the first outbreak during a La Niña – a climate pattern that historically has kept ocean temperatures cool enough to avoid bleaching…. See also Nov 21 New York Times article by Christopher Flavelle and Catrin Einhorn: Climate Change Is Threatening Hawaii’s Coral Reefs. So They Called the Insurance Guy.

2022-10-16. Alaska cancels snow crab season over population decline. [] By Maya Yang, The Guardian. Excerpt: …The causes of the population collapse are being researched but likely include increased predation and stresses from warmer water, which the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes may have prompted the crabs to shift away from coasts. The fall Bristol Bay red king crab harvest will not happen. The winter harvest of smaller snow crab has also been cancelled for the first time. “In the Bering Sea, Alaska pollock, snow crab, and Pacific halibut have generally shifted away from the coast since the early 1980s … They have also moved northward by an average of 19 miles,” the federal agency said. …“These are truly unprecedented and troubling times for Alaska’s iconic crab fisheries and for the hard-working fishermen and communities that depend on them,” said Jamie Goen, executive director of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, a trade association. See also New York Times article.… For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7.

2022-10-12. ‘Astounding’ amount of fishing gear lost in ocean each year. [] By Erik Stokstad, Science Magazine. Excerpt: It’s known as “ghost gear.” Abandoned traps, aimlessly drifting nets, and other lost fishing equipment can haunt the ocean for years, ensnarling and killing whales, turtles, and other marine creatures. The magnitude of the problem has been hard to quantify, but a new study provides the first solid global estimate of the amount of equipment lost each year: enough nets to cover Scotland, for example, and fishing line that could wrap around the equator 400 times. …The surveys revealed fishing vessels lose about 2% of their gear each year, on average, Richardson and her colleagues report today in Science Advances. To figure out the amount of equipment that represents, the team multiplied the loss rates by global estimates of the number of fishing vessels that use each type of gear, accounting for factors that might influence the losses, such as vessel size and how often they go to sea. More than 13 billion hooks and 16 million kilometers of fishing line are lost from vessels each year, the team estimates. …One likely impact is harm to predators that bite the baited lines intended for tuna and other fish, she notes. Sharks and rays, in particular, have declined by 71% over the past half-century, and unintended harm from fishing gear is one cause. …Fishing gear is a major threat to the highly endangered northern right whale, for example, sparking both new regulations and innovations in gear such as ropes designed to break when a whale is struggling to get free. Nets are another major cause of trouble. Fishing vessels rarely lose entire nets, but when they do, they can entangle large marine mammals. Seabirds and other smaller creatures are at risk from fragments of nets, which are more commonly lost. Lost lobster traps and crab pots—some 25 million a year, the team estimates—pose a particularly substantial threat to smaller creatures such as blue crabs and octopuses. All told, dozens of species have been found trapped inside derelict traps….

2022-09-26. How China Targets the Global Fish Supply. [] By Steven Lee Myers, Agnes Chang, Derek Watkins and Claire Fu, The New York Times. Excerpt: With its own coastal waters depleted, China has built a global fishing operation unmatched by any other country. …The Galápagos are part of Ecuador. And yet each year growing numbers of Chinese commercial ships, thousands of miles from home, fish here, at times right on the edge of Ecuador’s  exclusive economic zone. …Over the last two decades, China has built the world’s largest deep-water fishing fleet, by far, with nearly 3,000 ships. Having severely depleted stocks in its own coastal waters, China now fishes in any ocean in the world, and on a scale that dwarfs some countries’ entire fleets near their own waters. The impact is increasingly being felt from the Indian Ocean to the South Pacific, from the coasts of Africa to those off South America — a manifestation on the high seas of China’s global economic might.…

2022-08-15. Plaintiffs in Long Fight Over Endangered Salmon Hope a Resolution Is Near. [] By Mark Walker and Chris Cameron, The New York Times. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — After decades of legal fighting over hydroelectric dams that have contributed to the depletion of salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest, the Biden administration is extending settlement talks with plaintiffs who hope the resolution they are seeking — removal of the dams — is near. The federal government has been sued five times over its failed attempts to save salmon in the Columbia River basin, and for violating longstanding treaties with the Nez Perce, Yakama and Umatilla tribes. But now the Biden administration and others say that restoring the salmon population is an issue of tribal justice, as well as the only real solution.…

2022-07-12. How does Caribbean fire coral thrive as others vanish?. [] By Elizabeth Pennisi, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Fire corals can be the bane of a scuba diver’s existence. An accidental brush against one can cause agonizing pain. But they also may help save Caribbean reefs, which have been plagued by hurricanes, global warming, disease, and an overabundance of algae. A long-term study has revealed that fire corals (Millepora) are thriving there even as other corals disappear and could help preserve some of the 3D environment that helps make reefs such great homes to fish and other organisms.…

2022-06-02. The last hunt? Future in peril for ‘the unicorn of the sea’. By Sofia Moutinho and Regin Winther Poulsen, The Guardian. Excerpt: …Narwhals are found in Arctic waters mostly around Greenland and Canada, and are estimated to number about 120,000 globally. These elusive animals face threats, including noise pollution from ships, which can disturb their navigation and ability to find food, as well as warming waters due to global heating. As the ice melts, they lose their habitat and food. Greenland’s government introduced quotas for hunting narwhal for the first time in 2004, and also banned the lucrative export of their tusks. Narwhal meat is now the hunters’ most commercially prized product, and is distributed around the country from the hunting districts to be sold in Facebook groups and supermarkets, where it can fetch 500 Danish kroner (£57) a kilo. Yet, despite hunting restrictions, populations are plummeting, according to surveys by the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, a government advisory body that monitors the environment. In 2008, surveys estimated there were about 1,900 narwhals in Ittoqqortoormiit, the main hunting location in east Greenland. At the last count in the area, in 2016, the population was put at about 400…. [

22-05-09. Millions of tonnes of dead animals: the growing scandal of fish waste. By Emma Bryce, The Guardian. Excerpt: … figures from WWF show that in 2019, at least 230,000 tonnes of fish were dumped in EU waters. Most of the waste – 92% – is related to bottom-trawling, a fishing method that scrapes the seafloor, indiscriminately scooping up everything in its path. But this figure is a small fraction of an even larger global issue. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 35% of all fish, crustaceans and molluscs harvested from oceans, lakes and fish farms are wasted or lost before they ever reach a plate. …Fish populations are already threatened by overfishingpollution, and the climate crisis. With current rates of fish consumption projected to double by 2050, waste is increasingly on the radar of regulators. …Just under half of all fish consumed by people is wild-caught at sea. “There’s such abundance that we’ve grown to be OK with certain loss rates,” Pearson says, although noting that 34% of global marine stocks are now overfished. Bycatch (unintentionally caught, unwanted fish) is a growing problem, too: roughly 10% of wild-caught fish are discarded worldwide each year, representing 8.6m tonnes of animals. The main culprits are imprecise fishing gear and policies that allow fishers to discard non-target species. There’s an economic driver, too. “I think there is a strong connection between subsidies and waste in the water,” says Rashid Sumaila, professor of ocean and fisheries economics at the University of British Columbia. Although subsidies were historically devised to support small-scale fishers, today 80% of $35.4bn (£26.4bn) in annual fishing subsidies goes to a handful of industrial fleets, .… []

2022-04-28. Avoiding ocean mass extinction from climate warming. By Justin L. Penn and Curtis Deutsch, Science Magazine. Abstract: Global warming threatens marine biota with losses of unknown severity. Here, we quantify global and local extinction risks in the ocean across a range of climate futures on the basis of the ecophysiological limits of diverse animal species and calibration against the fossil record. With accelerating greenhouse gas emissions, species losses from warming and oxygen depletion alone become comparable to current direct human impacts within a century and culminate in a mass extinction rivaling those in Earth’s past. Polar species are at highest risk of extinction, but local biological richness declines more in the tropics. Reversing greenhouse gas emissions trends would diminish extinction risks by more than 70%, preserving marine biodiversity accumulated over the past ~50 million years of evolutionary history.… []

2022-04-21. These whales are on the brink. Now comes climate change — and wind power. By Dino Grandoni, The Washington Post. Excerpt: With only about 300 left, the North Atlantic right whale ranks as one of the world’s most endangered marine mammals. Nearly annihilated centuries ago by whalers, the slow-swimming species is said to have earned its name because it was the “right” whale to hunt. Old-fashioned harpoons have yielded to other threats. Humans are still killing right whales at startlingly high numbers — but by accident. Waters free from whalers now brim with ships that strike them, and ropes that entangle them. The latest challenges come in a changing climate. Rising temperatures are driving them to new seas. And soon, dozens of offshore wind turbines — part of President Biden’s clean energy agenda — will encroach their habitat as the administration tries to balance tackling global warming with protecting wildlife.… []

2022-04-19. Sea-farmed supercrop: how seaweed could transform the way we live. By Richard Orange, The Guardian. Excerpt: experts believe that seaweed could be a key crop in the “protein shift” away from meat. Some of last spring’s harvest here hit about 30% protein, close to the level that would make it compete against the world’s other big protein sources like meat and soya. Steinhagen also believes passionately that this plant – long eaten as “green laver” on the coasts of Britain – can be a more sustainable alternative to soya. Sea lettuce doesn’t draw on scarce resources of land and fresh water. “There is no other option,” she says later, … “Climate change is affecting most of our crop systems and we are in urgent need of new production. We cannot extend terrestrial farmland – so we need to go into the ocean.” It’s not just a protein source. As we shift to a bio-based rather than fossil-fuel-based economy, seaweed could provide a lot of the compounds we need. For example, Ulrica Edlund… is a professor of polymer science who has used polysaccharides extracted from seaweed to make plastic films, filaments and other plastic materials. “It’s circular because it provides a route away from fossil-based plastics….“You don’t have to wait 50 years for the forest to grow until you can harvest those polymers.”.… []

2022-03-28. ‘Meet us, don’t eat us’: Iceland turns from whale eaters to whale watchers. By Abby Young-Powell, The Guardian. Excerpt: Iceland, one of the few countries in the world to hunt whales commercially, announced in February its plan to end the practice from 2024, though it has not officially banned it yet. Falling demand for whale meat, especially since Japan resumed commercial whaling in 2019, has influenced the decision. …Whaling has been practised around Iceland since the early 1600s, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that steamships and explosive harpoons allowed US and European companies to hunt the animals on a large commercial scale. Iceland stopped commercial whaling in 1985 and scientific whaling four years later under the international moratorium on commercial hunts. But commercial whaling resumed in 2006. Current annual quotas allow for 209 fin whales to be killed in Iceland, to be sent to Japan, along with 217 minke whales, which are eaten domestically. Since the practice restarted, an association of local whale-watching companies, led by the non-profits International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and IceWhale, have fought to end it…using the slogan “meet us, don’t eat us”. Contrary to what many visitors believe, whale is not considered a delicacy among Icelanders, says Arni Finnsson, chair of the Iceland Nature Conservation Association, who worked on the campaign. Only 2% of Icelanders say they regularly eat it, according to IFAW. Instead, the biggest eaters of minke whale have been the country’s roughly 2 million annual visitors, many of whom believe it is an Icelandic speciality.… []

2021-11-24. Photos show vast coral spawning event in Great Barrier Reef, giving divers hope for climate change recovery. By Ellen Francis, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Divers and scientists recorded the birth of billions of coral babies in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef on Tuesday night in a colorful show of life that they hope is a signal that the world’s biggest coral reef ecosystem can recover from climate change.… []

2021-11-10. The world created about 8 million tons of pandemic plastic waste, and much of it is now in the ocean. By Amy Cheng, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Some 8 million metric tons of pandemic-related plastic waste has been created by 193 countries, about 26,000 tons of which is now in the world’s oceans, where it threatens to disrupt marine life and further pollute beaches, a recent study found.… []

2021-10-04. Climate Change Is Devastating Coral Reefs Worldwide, Major Report Says. Source: By Catrin Einhorn, The New York Times. Excerpt: The world lost 14 percent of its coral in just a decade, researchers found. …mainly because of climate change, according to a sweeping international report on the state of the world’s corals. The report, issued late Monday, underscores the catastrophic consequences of global warming while also offering some hope that some coral reefs can be saved if humans move quickly to rein in greenhouse gases.… []

2021-09-29. Degraded Coral Reefs May Be More Resistant to Climate Change. Source: By Clara Chaisson, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: New research on Kiribati’s beleaguered atolls paints a complex picture of reef recovery.… []

2021-07-23. [] – Montana’s Famed Trout Under Threat as Drought Intensifies. Source: By Jim Robbins, The New York Times. Excerpt: The state is imposing more restrictions on fishing this year as the combination of extreme conditions, including low river levels, fish die-offs and the crush of anglers, poses long-term problems….

2021-06-03. [] – On the Verge of Extinction, These Whales Are Also Shrinking. Source: By Annie Roth, The New York Times. Excerpt: North Atlantic right whales are struggling to survive, and it shows. Most of the 360 or so North Atlantic right whales alive today bear scars from entanglements in fishing gear and collisions with speeding ships and, according to a new study, they are much smaller than they should be. Scientists recently examined how the size-to-age ratios of right whales living in the North Atlantic have changed over the past 40 years and found that the imperiled whales are significantly smaller than earlier generations of their species. Their research, published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, suggests that human-induced stressors, primarily entanglements, are stunting the growth of North Atlantic right whales, reducing their chances of reproductive success and increasing their chances of dying. Unless drastic measures are taken to reduce these stressors, the authors say, the whales may not be around much longer…. 

2021-05-11. The Price They Pay for Your Perfect Vacation Photo. By Priyanka Runwal, The New York Times. Excerpt: Scientists are concerned about unregulated feeding of ocean wildlife by tour operators. …Before the pandemic, …boats would flock to Bottom Harbor and tourists would hop into its shallow turquoise waters holding squid morsels in their hands or on wooden skewers. The turtles would then grab the snacks as the visitors snapped Instagram-worthy images. …The practice is known as provisioning, and it’s an easy meal for the shelled creatures. But conservation biologists have expressed concern in a number of recent published scientific studies about what this food source means for the physical well-being and natural behavior of not just these turtles, but other marine creatures, from tiny reef fish to giant sharks. …“Suddenly a very independent and solitary animal is in close contact with everybody else, which means it’s easier for them to get infected with parasites or viruses,” said Valeria Senigaglia, a marine biologist at Australia’s Murdoch University. It also encourages wild animals to eat regularly rather than intermittently, and sometimes discourages tracking and hunting of prey. Habituation, aggression and loss of fear toward humans typically follows, which could endanger the animals…. [

2021-03-06. America’s New Whale Is Now at Extinction’s Doorstep. By Joe Roman, The New York Times. Excerpt: On a January day two years ago, an emaciated whale washed up dead on Sandy Key, at the southernmost reaches of Florida’s Everglades National Park. The 38-foot-long male had the long white throat grooves characteristic of baleen whales, which are rare in the Gulf of Mexico. …During the necropsy, a sharp piece of stiff plastic, not much bigger than a credit card, was removed from its second stomach chamber. … it had perforated the stomach lining. There were no other injuries. Plastic had killed this whale. The animal’s DNA matched that of a small population of endangered whales that resides off the Florida Panhandle, thought to be a subspecies of the Bryde’s whale…. …These gulf whales were not a subspecies of the Bryde’s whale at all, but a new species unique to the Gulf of Mexico. …These whales apparently diverged from other baleen whales because of their long isolation in the gulf. With limited opportunity for gene flow with other related whales, they evolved in their reclusion into a species of their own. …It is also critically endangered: With an estimated population of just 50 or so, all in the United States, the whale’s fate rests entirely in America’s hands…. [] For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7. 

2021-02-11. Whale songs allow researchers to take ‘ultrasound’ of sea floor. By Sofia Moutinho, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Scientists have studied whale calls for decades to learn more about the communication and migration of these oceanic giants. Now, they’ve found a new use for the vocalizations: creating an “ultrasound” of the ocean floor. The strategy, reported today in Science, could help reveal details about Earth’s crust and earthquakes without disturbing sensitive marine life. … fin whale vocalizations, which are among the strongest animal calls in the ocean… can travel up to 1600 kilometers and reach 189 decibels, as loud as the noises produced by large ships. …Kuna says whale calls can’t completely substitute for air guns. But he believes the approach could be valuable in certain parts of the ocean—such as marine conservation areas—where air guns are outlawed because their loud noises disturb marine life…. [] See also Science article, Watch—and hear—the impact human noises have on marine life.

2021-01-27. Most high-seas shark species now threatened with extinction. By Erik Stokstad, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Shark populations in the high seas have fallen by 71% since 1970, researchers have found. The main cause is overfishing, which has put three-quarters of these species at risk of extinction. …Humans have hunted sharks for centuries for their meat and fins. …Studies have identified severe regional declines of specific species, such as the loss of scalloped hammerhead sharks in the northwest Atlantic Ocean, but no one had compiled trends in all oceans. In the new study, shark experts took a look at 31 species of oceanic sharks and rays—all of the species that live in the open ocean. …the scientists calculated how populations have changed since 1970, a widely used benchmark. “Some of the declines are staggering,” says Nicholas Dulvy, a conservation biologist at Simon Fraser University and co-leader of the effort. Dusky sharks, for example, have dwindled by 72%, the researchers report today in Nature. Only one-third of the 31 species were threatened in 1980, the researchers determined by looking at data from that time. Now, three-quarters are at risk of disappearing. …The reason: too much fishing. Compared with 1970, boats today are bigger and do more fishing with gear that catches a lot of sharks, such as long lines of baited hooks. And many sharks have always been vulnerable to depletion because they take years to reach reproductive maturity. The good news is that fishing regulations can help species recover, such as bans on the landing of sharks. The white shark, for example, is bouncing back off the U.S. east and west coasts because of that kind of protection. For less endangered species, lessening the amount of catch can help significantly…. [
2020-12-03. Common tire chemical implicated in mysterious deaths of at-risk salmon. By Erik Stokstad. Science Magazine. Excerpt: For decades, something in urban streams has been killing coho salmon in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Even after Seattle began to restore salmon habitat in the 1990s, up to 90% of the adults migrating up certain streams to spawn would suddenly die after rainstorms. Researchers suspected the killer was washing off nearby roads, but couldn’t identify it. “This was a serious mystery,” says Edward Kolodziej, an environmental engineer at the University of Washington’s (UW’s) Tacoma and Seattle campuses. Online today in Science, researchers led by Kolodziej report the primary culprit comes from a chemical widely used to protect tires from ozone, a reactive atmospheric gas. The toxicant, called 6PPD-quinone, leaches out of the particles that tires shed onto pavement. Even small doses killed coho salmon in the lab…. []
2020-10-29. Reaching Consensus on Assessments of Ocean Acidification Trends. By Adrienne Sutton and Jan A. Newton, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Media coverage concerning carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into Earth’s atmosphere most often focuses on how these emissions affect climate and weather patterns. However, atmospheric CO2 is also the primary driver for ocean acidification, because the products of atmospheric CO2 dissolving into seawater reduce seawater’s pH and its concentration of carbonate ions. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of the ocean has increased by over 30%. Some organisms in the ocean may struggle to adapt to increasingly acidified conditions, and even resilient life-forms may have a harder time finding food. Higher CO2 levels in ocean water also make it difficult for shellfish to build their shells and corals to form their reefs, both of which are made of carbonate compounds. Ocean acidification, which affects the overall health of marine ecosystems as well as societal concerns about food security, has emerged as a major concern for decision-makers on local, regional, and global scales. Indeed, ocean acidification is now a headline climate indicator for the World Meteorological Organization. …In February 2020, NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program and the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON) brought together a dozen scientists from the international community experienced in collecting data from time series stations scattered throughout the world’s oceans. With their expertise, and with input from scientists in other fields as well, the group began developing a set of best practices for uniformly analyzing long-term ocean acidification trends…. []  

2020-10-13. Warming has killed half the coral on the Great Barrier Reef, study finds. It might never recover. By Darryl Fears, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Half of the coral populations on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef — from “big mamas” to the little baby coral they spawn — have been wiped out in the warming ocean, a new study says. Studying coral as if it were a residential demographic, and counting its abundance over 30 years starting in 1995, four Australian researchers determined that size didn’t matter when bleaching events, such as two that occurred in recent back-to-back years, strike the giant reef. “The decline occurred in both shallow and deeper water, and across virtually all species — but especially in branching and table-shaped corals,” Terry Hughes, a professor at the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Queensland and a co-author of the research paper, said in a statement Tuesday. “These were the worst affected by record breaking temperatures that triggered mass bleaching in 2016 and 2017.” …“We expect this decline to continue” because of warming caused by humans, Hughes said. “The only effective way to improve the outcome for coral reefs is global action on greenhouse gasses. If global temperatures rise to 3 or 4 [degrees Celsius], the reef will be unrecognizable, so there is no time to lose.”…. [

2020-06-12. Deep-sea currents are behind the ocean’s thickest piles of microplastics. By Meagan Cantwell, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Plastic is everywhere: high atop mountains, scattered through national parks, and floating in the Great Pacific garbage patch. Now, researchers have tracked our plastic waste in another place—the deep sea. To find out whether certain features on the sea floor had greater concentration of microplastics, researchers examined sediment samples from the Tyrrenhian Sea, off the coast of Italy. They found an average of 41 pieces in each spoonful of sediment from continental shelves. …when scientists sampled piles of sediment that build up in the deep ocean, adjacent to fast-flowing currents, they found 190 pieces of microplastics per spoonful of sediment, the highest concentration of microplastics from the sea floor to date, they report this month in Science []…. []  See also Microplastic in terrestrial ecosystems, Science Magazine 2020 June 26 article by Matthias C. Rillig and Anika Lehmann []

2020-06-05. Trump lifts limits on commercial fishing at ocean sanctuary off New England. By Darryl Fears and Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is the first in the Atlantic. Trump said a prohibition against fishing hurt Maine’s commercial fishing industry. []. 
2020-06-04. Below the Great Pacific Garbage Patch: More Garbage. By Mara Johnson-Groh, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: …“We have a very limited understanding of where all the plastic and stuff that’s being put into the ocean ends up,” said Matthias Egger, the lead scientist behind the new study and a researcher with The Ocean Cleanup. “We know roughly there’s tens of millions of tons of plastics going into the ocean. A large part of that should be afloat, but it’s not.” This mystery is known as the missing plastic problem. Plastic found adrift in the ocean makes up only 1% of what should be out there, though a large portion is thought to circulate in coastal environments. The largest known reservoirs of plastic at sea are giant, swirling “garbage patches” that can stretch over areas twice the size of Texas. Could some of the missing plastic have sunk beneath these massive gyres? …The scientists estimated that between 5 and 2,000 meters below the surface, the total mass of plastic pieces smaller than 5 centimeters is 56%–80% of what is seen at the surface. In total, these plastics could compose 10% of the weight of plastics on the surface…. []  

2020-05-13. Lab-evolved algae could protect coral reefs. By Warren Cornwall, Science Magazine. Excerpt: For the third time in 5 years, an underwater heat wave has turned vast stretches of coral on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef ghostly white, a desperate survival strategy that is often a prelude to coral death. Now, scientists there have taken a small step toward helping coral survive in a warmer world. For the first time, researchers have grown algae in a lab that can reduce coral bleaching, as it’s known. The results are a notable advance in the growing field of “assisted evolution,” in which scientists are working to alter coral genetics to help them endure hotter water.  …Coral and their algae are deeply intertwined. The tiny, plantlike organisms live inside the cells of coral polyps, the small, anemonelike single animals that form colonies to create the fantastically shaped skeletons typically called coral. The algae, called zooxanthellae, use coral waste products to help photosynthesize food, while in turn nourishing the coral host. But that relationship sours during heat waves. Coral polyps eject the algae from their bodies, a phenomenon scientists suspect is a reaction to a flood of tissue-damaging molecules released by the overheated algae. Without their algae, the corals turn white, and, if the bleaching is severe enough, they can starve to death. Coral geneticist Madeleine van Oppen hoped the algae could be coaxed to evolve into strains that reduced the bleaching response…. [

2020-04-06. Great Barrier Reef Is Bleaching Again. It’s Getting More Widespread. By Damien Cave, The New York Times. Excerpt: SYDNEY, Australia — When Terry Hughes surveyed the Great Barrier Reef four years ago from a small plane, mapping the bleaching and death of corals [] from water warmed by climate change, he hoped such a rare and heartbreaking scene would not be repeated anytime soon. But rising temperatures sent him back to the air in 2017, when the reef bleached again. Then he returned last month, leading to another devastating conclusion: The reef was being ravaged by bleaching yet again, this time across an even wider area. “It’s the first time we’ve seen severely bleached reefs along the whole length of the reef, in particular, the coastal reefs,” said Professor Hughes, the director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. “Those are bleached everywhere.”… []. 

2020-03-26. Australia’s Record Heat Means Another Blow to Great Barrier Reef. By Richard Pérez-Peña, The New York Times. Excerpt: Record-breaking warm waters have bleached large parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef this year, as they did in 2016 and 2017, scientists reported on Thursday — the latest sign that global warming threatens the health of one of the world’s most important marine ecosystems. “We can confirm that the Great Barrier Reef is experiencing its third mass bleaching event in five years,” David Wachenfeld, chief scientist of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, said in a video [] posted on its website. …Scientists say reefs around the world have been dying at an alarming rate for several years because of global warming. Reef corals grow very slowly, and while most of them can live only in warm water, they are highly sensitive to above-normal temperatures…. [

2020-03-05. The Ecological Costs of Removing California’s Offshore Oil Rigs. By Katherine Kornei, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: …Twenty-seven oil- and gas-drilling platforms dot the coastline of California, most of them in the Santa Barbara Channel. They were built from the 1960s through 1980s, and they’re showing their age—several are in the early stages of decommissioning. …Researchers have now calculated the ecological impact of losing these human-made habitats. Over 95% of fish biomass around a platform would be lost if it were removed completely, the team found. Another option—severing platforms at a water depth of 26 meters and removing only the uppermost part of the structure—would deplete only about 10% of fish biomass, they concluded. …The scientists calculated that removing the platforms in their entirety would result in 83%–99% losses in fish biomass. But cutting off just the top portion of the platforms—leaving structures below a water depth of 26 meters intact—would deplete, on average, just 10% of fish biomass. That significant difference makes sense, said Meyer-Gutbrod, because there’s “all of this added habitat” from a platform’s A-frame-shaped underwater structure. …conversations will start about what to do with the infrastructure, whether to remove everything or leave some of it in place for an artificial reef…. [] For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7. 
2020-01-21. The Freshwater Giants Are Dying. By Rachel Nuwer, The New York Times. [] Excerpt: Overharvesting and habitat loss endanger most of the world’s freshwater “megafauna.” But many species may yet be saved. …There are about 200 species of so-called freshwater megafauna, but compared to their terrestrial and marine counterparts, they are poorly studied by scientists and little known to the public. And they are quietly disappearing. Following an exhaustive survey throughout the Yangtze River basin, researchers this month declared the Chinese paddlefish officially extinct []. The paddlefish, last seen alive in 2003, could grow up to 23 feet long and once inhabited many of China’s rivers, but overfishing and dams decimated their populations. The paddlefish may be a harbinger for many other giant fish. According to research published in August in Global Change Biology, freshwater megafauna have declined by 88 percent worldwide in recent years. []….  

2019-12-16. As coral reefs suffered around the world, those in French Polynesia were thriving. By Elizabeth Pennisi, Science Magazine. [] Excerpt: In a world where warming seas, pollution, and predation are killing coral around the world, an extensive survey of French Polynesia in 2013 has found a ray of hope. On some atolls there, live coral covered 70% of the reef’s surface; on others, big fish such as grouper and barracuda that have almost disappeared elsewhere were thriving…. 

2019-12-11. Modern fishing methods are driving small whales and dolphins to extinction. By Virginia Morell, Science Magazine. [] Excerpt: Nearly a dozen species of small whales and dolphins are headed toward extinction, a new study finds. The main reason: modern fishing nets, which trap and kill hundreds of thousands of the animals every year. …Small cetaceans such as the vaquita and various river dolphins successfully lived alongside human fishers for thousands of years in coastal waters, estuaries, and rivers. Then, after World War II, fishers began to replace their cotton and hemp nets with less expensive and more durable synthetic ones. These so-called gillnets don’t require expensive equipment or large vessels, making them especially attractive to small-scale fishers worldwide. But cetaceans (as well as other marine mammals and sea turtles) can’t bite through the nets if caught in them, as they could with the cotton nets…. 

2019-10-21. The Return of the ‘Blob’: Hawaii’s Reefs Threatened by Marine Heat Wave. By Kendra Pierre-Louis, The New York Times. [] Excerpt: Parts of the Pacific Ocean are simmering, threatening coral reefs and livelihoods around Hawaii, and causing many to worry of worse to come. … fish provided by the reefs, reefs which are now becoming sick in the warming waters. …Researchers said the heat wave was reminiscent of 2014, when a hot spot that became known as the blob began forming in the Pacific. It expanded and lingered over much of the Pacific Coast from Mexico to Alaska for years. …“The event in ’14-15 was maybe eight to 10 times the size of Alaska. And the current event we’re having is nearly that big,” Dr. Leising said. …Researchers say they think that climate change strongly influenced the original blob’s creation. The blob also led to the first known mass bleaching event in Hawaii, in which coral reefs stressed by the extreme temperatures shed the symbiotic plant that both gives them their flamboyant coloration and provides them with oxygen. “Parts of Hawaii saw about 50 percent coral loss for the 2015 event,” Jamison Gove, a research oceanographer with NOAA, said by email. “It was particularly devastating in areas off Hawaii Island and Maui.” Reef watchers said they were worried about a repeat….

2019-09-16. How Long Before These Salmon Are Gone? ‘Maybe 20 Years’. By Jim Robbins, The New York Times. []  Excerpt: Warming waters and a series of dams are making the grueling migration of the Chinook salmon even more deadly — and threatening dozens of other species. …NORTH FORK, Idaho …Some 45,000 to 50,000 spring-summer Chinook spawned here in the 1950s. These days, the average is about 1,500 fish, and declining. And not just here: Native fish are in free-fall throughout the Columbia River basin, a situation so dire that many groups are urging the removal of four large dams to keep the fish from being lost. …Before the 20th century, some 10 million to 16 million adult salmon and steelhead trout are thought to have returned annually to the Columbia River system. The current return of wild fish is 2 percent of that, by some estimates. While farming, logging and especially the commercial harvest of salmon in the early 20th century all took a toll, the single greatest impact on wild fish comes from eight large dams — four on the Columbia and four on the Snake River, a major tributary…. 

2019-07-23. Ocean acidification could boost shell growth in snails and sea urchins. By Katie Camero, Science Magazine.  [] Excerpt: The world’s oceans are acidifying rapidly as they soak up massive amounts of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released from burning fossil fuels. That’s bad news for tiny marine critters like coral and sea urchins that make up the base of the ocean food chain: Acidic water not only destroys their shells, but it also makes it harder for them to build new ones. Now, scientists studying sea snails have discovered an unexpected side effect of this acid brew—it can help some of them build thicker, stronger shells by making their food more nutritious. Often called climate change’s “evil twin,” acidification happens when the ocean absorbs atmospheric CO2  As CO2 dissolves, the process releases hydrogen ions, lowering the water’s pH and increasing its acidity. That acidic water also removes many floating carbonate ions that organisms like mussels and clams use to build their sturdy shells. Under these conditions, it takes more energy for these creatures to make shells thick enough to withstand the added stress. … sea snails at the CO2 vents built shells that were twice as thick and more durable than the shells of snails at the control site, Connell and colleagues report this month in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. In addition, the algae were four times as abundant and had 11% more protein and carbohydrates than at the control location, meaning the snails had a bigger and more nutritious supply of food. …“Even if some organisms benefit from warming and acidification, there are still losers,” Riebesell says, “and evolutionary adaptation is not fast enough to compensate for the loss of these losers.”…  

2019-07-01. Japan Resumes Commercial Whaling. But Is There an Appetite for It? By Ben Dooley and Hisako Ueno, The New York Times.  [] Excerpt: TOKYO — Japan resumed commercial whale hunting on Monday after a hiatus of more than 30 years, defying calls from conservation groups to protect animals once hunted to the brink of extinction. Now whalers, who have long depended on government subsidies for their survival, face the much tougher challenge of defying basic economic reality: The market for their product is declining while labor costs across the nation are on the rise. Japanese production of whale meat peaked in 1962, and the taste is generally preferred by an older generation. The government also hopes to start reducing the $46 million in annual subsidies it pays to whale hunters within three years. The value of previous catches, obtained under the auspices of scientific research in the Antarctic, totaled only about a half to a third of that. “Will whaling succeed commercially?” said Masayuki Komatsu, a former government official who oversaw Japan’s international negotiations on the subject and now works at a think tank in Tokyo. “No way.”….

2019-06-14. Report Examines New Tools to Protect Coral Reefs. By Randy Showstack, EOS/AGU. [] Excerpt: With coral reefs under threat worldwide, a new report examines and provides a framework to assess novel intervention options that could provide a way forward to protect them. In the face of threats including habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change, the aim of these interventions is “to increase the ability of these coral reefs to persist in these rapidly degrading environmental conditions,” according to the report, A Decision Framework for Interventions to Increase the Persistence and Resilience of Coral Reefs, which was released on 12 June by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) []….  

2019-05-02. On a Coastline With 1,200 Dead Dolphins, Fishermen and Conservationists Clash. By Elian Peltier, The New York Times. [] Excerpt: More common dolphins have washed up dead on France’s Atlantic Coast since January than in all of 2017 or 2018. Scientists blame fishing. Fishermen are pushing back. …A record 1,200 dolphins have washed up on France’s Atlantic coast since January, most of them with wounds suggesting that the mammals had died after being trapped in fishing nets. For every carcass that ends up on a beach, several more decay at sea, wildlife biologists say, which suggests that as many as 6,000 of the 200,000 common dolphins living in the bay may have perished in less than four months because of fishing. …Why are so many dolphins dying now? Most people agree that fishing is responsible, but the consensus stops there. Fishermen claim that the unintentional captures, also known as bycatch, remain unusual, if not exceptional, while scientists warn that fishing vessels now represent a major threat to dolphins. …Autopsies carried out by Mr. Van Canneyt’s team have attributed 90 percent of dolphins’ deaths to fishing activities. They found that most had died of asphyxia, often with their stomachs full, indicating that they were feeding when they became trapped under water….

2019-04-03. First ever high-seas conservation treaty would protect life in international waters. By Alex Fox, Science Magazine. [] Excerpt: No flag can claim the high seas, but many nations exploit them. As a result, life in the two-thirds of the oceans beyond any country’s territorial waters faces many threats that are largely unregulated, including overfishing and the emerging deep-sea mining industry. Now, nations are negotiating the first-ever high-seas conservation treaty, which the United Nations expects to finalize next year. …One key issue facing negotiators…is how much of the high seas to protect. Existing preserves cover about 5% of the world’s oceans, mostly in territorial waters. Under a different U.N. agreement, nations endorsed a goal of expanding reserves to cover 10% of the entire ocean by 2020. But many conservationists and scientists—as well as the government of the United Kingdom—argue the new pact should go bigger, placing 30% of the high seas off limits to unregulated exploitation. Until recently, researchers lacked the data to choose which parts of the ocean to include. “If I was asked to do this 5 or 10 years ago, I would have said no,” McCauley says. But now, taking advantage of a growing torrent of data from satellites, tagged animals, and survey ships as well as advances in computing power, researchers have launched at least three major efforts to show policymakers what new high-seas reserves could look like….

2019-01-31. Ocean heat waves like the Pacific’s deadly ‘Blob’ could become the new normal. By Warren Cornwall, Science Magazine. [] Excerpt: When marine biologist Steve Barbeaux first saw the data in late 2017, he thought it was the result of a computer glitch. How else could more than 100 million Pacific cod suddenly vanish from the waters off of southern Alaska?mWithin hours, however, Barbeaux’s colleagues at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Seattle, Washington, had confirmed the numbers. No glitch. The data, collected by research trawlers, indicated cod numbers had plunged by 70% in 2 years, essentially erasing a fishery worth $100 million annually. There was no evidence that the fish had simply moved elsewhere. And as the vast scale of the disappearance became clear, a prime suspect emerged: “The Blob.” In late 2013, a huge patch of unusually warm ocean water, roughly one-third the size of the contiguous United States, formed in the Gulf of Alaska and began to spread. …By the summer of 2015, The Blob had more than doubled in size, stretching across more than 4 million square kilometers of ocean, from Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Water temperatures reached 2.5°C above normal in many places….  

2019-01-04. Controversial European policy bans ships from throwing unwanted fish overboard. By Erik Stokstad, Science Magazine. [] Excerpt: As fishing crews sort through their catches, they toss unwanted fish back into the sea—as much as 20% of the global catch. The vast majority die. On 1 January, the wasteful practice became illegal in waters of the European Union. Scientists believe the policy will lead to more efficient fisheries and eventually boost stocks. But in the short term it could mean hardship for the industry and perhaps even compromise fisheries data, because almost all crews can discard fish without anyone knowing. …Over the longer term, the discard ban will boost fish stocks and benefit the overall ecosystem, according to modeling led by Marie Savina-Rolland of the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea, an oceanographic research center in Lorient. That could eventually translate to higher quotas and profits, says Andersen, who co-led economic research for the DiscardLess project. The ban could also stimulate more research on new fishing gear and tactics to avoid unwanted catches….  

2018-12-26. Japan quits global whaling body, will resume commercial hunt. By Nathanial Gronewold, E&E News. 

[] Excerpt: Japan announced its withdrawal today from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), with plans to resume commercial whaling next year. With its withdrawal from the regulatory body, Japan ends its controversial scientific whaling program, which had occurred annually under commission oversight. Japan’s fleet is currently hunting minke whales, but Tokyo indicated that it would be that nation’s final Antarctic whale hunt. The IWC is among the world’s oldest international institutions, formed a few short years after the founding of the United Nations in 1945. Japan joined the London-based organization in 1951. The government says it will leave as a formal member by July 2019 but will remain an observer to the global body. While today’s announcement makes it official, Japanese media reported on the move last week (Greenwire, 20 December)….  See also:2019-01-10. Why Japan’s exit from international whaling treaty may actually benefit whales. By Dennis Normile, Science Magazine []

2018-11-20. Dead sperm whale found in Indonesia had ingested ‘6kg of plastic’. By BBC News. [] Excerpt: A dead sperm whale that washed ashore in a national park in Indonesia had nearly 6kg (13 lbs) of plastic waste in its stomach, park officials say. Items found included 115 drinking cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags and two flip-flops. The carcass of the 9.5m (31ft) mammal was found in waters near Kapota Island in the Wakatobi National Park late on Monday. The discovery has caused consternation among environmentalists. …It was not possible to say whether the plastic had caused the whale’s death because of its advanced state of decay, she added. …In a tweet, WWF Indonesia gave the breakdown of what was found inside the animal: “Hard plastic (19 pieces, 140g), plastic bottles (4 pieces, 150g), plastic bags (25 pieces, 260g), flip-flops (2 pieces, 270g), pieces of string (3.26kg) & plastic cups (115 pieces, 750g).”….

2018-10-15. Rescuing Sea Turtles From Fishermen’s Nets. By Amy Yee, The New York Times. [] Excerpt: WATAMU, Kenya — The young hawksbill turtle was accidentally caught in a net in the Indian Ocean off Kenya’s coast. …The hawksbill, critically endangered in this region, was a mere seven pounds; adults can weigh up to 160 pounds. X-rays showed that the reptile’s intestinal tract was clogged with plastic. Hogaar, as Local Ocean named her, floated and couldn’t dive. Gas had built up in her innards after she had eaten small pieces of plastic mistaken for food such as jellyfish. Local Ocean staff members placed Hogaar in a rehab pool and gave her laxatives. She passed feces laced with shreds of packaging and had little appetite. After more than four months at Local Ocean, Hogaar died. A necropsy revealed her gut was also full of sharp shards of white, blue and pink plastic and tangles of blue and gray string. Turtles are reptiles that have existed for at least 110 million years and survived the mass extinction that killed off dinosaurs. But today, sea turtles worldwide are threatened with extinction. And it’s estimated that only one of 1,000 turtle eggs laid survive to adulthood. …Because some turtles presumably die in the ocean, there is no reliable estimate of how many are harmed by plastics. But there is no doubt plastic pollution is growing; three-quarters of marine litter is now composed of plastic and tons of plastic waste get dumped into the ocean every year, according to a 2017 report from the United Nations Environment Assembly….

2018-10-01. Yurok tribe revives ancestral lands by restoring salmon runs, protecting wildlife. By Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle. [] Excerpt: …The 92-mile South Fork is the longest un-dammed stream in California and a primary tributary of the Klamath River, which used to froth yearly with spring-run chinook, a staple of the Yurok diet for thousands of years until European settlers arrived in North America, logged the forests and built dams that nearly wiped them out. The project, on this wild and scenic stretch of the Trinity, is outside the Yurok reservation, which stretches 44 miles from the mouth of the Klamath, but the two rivers converge at the edge of Yurok land and together support the largest salmon run in California outside of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta system. …More than 12,000 spring-run chinook once migrated annually up the South Fork of the Trinity, …. Then, in 1964, a catastrophic storm and flood caused mud slides on the surrounding hills and filled the river with vast quantities of sediment. The dirt was loose because loggers had clear-cut the surrounding forests in the 1950s and early 1960s, leaving nothing to hold the steep ridges next to the river in place. Silt poured into the river, choking off the salmon spawning grounds and filling up the cold pools salmon need to survive. Fishery biologists said water diversions and pollution from illegal marijuana farms have made the situation worse. Last summer, only 12 chinook were seen in the river, and the year before only 15 fish were counted by surveyors. The spring salmon run as a whole is less than 1 percent of its former size….

2018-09-13. Just a Few Pieces of Plastic Can Kill Sea Turtles. By Karen Weintraub, The New York Times. [] For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7. Excerpt: All over the world, sea turtles are swallowing bits of plastic floating in the ocean, mistaking them for tasty jellyfish, or just unable to avoid the debris that surrounds them. Now, a new study out of Australia is trying to catalog the damage. While some sea turtles have been found to have swallowed hundreds of bits of plastic, just 14 pieces significantly increases their risk of death, according to the study, published Thursday in Scientific Reports….

2018-07-25. Heat Waves, More Than Coral Death, May Cause Fish to Flee Reefs. By Ilima Loomis, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: It’s no secret that global warming is bringing dramatic changes to coral reef ecosystems. Scientists have widely believed that habitat loss caused by coral death has the biggest effect on reef fish and invertebrates. …Changes caused by warm water are actually faster and more widespread than the effects of habitat loss. Now new research has found that reef fish populations shift in direct response to the temperature itself and that changes caused by warm water are actually faster and more widespread than the effects of habitat loss. The findings are significant for coral reef protection because a loss of biodiversity, especially of fish that eat harmful algae, could make it harder for reefs to recover from heat waves. “I was surprised by how dramatic the response was over such a short time period,” said Chris Brown, a marine ecologist with the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University in Queensland who coauthored the paper…published online on 25 July in Nature….

2018-06-15. In the Philippines, Dynamite Fishing Decimates Entire Ocean Food Chains. By Aurora Almendral, The New York Times. Excerpt: BOHOL, Philippines — Nothing beats dynamite fishing for sheer efficiency. A fisherman in this scattering of islands in the central Philippines balanced on a narrow outrigger boat and launched a bottle bomb into the sea with the ease of a quarterback. It exploded in a violent burst, rocking the bottom of our boat and filling the air with an acrid smell. Fish bobbed onto the surface, dead or gasping their last breaths. Under the water, coral shattered into rubble. The blast ruptured the internal organs of reef fish, fractured their spines or tore at their flesh with coral shrapnel. From microscopic plankton to sea horses, anemones and sharks, little survives inside the 30- to 100-foot radius of an explosion. With 10,500 square miles of coral reef, the Philippines is a global center for marine biodiversity, which the country has struggled to protect in the face of human activity and institutional inaction. But as the effects of climate change on oceans become more acute, stopping dynamite and other illegal fishing has taken on a new urgency. …Dynamite fishing destroys both the food chain and the corals where the fish nest and grow. …

2018-06-04. Whale’s Death in Thailand Points to Global Scourge: Plastic in Oceans. By Mike Ives, The New York Times. Excerpt: HONG KONG — Hundreds of turtles, dolphins and whales become stranded every year on Thailand’s beaches after plastic impedes their mobility or clogs their insides. Some are lifeless on arrival, biologists say, and their deaths barely register with the public. But the survival of a pilot whale that washed ashore in southern Thailand last week, in critical condition and with a belly full of black plastic bags, became a cause célèbre for ordinary people. And its death a few days later was a vivid reminder of a staggering global problem: plastics in the oceans and seas. …After the whale’s death on Friday, a necropsy showed that it had washed ashore in the southern province of Songkhla with nearly 18 pounds of plastic in its stomach. Veterinarians had tried to save its life all week, to no avail. …Of the roughly 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics produced worldwide since the 1950s, about 6.3 billion have been thrown away, according to a 2017 study in the journal Science Advances. The study said that if current production and waste-management trends continued, about 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste would be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050. A need for packaging is the main driver of plastics consumption globally, and the study’s authors said that packaging made up 54 percent of the nonfiber plastic thrown away in 2015. …an estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste made its way into the world’s oceans each year — equivalent to “five plastic grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world,” the study’s lead author, Jenna Jambeck, told The New York Times….

2018-01-26. Plastic waste associated with disease on coral reefs. By Joleah B. Lamb et al, Science. Excerpt: Coral reefs provide vital fisheries and coastal defense, and they urgently need protection from the damaging effects of plastic waste. Lamb et al. surveyed 159 coral reefs in the Asia-Pacific region. Billions of plastic items were entangled in the reefs. The more spikey the coral species, the more likely they were to snag plastic. Disease likelihood increased 20-fold once a coral was draped in plastic. Plastic debris stresses coral through light deprivation, toxin release, and anoxia, giving pathogens a foothold for invasion. Abstract: Plastic waste can promote microbial colonization by pathogens implicated in outbreaks of disease in the ocean. We assessed the influence of plastic waste on disease risk in 124,000 reef-building corals from 159 reefs in the Asia-Pacific region. The likelihood of disease increases from 4% to 89% when corals are in contact with plastic. Structurally complex corals are eight times more likely to be affected by plastic, suggesting that microhabitats for reef-associated organisms and valuable fisheries will be disproportionately affected. Plastic levels on coral reefs correspond to estimates of terrestrial mismanaged plastic waste entering the ocean. We estimate that 11.1 billion plastic items are entangled on coral reefs across the Asia-Pacific and project this number to increase 40% by 2025. Plastic waste management is critical for reducing diseases that threaten ecosystem health and human livelihoods….

2018-01-04. Global Warming’s Toll on Coral Reefs: As if They’re ‘Ravaged by War’. By Kendra Pierre-Louis and Brad Plumer, The New York Times. Excerpt: …reefs, home to a quarter of all marine fish species, are now increasingly threatened as rising ocean temperatures accelerate a phenomenon known as coral bleaching. Large-scale coral bleaching events, in which reefs become extremely fragile, were virtually unheard-of before the 1980s. But in the years since, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science, the frequency of coral bleaching has increased to the point that reefs no longer have sufficient recovery time between severe episodes. …During bleaching events, overheated seawater causes corals to part ways with symbiotic plantlike organisms called zooxanthella that live inside of them. In addition to giving coral reefs their bright colors, zooxanthella also provide corals with oxygen, waste filtration, and up to 90 percent of their energy. Absent zooxanthella, corals not only take on a ghostly pallor, hence the term bleaching, but they are also more susceptible to death. …Typically, it takes 10 to 15 years for the fastest-growing corals to recover after a severe bleaching event. Larger corals that provide shelter for bigger fish can take even longer to grow back. As bleaching events become more frequent, reefs are unlikely to get that needed reprieve. Earth’s average temperature has increased 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels, and the median time between severe bleaching events is now just six years, the Science study found….

2017-10-26. Shocking photo shows Caribbean Sea being ‘choked to death by human waste’. By Mark Molloy, The Telegraph. Excerpt: A photographer has captured the damage being done to the planet’s oceans with a shocking “sea of plastic and styrofoam” image taken near a tranquil Caribbean island. Caroline Power, who specialises in underwater photography, has dedicated her career to highlighting the damage plastic waste is doing to our oceans.  She said witnessing the plastic blanket of forks, bottles and rubbish between the islands Roatan and Cayos Cochinos, off the coast of Honduras, was “devastating”….

2017-06-16. The Great Barrier Reef: 25,000,000 B.C.– A.D. 2017? By Jeff Turrentine, NRDC OnEarth. Excerpt: Australia’s Great Barrier Reef isn’t dead yet. But it’s dying. What’s killing the largest coral reef system on the planet? The short answer is us. We’re killing it via warmer waters, ocean acidification, pollution, poaching, and overfishing. Right now, scientists are most concerned about something called coral bleaching. …Bleaching typically occurs when warm water stresses the coral polyps—the trillions of tiny animals that make up a reef—causing them to expel zooxanthellae, the photosynthetic algae that live within the polyps and serve as their principal food source, as well as the source of their Technicolor appearance. Though bleached coral isn’t dead, it’s weakened significantly by the loss of these algae; as a result, it’s far more likely to become diseased and to die. And while coral can recover, it generally takes about 10 years of normal (i.e., cooler) water temperatures for it to do so. …Last week, scientists announced that they had discovered what they believe is a new breed of “super corals” in the South Pacific. These corals seem to have successfully adapted to the warmer, more acidic, and less oxygenated seas that now characterize the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem (and so many others). Should such super corals be found off Queensland, as the scientists hope they will be, then all hope may not be lost. Maybe, the researchers say, these specimens can flourish under what we have taken to be highly suboptimal conditions and repopulate the reef for the remainder of the Anthropocene….

2017-03-15. Large Sections of Australia’s Great Reef Are Now Dead, Scientists Find.By Damien Cave and Justin Gillis, The New York Times.  Excerpt: SYDNEY, Australia — The Great Barrier Reef in Australia has long been one of the world’s most magnificent natural wonders, so enormous it can be seen from space, so beautiful it can move visitors to tears. But the reef, and the profusion of sea creatures living near it, are in profound trouble. Huge sections of the Great Barrier Reef, stretching across hundreds of miles of its most pristine northern sector, were recently found to be dead, killed last year by overheated seawater. More southerly sections around the middle of the reef that barely escaped then are bleaching now, a potential precursor to another die-off that could rob some of the reef’s most visited areas of color and life. “We didn’t expect to see this level of destruction to the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years,” said Terry P. Hughes, director of a government-funded center for coral reef studies at James Cook University in Australia and the lead author of a paper on the reef that is being published Thursday as the cover article of the journal Nature. “In the north, I saw hundreds of reefs — literally two-thirds of the reefs were dying and are now dead.” The damage to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s largest living structures, is part of a global calamity that has been unfolding intermittently for nearly two decades and seems to be intensifying. In the paper, dozens of scientists described the recent disaster as the third worldwide mass bleaching of coral reefs since 1998, but by far the most widespread and damaging. The state of coral reefs is a telling sign of the health of the seas. Their distress and death are yet another marker of the ravages of global climate change….

2017-03-02. Scientists Develop New Tool to Monitor Reef Health. By Sarah Stanley, EoS Earth & Space News (AGU). Excerpt: Coral reefs around the world face destruction due to ocean acidification, pollution, overfishing, and other factors. These stressors affect reef health on short timescales, but scientists have struggled to capture the details of these rapid changes. Takeshita et al. have now developed and successfully tested a new tool that could improve real-time reef monitoring worldwide. The Benthic Ecosystem and Acidification Measurements System (BEAMS) is the first tool that can make autonomous, simultaneous measurements of two important reef health indicators: net community production (NCP) and net community calcification (NCC). NCP is the balance between organic production and respiration, and NCC is the balance between calcification (reef building) and dissolution (reef erosion)….

2016-11-28. Great Barrier Reef suffered worst bleaching on record in 2016, report finds. By Hywel Griffith, BBC News, Sydney. Excerpt: Higher water temperatures in 2016 caused the worst destruction of corals ever recorded on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, a study has found. Some 67% of corals died in the reef’s worst-hit northern section, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies report said. The situation was better in the central section, where 6% perished, while the southern reef is in good health. …This year’s mass bleaching was the worst-ever recorded on the Great Barrier Reef, following two previous events in 1998 and 2002. Professor Hughes is certain that the increased water temperature is the result of carbon emissions, and warns that climate change could bring annual bleaching within 20 years. “Most of the losses in 2016 have occurred in the northern, most pristine part of the Great Barrier Reef,” he said….

2016-09. SF Bay Freshwater-Starved Estuary. By The Bay Institute. Excerpt:  The Bay Institute’s major new study, San Francisco Bay: The Freshwater – Starved Estuary, documents how the ecological health of San Francisco Bay and the nearby ocean is at high risk because large-scale water diversion in the Bay’s watershed severely limits the amount of fresh water that reaches the Bay and alters the timing of that flow. Inflow to the Bay from its Central Valley watershed now averages less than half of what it would be without diversions; in some years just one-third of the runoff makes it to the Bay. The result is a nearly permanent drought for the Bay’s fish, wildlife, and their habitats. This radical alteration creates severe consequences for the Bay and marine ecosystems – and Bay Area residents pay the price. …Numerous unrelated fish species – from sharks to salmon, from sturgeon to smelt – show strong positive correlations with Bay Inflow; many of these species are now endangered, and even commercially viable fisheries are in decline; Predators that feed on flow-dependent fish and shrimp are feeling the pinch – for example, dwindling supplies of Central Valley Chinook salmon may restrict the recovery of the local Orca whale population….

2016-08-15. Giant Coral Reef in Protected Area Shows New Signs of Life. By Karen Weintraub, The New York Times. Excerpt: On the floor of a remote island lagoon halfway between Hawaii and Fiji, the giant reef site had been devastated by unusually warm water. Its remains looked like a pile of drab dinner plates tossed into the sea. Research dives in 2009 and 2012 had shown little improvement in the coral colonies. Then in 2015, a team of marine biologists was stunned and overjoyed to find Coral Castles, genus Acropora, once again teeming with life. But the rebound came with a big question: Could the enormous and presumably still fragile coral survive what would be the hottest year on record? This month, the Massachusetts-based research team finished a new exploration of the reefs in the secluded Phoenix Islands, a tiny Pacific archipelago, and were thrilled by what they saw. …they were greeted with a vista of bright greens and purples — unmistakable signs of life….

2016-07-04. Slowing Ocean Acidification With Kelp. By The Associated Press. Excerpt: Joth Davis, a senior scientist at the Puget Sound Restoration Fund, recently unspooled 150 feet of line holding thousands of tiny spores of kelp into Hood Canal in Washington State. …The bull kelp seedlings will eventually form thick, slimy ribbons of brown seaweed — and in the process take up carbon dioxide and other nutrients. The researchers hope kelp may provide offer a local strategy for easing the effects of ocean acidification. …

2016-06-26. In vitro fertilization may save coral reefs. By David Perlman, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: Marine biologists at the California Academy of Sciences have joined a new international effort to rescue endangered coral reefs from the consequences of widespread human destruction and a warming climate. Teams of research divers from the academy will set off this summer on expeditions to the Caribbean and Mexico, where they will seed two of the region’s major reefs with millions of coral larvae born from the organisms’ sperm and egg cells. …corals are actually colonies of tiny animals that build their limestone homes from the sea, and derive their colors from the algae that live inside them. Their lives are increasingly threatened by global plagues like expanding human development, ocean pollution, and the twin signals of global climate change: rising temperatures and increasing ocean acidification. …The expedition is scheduled for August because the corals spawn only about once a year, releasing their sex cells into the water by the millions, Shepherd explained. The event, he said, occurs only in August at night and only within a few days after a full moon….

2016-04-29. The case for farmed fish. By Dan Farber, UC Berkeley Blog. Excerpt: It’s time to take a second look at fish farms. Environmentalists, not to mention foodies, tend to turn up their noses at fish farms.  It’s true that badly managed fish farms can be a source of water pollution and other environmental problems.  But sustainable fish farming would have major environmental benefits. To begin with, fish farming provides an alternative that may reduce pressures on wild fish stocks. Fish are a major source of protein in many parts of the world, and the result has been massive damage to wild fisheries and ecosystems.  …We shouldn’t let our sense that fish farming is “unnatural” get in the way of environmentally sensible choices….

2016-04-09. Climate-Related Death of Coral Around World Alarms Scientists. By Michelle Innis, The New York Times. Excerpt: SYDNEY, Australia — Kim Cobb, a marine scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, expected the coral to be damaged when she plunged into the deep blue waters off Kiritimati Island, …. Still, she was stunned…. “The entire reef is covered with a red-brown fuzz,… It is algae that has grown over dead coral. It was devastating.” The damage off Kiritimati is part of a mass bleaching of coral reefs around the world, only the third on record and possibly the worst ever. Scientists believe that heat stress from multiple weather events including the latest, severe El Niño, compounded by climate change, has threatened more than a third of Earth’s coral reefs. Many may not recover. Coral reefs are the crucial incubators of the ocean’s ecosystem, …. An estimated 30 million small-scale fishermen and women depend on reefs for their livelihoods,…. The largest bleaching, at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, was confirmed last month. In a survey of 520 individual reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef’s northern section, scientists from Australia’s National Coral Bleaching Task Force found only four with no signs of bleaching. …half the coral they had seen had died.  …A large underwater heat wave formed in the northeastern Pacific in early 2014, and has since stretched into a wide band along the west coast of North America, …. Then came 2015, with the most powerful El Niño climate cycle in a century. …“We are currently experiencing the longest global coral bleaching event ever observed,” said C. Mark Eakin, the Coral Reef Watch coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Maryland. “We are going to lose a lot of the world’s reefs during this event.” Reefs that take centuries to form can be destroyed in weeks….

2016-02-24. How do you save a sick coral reef? Pop an antacid. By Eli Kintisch, Science. Excerpt: Anyone who has ever dissolved a piece of chalk in vinegar knows that ocean acidification—the result of seawater absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution from the air—has to be bad for calcareous creatures like coral. But just how big a role does ocean acidification play in the sickly state of many reefs? …Near shores across the planet, the health of reefs is in decline. Global studies have shown that major reef systems are calcifying—building their stony skeletons—more slowly, with one study suggesting growth rates of the Great Barrier Reef off Australia have plummeted 40% in just 3 decades. But lots of factors contribute to this harm: diseases, warming water, pollution, and sediment runoff, along with the 0.1 unit drop in the pH of the global ocean since the preindustrial era. …scientists led by Rebecca Albright of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California, set out to restore ocean chemistry to its preindustrial state at the One Tree Reef in the southern Great Barrier system. They released an antacidlike solution of sodium hydroxide into a lagoon in the reef, reversing acidification. …Their calculations, published today in Nature, suggest that human alteration of ocean pH since the preindustrial era has reduced reefs’ ability to calcify by 12%. The study “provides new field-based evidence that ocean acidification-induced changes in coral reef growth are already underway,” Albright’s team said in a press release. …But Carnegie geochemist Ken Caldeira, who oversaw the new study, says …“Just to keep the oceans where they are and compensate for ongoing CO2 uptake,” he says, “you would need to add over 20 billion tons of limestone to the ocean each year. Not impossible, but a huge job. To undo the acidification that has already occurred you would need to add over a trillion tons of dissolved limestone. Not impossible, but highly unlikely.” The best way to protect reefs, he says, is to “stop treating the atmosphere like a sewer” by dumping CO2 into it, where the pollutant alters the climate and acidifies the oceans….

2015-10-29. Collapse of New England’s iconic cod tied to climate change. By Marianne Lavelle, Science. Excerpt: The Atlantic cod, a fish that came to symbolize bounty to America’s colonial settlers, is on the brink of disappearing, despite years of fishing limits aimed at rebuilding stocks. A new study reveals why: Cod spawning and survival has been hampered by rapid, extraordinary ocean warming in the Gulf of Maine, where sea surface temperatures rose faster than anywhere else on the planet between 2003 and 2014. …The scientists used satellite data to track the daily sea surface temperature trend in the Gulf of Maine. From 1982 until 2004, they found, temperatures rose by 0.03°C per year, or three times the global mean rate. That warming accelerated sevenfold beginning in 2004, peaking in 2012 with a large “ocean heat wave” that persisted for 18 months, according to the study. …Using recent Gulf of Maine cod stock assessments, the researchers then tested a number of models for predicting the factors that affected cod reproduction. Warming was the best predictor, they reported: When summer temperatures went up, the number of fish reaching maturity went down. “The number of new cod for each year that appear in the population is strongly related to temperature,” Pershing says….

2015-10-20. How we are all contributing to the destruction of coral reefs: Sunscreen. By By Darryl Fears, Washington Post. Excerpt: The sunscreen that snorkelers, beachgoers and children romping in the waves lather on for protection is killing coral and reefs around the globe. And a new study finds that a single drop in a small area is all it takes for the chemicals in the lotion to mount an attack. The study, released Tuesday, was conducted in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Hawaii several years after a chance encounter between a group of researchers on one of the Caribbean beaches, Trunk Bay, and a vendor waiting for the day’s invasion of tourists. Just wait to see what they’d leave behind, he told the scientists – “a long oil slick.” His comment sparked the idea for the research. Not only did the study determine that a tiny amount of sunscreen is all it takes to begin damaging the delicate corals — the equivalent of a drop of water in a half-dozen Olympic-sized swimming pools — it documented three different ways that the ingredient oxybenzone breaks the coral down, robbing it of life-giving nutrients and turning it ghostly white. …Athletes who slather sunscreen on before a run, mothers who coat their children before outdoor play and people trying to catch some rays in the park all come home and wash it off. …Cities …have built sewer outfalls that jettison tainted wastewater away from public beaches, sending personal care products with a cocktail of chemicals into the ocean. …sewer overflows during heavy rains spew millions of tons of waste mixed with stormwater into rivers and streams. Like sunscreen lotions, products like birth-control pills contain chemicals that are endocrine disruptors and alter the way organisms grow. Those are among the main suspects in an investigation into why male fish such as bass are developing female organs….

2015-09-16. Ocean fish numbers on ‘brink of collapse’: WWF. By Alister Doyle, Reuters. Excerpt: The amount of fish in the oceans has halved since 1970, in a plunge to the “brink of collapse” caused by over-fishing and other threats, the WWF conservation group said on Wednesday. Populations of some commercial fish stocks, such as a group including tuna, mackerel and bonito, had fallen by almost 75 percent, according to a study by the WWF and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). …The analysis said it tracked 5,829 populations of 1,234 species, such as seals, turtles and dolphins and sharks. It said the ZSL data sets were almost twice as large as past studies. …The study said the world’s fishing fleets were too big and supported by subsidies totaling $14-35 billion a year. Later this month, governments are due to adopt new U.N. sustainable development goals, including ending over-fishing and destructive fishing practices by 2020 and restoring stocks “in the shortest time feasible”….

2015-06-19. Vanishing Vaquitas. By Clara Chaisson, OnEarth, NRDC. Excerpt: A report finds that the world’s smallest cetacean has reached a dangerous new low. The world’s smallest porpoise is in big trouble. A report released today finds that the vaquita—which has likely been declining since the 1950s and is already considered the most endangered porpoise species in the world—is faring even worse in the waters off western Mexico than previously thought….

2015-03-07. Despite Protections, Miami Port Project Smothers Coral Reef in Silt. By Lizette Alvarez, The New York Times. Excerpt: MIAMI — The government divers who plunged into the bay near the Port of Miami surfaced with bad news again and again: Large numbers of corals were either dead or dying, suffocated by sediment. The source of the sediment, environmentalists say, is a $205 million dredging project, scheduled to end in July and intended to expand a shipping channel to make room for a new generation of supersize cargo ships….

2015-02-12. Study Finds Rising Levels of Plastics in Oceans. John Schwartz, The New York Times. Excerpt: Some eight million metric tons of plastic waste makes its way into the world’s oceans each year, and the amount of the debris is likely to increase greatly over the next decade unless nations take strong measures to dispose of their trash responsibly, new research suggests. The report, which appeared in the journal Science on Thursday, is the most ambitious effort yet to estimate how much plastic debris ends up in the sea. Jenna Jambeck, an assistant professor of environmental engineering at the University of Georgia and lead author of the study, said the amount of plastic that entered the oceans in the year measured, 2010, might be as little as 4.8 million metric tons or as much as 12.7 million….

2015-02-09. Atlantic Corals: Colorful and Vulnerable. James Gorman, The New York Times. Excerpt: A council that sets regulations for fishing off the mid-Atlantic coast will meet on Wednesday to consider protections for little known and fragile ecosystems of deep sea corals in and around 15 ocean sites. Environmental groups and sport fishermen are pushing for protection of these canyons …. The squid-fishing industry is opposed to the broader restrictions …. Some of the corals could also be affected by oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic, after President Obama said last month that he would open up the region to oil and gas leases. However, different agencies are involved in that process. ….

2015-01-16. Marine defaunation: Animal loss in the global ocean. Douglas J. McCauley et al, Science Vol 347 no. 6219. Abstract: Marine defaunation, or human-caused animal loss in the oceans, emerged forcefully only hundreds of years ago, whereas terrestrial defaunation has been occurring far longer. Though humans have caused few global marine extinctions, we have profoundly affected marine wildlife, altering the functioning and provisioning of services in every ocean. Current ocean trends, coupled with terrestrial defaunation lessons, suggest that marine defaunation rates will rapidly intensify as human use of the oceans industrializes. Though protected areas are a powerful tool to harness ocean productivity, especially when designed with future climate in mind, additional management strategies will be required. Overall, habitat degradation is likely to intensify as a major driver of marine wildlife loss. Proactive intervention can avert a marine defaunation disaster of the magnitude observed on land….

2015-01-15. Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says. By Carl Zimmer, The New York Times. Excerpt: A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them. “We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science. …Dr. Pinsky, Dr. McCauley and their colleagues sought a clearer picture of the oceans’ health by pulling together data from an enormous range of sources, from discoveries in the fossil record to statistics on modern container shipping, fish catches and seabed mining. While many of the findings already existed, they had never been juxtaposed in such a way. …Coral reefs, for example, have declined by 40 percent worldwide, partly as a result of climate-change-driven warming. …“If you cranked up the aquarium heater and dumped some acid in the water, your fish would not be very happy,” Dr. Pinsky said. “In effect, that’s what we’re doing to the oceans.” …Mining operations, too, are poised to transform the ocean. Contracts for seabed mining now cover 460,000 square miles underwater, the researchers found, up from zero in 2000. Seabed mining has the potential to tear up unique ecosystems and introduce pollution into the deep sea. …Dr. McCauley and his colleagues argue that limiting the industrialization of the oceans to some regions could allow threatened species to recover in other ones. …Ultimately, Dr. Palumbi warned, slowing extinctions in the oceans will mean cutting back on carbon emissions, not just adapting to them. “If by the end of the century we’re not off the business-as-usual curve we are now, I honestly feel there’s not much hope for normal ecosystems in the ocean,” he said….

2014-12-14. Waters Warm, and Cod Catch Ebbs in Maine. By Michael Wines and Jess Bidgood, The New York Times. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7 & Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt:  In the vast gulf that arcs from Massachusetts’s shores to Canada’s Bay of Fundy, cod was once king. It paid for fishermen’s boats, fed their families and put their children through college. In one halcyon year in the mid-1980s, the codfish catch reached 25,000 tons. Today, the cod population has collapsed. …The Gulf of Maine’s waters are warming — faster than almost any ocean waters on earth, scientists say — and fish are voting with their fins for cooler places to live. That is upending an ecosystem and the fishing industry that depends on it. …In decades past, the gulf had warmed on average by about one degree every 21 years. In the last decade, the average has been one degree every two years. “What we’re experiencing is a warming that very few ocean ecosystems have ever experienced,” said Andrew J. Pershing, the chief scientific officer for the Gulf of Maine Research Institute here.  …the latest warming is not unprecedented. Weather records document a steady, if slow warming of the region’s waters since the 1850s, and a 50- to-70-year climatic cycle set off unusual ocean warming in the 1950s. A similar cycle is believed to be heating up the northwest Atlantic today. But scientists say those cyclical effects are now being turbocharged by human-caused climate change….

2014-11-12. Fishermen in Brazil Save a River Goliath, and Their Livelihoods. By Simon Romero, The New York Times. Excerpt: TEFÉ, Brazil …In piranha-infested waters, fishermen go in search of the pirarucu, which can grow as long as seven feet and weigh more than 400 pounds, placing them in the ranks of freshwater megafish…. With overfishing and habitat degradation threatening such Goliaths in different parts of the world, riverbank dwellers and biologists in the Amazon are working together to save the pirarucu (pronounced pee-rah-roo-KOO) by prohibiting outsiders from catching the fish and overhauling their own methods of pursuing it. Their effort to save the fish is yielding a pioneering conservation success story in the Amazon while offering a strategy for fending off a broader freshwater extinction crisis, according to fisheries experts who track the depletion of big fish in the world’s rivers and lakes. …Authorities began by issuing a general ban on pirarucu fishing in 1996 in Amazonas — the giant Brazilian state in the Amazon River basin that is three times the size of California — but granting local peoples exclusive fishing rights to waters in their territory. …More than 1,400 fishermen in and around Mamirauá take part in the pirarucu management regime, hewing to quotas and tagging each fish they catch. Fishermen in 2013 took home an average of about $650 each from pirarucu fishing, a welcome sum in far-flung villages. Still, illegal pirarucu fishing flourishes in parts of the Amazon, lowering prices for the fish in street markets…. By Simon Romero, The New York Times.

2014-09-09. Biologists try to dig endangered pupfish out of its hole. Excerpt: Scientists estimate that fewer than 100 Devils Hole pupfish remain in their Mojave Desert home, but a conservation biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, is giving important guidance in the efforts to rescue them by establishing a captive breeding program. Considered the world’s rarest fish, with one of the smallest geographic ranges of any wild vertebrate, the tiny pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis) – about one-inch long as an adult – neared extinction in spring 2013 when populations dropped to an all-time low of 35 observable pupfish. …the species is considered critically endangered. …The pupfish is found only in a limestone cavern in the Devils Hole geothermal pool, about 60 miles east of Death Valley National Park. …The oxygen-poor water in Devils Hole stays a toasty 92-93 degrees Fahrenheit, around the upper limits of temperature tolerated by most fish. A study published last month found that climate change is contributing to the warming of the water in Devils Hole, negatively affecting the ability of eggs to hatch and larvae to survive. Pupfish populations also may have declined due to reductions in food supply and genetic diversity…. By Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley News Center.

2014-09-05. A Whale of a Recovery for California’s Blue Whales. Excerpt: The blue whale, the biggest animal on the planet, was hunted with abandon in the Pacific Ocean until the early 1970s. The species has been rebounding ever since,  …Scientists at the University of Washington (Cole C. Monnahan, Trevor A. Branch and André E. Punt) have just published research finding that the West Coast blue whale population of around 2,200 individuals appears to be approaching its pre-slaughter size, with the slowing growth a function of the carrying capacity of the marine ecosystem. Collisions with ships remain a problem, the scientists write, but should not affect the whales’ prospects…. By Andrew C. Revkin, The New York Times.

2014-08-24. What’s Killing the Bay Area’s Oysters? Excerpt: Signifiers of the good life, local bivalves may be harbingers of another phenomenon: species extinction. …roughly 7 million oysters … the five oyster farms on Tomales Bay sell each year to local restaurants and bars. …Though Hog Island’s inventory had restabilized by 2013, …We just couldn’t supply the product. It was painful—and still is because we’re not over it. The culprit? Ocean acidification—climate change’s caustic cousin—caused by rising carbon dioxide emissions. …In 2005, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began reporting that hatcheries throughout the West Coast were seeing steep declines in production, putting the $84 million industry in jeopardy. Hatchery staff and scientists scrambled to pinpoint the cause, …. It wasn’t until a year later that [Alan] Barton [or Whiskey Creek shellfish hatchery in Tillamook, Oregon] solved the mystery that had stumped scientists. On an ordinary summer day that was marred by a particularly bad die-off, he decided to test the pH levels in the tanks. …Lo and behold, the pH level of the water was drastically lower (read: more corrosive) than usual. …because the acidification is exacerbated by carbon dioxide emissions, every year it gets a little worse. …These days, we release roughly 70 million tons per day—and the oceans soak up nearly a third of that. The result? On average, the sea is 30 percent more acidic than it was 200 years ago. And in the last decade, it began passing the point where young oysters can survive. It’s not necessarily the acidity that causes problems for the oysters, but rather the concomitant lack of carbonate ions in the water. Shellfish use these free-floating ions to build their shells. When seawater absorbs carbon dioxide, the number of carbonate ions available for the shellfish is reduced. “A baby oyster is trying to eat, grow, move around, and make a shell. So if it spends more energy trying to make a shell, then something else in that equation is going to suffer,” says Tessa Hill, a scientist with UC Davis who studies the impacts of rising carbon dioxide levels on native shellfish. “I say it’s like balancing your checkbook—you can’t spend a lot of energy on one thing without cutting back in some other category.” By Jacoba Charles, San Francisco Magazine. 
2014-07. What seafood guzzles the most gas? Excerpt: …diesel is the single largest expense for the fishing industry and its biggest source of greenhouse gases. Not all fish have the same carbon finprint, however, and a new study reveals which ones take the most fuel to catch. Robert Parker, a Ph.D. student at the University of Tasmania, Hobart, in Australia, and Peter Tyedmers, an ecological economist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, analyzed more than 1600 records of fuel use by fishing fleets worldwide. They … reported online this month in Fish and Fisheries. 7. Sardines: 71 liters …Icelandic herring and Peruvian anchovies are the least fuel-intensive industrial fisheries known, caught with just 8 liters of fuel per ton of fish. 6. Skipjack tuna: 434 liters …5. Scallops: 525 liters …4. North American salmon: 886 liters …3. Pacific albacore: 1612 liters …2. Sole: 2827 liters …1. Shrimp and lobster: 2923 liters …How does wild seafood compare with other kinds of animal protein? The median fuel use in the fisheries is 639 liters per ton. In terms of climate impact, that’s equivalent to a bit more than 2 kilograms of carbon dioxide emitted for each kilogram of seafood landed. Chicken and farmed salmon and trout are roughly the same, but beef is significantly higher at 10 kg of carbon dioxide per kg of live animal. “If you’re looking at having a green diet, you want to transition away from beef,” Parker says…. by Erik Stokstad, Science.

2014-06-02. Big Island Senator: Whales and Honu Have Too Many Protections. Excerpt: Sen. Malama Solomon says people should be prioritized over whales and green sea turtles. She wants NOAA to delist them as endangered. …Hawaii’s whale population has increased 20-fold since the days of Gov. George Ariyoshi…. Last year, a group of Hawaii fishermen filed a petition with NOAA to have the whales removed from the endangered species list, noting their growing numbers. The humpback whales in the North Pacific have increased to more than 21,000 today, from about 1,400 in the mid-1960s, according to the Associated Press. The global whale population was decimated by the commercial whaling industry beginning in the early 20th century. In 1973, the federal government made it illegal to hunt or harm them. They are protected not only by the Endangered Species Act, but also by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Hawaii wildlife laws and the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. In 1992, the U.S. Congress created the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, jointly managed by NOAA and the state of Hawaii. …The “waters around the main Hawaiian islands constitute one of the world’s most important North Pacific humpback whale habitats, and the only place in U.S. coastal waters where humpbacks reproduce,” according to NOAA’s web site. …The population of green sea turtles in Hawaii has also increased since they were placed on the endangered species list in 1978. …increased six-fold since the 1970s, according to The Garden Island. NOAA is currently reviewing whether they should be delisted…. By Sophie Cocke, Honolulu Civil Beat.

2014-01-15. Key species of algae shows effects of climate change over time. Excerpt: A study of marine life in the temperate coastal waters of the northeast Pacific Ocean shows a reversal of competitive dominance among species of algae, suggesting that increased ocean acidification caused by global climate change is altering biodiversity. The study, published online January 15, 2014, in the journal Ecology Letters, examined competitive dynamics among crustose coralline algae, a group of species living in the waters around Tatoosh Island, Washington. These species of algae grow skeletons made of calcium carbonate, much like other shelled organisms such as mussels and oysters. As the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the water becomes more acidic. Crustose coralline algae and shellfish have difficulty producing their skeletons and shells in such an environment, and can provide an early indicator of how increasing ocean acidification affects marine life… University of Chicago Medical Center

2013-12-24. When Whale Watching Turns Deadly.   Excerpt: Humpback whales are facing new dangers in Hawaiian waters, where more than 10,000 of the cetaceans congregate from December to April to calve and breed. That’s the conclusion of an analysis of historical records of ship strikes on humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the seas around the Hawaiian Islands between 1975 and 2011. In that 36-year period, 68 such strikes were reported, …more than 63% of the collisions involved calves and subadults, …younger animals are particularly susceptible to being struck, most likely because they spend more time at the surface to breathe than do adults. …the number of strikes has steadily increased over the years, …and not because there are more whales. Instead, the increase is apparently due to tourism. The majority of vessels that have collided with whales in Hawaii are small- to medium-sized boats, less than 21.2 meters in length, the scientists say, which happens to be the size of commercial whale-watching vessels. Federal regulations require these boats to remain at least 100 yards distance from the humpbacks. …The majority of collisions occurred when the vessels were travelling at 10 to 19 knots, …too fast to avoid colliding with the very animals the skippers and tourists have come out to watch. Virginia Morell, Science.

2013-11-03. U.S. agency proposes rules to protect bluefin tuna.  Excerpt:  Pity, for a moment, the poor Atlantic bluefin tuna. It’s not bad enough that its population has been decimated by diners’ seemingly insatiable appetite for sushi. Or that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred at the height of its spawning season, in its only known Western spawning grounds. No, bluefin also are plagued by another long-standing problem: They are inevitably caught by long-line fishermen trying to hook bigger, healthier schools of yellowfin tuna, swordfish and big-eye tuna. Under government regulations, the fishermen are allowed to bring a small number of the carefully regulated and valuable fish to shore for sale, but most of them die on hooks hanging from 20-mile fishing lines and are discarded at sea. …By one estimate, 111 metric tons of bluefin were killed this way in one year. The “bycatch” problem is slowing efforts to rebuild the bluefin population in the western Atlantic, which is at 36 percent of the 1970 level, according to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. …Now, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the U.S. government agency that regulates offshore fishing, … is proposing … sharply cut back the number of bluefin tuna that individual fishing vessels are allowed to capture accidentally, setting a quota for each boat and requiring fishermen to include the bluefin they discard at sea under that cap. The NMFS also would change the long-standing formula by which it calculates the number of pounds of bluefin tuna that a long-liner may legally bring to shore for sale. Any vessel that exceeds its cap for accidentally caught bluefin wouldn’t be able to leave the dock to fish for other species, according to the proposal…. Lenny Bernstein, Wachington Post. 

2013-10-29. Just how badly are we overfishing the oceans?  Excerpt:  Humans now have the technology to find and catch every last fish on the planet. Trawl nets, drift nets, longlines, GPS, sonar… As a result, fishing operations have expanded to virtually all corners of the ocean over the past century. …That, in turn, has put a strain on fish populations. The world’s marine fisheries peaked in the 1990s, when the global catch was higher than it is today. And the populations of key commercial species like bluefin tuna and cod have dwindled, in some cases falling more than 90 percent. So just how badly are we overfishing the oceans? Are fish populations going to keep shrinking each year — or could they recover? …The pessimistic view, famously expressed by fisheries expert Daniel Pauly, is that we may be facing “The End of Fish.” One especially dire 2006 study in Science warned that many commercial ocean fish stocks were on pace to “collapse” by mid-century — at which point they would produce less than 10 percent of their peak catch.  …Other experts have countered that this view is far too alarmist. A number of countries have worked hard to improve their fisheries management over the years, including Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. “The U.S. is actually a big success story in rebuilding fish stocks,” Ray Hilborn, a marine biologist at the University of Washington, told me last year. Overfishing isn’t inevitable. We can fix it…. Brad Plumer, The Washington Post.

2013-09-11.  Seachange–The Pacific’s Perilous Turn.   Excerpt: Globally, overfishing remains a scourge. But souring seas and ocean warming are expected to reduce even more of the plants and animals we depend on for food and income. …. By Craig Welch, The Seattle Times.

2013-06-10.  Small and wild: how to feed fish to the world. Excerpt: …Andy Sharpless, CEO of Oceana, …ocean conservation organization, …”People need to give up shrimp,” he said, explaining that the fine nets used to catch them result in one of the highest levels of bycatch. The farmed fare isn’t much better, since it requires that tropical forests and mangroves be cleared, and leaves destroyed earth in its wake, on account of the chemical additives and pesticides used. …his new publication The Perfect Protein, …suggests …using wild ocean fish. Farmed fish …fed by other fish are what we might call the danger fish: they do the most damage because we use up the wild fish we should really be eating…. Farmed salmon …requires about five pounds of fishmeal to grow one pound. That meal typically comes in the shape of highly nutritious, rapidly reproducing forage fish like anchovies, sardines, and herrings.  …”Farmed mussels, farmed oysters, farmed clams,” said Sharpless, “are… dependent on healthier ocean bays where these are raised, shellfish farmers are what Sharpless calls “a wonderful ally for conservationists,” because they’re motivated to uphold healthy habitats. … eating more of the small fry that exist lower down the food chain, the authors argue, like sardines and anchovies, [that] reproduce more quickly, grow faster, many exist around the world and they “are at least equally nutritious to the ones at the top of the food chain.” They’re also less likely to harbour toxins….  His book lists several recipes for dishes that explore the flavours of small forage fish: anchovies, sardines, and mackerel. Others call for farmed bivalves like clams and mussels. Tilapia, salmon, and catfish are deemed suitable too, if they come from sustainable wild populations. …prawns aren’t featured…. Emma Bryce, The Guardian.

2013-05-31.  Climate change study: 82 percent of Calif. native fish species risk extinction.  Excerpt: Climate change may cause the extinction of 82 percent of California’s native fish species, including iconic ones such as Central Valley salmon and Delta smelt, according to a new study. The peer-reviewed study by fishery experts at UC Davis created a framework to measure how vulnerable numerous species are to climate change. It assesses habitat conditions, climate change projections and temperature sensitivity for the 121 native and 50 nonnative fish species that inhabit California. It found that 82 percent of the native species are at risk of extinction in the next 100 years, largely because climate change will make water temperatures too warm. For nonnative fish, which are generally more adaptable to warm water, only 19 percent are likely to die off. …The study is available online at …. Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee.

2012 October 01. Worrisome Measure of Decline at Great Barrier Reef. By Emma Bryce, The NY Times. Excerpt: A study released today by the Australian Institute of Marine Science shows that the Great Barrier Reef — a Heritage Site frequently held up as one of the world’s most striking coral conservation successes — has experienced considerable decline since 1985, and without intervention, live coral cover is projected to decrease another 5 to 10 percent over the next 10 years. Over the last 27 years, the study found, coral cover across the 133,000-square mile stretch of the Great Barrier Reef has fallen to 13.8 percent over all, from 28 percent. The study broke down the causes of the decline, attributing 48 percent of coral loss to cyclones, 10 percent to coral bleaching and the remainder — 42 percent — to excessive spawning of destructive crown of thorns starfish. The starfish, believed by researchers to prosper when artificial nutrients increase in oceans, consume and destroy more than their fair share of live coral cover…..

2012 Sept 18. Getting Bluefin Tuna Off the Hook. By Kelly Slivka, The NY Times. Excerpt: In the Gulf of Mexico, many fishermen use longlines to fish for swordfish and yellowfin tuna, but they also end up catching Atlantic bluefin tuna, among other species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the Atlantic bluefin as a threatened species and the Gulf of Mexico is known to be one of its spawning grounds, so purposefully fishing for the species has been forbidden in the gulf since 1982. However, the fishermen are allowed to catch some bluefins while fishing for other species — a loophole that the Pew Environment Group would like to close, said Tom Wheatley, who manages the organization’s Gulf Surface Longline Campaign…[by] collaborating on a pilot project with gulf swordfish and yellowfin tuna fishermen that involves testing two alternative fishing methods that tend to have a far smaller bluefin bycatch…

2012 July 06. Once-abundant West Coast oysters near extinction. By Paul Fimrite, SFGate. Excerpt: A disturbing nationwide decline in oysters and the life-giving reefs that they build is particularly dramatic in California, where the once-abundant native species has been virtually wiped out, according to a recent scientific study. The report, published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, said Olympia oysters, once an integral part of the Native American diet and a staple during the San Francisco Gold Rush, are functionally extinct…The loss of native oysters – not to be confused with the farm-raised Japanese Pacific oysters – is a serious issue…oysters clean the water by filter feeding. A single oyster can filter up to 30 gallons of water a day, removing nitrogen and other pollutants…The oyster beds, or reefs, they create provide habitat for myriad fish, crabs and other creatures.….

2012 June 25. ‘Nature’s Masons’ Do Double Duty as Storytellers.  By Sean B. Carroll, New York Times.  Excerpt: GUBBIO, Italy — …Limestone is composed largely of crystallized calcium carbonate. Some of it comes from the skeletal remains of well-known creatures like corals, but much of the rest comes from less appreciated but truly remarkable organisms called foraminifera, or forams for short. Forams have been called “nature’s masons,” … these single-celled protists construct surprisingly complex, ornate and beautiful shells to protect their bodies. After forams die, their shells settle in ocean sediments…. While tiny relative to ourselves …, forams are extremely large for single-celled organisms, … largest forams can reach a few centimeters. …Forams are a vital part of a “biological pump” that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, one reaction product is carbonate. In making their calcium carbonate shells, the large mass of so-called planktonic forams floating in the upper levels of the oceans sequester about one quarter of all carbonate produced in the oceans each year.
The increasing levels of carbon dioxide in our planet’s atmosphere, now at a greater level than at any time in the past 400,000 years, threaten to overwhelm this biological pump by inhibiting the formation of calcium carbonate shells. As more carbon dioxide dissolves in the ocean, the waters acidify, decreasing the concentration of carbonate and making it more difficult for these organisms to form calcium carbonate shells…. Read the full article:

2012 May 15. Saving the Wonders of the Sea of Cortez. By Tim Folger, OnEarth. Excerpt: In 2009…a research team…conducted an extensive survey of the Sea of Cortez, documenting the effects of overfishing and habitat loss. Fish have completely disappeared from some reefs in the northern part of the sea. The absence of grazing fish may explain why bacteria now cover the reefs, a phenomenon referred to by one of the researchers as the rise of the slime. For much of the past decade, Aburto Oropeza has been working with scientists in the United States and Mexico to identify habitats that are crucial for the long-term viability of fisheries in the Sea of Cortez. His research suggests a practical and economical conservation strategy: to save the sea, and the livelihoods of those who depend on its bounty, it might be enough to protect — with effective enforcement — a few key clearly defined areas…Since the 1970s, parts of the Sea of Cortez have lost more than a quarter of their mangrove forests, and nationwide the rate of destruction has accelerated, with some 2 percent of the remaining mangroves across Mexico now being cleared each year….

2012 May 12. Sonar, blasts could hurt more sea life, Navy says. By Associated Press, SF Gate. Excerpt: The U.S. Navy says its training and testing using sonar and explosives could potentially hurt more dolphins and whales in Hawaii and California waters than previously thought. In the study, the Navy estimates its use of explosives and sonar could unintentionally cause more than 1,600 instances of hearing loss or other injury to marine mammals in one year. The service calculates that its use of explosives could inadvertently cause more than 200 marine mammal deaths a year….

2012 Apr 21. A Ban on Some Seafood Has Fishermen Fuming. By Abby Goodnough, The New York Times. Excerpt: GLOUCESTER, Mass. — Standing on the deck of his rusted steel trawler, Naz Sanfilippo fumed about the latest bad news for New England fishermen: a decision by Whole Foods to stop selling any seafood it does not consider sustainable. …Starting Sunday, gray sole and skate, common catches in the region, will no longer appear in the grocery chain’s artfully arranged fish cases. Atlantic cod, a New England staple, will be sold only if it is not caught by trawlers, which drag nets across the ocean floor, a much-used method here. “It’s totally maddening,” Mr. Sanfilippo said. “They’re just doing it to make all the green people happy.” Whole Foods says that, in fact, it is doing its part to address the very real problem of overfishing and help badly depleted fish stocks recover. It is using ratings set by the Blue Ocean Institute, a conservation group, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. They are based on factors including how abundant a species is, how quickly it reproduces and whether the catch method damages its habitat. …Some question the need for grocery stores to reject certain American-caught fish when the government has already imposed its own conservation measures. Many of the nation’s fishermen now operate under federally created systems that allocate a yearly quota of fish…. Read the full article:

2011 Nov 21. Northwest Oyster Die-offs Show Ocean Acidification Has Arrived.  By Elizabeth Grossman, Yale Environment 360.  Excerpt: …It’s hard to imagine that the fate of the oysters being raised here at the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery is being determined by what came out of smokestacks and tailpipes in the 1960s and ‘70s. But this rural coastal spot and the shellfish it has nurtured for centuries are a bellwether of one of the most palpable changes being caused by global carbon dioxide emissions — ocean acidification….
…Ocean acidification — which makes it difficult for shellfish, corals, sea urchins, and other creatures to form the shells or calcium-based structures they need to live — was supposed to be a problem of the future. But because of patterns of ocean circulation, Pacific Northwest shellfish are already on the front lines of these potentially devastating changes in ocean chemistry….
…Because of the way seawater circulates around the world, the deep water now washing ashore in Oregon and Washington is actually 30 to 50 years old and absorbed its CO2 long before the fall of the Berlin Wall. This time lag is important because oceans absorb about 50 percent of the CO2 released by burning fossil fuels, emissions that have been rising dramatically in recent decades. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ocean acidity has increased approximately 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution, and if we continue our current rate of carbon emissions, global oceans could be 150 percent more acidic by the end of the century than they have been for 20 million years…..

2011 August 7. The Last of the Lobstermen, Chasing a Vanishing Treasure. By Barton Silverman, The New York Times. Excerpt: It has been 12 years since a great die-off of lobsters in Long Island Sound rocked the local industry and stumped researchers. It lasted three days but wiped out an estimated nine-tenths of the catch, compared with two years earlier. Scientists blamed global warming, citing increased temperatures in the lower waters where lobsters live. Another culprit was pesticides like those deployed against the West Nile virus. The die-off began around the same time that the remnants of Hurricane Floyd swept over Long Island and, lobstermen believe, flushed pesticides into the Sound. The past 12 years have not been kind. Adding to the misery is a bacterial invasion that causes deformities in lobster shells and “reduces the marketability of the product,” said Antoinette Clemetson, a marine fisheries specialist with New York Sea Grant. “We’re in the worst possible environmental combination of factors. They’re simultaneous”…

2011 July 18. California mussels: 1st warming casualty? By Pat Brennan, The Orange County Register. Excerpt: The iconic California mussel could be among the first casualties of oceans made more acidic by global warming, a new study of the coastal shellfish shows. Scientists who grew mussel larvae in a bath of acidified water thought to match expected changes in ocean chemistry report thinner, weaker shells and smaller bodies in a newly published study. 
“Indications from records are that acidity increased by about 30 percent in the last 250 years,” Gaylord said. 
…With little sign of a slackening of carbon dioxide, or CO2, emissions, changes in ocean chemistry seem almost inevitable, he said.
“These changes are going to proceed even if we stop emitting anymore CO2,” Gaylord said. “Humans have made the commitment to an altered environment.”

2011 July 9. Answer for Invasive Species: Put It on a Plate and Eat It. By Elisabeth Rosenthal, The NY Times. Excerpt: …An invasive species, the lionfish is devastating reef fish populations along the Florida coast and into the Caribbean. Now, an increasing number of environmentalists, consumer groups and scientists are seriously testing a novel solution to control it and other aquatic invasive species — one that would also takes pressure off depleted ocean fish stocks: they want Americans to step up to their plates and start eating invasive critters in large numbers.
“Humans are the most ubiquitous predators on earth,” said Philip Kramer, director of the Caribbean program for the Nature Conservancy. “Instead of eating something like shark fin soup, why not eat a species that is causing harm, and with your meal make a positive contribution?”….
…Scientists emphasize that human consumption is only part of what is needed to control invasive species and restore native fish populations, and that a comprehensive plan must include restoring fish predators to depleted habitats and erecting physical barriers to prevent further dissemination of the invaders….

2011 June 20. World’s oceans in ‘shocking’ decline. By Richard Black, BBC News. Excerpt: The oceans are in a worse state than previously suspected, according to an expert panel of scientists.
In a new report, they warn that ocean life is “at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history”.
They conclude that issues such as over-fishing, pollution and climate change are acting together in ways that have not previously been recognized….
…The panel was convened by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), and brought together experts from different disciplines, including coral reef ecologists, toxicologists, and fisheries scientists….

2011 June 20.  Is It Too Late for the Damba? By John S. Sparks and Christopher B. Braun, The NY Times. Excerpt: [Narrative of an ichthyologist working in Madagascar]…The native Paretroplus are striking fish, deep bodied forms that bear a close resemblance to their closest relatives on the Indian subcontinent, the genus Etroplus, despite being isolated since the Late Cretaceous period. There are less than 15 species of Paretroplus, and all but two are restricted to northwestern Madagascar. It is no exaggeration to state that a majority of these 15 species have some of the most restricted ranges of any vertebrates, frequently comprising only a short stretch of river or single small lake. Only Paretroplus polyactis has a widespread distribution along the eastern coast. Regrettably, most species of damba are on the verge of extinction, perhaps as a result of this strict endemism….
…For every endemic fish collected, huge stringers of introduced tilapia are captured. We have to leave this once diverse river and wonder if the damba are going to suffer the same fate as other Malagasy endemics….

2011 May 25.  New View of Undersea Giant Kelp Forest “Canopy”–From Satellites Above. By Cheryl Dybas, National Science Foundation. Excerpt: …In a melding of data from the beneath the waves and from the skies above, researchers have developed a method for studying how environmental factors affect the kelp forests.
The results have allowed scientists to look at changes in giant kelp across hundreds of square miles in California’s Santa Barbara Channel over 25 years, from 1984 through 2009…. 

2011 May 7.  Man-made rock reef is part of a welcome seaweed change. By Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times. Excerpt: …It was a gamble when Southern California Edison crews pushed basketball-size chunks of rock from a barge off San Clemente three years ago.
Eventually, the utility company hoped, the artificial reef it had assembled 50 feet below the waves would support a new kelp forest and fulfill state-imposed requirements to offset the damage its nearby nuclear power plant causes to marine life….
…Now, giant kelp has bounced back in the last few years, not because of made-man reefs but largely in response to a series of mild summers and an influx of cool, nutrient-rich water….
…For Edison, which has invested $39 million in the reef, there is hope its design will make up for the ups and downs of the ocean environment…. 

2010 November 22. Florida Keys Declare Open Season on the Invasive Lionfish. By Erik Olsen, The NY Times. Excerpt: …Officials and scientists are seeking to bring attention to the potential damage caused by this voracious, rapidly breeding fish and to control its spread, which in the Florida Keys has been so quick that wildlife managers are having a hard time adapting…
…One potential solution is to promote the fish as food for another voracious predator: man. Lionfish are considered excellent eating. Indeed, after the lionfish derby here, participants feasted on fried lionfish nuggets… 

2010 October 16. From Beautiful Nudibranchs to Coral Graveyards: Marine Research in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. By Dr. Terry Goslinger, Climate Storytellers. Excerpt: …For almost three decades I’ve been studying nudibranchs in the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans. Nudibranchs are beautiful and brightly colored sea slugs that thrive on healthy coral reefs. While that has been exhilarating, it is the changes that I’ve seen on these reefs that make me sit upright in bed in the middle of the night. Climate change is seriously endangering these richest reservoirs of marine biodiversity…. 

2010 October 14. Caribbean Coral Die-Off Could Be Worst Ever. by Eli Kintisch, ScienceNow. Excerpt: Scientists studying Caribbean reefs say that 2010 may be the worst year ever for coral death there. Abnormally warm water since June appears to have dealt a blow to shallow and deep-sea corals that is likely to top the devastation of 2005, when 80% of corals were bleached and as many as 40% died in areas on the eastern side of the Caribbean. 

2010 September 4. Taming the Wild Tuna. By Paul Greenburg, The New York Times. Excerpt: …Researchers at a European Union-financed program, Selfdott, said they had succeeded in spawning the Atlantic bluefin in captivity without hormonal intervention.
If they can solve the problem of raising the offspring to adulthood — a challenging prospect — the bluefin may soon join Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, branzino, yellowtail, turbot, shrimp, catfish and tilapia as an industrially farmed staple of the modern fish market. Which brings up an interesting question: Can a farmed version of bluefin tuna be better for the earth — and the species?
…Seafood today is roughly where landfood was 10,000 odd years ago. Just as Neolithic humans launched a domestication project after the last Ice Age and eventually replaced many wild mammal populations with tame ones, so, too, are modern humans parsing and domesticating the ocean, fish by fish.
Cultivating Atlantic bluefin tuna, environmentalists argue, could be even more harmful to the ocean than salmon farming. Atlantic bluefin are already ranched in great numbers — taken from the wild and fattened in net pens with wild forage fish like herring and sardines. …The effect on forage fish, the foundation of the oceanic food chain, could be devastating. A worldwide overharvest of forage fish could damage not just bluefin tuna populations but other important commercial species that also rely on these fish for sustenance.
…If Atlantic bluefin is not farmed, it will most likely become an even more scarce luxury item. Global fishing moratoriums on the species have been proposed (and then rejected by the many nations that catch bluefin). 

2010 June. Under the Water — Diving to see the Disaster. ABC News video with Philippe Cousteau Jr. (grandson of Jacques Cousteau) showing underwater views of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. 

2010 June 1. Deep Underwater, Oil Threatens Reefs. By John Collins Rudolf, NY Times. Excerpt: …“We flipped on the lights, and there was one of the largest coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico sitting right in front of us,” said Erik Cordes, a marine biologist at Temple University and chief scientist on the vessel, the Ronald H. Brown. 
…Nine months later, the warm thrill of discovery has cooled into dread. The reef lies just 20 miles northeast of BP’s blown-out well, making it one of at least three extensive deepwater reefs lying directly beneath the oil slick in the gulf. 
…Studies on the effects of oil and chemicals on coral are limited to the shallow-water variety, however. Essentially no research has been conducted on their slow-growing deepwater cousins. So BP’s spill has prompted scientists to embark on a sudden crash course on the interaction of deep-sea biology with these toxins. 
…“It might be locally catastrophic, particularly if there’s an oxygen-depleted mass that develops,” said Jeffrey Short, Pacific science director for Oceana, a conservation group, and a former research chemist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration specializing in oil pollution. 

2010 May 18. Gulf Oil Again Imperils Sea Turtle. By Leslie Kaufman, The NY Times. Excerpt: …Now Thelma and others of her species are being monitored closely by worried scientists as another major oil disaster threatens their habitat. Federal officials said Tuesday that since April 30, 10 days after the accident on the Deepwater Horizon, they have recorded 156 sea turtle deaths; most of the turtles were Kemp’s ridleys. And though they cannot say for sure that the oil was responsible, the number is far higher than usual for this time of year, the officials said. 

…The turtles may be more vulnerable than any other large marine animals to the oil spreading through the gulf. An ancient creature driven by instinct, it forages for food along the coast from Louisiana to Florida, in the path of the slick. 

…Then came the blowout on the Ixtoc 1. The deepwater well dumped three million barrels of crude into the gulf, covering the beach at Rancho Nuevo. Nine thousand hatchlings had to be airlifted to nearby beaches. Although the role of the oil in killing the turtles was never confirmed, by 1985, there were fewer than 1,000 Kemp’s ridleys left. 

2010 Feb 18. A Battle at Midway. By Greg Boustead, SEED Magazine. Excerpt: What happened to that disposable Solo cup—the one you used once at a work party—after you tossed it into the garbage? For that matter, what happens to any of the countless plastic products (shopping bags, coffee stirrers, water bottles, etc.) we use and then discard on a daily basis? Of course, conventional plastic doesn’t readily biodegrade; so where is it now? If you live in North America or Asia, there’s a chance that cup is trapped in a broad ocean current, known as a gyre, in the middle of the northern Pacific Ocean along with an untold number of other pieces of litter in what has been named the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
…Chris Jordan, a photographer whose work on visualizing impossibly large numbers we featured last week, traveled to the Midway Islands last year to document the Garbage Patch. What he returned with is visually shocking: a series of ghastly images of Albatross carcasses bursting with wholly undigested bits of plastic waste. The photographsquickly spread throughout the internet, bringing worldwide awareness to the potential threats of treating the ocean as a garbage disposal. Seed’s Greg Boustead recently caught up with the artist-cum-activist to talk about his trip, the art of capturing a nigh-invisible phenomenon, and what his pictures of grotesque, plastic-filled carcasses tell us…. 

2009 Nov. Video: Saving Sea Turtles, One Nest at a Time. By Shayla Harris, The NY Times. Global warming and coastal development are decimating Pacific sea turtle populations. In Costa Rica, a group of one-time poachers is giving baby sea turtles a chance at survival. 

2009 Nov. Rubbish in the Pacific. NY Times slide show. In a remote patch of the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles from any national boundary, the detritus of human life is collecting in a swirling current so large that it defies precise measurement…. 

2009 Nov 9. Afloat in the Ocean, Expanding Islands of Trash. By Lindsey Hoshaw, NY Times. Excerpt: …Light bulbs, bottle caps, toothbrushes, Popsicle sticks and tiny pieces of plastic, each the size of a grain of rice, inhabit the Pacific garbage patch, an area of widely dispersed trash that doubles in size every decade and is now believed to be roughly twice the size of Texas. But one research organization estimates that the garbage now actually pervades the Pacific, though most of it is caught in what oceanographers call a gyre like this one — an area of heavy currents and slack winds that keep the trash swirling in a giant whirlpool.
Scientists say the garbage patch is just one of five that may be caught in giant gyres scattered around the world’s oceans. Abandoned fishing gear like buoys, fishing line and nets account for some of the waste, but other items come from land after washing into storm drains and out to sea.
Plastic is the most common refuse in the patch because it is lightweight, durable and an omnipresent, disposable product in both advanced and developing societies. It can float along for hundreds of miles before being caught in a gyre and then, over time, breaking down.
But once it does split into pieces, the fragments look like confetti in the water. Millions, billions, trillions and more of these particles are floating in the world’s trash-filled gyres…. 

2009 October 29. Dining Out In An Ocean Of Plastic: How Foraging Albatrosses Put Plastic On The Menu. ScienceDaily. Excerpt: The North Pacific Ocean is now commonly referred to as the world’s largest garbage dump with an area the size of the continental United States covered in plastic debris. The highly mobile Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis), which forages throughout the North Pacific, is quickly becoming the poster child for the effects of plastic ingestion on marine animals due to their tendency to ingest large amounts of plastic.
…Dr. Lindsay Young of the University of Hawaii and her colleagues examined whether Laysan albatrosses nesting on Kure Atoll and Oahu, Hawaii, 2,150 km away, ingested different amounts of plastic by putting miniaturized tracking devices on birds to follow them at sea and examining their regurgitated stomach contents. Surprisingly, birds from Kure Atoll ingested almost ten times the amount of plastic compared to birds from Oahu.
…The most common identifiable items they found were paraphernalia from the fishing industry such as line, light sticks, oyster spacers, and lighters….Unfortunately, while the albatross examined in this study were able to purge themselves of the plastic by regurgitating it, thousands of albatross die each year as a result of ingesting plastic debris. Plastic ingestion leads to blockage of the digestive tract, reduced food consumption, satiation of hunger, and potential exposure to toxic compounds to name but a few of its detrimental effects…. 

2009 October 8. NSF Releases Online Multimedia Package on Marine “Dead Zones”. NSF Release 09-192. Excerpt: The Earth currently has more than 400 so-called “dead zones”–expanses of oxygen-starved ocean covering hundreds, or even thousands, of square miles that become virtually devoid of animal life during the summer; the worldwide count of dead zones is doubling every decade.
Most dead zones, such as the Gulf of Mexico’s notorious dead zone, are caused by pollution that is dumped into oceans by rivers. But every summer since 2002, the Pacific Northwest’s coastal waters–one of the–one of the U.S.’s most important fisheries–has been invaded by massive dead zones that are believed to be caused by an entirely different and surprising phenomena: changes in oceanic and atmospheric circulation that may, in turn, be caused by climate change…. 

2009 July. One Ocean, Shaken and Stirred. By Kathleen M. Wong, ScienceMatters@Berkeley. Phytoplankton, the algae which supports most sea life, rely on wind, wave and current conditions to fuel their own growth. Berkeley professor Thomas Powell has pioneered the study of ocean cycles and their impacts on the marine food web…. 

2009 June 18. Mekong dolphins ‘almost extinct’. BBC News. Excerpt: Pollution in the Mekong river has pushed freshwater dolphins in Cambodia and Laos to the brink of extinction, the conservation group WWF has said. Only 64 to 76 Irrawaddy dolphins remain in the Mekong, it says, and calls for a cross-border plan to help the dolphins.
Toxic levels of pesticides, mercury and other pollutants have been found in more than 50 calves that have died since 2003.
…”These pollutants are widely distributed in the environment and so the source of this pollution may involve several countries through which the Mekong river flows,” said WWF veterinary surgeon Verne Dove in a press statement.
…”Necropsy analysis identified a bacterial disease as the cause of the calf deaths,” Dr Dove said in the WWF report. “This disease would not be fatal unless the dolphin’s immune systems were suppressed, as they were in these cases, by environmental contaminants,” he said.
Researchers found toxic levels of pesticides such as DDT and environmental contaminants such as PCBs during analysis of the dead dolphin calves. These pollutants may also pose a health risk to human populations living along the Mekong – who consume the same fish and water as the dolphins – the group suggested.
High levels of mercury were also found in some of the dead dolphins, which directly affects the immune system making the animals more susceptible to infectious disease…. 

2009 April 14. Coral Transplant Surgery Prescribed for Japan. By Martin Fackler, The NY Times. Excerpt: SEKISEI LAGOON, Japan — Beneath the waves of this sapphire-blue corner of the East China Sea, a team of divers was busily at work.
Hovering along the steep, bony face of a dying coral reef, some divers bored holes into the hard surface with compressed-air drills that released plumes of glittering bubbles. Others followed, gently inserting small ceramic discs into the fresh openings.
Each disc carried a tiny sliver of hope for the reef, in the shape of fingertip-size sprigs of brightly colored, fledgling coral.
This undersea work site…is part of a government-led effort to save Japan’s largest coral reef, near the southern end of the Okinawa chain of islands. True to form in Japan, the project involves new technology, painstaking attention to detail and a generous dose of taxpayer money.
The project has drawn national attention, coming after alarming reports in the last decade that up to 90 percent of the coral that surrounds many of Okinawa’s islands has died off….
…“We have been replanting forests for 4,000 years, but we are only just now learning how to revive a coral reef,” said Mineo Okamoto, a marine biologist at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, who has led development of the palm-size ceramic discs. “We finally have the technology.”
Critics, however, say the project might be wasted effort. They say transplanting is futile without addressing the problems that caused the reefs to deteriorate in the first place, like coastal redevelopment and chemical runoff from terrestrial agriculture. There is also the bigger problem of rising ocean water temperatures, for which there may be no easy fix…. 

2009 Feb 25. Sylvia Earle: Here’s how to protect the blue heart of the planet (TED Prize winner!) The Ocean as life-support, a life-support in trouble. How long will it take before we really understand that we cannot do whatever we want to nature…
(18 minute video) 

2009 March 16. Leatherback Turtle Threatened By Plastic Garbage In Ocean. ScienceDaily. Excerpt: …They’re descendants of one of the oldest family trees in history, spanning 100 million years. But today leatherback turtles, the most widely distributed reptiles on Earth, are threatened with extinction themselves…
We’ve seen reference to the dangers plastic poses to marine life…, but how clearly have we received the message? Not well enough according to a recent article in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin co-authored by Dalhousie University’s Mike James.
“We wanted to see if plastics ingestion in leatherbacks was hype or reality,” says Dr. James, senior species at risk biologist for Fisheries and Oceans Canada and adjunct professor with Dalhousie’s Department of Biology.
“It was a monumental effort that looked back at necropsies over the last century from all over the world,” he explains. (Necropsies are post-mortem examinations performed on animals.) “After reviewing the results of 371 necropsies since 1968, we discovered over one third of the turtles had ingested plastic.”
…Once leatherbacks ingest plastic, thousands of spines lining the throat and esophagus make it nearly impossible to regurgitate. The plastic can lead to partial or even complete obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in decreased digestive efficiency, energetic and reproductive costs and, for some, starvation.
…“The frustrating, yet hopeful aspect is that humans can easily begin addressing the solution, without major lifestyle changes,” says Dr. James. “It’s as simple as reducing packaging and moving towards alternative, biodegradable materials and recycling.”… 

2009 March 8. Proof on the Half Shell: A More Acidic Ocean Corrodes Sea Life. By David Biello, Scientific American.Excerpt: The shells of tiny ocean animals known as foraminifera—specifically Globigerina bulloides—are shrinking as a result of the slowly acidifying waters of the Southern Ocean near Antarctica. The reason behind the rising acidity: Higher carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere, making these shells more proof that climate change is making life tougher for the seas’ shell-builders. 
…The researchers found that modern G. bulloides could not build shells as large as the ones their ancestors formed as recently as century ago. In fact, modern shells were 35 percent smaller than in the relatively recent past—an average of 17.4 micrograms compared with 26.8 micrograms before industrialization. (One microgram is one millionth of a gram; there are 28.3 grams in an ounce.) 
“We don’t yet know what impact this will have on the organisms’ health or survival,” [says study co-author William Howard, a marine geologist at ACE], but one thing seems clear: the tiny animals won’t be storing as much CO2 in their shells in the form of carbonate. “If the shell-making is reduced, the storage of carbon in the ocean might be, as well.”
That’s bad news for the climate, because the ocean is responsible for absorbing at least one quarter of the CO2 that humans load into the air through fossil fuel burning and other activities—and it is the action of foraminifera and other tiny shell-building animals, along with plants like algae that lock it away safely for millennia…. 

2009 January 19. Growing Taste for Reef Fish Sends Their Numbers Sinking. By Jennifer Pinkowski, The New York Times. Excerpt: …The fierce appetite for live reef fish across Southeast Asia — and increasingly in mainland China — is devastating populations in the Coral Triangle, a protected marine region home to the world’s richest ocean diversity, according to a recent report in the scientific journal Conservation Biology. Spawning of reef fish in this area, which supports 75 percent of all known coral species in the world, has declined 79 percent over the past 5 to 20 years, depending on location, according to the report.
Overfishing in general, and particularly of spawning aggregations that occur when certain species of reef fish gather in one place in great numbers to reproduce, may be the culprit, says Yvonne Sadovy, a biologist at the University of Hong Kong who wrote the report along with scientists from Australia, Hong Kong, Palau and the United States.
…Since the 1980s, Hong Kong has been the epicenter of the live fish trade. That trade has greatly expanded in the last decade to an $810 million business, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature, which monitors the market. Rising wealth in mainland China may be a contributing factor to the increase in the trade with the demand for exotic fish especially high in Shanghai and Beijing. Destinations popular with Chinese tourists are seeing an increase, too….
…Even locals unaffiliated with the tourist trade are aware of the surge. Across the street from the Port View, Malays at the famous Night Market speak with awe about the Chinese tourists who spend “a thousand ringgits a week just eating fish.”That’s about $280…. 

2008 December 10. 1 / 5 of Coral Reefs Already Lost, Much More Feared. The New York Times. Excerpt: POZNAN, Poland (AP) — The world has lost nearly one-fifth of its coral reefs and much of the rest could be destroyed by increasingly acidic seas if climate change continues unchecked, an environmental group warned Wednesday.
Global warming and the rising temperature of the oceans are the latest and most serious threats to coral, already damaged by destructive fishing methods and pollution, the International Union for Conservation of Nature said.
”The world has lost about 19 percent of its coral reefs during the last 20 years,” said IUCN’s director general, Julia Marton-Lefevre…
”If current trends in carbon dioxide emission continue, many of the remaining reefs will be lost in the next 20 to 40 years,” she told reporters….
Increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, which fuels global warming, is raising the level as well as the temperature of the oceans, said Olof Linden of the World Maritime University in Malmo, Sweden. That makes the water more acidic, adversely affecting reef-building coral that rely on calcification to build their shells….

2008 August 3. Stinging Tentacles Offer Hint of Oceans’ Decline. By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL, The New York Times. Excerpt: BARCELONA, Spain — Blue patrol boats crisscross the swimming areas of beaches here with their huge nets skimming the water’s surface. The yellow flags that urge caution and the red flags that prohibit swimming because of risky currents are sometimes topped now with blue ones warning of a new danger: swarms of jellyfish.
In a period of hours during a day a couple of weeks ago, 300 people on Barcelona’s bustling beaches were treated for stings, and 11 were taken to hospitals.
From Spain to New York, to Australia, Japan and Hawaii, jellyfish are becoming more numerous and more widespread, and they are showing up in places where they have rarely been seen before, scientists say….
But while jellyfish invasions are a nuisance to tourists and a hardship to fishermen, for scientists they are a source of more profound alarm, a signal of the declining health of the world’s oceans.
…The explosion of jellyfish populations, scientists say, reflects a combination of severe overfishing of natural predators, like tuna, sharks and swordfish; rising sea temperatures caused in part by global warming; and pollution that has depleted oxygen levels in coastal shallows….

2008 July 8. Corals, Already in Danger, Are Facing New Threat From Farmed Algae. By CHRISTOPHER PALA, The New York Times. Excerpt: BUTARITARI, Kiribati — Off the palm-fringed white beach of this remote Pacific atoll, the view underwater is downright scary.
Corals are being covered and smothered to death by a bushy seaweed that is so tough even algae-grazing fish avoid it. It settles in the reef’s crevices that fish once called home, driving them away.
Dead coral stops supporting the ecosystem and, within a couple of decades, it will crumble into rubble, allowing big ocean waves to reach the beach during storms and destroy the flimsy thatched huts of the Micronesians.
“We are catching less and less fish, and the seaweeds are fouling our nets,” says Henry Totie, a fisherman and Butaritari’s traditional chief, in an interview in his traditionally built house in the village near the blue-green lagoon.
“This is one of the most damaging seaweeds I have ever seen,” says Jennifer E. Smith of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has studied the Hawaiian invasion for eight years…
Moiwa Erutarem, the Butaritari representative of the fisheries ministry, said the biggest losses were being felt by the most vulnerable: those who use nets in the shallow coral table and do not have the boats required to fish farther away. Seafood is virtually the only source of protein in Butaritari, complemented by breadfruit and coconut.
This equatorial island of 4,000 people is the latest victim of a 30-year global effort to encourage poor people in the coastal areas of the tropics to grow seaweed that, while not edible, produces carrageenan, an increasingly sought-after binder and fat substitute used in the food industry, notably in ice cream…

2008 June 10. Tallying the Toll on an Elder of the Sea. By NATALIE ANGIER, The New York Times. Excerpt: MILFORD, Conn. – Horseshoe crabs may look ancient and alien and battery-operated, they may look like Wilma Flintstone’s idea of a Roomba vacuum cleaner, yet to the sixth-grade students from Columbus School in nearby Bridgeport, the most outrageous thing about the bronze-helmeted creatures crawling clumsily along the beach was not their appearance but their size – or rather sizes.
One boy pointed to a linked pair of horseshoe crabs, a relatively compact specimen maybe seven inches across clinging to the tail end of a much larger companion. A kid crab hitching a ride on its mother? No, explained Jennifer H. Mattei, head of the biology department at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, who led the expedition. They were both full-grown, a male and a female, and the female was the bruiser out front.
Among horseshoe crabs, Dr. Mattei explained, adult females are a good 25 to 30 percent bigger than their mates, a fact that the girls greeted with hoots of triumph, boys of indignation. Why are the females bigger? a boy demanded. It’s supposed to be the other way around!
As it turned out, the answer to that question was closely tied to the reason the students from Cheryl Crevier’s class had ventured out on a flawless June morning to the shores of Long Island Sound. With clipboards purposefully in hand and tape measures jauntily around neck, the 22 children were there to help catch, measure and tag as many specimens as they could find of the American horseshoe crab, or Limulus polyphemus, one of the oldest and most tenacious species on Earth. Fossils found this year in Manitoba reveal that the animal’s architecture has hardly changed in 445 million years.
The student project is part of a major effort now under way from Maine to Florida…( Experts are desperate to know whether their suspicions are correct – that as a result of being harvested en masse for use as fishing bait, horseshoe crab populations are beginning to crash.
The loss of the horseshoe crab would be tragic, researchers said, not only because the creatures are fascinating and cute and predate the dinosaurs by 200 million years, but also because so many contemporary life forms depend on them. Their annual spawns draw hundreds of species of migratory birds, predatory fish, reptiles, amphibians and various other alimentary canals eager to brunch on the freshly deposited Limulus eggs.
…”A single female horseshoe crab can put down 80,000 eggs a year, four million in her lifetime,” said John T. Tanacredi, a professor of earth and marine sciences at Dowling College in Oakdale, N.Y….
In the last few years, the Asian market for North American eel and conch meat has soared, and it seems that gravid female horseshoe crabs make the best bait. Even the stalwart Limulus can’t last if all its eggs end up in one basket – shaped like a fisherman’s boat. 

2008 Apr 12. Even the Whales Have Their Predators: Ships. By SHAILA DEWAN, NY Times. The federal fisheries service is attempting to put a speed limit on some ships to keep them from killing endangered right whales. 

2008 Mar 4. Want to Save a Coral Reef? Bring Along Your Crochet Needles. By PATRICIA COHEN, The New York Times. The exotically shaped creatures that began to sprout silently all over the cozy lecture hall were soon spilling onto empty chairs and into women’s laps and shopping bags. When fully grown, these curiously animate forms will find a home as part of a mammoth version of the Great Barrier Reef. But at the moment they were emerging at a remarkable pace from the rapidly flicking crochet hooks wielded by members of the audience.
…This environmental version of the AIDS quilt is meant to draw attention to how rising temperatures and pollution are destroying the reef, the world’s largest natural wonder, said Margaret Wertheim, an organizer of the project, who was in Manhattan last weekend to lecture, offer crocheting workshops and gather recruits. The reef is scheduled to arrive in New York City next month.
As she explained to the 40 people, nearly all women, who had gathered at New York University on Saturday, “This has grown from something that was a little object on our coffee table” to an exhibition that, so far, spreads over 3,000 square feet. And that was before the addition of that day’s catch.
…the Wertheims got the idea for the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef. The Institute for the Humanities at New York University is co-sponsoring the exhibit, which will appear in the university’s Broadway Windows at East 10th Street and at the World Financial Center April 5 through May 18.
In the university’s auditorium Ms. Wertheim opened a large bag and began throwing out long snaking tubes, tightly scrunched blooms, fat textured spirals, and hairy coiled cactuses created out of yarn, thread, plastic bags, ties, can flip tops, videotape, ribbon, tinsel and more in a riotous splash of reds, blues, pinks, oranges, greens, tans, purples and yellows.
Later the group members traipsed upstairs to a large jewelry studio where they settled at one of six thick wooden worktables and began crocheting. The woven organisms developed so quickly it seemed as though time-lapse photography was at work….

2008 Feb 14. Map shows toll on world’s oceans. By Helen Briggs, Science reporter, BBC News, Boston Excerpt: Only about 4% of the world’s oceans remain undamaged by human activity, according to the first detailed global map of human impacts on the seas. A study in Science journal says climate change, fishing, pollution and other human factors have exacted a heavy toll on almost half of the marine waters. Only remote icy areas near the poles are relatively pristine, but they face threats as ice sheets melt, it warns.
The authors say the data is a “wake-up call” to policymakers. …Lead scientist, Dr Benjamin Halpern, of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, US, said humans were having a major impact on the oceans and the marine ecosystems within them. “In the past, many studies have shown the impact of individual activities,” he said. “But here for the first time we have produced a global map of all of these different activities layered on top of each other so that we can get this big picture of the overall impact that humans are having rather than just single impacts.”
…The researchers divided the world’s oceans into 1km-square sections and examined all real data available on how humankind is influencing the marine environment. They then calculated “human impact scores” for each location, presenting this as a global map of the toll people have exacted on the seas. The scientists say they were shocked by the findings. “I think the big surprise from all of this was seeing what the complete coverage of human impacts was,” said Dr Spalding, senior marine scientist for international conservation group The Nature Conservancy. “There’s nowhere really that escaped. It’s quite a shocking map to see.” He said the two biggest drivers in destroying marine habitats were climate change and over-fishing…. 

2008 February 5. MARIN SALMON POPULATIONS PLUMMET. Excerpt: Worst Spawning Numbers in 12 Years Raise Fears for Recovery The spawning season for endangered coho salmon of Marin is the worst recorded in 12 years, causing high levels of concern by biologists who have been working to monitor and restore the endangered populations following a decade of stable or slightly increasing spawning numbers. Marin’s Lagunitas Watershed, located just 25 miles 
from downtown San Francisco, and one of the Bay Area’s most beloved salmon runs, boasts the largest remaining population of coho salmon left in Central California and upwards of 20% of the State’s total. Coho have already gone extinct in 90 percent of California streams that once supported this species….
For more information, please contact:
Todd Steiner, Executive Director and biologist 415.663.8590 ext. 103, tsteiner{AT}
Paola Bouley, Watershed Biologist 415.663.8590 ext. 102, paola{AT}

2008 January 24. Tuna Troubles. Excerpt: Here is a simple rule for life: the food you eat is only as safe as the environment it comes from. This is narrowly true, in that food from a dirty kitchen is likely to be unsafe. But it’s also true in the broadest sense. A good example is the tuna in sushi. Many New Yorkers have come to love the convenience, taste and aesthetic appeal of sushi. But as The Times reported Wednesday after testing tuna from 20 Manhattan stores and restaurants, sushi made from bluefin tuna may contain unacceptable levels of mercury, which acts as a neurotoxin. Every piece of that tuna, glistening on its bed of rice, is a 
report on the worrisome state of the oceans….

2008 January 11. Greenhouse ocean may downsize fish. [EurekAlert (11.1.08)] By 2100, warmer oceans with more carbon dioxide may no longer sustain 1 of the world’s most productive fisheries, says USC marine ecologist. The last fish you ate probably came from the Bering Sea. But during this century, the sea’s rich food web stretching from Alaska to Russia-could fray as algae adapt to greenhouse conditions. “All the fish that ends up in McDonald’s, fish sandwiches-that’s all Bering Sea fish,” said USC marine ecologist Dave Hutchins, whose former student at the University of Delaware, Clinton Hare, led research published Dec. 20 in Marine Ecology Progress Series, a leading journal in the field. At present, the Bering Sea provides roughly half the fish caught in U.S. waters each year and nearly a third caught worldwide. “The experiments we did up there definitely suggest that the changing ecosystem may support less of what we’re harvesting things like pollock and hake,” Hutchins said. 

2008 January 5. EMPTY SEAS Europe’s Appetite for Seafood Propels Illegal 
. By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL. Europe’s dinner tables are increasingly supplied by global fishing fleets, which are depleting the world’s oceans. 

2008 January 3. Federal Judge Orders Navy To Adopt Significant Mitigation Measures For Sonar Use. District Court Establishes Protections For 
Marine Mammals During Exercises. Excerpt: LOS ANGELES – The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued today a preliminary injunction requiring a series of mitigation measures that will govern the use of mid-frequency (MFA) sonar by the U.S. Navy during training exercises in the rich biological waters off Southern California. In its order, the Court considered both the environmental benefits of mitigation and the feasibility of specific measures.
Calling key elements of the Navy’s mitigation scheme “grossly inadequate to protect marine mammals from debilitating levels of sonar exposure,” the court imposed … additional limitations to protect marine mammals….
….”We have said from the beginning of this litigation 
that the Navy can meet its training objectives while substantially increasing protections against unnecessary harm to whales and other marine mammals,” said Joel Reynolds, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which filed the lawsuit. “We are very pleased that the Court has agreed with us and has enjoined the Navy from conducting these 
exercises unless it takes the necessary precautions.”
…The high-intensity MFA sonar system can blast vast areas of the oceans with dangerous levels of underwater noise and has killed marine mammals in numerous incidents around the world. The waters off Southern California have some of the richest marine habitat in the country, and include five endangered species of whales, a globally important population of blue whales, the largest animal ever to live on earth, and as many as seven individual species of beaked whales, which are known to be particularly vulnerable to underwater sound….

15 December 2007. In China, Farming Fish in Toxic Waters. By DAVID 
BARBOZA, The New York Times. Excerpt: FUQING, China – Here in southern China, beneath the looming mountains of Fujian Province, lie dozens of enormous ponds filled with murky brown water and teeming with eels, shrimp and tilapia, much of it destined for markets in Japan and the West….Fuqing is No. 1 on a list for refused seafood shipments from China….the two most glaring environmental weaknesses in China: acute water shortages and water supplies contaminated by sewage, industrial waste and agricultural runoff that includes pesticides. The fish farms, in turn, are discharging wastewater that further pollutes the water supply.
“Our waters here are filthy,” said Ye Chao, an eel and shrimp farmer who has 20 giant ponds in western Fuqing. “There are simply too many aquaculture farms in this area. They’re all discharging water here, fouling up other farms.” Farmers have coped with the toxic waters by mixing illegal veterinary drugs and pesticides into fish feed, which helps keep their stocks alive yet leaves poisonous and carcinogenic residues in seafood, posing health threats to consumers.
…No one is more vulnerable to these health risks than the Chinese, because most of the seafood in China stays at home. But foreign importers are also worried.
…China produces about 70 percent of the farmed fish in the world, harvested at thousands of giant factory-style farms that extend along the entire eastern seaboard of the country….”There are heavy metals, mercury and flame retardants in fish samples we’ve tested,” said Ming Hung Wong, a professor of biology at Hong Kong Baptist University. “We’ve got to stop the pollutants entering the food system.”
…More than half of the rivers in China are too polluted to serve as a source of drinking water…. 

11 December 2007. Experts Study Lake Champlain Eel Decline. (AP) Excerpt: Scientists are trying to determine what caused Lake Champlain’s populations of American eels to decline to almost nothing over the last two decades. ..Until the early 1980s …commercial anglers would harvest tons of them every year. “We have a fairly large vertebrate that has gone from abundant to virtually absent in 20 years,” said Tom Berry, Lake Champlain program director for the Nature Conservancy. …By the early 1990s Quebec banned the commercial fishing of eels. American eels start life in the Sargasso Sea, an area in the Atlantic Ocean between the West Indies and the Azores. After hatching, eel larvae float on ocean currents to East Coast rivers, including the St. Lawrence. Historically, immature female eels swam up the St. Lawrence and Richelieu rivers and lived 10 to 20 years in Lake Champlain before returning to the Sargasso Sea. “It is just remarkable they travel 3,000 miles when they are only an inch long. It boggles the mind,” said UVM fisheries biologist Ellen Marsden.
Biologists do not fully understand the reason for the decline. 
Theories include climate change, pollution, and overfishing of young eels. But the decline could also be due to the reconstruction in the 1960s of two hydroelectric dams on the Richelieu River in Quebec. The dams could have prevented the eels from reaching Lake Champlain. A decade ago, Hydro-Quebec installed an eel ladder at one of the dams. “Within 10 days we measured eels going up the ladder,” said 
Quebec fisheries biologist Pierre Dumont….

1 May 2007. Coral Is Dying. Can It Be Reborn? By CORNELIA DEAN, NY Times. TAVERNIER, Fla. – … Meaghan Johnson …, a program coordinator for the Nature Conservancy, …Ken Nedimyer, …and Philip Kramer, who directs the conservancy’s Caribbean Marine Program, …had come to see… an array of concrete disks set in the sand. Each one held a tiny piece of coral. Mr. Nedimyer had led them to a nursery, one of a number he has established since 2000, …. He is working with assistance from the conservancy, which in turn cooperates with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has its own coral efforts in places like Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is looking at water quality standards for corals in Florida, Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Puerto Rico, …. The Coral Reef Task Force, created in the Clinton administration, regularly assesses coral health. … Many would say corals globally are already so damaged, and so threatened by further environmental degradation, that there is little chance restoration efforts can turn things around. Staghorn and elkhorn corals, Mr. Nedimyer’s principal interests, were once abundant in South Florida, the Bahamas and elsewhere in the Caribbean. But since the 1990s they have significantly declined, to the point that last year they were placed on the threatened list, under the Endangered Species Act….”We have lost 25 percent of the world’s corals in the last 25 years,” David E. Vaughan, director of the Center for Coral Reef Research at Mote, said in an interview, adding that 25 percent more are expected to die in the next decade or two. “Sometimes we sound like doomsday sayers,” Dr. Vaughan said, “but those are the facts.” …Corals in South Florida have another big problem, a die-off of sea urchins, which began succumbing wholesale to a mysterious ailment about 20 years ago. Urchins graze on unwanted algae, and without them, corals in many areas have been smothered in overgrowth, making it difficult or impossible for them to grow or propagate.

17 April 2007. No-Fishing Zones in Tropics Yield Fast Payoffs for Reefs. By CHRISTOPHER PALA. NY Times. Excerpt: NGIWAL, Palau – …on Palau’s main island of Babeldaob, Islias Yano, 57, …”We fished certain fish in certain seasons,” he recalled. “Each reef could only be fished by people from a certain village.” Village elders would rotate fishing on reefs, he recounted, to husband their slow-growing main source of food. Starting in the 1980s, population growth, new seafood markets in Asia and modern ways of thinking washed away the elders’ authority and rules. “Outsiders started coming into our reefs, they used scuba gear and dynamite, and the fish got smaller and fewer,” Mr. Yano said, shaking his head. … In Ngiwal, the reaction was not long in coming. Once again, the elders ruled. In 1994, they banned fishing in a small area of reef that was partly accessible on foot. The village women, who traditionally gather shellfish at low tide, noticed how the fish became more plentiful there in a few years. The reef became locally famous, and other villages started to do the same. Today, Palau, a tiny island state 600 miles east of the Philippines that is internationally known as a site for recreational diving, is at the forefront of a worldwide movement to ban fishing in key reefs to allow the return of prized species. It now protects a patchwork of reefs and lagoon waters amounting to 460 square miles. …That Palau has taken the lead in ocean conservation is no accident. Even among Pacific peoples, Palauans have been known for prizing fish and seafood over meat and farmed vegetables, and its fishermen have stood out for their keen understanding of the reefs. …

4 April 2007. Quake lifts Solomons island out of the sea. By Neil Sands. Excerpt: RANONGGA, Solomon Islands (AFP) – The seismic jolt that unleashed the deadly Solomons tsunami this week lifted an entire island metres out of the sea, destroying some of the world’s most pristine coral reefs. In an instant, the grinding of the Earth’s tectonic plates in the
8.0magnitude earthquake Monday forced the island of Ranongga up three metres (10 foot). Submerged reefs that once attracted scuba divers from around the globe lie exposed and dying after the quake raised the mountainous landmass, which is 32-kilometres (20-miles) long and 8-kilometres (5-miles) wide. …The stench of rotting fish and other marine life stranded on the reefs when the seas receded is overwhelming and the once vibrant coral is dry and crunches underfoot. Dazed villagers stand on the shoreline, still coming to terms with the cataclysmic shift that changed the geography of their island forever, pushing the shoreline out to sea by up to 70 metres. …fisherman Hendrik Kegala had just finished exploring the new underwater landscape of the island with a snorkel when contacted by the AFP team. He said a huge submerged chasm had opened up, running at least 500 metres (550 yards) parallel to the coast. On the beach at Niu Barae, the earthquake has revealed a sunken vessel that locals believe is a Japanese patrol boat, a remnant of the fierce fighting between Allied forces and the Japanese in WWII. …Jackie Thomas, acting manager for Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) in the Solomons, said the loss of the reefs was a huge blow for the fishing communities that are dotted along Ranongga’s coast. “The fish from the reefs are the major source of protein for the villagers,” she told AFP from Gizo.”…. 

27 February 2007. EU Wants to Speed Up Tuna Protection. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Excerpt: BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — The European Union’s top fisheries official on Tuesday pressed for stronger protections for the overfished bluefin tuna, an increasingly rare delicacy in high-end restaurants around the world. EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg said he wants to extend the fishing offseason, reduce tuna sold on the black market, and impose new worldwide cuts in catch quotas as quickly as possible. The EU’s 27 member states were expected to approve the measure within weeks, officials said. The proposal would reduce catch quotas this year for bluefin tuna caught in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean to 29,500 tons from 32,000 officials said….Globally two years ago, Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks have dropped by 80 percent over the past 30 years. The global tuna export market in 2002 was $5 billion, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

13 February 2007. GOLFO DE SANTA CLARA JOURNAL: Vaquita Porpoise, and a Way of Life, Face Extinction. By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr., The New York Times. Excerpt: Fishermen in Golfo de Santa Clara say their catches of shrimp and fish have steadily declined over the years. GOLFO DE SANTA CLARA, Mexico – …The Mexican government set up a reserve in 1993 to protect the vaquita porpoises, which become entangled in fishing nets and drown. But the area is too small, with fishing banned in only about 637 square miles. Environmentalists from the United States and Mexico had begged the fishermen to stop using the gill nets that are killing off La Vaquita, or the little cow, a porpoise that now has the dubious distinction of being one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world. Only about 400 of them survive in the waters at the tip of the Gulf of California where the Colorado River once poured into the sea, environmentalists say, and the only way to save them is to ban commercial fishing with nets in about 1,545 square miles…. Environmentalists have put forward proposals to pay the fishermen not to fish and to develop tourism as an alternative source of income. But the men with rope-hardened hands and weathered faces are skeptical. …”They want us to stop fishing,” said Andres Gonzalez, a 43-year-old fisherman. “They want to take care of the animals here, but they are not taking care of the people.” …biologists say studies of the carcasses of the vaquita porpoises show no signs of malnourishment, but plenty of scars from fishing nets. The advocates of buying out the fishermen note that the human population at the gulf’s tip is quite small, about 50,000 people in three towns, including maybe 10,000 fishermen. The solution, they say, is to ban fishing with nets in the upper gulf and establish a $50 million trust fund and use the earnings to pay fishermen a total of about $4 million a year, not to fish but to pursue other trades. The program would last at least seven years, until the porpoise population could recover….

17 December 2006. 20 Million Years and a Farewell. By ANDREW C. REVKIN, NY Times. Excerpt: The first species to be erased from this planet’s great and ancient Order of Cetaceans in modern times is not one of the charismatic sea mammals that have long been the focus of conservation campaigns, like the sperm whale or bottlenose dolphin. It appears to be the baiji, a white, nearly blind denizen of the Yangtze River in China. On Wednesday, an expedition in search of any baiji, run by Chinese biologists and, a Swiss foundation, ended empty-handed after six weeks of patrolling its onetime waters in the middle and lower stretches of the river, the baiji’s only known habitat. The Yangtze, Asia’s longest waterway and thought to be akin to the Amazon long ago in its biological richness, now has a dominant species: the 400 million (and counting) people busily plying its waters and industrializing its banks. For some 20 million years, the baiji, also called the white-flag dolphin, frequented the Yangtze’s sandy shallows, using sonar to catch fish in the silty flow. In the last few decades, the dolphin’s numbers plunged as rapidly as the Chinese economy surged. The Yangtze’s sandy shallows, which the baiji frequented, have largely been dredged for shipping. The baiji sought fish that have been netted or driven from the river by pollution. And its sonar may have been disrupted by the propeller noise from boats above. A 1997 survey counted 13 baiji in the river. None of the dolphins survive in captivity…… 

3 November 2006. Study Sees ‘Global Collapse’ of Fish Species. By CORNELIA DEAN, NY Times. Excerpt: If fishing around the world continues at its present pace, more and more species will vanish, marine ecosystems will unravel and there will be “global collapse” of all species currently fished, possibly as soon as midcentury, fisheries experts and ecologists are predicting. The scientists, who report their findings today in the journal Science, say it is not too late to turn the situation around. As long as marine ecosystems are still biologically diverse, they can recover quickly once overfishing and other threats are reduced, the researchers say. But improvements must come quickly, said Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, who led the work. Otherwise, he said, “we are seeing the bottom of the barrel.” …Twelve scientists from the United States, Canada, Sweden and Panama contributed to the work reported in Science today. “We extracted all data on fish and invertebrate catches from 1950 to 2003 within all 64 large marine ecosystems worldwide,” they wrote. “Collectively, these areas produced 83 percent of global fisheries yields over the past 50 years.” …The researchers found that 29 percent of species had been fished so heavily or were so affected by pollution or habitat loss that they were down to 10 percent of previous levels, their definition of “collapse.” …Dr. Worm said … he…extrapolated the data into the future “to see where it ends at 100 percent collapse, you arrive at 2048.”….

31 October 2006. Building Resilience May Help Corals, Mangroves Survive. Excerpt: GENEVA, Switzerland, Environment News Service (ENS) – Survival strategies for coral reefs and mangroves threatened by climate change are outlined by scientists of IUCN-World Conservation Union and the Nature Conservancy in two new publications launched today. The strategies rely on managing stressors other than global warming so that corals and mangroves are more resilient and able to survive in a warming world. Climate change is destroying tropical marine ecosystems through sea temperature increase and ocean acidification. Scientists say 20 percent of the world’s coral reefs have already been ruined and a further 50 percent are facing immediate or long term danger of collapse. Yet, one of the reports published today shows that saving the world’s coral reefs may still be possible. By fighting other stress factors such as pollution or overfishing impacting coral reefs, the reefs will be able to better adapt to climate change impacts, according to the report, “Coral Reef Resilience and Resistance to Bleaching.” …Coral reefs only cover 0.2 percent of the ocean floor, but contain 25 percent of marine species globally. Coral reefs provide livelihoods to 100 million people and provide the basis for industries such as tourism and fishing, worth an annual net benefit of US$30 billion, the report states. One hectare of mangroves is estimated to deliver products and services worth up to $900,000. Examples of these products and services include timber and wood chips, an environment for fish spawning, and habitat for economically important species. …View the publications online: “Coral Reef Resilience and Resistance to Bleaching,” Gabriel D. Grimsditch and Rodney V. Salm and “Managing Mangroves for Resilience to Climate Change,” Elizabeth Mcleod and Rodney V. Salm. 

24 October 2006. The Biologist and the Sea: Lessons in Marine-Life Restoration. By ANDREW C. REVKIN. Excerpt: MONTAUK, N.Y. – For Carl Safina – a biologist, conservationist and prize-winning author – passions and intellectual pursuits are deeply entwined. Dr. Safina’s doctoral thesis was on the interrelated behaviors and annual rhythms of the common tern and bluefish, which feast on the same bay anchovies and other small prey. On a recent three-hour fishing trip Dr. Safina reflected on two decades of work revealing the enormous disruption of ocean ecosystems by industrial-scale fishing and other human activities.  His prime goal, he has said, is to develop a “sea ethic” similar to the land ethic of Aldo Leopold, and a scattering of success stories has convinced him that a balance is still possible between exploitation and conservation of marine resources.
Dr. Safina: In general, I’m O.K. with using what’s in the oceans. I just don’t think we should be using it up. So the point to me is not necessarily to put things off limits, although some places probably should be off limits where fish spawn and places like that. But the main thing is to restore the abundance of what’s in the ocean so that we can have a viable system where all these animals can live and eat each other, and then we can take a little bit.
Q. What most discourages you related to the trends you see in the oceans?
A. That it’s so easy to see what we need to do, it’s so easy to see how things can be so much better and yet it’s taking so much time to come around to it.
Q. What are some of those improvements?
A. We need to just set fishing quotas and adhere to them, and make them realistic, and listen to what the scientists say about how many fish can come out of the ocean. And if we do that, we will get more of what we want.
Q. And what’s one of the most encouraging things you’ve seen?
A. That fish are recoverable. Many of the fish that we have here were much less abundant 15 years ago than they are now. We did get some good regulations passed, and the fish began recovering right away. They know what to do. If you just don’t kill them as fast, they start coming back. So the most encouraging thing is that it works, but a lot of that could be much more widespread throughout the country and the rest of the world.

28 September 2006. After a Seven-Year Ban, Salmon Fishing Returns to Maine. By PAM BELLUCK, The New York Times. Excerpt: EDDINGTON, Me. – Forget your trout, your striped bass. Wild Atlantic salmon are a fisherman’s Holy Grail. For the first time since 1999, Maine salmon fishermen wait to try their luck in the Eddington Pool below the Veazie Dam on the Penobscot River. … in 1999, Maine, the last American bastion of wild Atlantic salmon, closed its rivers to salmon fishing to save the salmon, whose numbers had shrunk from pollution, dams and other forces. …Now, with salmon slowly returning, Maine has opened its first wild salmon season in seven years – a month of restricted fishing on the state’s storied Penobscot River. …Maine is starting with baby steps: fall fishing, when salmon are smaller; catch-and-release only; no barbs on fishhooks; and no fishing when the water temperature hits 70 degrees because hooked fish recover better in cooler water. Mr. Keliher said each salmon reaching the Veazie Dam, where they are temporarily trapped, will be checked to see if it was hooked and what condition it is in. If the fish seem to withstand the fall season, Maine may allow the more-popular spring fishing. The restrictions satisfied most environmentalists, said Andrew Goode, board president of the Penobscot River Restoration Project, the coalition buying the dams…. 

September 2006. “Super Sucker” keeping coral reefs health. Nature Conservancy. Marine researchers in Hawaii have a new weapon in the battle against alien algae: an underwater vacuum cleaner affectionately named the Super Sucker. In initial tests, the machine in one hour removed up to 800 pounds of invasive algae, which smothers and kills coral. …The new tool is one component of a larger strategy to combat non-native algae invasions, which dominate Kaneohe Bay and Oahu’s south shore and are also abundant on the south shores of Maui and Molokai. 

10 August 2006. Federal Action Helps Salmon Fishermen By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Excerpt: GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) – Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez on Thursday declared commercial salmon fishing off Oregon and California a failure this year, after sharp harvest cutbacks imposed to protect the struggling return of salmon to the Klamath River. Under federal fisheries law, the formal declaration, the first since 1992 to come before the end of the fishing season, makes it possible for lawmakers from the two states to move forward in seeking up to $80 million in aid, an effort that has been stymied for lack of a declaration. 

8 August 2006. Unlikely Partners Create Plan to Save Ocean Habitat Along With Fishing 
By JON CHRISTENSEN. NY Times. Excerpt: MORRO BAY, Calif. – Fishery closings are generally not greeted as good news in ports like this.
Angry protests are more likely. So to find an environmentalist and two commercial fishermen quietly conspiring on the bridge of a fishing boat docked in Morro Bay as a far-reaching prohibition on bottom trawling went into effect on the West Coast this summer was unusual, to say the least.
The environmentalist, Chuck Cook, said he had been called a “conservation Nazi” in some ports. And Gordon Fox, who has been dragging fish and shrimp from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean for nearly 30 years, admitted the conversation would be “perceived by some in the industry to be sleeping with the enemy.” Together with other fishermen and conservationists, Mr. Cook and Mr. Fox have fashioned a plan that they hope will preserve the fish and, just as important to both of them, fishing here off the central coast of California. It is a complicated deal centered on a simple quid pro quo, Mr. Cook said. The trawlers in Morro Bay agreed to join the Nature Conservancy and Environmental Defense, an organization that advocates market-based solutions, in proposing three “no-trawl zones.” They would cover nearly 6,000 square miles of ocean between here and Monterey Bay, an area roughly the size of Connecticut. In exchange, the Nature Conservancy agreed to buy fishing permits and boats from fishermen, like Mr. Fox, who want to get out of the trawling business, trade their boats for smaller vessels, and try to find more selective, sustainable ways to continue fishing. …The deal struck by conservationists and fishermen follows a chart laid out by the National Research Council in a 2002 report on the devastating effect of repeatedly dragging nets across seafloor habitat. “That’s been our bible on this project,” Mr. Cook said of his well-worn copy of the study, which surveyed years of research on trawling. Its recommendations included closing vulnerable areas of the ocean floor to bottom trawling and reducing fishing outside protected areas in tandem, rather than as separate strategies, as had been done in the past.

26 July 2006. NASA CORAL REEF IMAGES KEY TO NEW GLOBAL SURVEY. A first-of-its-kind survey of how well the world’s coral reefs are being protected was made possible by a unique collection of NASA views from space.

16 July 2006. Fishing Depletes Mediterranean Tuna, Conservationists Say. By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL. NY Times. Excerpt: SUCURAJ, Croatia – Two decades ago, the channels that separate the Adriatic Islands here were brimming with giant bluefin tuna, a species so plentiful that tourists used to climb ladders by the sea to watch the schools swim by.
Today, these majestic predators are rarely if ever caught. …The tuna population in the Mediterranean is nearing extinction, a new World Wildlife Fund report concludes, with catches down 80 percent over the past few years, even for high-tech trawlers that now comb remote corners of the sea in search of the hard-to-find fish. …”Significant negative changes” have occurred in the fish stocks of the Adriatic because of overfishing, said Dr. Nedo Vrgoc of the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries in Split, Croatia, with a particularly steep reduction in long-lived fish species like rays, John Dory and anglerfish….

26 October 2005. Half of Coral Reefs Could Be Destroyed. Nearly half of the world’s coral reefs may be lost in the next 40 years unless urgent measures are taken to protect them against the threat of climate change, according to a new report released Tuesday by the World Conservation Union. The Swiss-based organization called for the establishment of additional marine protected areas to prevent further degradation by making corals more robust and helping them resist bleaching…Coral bleaching is caused by increased surface temperatures in the high seas and higher levels of sunlight caused by climate change. As temperatures rise, the algae on which corals depend for food and color die out, causing the coral to whiten, or “bleach.” 

3 May 2005. Tracking the Imperiled Bluefin From Ocean to Sushi Platter. By ANDREW C. REVKIN. NY Times. For sushi aficionados, the essence of the Atlantic bluefin tuna is its fat-laced, butter-soft belly meat, called toro. For the long-liners, purse seiners, harpooners, trappers and fish farmers who seek the bluefin from Cape Hatteras to the frigid waters south of Iceland to the balmy Mediterranean, the fish are a potential bonanza, with choice specimens fetching $50,000 or more in Tokyo. But the intensifying trade in bluefin may soon empty the waters of this master of the sea. In just the last 35 years, exploding markets for sushi-grade tuna, combined with intensifying industrial-scale hunts aided by satellites and spotters in airplanes, have devastated not only the fish but also many fisheries. …The threat to the bluefin was underscored last week by researchers who have tracked hundreds of the fish on their ocean-spanning journeys using electronic tags. They found that the tuna that spawn in the west, which are most severely depleted, are further threatened by an ever-broadening gantlet of hooks, seines, harpoons, traps and now farm-style pens, in which netted fish are raised and fattened – all to supply the Japanese sushi trade. Dr. Barbara A. Block, a marine biologist at Stanford and the lead author of a study, published in the April 28 issue of Nature, said she found it hard to believe that “a fish of this size and beauty, an animal that had captured the hearts of fishermen and scientists alike for millennia, is slipping off Earth.” …Adult bluefins, some topping half a ton and living 40 years, slice through icy or tropical waters …. …In the paper, Dr. Block and her colleagues recommended seasonal bans on long-line fishing in spawning hot spots in the gulf. They also urged tighter controls on fishing in the Central Atlantic, where a feeding area straddles the existing boundary line and fish from both coasts congregate. Right now, that area is intensively fished by a host of countries with almost no monitoring. Without action, Dr. Block said, the western population has little hope. “If such megafauna can disappear, imagine what else is occurring?” she said. “And it’s all because we do not have a system that manages the oceans properly.” American boat owners say that existing restrictions on long-line fishing in the Gulf are sufficient, and add that the spawning zones identified by Dr. Block are likely to shift each year, making specific “time-area closures” impossible. Long-liners in the area also use lightweight hooks that hold smaller yellowfin but are designed to uncoil under the powerful tug of a bluefin, they say. Dr. Block said that when she worked on long-line vessels in the region, the same smaller hooks caught and killed a substantial number of bluefin. She added that only a few percent of longliners in the area carry observers who independently tally bluefin deaths. Perhaps the biggest unresolved question is whether the new information can change an international regulatory regime that almost everyone, from anglers and commercial fishers to biologists and tuna diplomats, agrees is broken. There are signs that the accumulated scientific evidence is starting to sway some members of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, the body created under a treaty in 1969 to oversee the fishery. …In an interview last week, Masanori Miyahara, the chairman of the commission and a senior fisheries official from Japan, acknowledged that the existing system had failed. …”We feel some responsibility for this mess,” he said. “Japanese buyers are running all around the world and buying as many fish as possible, particularly bluefin. 

January 2005. The Plastic Sea. by Kristi Coale, Terrain Magazine. Swirling in the Central and North Pacific Ocean is a mass of debris the size of Africa. Scientists have dubbed this mass, over which no country has authority or responsibility, the “Synthetic Sea.” Why? Because it is filled with floating plastic waste. Between 1999 and 2002, Captain Charles Moore and researchers with the Algalita Marine Research Foundation made several trips to the Pacific Ocean halfway between San Francisco and Hawai’i to study the situation. What he has found is startling. Dragging trawlers behind his ship, Moore and his researchers took samples to assess the effects of the plastic on sea life. They compared the mass of zooplankton to the mass of plastic and found that for every pound of zooplankton, there were six pounds of plastic….Plastics in the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean trap, sicken, and otherwise disable an average of 25 sea lions, harbor seals, and other mammals locally each year, says Jennifer Witherspoon, formerly with the Marine Mammal Center. “Some get tangled in discarded fishing nets and packing strap, and we do save some,” she explains. “We autopsy those who die, and we’ve found plastics and, in one instance, a sock.” Externally, they can maim wildlife. Witherspoon recalls “Michelin,” a sea lion found with a rubber tube around his neck; researchers had to euthanize him. An elephant seal with packing strap around her middle was lucky. “We cut the strap, and she doubled in size,” says Witherspoon. “She hadn’t been able to take a breath in some time.” …Sea-dwelling birds and other species do not distinguish between food and small pieces of plastic. That’s because many of the plastic pieces are small and tan, resembling krill. Resin beads, or nurdles, resemble fish eggs. Birds and other animals ingest these particles, which make them feel sated, robbing them of the drive to find real food and depriving them of nutrients. Some birds, such as the albatross, regurgitate this polymer-laced meal to feed their chicks. Researchers have found shampoo bottle caps and electric wire plugs in the remains of albatross chicks. [See also and ] 

17 March 2005. MARINE RESEARCHERS DELIVER BLUEPRINT FOR RESCUING AMERICA’S TROUBLED CORAL REEF. An international team of marine ecologists is urging the United States to take immediate action to save its fragile coral reefs. Their message is contained a strongly worded essay titled, “Are U.S. Coral Reefs on the Slippery Slope to Slime?” that appears in the March 18 edition of the journal Science.
“We’re frustrated with how slowly things are moving with coral reef conservation in the United States,” said Fiorenza Micheli, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station. “Tiny steps are being taken, but they really don’t address the overall problem.”

Summer 2004. Farming For Black Gold. Can California sturgeon farms help preserve a species half a world away?by Carol Hunter. Terrain Magazine pp. 22-27. Ken Beer has a farm in the Central Valley, just about 20 miles south of Sacramento. … while his neighbors raise dairy cattle, alfalfa and winter wheat, Beer’s farm is filled with row upon row of white, circular tanks that hold about one million pounds of California white sturgeon…. inside the belly of each mature female Beer hopes he’ll find the black gold of the sea: caviar. For connoisseurs and gourmets, choices about caviar are usually pretty simple. Beluga or osetra? One ounce or two? But now, people like Ken Beer are allowing consumers to face a more profound choice: wild or farm-raised? Caviar has long been equated with luxury, the food of kings and czars. But while the sturgeons that produce caviar were once abundant in the oceans, lakes, and seas of the northern hemisphere, they have been fished to dangerously low levels around the world. In North America, five of the nine species of sturgeon and closely related paddlefish are federally listed as endangered, while in the Caspian Sea, which historically has been home to the world’s largest abundance of sturgeon, annual catches have dropped by 95 percent in the last hundred years, from over 20,000 tons in the early 1900s to only 1000 tons in the late 1990s. While many government and international agencies have tried to regulate sturgeon fisheries, the high price of caviar, which can sell for well over $100 an ounce, continues to draw poachers and black market smugglers into an illegal trade….Ken Beer wasn’t thinking of saving threatened species when he started studying sturgeon aquaculture 25 years ago. He had been raising catfish for about three years and was thinking of ways to make his farm more efficient. …Because sturgeon farming uses a land-based facility with fresh water, it avoids many of the harmful environmental effects of other aquaculture, like open-water salmon farming. There are no escapes and mixing of gene pools, no contamination of wild species with diseases or parasites, and no flow of wastes directly into any open water resource. 

21 December 2004. As the Seas Warm, Algae Help Some Coral Stand Up to the Heat. NY Times- By CORNELIA DEAN . KEY LARGO, Fla. – For some time, scientists have predicted that the world’s coral reefs will be among the first ecosystems to suffer devastating damage from global warming. Some reefs, however, are proving surprisingly resilient, researchers say, not because of qualities of the corals themselves, but because of heat-tolerant algae that live with them. It may even be possible that heat-related episodes of coral bleaching, which had been viewed as ominous previews of mass coral death to come, could allow these robust algae to spread, leaving corals better able to survive in a warmer world. The scientists say this strength in the face of warming will not be enough to save the world’s coral reefs, which are threatened by pollution, overfishing, tourism and other human activities. But if the findings hold up, “they essentially buy us time” to address those issues, said Dr. Andrew C. Baker of the Marine Program of the Wildlife Conservation Society, who led the new work. 

23 November 2004. Earth’s Uncanned Crusaders: Will Sardines Save Our Skin? NY Times. By CORNELIA DEAN.Scientists working off the west coast of Africa have identified sardines as an unexpected factor in global warming. 

2 November 2004. NASA RELEASE: 04-355. NASA & PARTNERS CREATE NEW WORLDWIDE CORAL REEF LIBRARY. A NASA-funded project has created an archive of approximately 1,500 images of worldwide coral reefs. The archive is a tool international researchers will use, as they track reef health. The collection of coral reef images is the basis for a new Internet-based library for the Millennium Coral Reef Project. It was created in a partnership between NASA and the University of South Florida (USF), Tampa, Fla. Additional contributors, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, international agencies and other universities, shared data, so natural resource managers could have a comprehensive world data resource on coral reefs and adjacent land areas. See also:
New Worldwide Coral Reef Library Created — A collection of 1,490 coral reef images has become the basis for a new Internet- based library for the Millennium Coral Reef Project. 
and Millennium Coral Reefs Landsat Archive 

15 July 2004. Coalition Warns Navy Over Destructive Use of Mid-Frequency Sonar. Conservation and Animal Welfare Groups Decry Needless Harm to Whales and Other Species; Request Talks After Latest in String of Sonar-Linked Whale Deaths. LOS ANGELES – A coalition of conservation and animal welfare groups yesterday threatened to take formal action against the U.S. Navy unless it agrees to adopt common sense measures to mitigate harm to marine mammals and fish caused by the Navy’s use of mid-frequency, high intensity active sonar. The coalition includes NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), The Humane Society of the United States (The HSUS) and Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society. In a 13-page letter sent Wednesday to Navy Secretary Gordon England, the coalition detailed numerous mass strandings and mortalities of whales associated with the Navy’s testing and training with mid-frequency sonar systems. and

November-December 2003. NRDC. An Open Letter About Whales and High-Intensity Sonar, by Kenneth Balxom.

Spring 2003. Deep Trouble. Article by Ben Raines from On Earth-NRDC. IN THE GULF OF MEXICO, IT’S BEST TO LET THE BIG ONES GETAWAY. On July 22, 2001, Alabama’s Mobile Register (circulation 100,000) published its first article on methylmercury contamination in Gulf seafood. The investigative series that ensued, with more than forty articles to date, has shown not only that methylmercury has entered the human population by way of Gulf fish, but also that federal agencies charged with protecting people from such contamination have failed to do so. For the series, Ben Raines was awarded the 2002 John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism. The stories that follow are compiled from a few of his original reports.

Cover of Losing Biodiversity online book

Non-chronological resources

NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program …America’s 13 National Marine Sanctuaries and the Northwest Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve 

  • resources for teachers to support ocean literacy in America’s classrooms. 
  • access  NOAA’s “Dive into Education Marine Science Program,” K-12 ocean science activities. 
  • pilot the “Deep Worker” submersible in Monterey Bay’s kelp forests.
  • virtual sanctuary tour, opportunities for watching underwater video clips and exploring image galleries… 

Coral Reef Photo Monitoring Survey Image Archive – coral reef photos

European Community on Protection of Marine Life – — List of projects and campaigns for preservation of the marine biosphere and the biodiversity of the oceans.

Alameda Creek Alliance — Alameda Creek and its tributaries historically supported anadromous fish runs of steelhead trout, coho salmon, Pacific lamprey and river lamprey, and possibly chinook salmon. …These fish are currently blocked by impassable barriers in the creek. 

Nature Conservancy Global Marine Initiative