Ocean Action Hub

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Finding New Ways to Protect Right Whales With the Help of Fishermen

7 Nov 2019 - The decline of one of the world’s most endangered large whale species has pushed individual states and Canada to test new technologies, like ropeless fishing gear.

7 Nov 2019 - Marc Palombo has been fishing lobster for 41 years, and he wants fishermen who come after him to be able to do the same. That’s why he’s testing a new type of fishing gear that, along with other efforts in New England and Canada, is being designed to avoid harming North Atlantic right whales.

The number of North Atlantic right whales, one of the world’s most endangered large whale species, has declined from about 500 in 2010 to about 400 in 2019. This year, about 10 have been found dead, but that number is uncertain.

Not one of the nearly 30 right whale deaths in the last three years has been attributed to natural causes, said Philip Hamilton, a research scientist with the New England Aquarium, which maintains a catalog of North Atlantic right whales. Mr. Hamilton blames climate change, which has driven the whales northward in search of food.

Over the last decade, warming in the Gulf of Maine has driven zooplankton, which the whales feed on, northward into Canada’s waters. As the whales follow, they are swimming across fishing and shipping lanes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where they are vulnerable to being struck by ships or entangled in fishing lines — often long lines of rope connecting buoys at the surface with traps at the bottom.

“The only way to save the right whale is to have all stakeholders, including industry, at the table collaborating on proactive solutions that will protect them while ensuring the future of the lobstering industry,” Patrick Ramage, director of Marine Conservation, for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said in a statement.

Fishermen, like Mr. Palombo, and others have been testing new equipment, like ropeless gear, to protect the passing whales, and their fishing livelihood.

In September, the body of a male right whale, named Snake Eyes, was found floating off Long Island. The whale, which had two white scars on the front of its head that looked like eyes, had been tracked since 1979, although his exact age was unknown. He most likely got tangled in fishing gear, according to the necropsy results released this week.

“We know that entanglements in fishing gear and collisions with ships are killing these ocean giants,” Megan Jordan, spokeswoman for Oceana, an international advocacy and conservation organization, said via email. “Reducing the amount of vertical lines from fishing gear in the water and requiring ships to slow down can help save North Atlantic right whales from extinction.”

A bipartisan bill, the SAVE Right Whales Act, is making its way through Congress. The bill would create a grant program to promote collaborations that aim to reduce human impacts on right whales. It also requires government surveys of plankton to better understand changes to the whales’ food supply.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/06/science/right-whales-decline.html

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To Map a Coral Reef, Peel Back the Seawater - NYTimes

11 Jun 2019 - This scientist couple created an airborne observatory to map tropical forests. Now they’re using it to identify threatened reefs.

11 Jun 2019 - This scientist couple created an airborne observatory to map tropical forests. Now they’re using it to identify threatened reefs.

Coral reefs comprise just 1 percent of the ocean floor yet they are home to 25 percent of the world’s marine fish, a growing source of protein for people. But reefs are imperiled by a range of threats including warming waters, acidifying seas, destructive fishing methods, and agricultural and other runoff.

Moreover, scientists have only a rough idea of the extent of reefs worldwide; a reef thought to be 1,000 acres might be 1,500 or just 500. Of the reefs that have been accurately mapped, little is known about their health, the kinds of fish that live there, or the composition of coral species.

The problem is seawater. The oceans are vast, making reefs hard to pinpoint, and the water’s surface is difficult for satellite and airborne cameras to see through.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/10/science/coral-reefs-mapping-biodiversity.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FOceans&action=click&contentCollection=science&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection

PHOTO: The Global Airborne Observatory, a lidar-equipped laboratory designed to map coral reefs from above, flying over St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.CreditCreditMarjo Aho/The Nature Conservancy

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The Climate-Friendly Vegetable You Ought to Eat - NY Times

30 Apr 2019 - Kelp, a variety of edible seaweed is delicious and versatile, it's easy to cook with and farming it is actively good for the ocean's health.

30 Apr 2019 - Kelp, a variety of edible seaweed is delicious and versatile, it's easy to cook with and farming it is actively good for the ocean's health.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/30/dining/kelp-seaweed-recipes.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FOceans&action=click&contentCollection=science&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection

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Ocean Warming Is Accelerating Faster Than Thought, New Research Finds

11 Jan 2019 - NYTimes - Scientists say the world’s oceans are warming far more quickly than previously thought, a finding with dire implications for climate change.

11 Jan 2019 - The New York Times - Scientists say the world’s oceans are warming far more quickly than previously thought, a finding with dire implications for climate change because almost all the excess heat absorbed by the planet ends up stored in their waters.

A new analysis, published Thursday in the journal Science, found that the oceans are heating up 40 percent faster on average than a United Nations panel estimated five years ago. The researchers also concluded that ocean temperatures have broken records for several straight years.

As the planet has warmed, the oceans have provided a critical buffer. They have slowed the effects of climate change by absorbing 93 percent of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gases humans pump into the atmosphere.

“If the ocean wasn’t absorbing as much heat, the surface of the land would heat up much faster than it is right now,” said Malin L. Pinsky, an associate professor in the department of ecology, evolution and natural resources at Rutgers University. “In fact, the ocean is saving us from massive warming right now.”

But the surging water temperatures are already killing off marine ecosystems, raising sea levels and making hurricanes more destructive.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/10/climate/ocean-warming-climate-change.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FOceans&action=click&contentCollection=science&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection

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Rescuing Sea Turtles From Fishermen’s Nets in Kenya

16 Oct 2018 - New York Times - A conservation organization tries to persuade local residents to help return the trapped reptiles to the ocean, rather than sell their meat and shells for a living.

16 Oct 2018 - New York times / WATAMU, Kenya — The young hawksbill turtle was accidentally caught in a net in the Indian Ocean off Kenya’s coast.

The fisherman called Local Ocean Conservation, a nonprofit based in the town of Watamu that is the only turtle rescue and rehabilitation center on the East African seaboard. 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.

Worldwide, hawksbills are critically endangered, while green and loggerhead turtles are endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Olive ridleys and leatherbacks are vulnerable. All five species of these sea turtles are found in Kenyan waters. The global green turtle population has declined by an estimated 50 to 70 percent since 1900.

Conservationists are trying to protect turtles from a wave of threats, including pollution. Since its founding in 1997, Local Ocean has protected about 1,000 nests, conducted more than 17,000 turtle rescues and treated more than 480 turtles in its rehab center. About 60 to 70 percent of turtles are released back in the ocean.

Ten to 15 percent of the center’s turtle patients are sick from eating plastic. Most of them do not survive. Spiky papillae lining turtles’ throats prevent them from regurgitating plastic. And surgery on gastrointestinal tracts is difficult to do if it requires breaking open their shells.

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.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/15/science/sea-turtles-endangered-fishing.html

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Nations Will Start Talks to Protect Fish of the High Seas

2 Aug 2017 - More than half of the world’s oceans belong to no one, which often makes their riches ripe for plunder.

2 Aug 2017 - More than half of the world’s oceans belong to no one, which often makes their riches ripe for plunder.

Now, countries around the world have taken the first step to protect the precious resources of the high seas. In late July, after two years of talks, diplomats at the United Nations recommended starting treaty negotiations to create marine protected areas in waters beyond national jurisdiction — and in turn, begin the high-stakes diplomatic jostling over how much to protect and how to enforce rules.

“The high seas are the biggest reserve of biodiversity on the planet,” Peter Thomson, the ambassador of Fiji and current president of the United Nations General Assembly, said in an interview after the negotiations. “We can’t continue in an ungoverned way if we are concerned about protecting biodiversity and protecting marine life.”

Without a new international system to regulate all human activity on the high seas, those international waters remain “a pirate zone,” Mr. Thomson said.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/climate/nations-will-start-talks-to-p...