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News on Oceans
Behind on biodiversity targets, govts pledge to increase funding for conservation
On the heels of a report showing that the world is far behind on targets to halve habitat loss, cut pollution, and reduce overfishing, delegates meeting at a United Nations conference in Pyeongchang, South Korea have agreed to increase step up efforts to conserve biodiversity in developing nations.
Greenpeace sinks Lego's $116 million deal with Shell Oil over Arctic drilling
Lego has announced it will be severing its partnership with the oil giant, Shell, when the current contract expires after a clever campaign by environmental activist group, Greenpeace. Since 2011, Lego has been selling exclusive sets at Shell stations, but the companies' relationship actually goes back decades. In 1966, the Danish toy company first began selling Lego sets with Shell's brand stamped on them.
Saving Peru's sea turtles and marine birds: conservationists and fishermen partner to tackle bycatch
Marine conservationists often view fisheries as an enemy of sorts, vacuuming up fish with little thought to the long-term consequences and using equipment that also ends up killing other species, i.e. bycatch like sea turtles and marine birds. However, Joanna Alfaro Shigueto, the President of the Peruvian NGOProDelphinus and winner of a 2012 Whitley Award, has chosen a different tact.
Throng of 35,000 walruses is largest ever recorded on land, sign of warming arctic
A mass of thousands of walruses were spotted hauled up on land in northwest Alaska during NOAA aerial surveys earlier this week. An estimated 35,000 occupied a single beach – a record number illustrating a trend in an unnatural behavior scientists say is due to global warming.
Officials bust one of the biggest players in illegal Indonesian manta ray trade
Writing this from a hotel room in Indonesia’s second-largest city, Surabaya, I realize that I am filled with trepidation as I wait for the phone next to me to ring. When it does, the voice on the other end will tell me it’s go time; the culmination of many years of work towards ending the global trade in manta ray gills.
Is there hope for the vaquita? IUCN calls for action to save world's smallest, rarest porpoise
Since the baiji was declared extinct in the early aughts, the vaquita has taken its unenviable position as the world’s most threatened cetacean. The tiny porpoise currently numbers around 100, with accidental entanglement in gillnets primarily responsible for its decline. In response, the IUCN recently issued a statement calling for immediate action to curb vaquita bycatch and head off its extinction – which otherwise may lie just around the corner.
'We are running out of time': CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere surprise scientists
The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere made the biggest jump last year since 1984, according to the World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, raising alarm bells about society's inaction on curbing global warming.
Norway slaughters over 700 whales this season
As of late August, Norway has killed 729 northern minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) during its annual whaling season, the highest number taken since 1993.
California blue whales recover to historical levels
The population of blue whales in the Eastern Pacific has recovered to 97 percent of historic levels decades after Earth's largest animal was nearly driven to extinction in some places due to the whaling industry, reports a new study published in the journal, Marine Mammal Science.
Australia cancels plan to dump dredge in Great Barrier Reef
A consortium of companies—North Queensland Bulk Ports, GVK Hancock and Adani Group—have announced they are giving up on a hugely-controversial plan to dump five million tonnes of dredged sediment in the Great Barrier Reef. The plans ran into considerable opposition from environment, conservation, and tourism groups who feared harm to the world's largest coral reef system.
Invasion of the lionfish: new research finds the situation may be worse than we thought
You may have recently read the controversial story on invasive lionfish research involving Dr. Zack Jud of Florida International University and a young girl named Lauren Arrington. While the issue of attribution in scientific research is crucial to the discipline, much of the media focus so far has sidestepped the real issue: what lionfish tolerance for brackish water really means for the environment.
Featured video: new Netflix documentary highlights the work of Sylvia Earle to save the oceans
Sylvia Earle is one of the ocean's staunchest defenders. A National Geographic Society Explorer in Residence and former chief scientist with NOAA, Earle has spent a lifetime documenting the rapid decline of the world's oceans and calling for more action to defend the body of water that cradles the world's continents.
Demand for shark fin plunging
Shark fin demand has dropped precipitously in China in just a few years, according to a new report by WildAid. Shark fin traders in Guangzhou—the current informal capital of the shark fin trade—say their sales have fallen by 82 percent in just two years, according to WildAid.
Planting meadows in the ocean: technique may help restore disappearing seagrass beds
Eelgrass is an important part of many ocean ecosystems, but is disappearing due to human impacts. However, a study published recently in found eelgrass beds could benefit from a restoration technique using seed-filled pearl nets.
Blue-footed boobies on the decline, plummeting sardine stocks may be to blame
The iconic blue-footed booby of the Galapagos Islands has suffered a population decline of 50 percent in less than 20 years, according to research conducted by biologists from Wake Forest University.
Elephants under the sea: awkward-looking fish modify the coral-reef ecosystem in mixed ways
Bumphead parrotfish are noisy feeders. They break off large branches of corals using their powerful beaks, grind them up in their bodies to extract nutrients, and expel the undigested material in large cloudy plumes of feces. Their voracious feeding is, however, not just a loud, messy affair. During the course of their feeding, they also change the coral reef ecosystem in numerous ways.
The world's best mother: meet the octopus that guards its eggs for over four years
The ultimate goal of all species on the planet is procreation, the act of making anew. But few mothers could contend with a deep-sea octopus, known as Graneledone boreopacifica, which researchers have recently observed guarding its eggs for four-and-a-half years (53 months), before likely succumbing to starvation soon after.
No longer 'deaf as a stump': researchers find turtles chirp, click, meow, cluck
Turtles comprise one of the oldest living groups of reptiles, with hundreds of species found throughout the world. Many have been well-researched, and scientists know very specific things about their various evolutionary histories, metabolic rates, and the ways in which their sexes are determined. But there was one very obvious thing that has been largely left unknown by science until very recently. Turtles can make sounds.
Scientists ask Australia to strengthen, not weaken, protection for Great Barrier Reef
A convening of nearly 600 tropical biologists and conservation scientists has called upon the Australian government to strengthen protection of the Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The declaration, issued at the annual meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), comes as Prime Minister Tony Abbott pushes to allow industrial dumping in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as well as port development in a nearby coastal area.
Coastal wildlife paradise declared biosphere reserve in Argentina (PHOTOS)
Conservationists are celebrating the announcement that UNESCO has dubbed Argentina's Península Valdés a biosphere reserve under the Man and Biosphere Program (MBA). A hatchet-shaped peninsula that juts out into the Southern Atlantic Ocean, the world's newest biosphere reserve is home to a hugely-diverse collection of both terrestrial and marine wildlife.
A tale of two fish: cyanide fishing and foreign bosses off Sulawesi's coast (Part I)
In spring and summer, after the monsoon storms have passed, the fishing boats set out again from tiny Kodingareng Island in the Spermonde Archipelago off the coast of South Sulawesi. In the afternoon heat, Abdul Wahid joins his fellow fishermen in the narrow shade of the beachfront village houses to check out the daily fish prices.
Booming populations, rising economies, threatened biodiversity: the tropics will never be the same
For those living either north or south of the tropics, images of this green ring around the Earth's equator often include verdant rainforests, exotic animals, and unchanging weather; but they may also be of entrenched poverty, unstable governments, and appalling environmental destruction. A massive new report, The State of the Tropics, however, finds that the truth is far more complicated.
Super warm oceans make May the hottest on record
Last month was the warmest May on record, according to new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). While global land surface temperatures were the fourth warmest, it was the ocean surface where things really heated up.
Dying for Fiji's Sea Cucumbers
Redfish, Greenfish, Blackfish. Pinkfish, Curryfish, Lollyfish. They sound like Dr. Seuss characters and certainly look like they should be. Yet these sausage-shaped, rubbery animals stippled in fleshy bumps are not fish at all, but an invertebrate in the group that includes sea stars, sea urchins and sand dollars. Sea cucumbers, referred to as 'bêche-de-mer' or 'trepang' when sold as dried food have a high value - an individual in Fiji can fetch about $80 US.
U.S. raises $800 million for oceans, including $7 million from Leonardo DiCaprio
A U.S. State Department conference on the oceans raised an impressive $800 million for marine conservation this week. The conference was also notable for the announcement by President Obama of an intent to significantly expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.
Bigger than Mexico? Obama announces major expansion of Pacific protected area
President Obama announced yesterday he intends to drastically expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument making what will likely be the largest marine protected area on the planet. While the full extent of the ocean park has yet to be determined, it could potentially protect over two million square kilometers, an area larger than Mexico.
By the bones: herring populations were superabundant before commercial fisheries
Scientists analyzed almost half a million fish bones to shed light on the population history of Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) in the North Pacific Ocean. Their paper reveals a decline of unprecedented scale, and suggests that while the abundance of Pacific herring does fluctuate naturally, their numbers have fallen precipitously since commercial fishing started targeting the species in the 19th century.
New study finds environmental damage globally may cost more than U.S. GDP
A new study added up all the world’s ecosystem services – from carbon storage and crop pollination, to recreation and flood mitigation – and found, every year, nature provides $145 trillion in benefits. It also indicates that land use changes, most of which has been caused by humans, may be reducing these benefits by trillions of dollars every year.
Trawling: destructive fishing method is turning seafloors to 'deserts'
Previous research has linked trawling to significant environmental impacts, such as the harvest of large numbers of non-target species, collectively termed “bycatch,” as well as destruction of shallow seabeds. Now, a new study finds this method is also resulting in long-term, far-reaching consequences in the deeper ocean and beyond.
Extreme cold and drought in U.S. linked to climate change
The U.S. Midwest and Northeast experienced one of the coldest, snowiest winters on record this past season. This might seem contrary to warming trends forecast by climate scientists, but a new analysis released today in Science points out that climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions may actually have contributed to the well-below average temperatures seen in parts of the U.S.