Category Archives: Marine Science

International team of salmon scientists back in port, raring for another mission

The organizer of a month-long Gulf of Alaska salmon survey is already thinking about how to raise money for another trip in the winter of 2020, now that the Russian trawler used in the expedition has finished its job and tied up in Nanaimo. “From what I’ve seen, this needs to be done again,” said Richard Beamish, who came up with the idea of the expedition to mark the International Year of the Salmon with the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission. Future surveys would build on data collected by the 21-member volunteer team of international scientists from the five salmon-producing Pacific Rim countries: Canada, Russia, the U.S., Korea and Japan. >click to read<11:52

From their work at sea and in Nanaimo lab, researchers discover that B.C. coho are wintering in Gulf of Alaska

Onboard DNA analysis of salmon — the first time such complex molecular research has been performed at sea — has discovered that B.C. and Puget Sound coho are wintering in the Gulf of Alaska. The proof that it is possible to perform such analysis shipboard, and with only about $10,000 worth of compact equipment, is considered game-changing by international scientists halfway through a winter research cruise using the chartered Russian trawler Professor Kaganovsky and its crew in the Gulf. >click to read<19:39

How a flipping crab led researchers to discover that a commercially harvested species feeds at methane seeps

Researchers have documented a group of tanner crabs vigorously feeding at a methane seep on the seafloor off British Columbia – one of the first times a commercially harvested species has been seen using this energy source. There are many implications, researchers say, and surprisingly most of them are good. Human consumption of tanner crabs – one of three species sold as snow crabs – that feed on methane-eating bacteria and archaea should not pose a health concern because methane seeps are not toxic environments. The discovery actually may mean that methane seeps could provide some seafloor-dwelling species an important hedge against climate change – because nearly all models predict less food will be falling into the deep sea in coming years >click to read<17:30

Scientists warn drug pollution in rivers reaching damaging levels for animals and ecosystems

Medicines including antibiotics and epilepsy drugs are increasingly being found in the world’s rivers at concentrations that can damage ecosystems, a study has shown. Dutch researchers developed a model for estimating concentrations of drugs in the world’s fresh water systems to predict where they could cause the most harm to the food web. The study, published in Environmental Research Letters, focuses on two particular drugs: antibiotic ciprofloxacin and anti-epileptic drug carbamazepine.,,, Pharmaceutical residues can enter these fresh water systems through waste water from poorly maintained sewer systems, or from run-off over fields for drugs used in livestock. >click to read<

Lobster’s underbelly is as tough as industrial rubber

Flip a lobster on its back, and you’ll see that the underside of its tail is split in segments connected by a translucent membrane that appears rather vulnerable when compared with the armor-like carapace that shields the rest of the crustacean. But engineers at MIT and elsewhere have found that this soft membrane is surprisingly tough, with a microscopic, layered, plywood-like structure that makes it remarkably tolerant to scrapes and cuts. This deceptively tough film protects the lobster’s belly as the animal scuttles across the rocky seafloor. >click to read<11:10

B.C.-led international expedition to probe ailing Pacific salmon stocks

An unprecedented international collaboration could revolutionize salmon science and fisheries management, return forecasting and even hatchery output. Nineteen scientists from Russia, Canada, the United States, Japan and South Korea are set to probe the secret lives of five Pacific salmon species with a four-week grid search and test fishery across the Gulf of Alaska. The expedition begins next week aboard the Russian research ship MV Professor Kaganovsky. “We know virtually nothing about what happens to salmon once they leave near-shore waters in the Salish Sea,” said expedition organizer Dick Beamish. >click to read<13:56

Sustainability: a flawed concept for fisheries management?

The concept of sustainable fishing is well ingrained in marine conservation and marine governance. However, I argue that the concept is deeply flawed; ecologically, socially and economically. Sustainability is strongly related, both historically and currently, to maximum long-term economic exploitation of a system. Counter-intuitively, in fisheries, achieving this economic exploitation often relies on government subsidies. While many fish populations are not sustainably fished biologically, even ‘sustainably harvesting’ fish results in major ecological changes to marine systems. These changes create unknown damage to ecosystem processes, including carbon capture potential of the ocean. The spatial scale of commercial fishing processes can also lead to social and food security issues in local, coastal communities that rely on fish for dietary needs. A radical alternative proposal is provided to the current situation.,,, MSY, however, has been a mainstay of fisheries policy since the term was introduced in 1954 (Schaefer, 1954), and is covered in many basic ecological textbooks (e.g., Begon et al., 2006). The concept is simple: By Richard Stafford>click to read<21:13

Building blocks of ocean food web in rapid decline as plankton productivity plunges

They’re teeny, tiny plants and organisms but their impact on ocean life is huge.​ Phytoplankton and zooplankton that live near the surface are the base of the ocean’s food system. Everything from small fish, big fish, whales and seabirds depend on their productivity. “They actually determine what’s going to happen, how much energy is going to be available for the rest of the food chain,” explained Pierre Pepin, a senior researcher with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in St. John’s. Pepin says over the past 3-4 years, scientists have seen a persistent drop in phytoplankton and zooplankton in waters off Newfoundland and Labrador. >click to read<10:16

After six years of tracking mackerel in the North Atlantic, scientists have uncovered a few fishy secrets.

Do mackerel outcompete herring? And does the fact that mackerel are so widespread in the Nordics mean that their populations are booming? Researchers have spent six years trying to answer these and other questions, and the answers are now beginning to come clear. Their efforts are motivated by more than just academic curiosity. Researchers’ recommendations help shape international quotas that help protect fish stocks, which in the case of mackerel have had a rocky history. >click to read<13:14

DFO warns 80% of N.L. snow crab are below fishable size

Eighty per cent of the snow crab in the province’s waters are now smaller than fishable size, and new biological research from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans says fishing pressure on the already strained stock is the main problem. “There is a major biological concern here,” said DFO biologist Darrell Mullowney.,, The news comes just as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is set to meet with harvesters about snow crab in a series of meetings being held across the province between November 19 and 29. >click to read<19:44

Oh, Give Me a Home Where the Wild Cod Roam

It took a week for Björn Björnsson to train 20 wild cod. In a compelling demonstration of classical conditioning, the aquaculture researcher at Iceland’s Marine and Freshwater Research Institute taught the fish to associate a low-frequency sound with a free meal. It only took another day for Björnsson—with the help of one of his trained fish—to teach another 19 wild cod. People might not think of cod as herd animals, but Björnsson says cod are adept at reading social cues to learn where to grab a bite. >click to read<12:10

Scientists Admit ‘Mistakes’ Led To Alarming Results In Major Global Warming Study

The scientists behind a headline-grabbing global warming study did something that seems all too rare these days — they admitted to making mistakes and thanked the researcher, a global warming skeptic, who pointed them out. “When we were confronted with his insight it became immediately clear there was an issue there,” study co-author Ralph Keeling told The San Diego Union-Tribune on Tuesday. Their study, published in October, used a new method of measuring ocean heat uptake and found the oceans had absorbed 60 more heat than previously thought. >click to read<12:46

Oceanographers produce first-ever images of entire cod shoals

For the most part, the mature Atlantic cod is a solitary creature that spends most of its time far below the ocean’s surface, grazing on bony fish, squid, crab, shrimp, and lobster—unless it’s spawning season, when the fish flock to each other by the millions,forming enormous shoals that resemble frenzied, teeming islands in the sea. >click to read<14:33

Barndoor skates, once a textbook example of overfishing, have recovered enough to allow fishing

Barndoor skates were once thought to be so overfished that a highly-publicized paper from 1998 noted that they had been “driven to near extinction without anyone noticing.” One of the largest skates, barndoor skates can reach over 5 feet in wingspan, which is large enough that their diet includes small sharks like spiny dogfish; for a skate, that’s about as close as it gets to charismatic megafauna! >click to read<09:16

Researchers Had ‘No Idea’ Killer Whales Could Dive This Deep

Killer whales in the South Atlantic Ocean are willing to dive more than a thousand feet more than previously recorded—if they are certain to get a snack at the end of it, researchers have discovered. And the best way to guarantee food is to steal it. BC-based marine researcher Jared Towers witnessed a tagged killer whale diving 3,566 feet to snag some toothfish off a long commercial fishing line. More than 60 killer whales and 40 sperm whales were studied, though just one of each was tagged because whales aren’t particularly cooperative, said Towers. >click to read<20:00

Killer Whale Populations At Risk from Toxic Chemicals

A paper in the Sept. 28 issue of Science says killer whales are at great risk, but not from climate change, loss of habitat or loss of their prey. It will be due to something that sounds very 1970s – PCB, or polychlorinated biphenyl. PCBs are human-made chemicals used for making plastics, electronics, lubricants, heat transformers and other materials and technology. In the late 1970s, studies showed the harmful effects of PCB on humans and on wildlife, such as birds, otters and seals. According to a 2017 paper, killer whale populations off the coast of the most industrialized parts of Europe are close to extinction. >click to read<12:02

Chile purse seine project nominated for conservation award

In October, the Pink-footed Shearwaters begin to arrive on Robinson Crusoe Island, off the coast of Chile. “These [fishing fleets] are fishing in the same areas as these birds. They are capturing the very fish these seabirds eat,” said Cristian Suazo, a member of the Albatross Task Force Chile, which is working to combat bycatch. “The fleets are also out at the same time these birds, many of which are migratory, have the greatest need for food to both refuel and to feed their young.”,,, In Chile, the ATF has been working since 2007, where it began by trying to reduce bycatch in pelagic longline fisheries. In 2013 though, the team noted that there was also bycatch coming from purse seine fisheries, and began working to reduce bycatch in this industry as well. >click to read<17:43

Wait, So How Much of the Ocean Is Actually Fished?

How much of the world’s oceans are affected by fishing? In February, a team of scientists led by David Kroodsma from the Global Fishing Watch published a paper that put the figure at 55 percent—an area four times larger than that covered by land-based agriculture. The paper was widely covered, with several outlets leading with the eye-popping stat that “half the world’s oceans [are] now fished industrially.” Ricardo Amoroso from the University of Washington had also been trying to track global fishing activity and when he saw the headlines, he felt that the 55 percent figure was wildly off. He and his colleagues re-analyzed the data that the Global Fishing Watch had made freely available. And in their own paper, published two weeks ago, they claim that industrial fishing occurs over just 4 percent of the ocean. How could two groups have produced such wildly different answers using the same set of data? >click to read<21:21

Wahle named director of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine

University of Maine marine sciences research professor Richard Wahle has been named director of the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute, effective Sept. 1. He succeeds Robert Bayer, who has directed the institute since 1995 and is retiring from UMaine this year. Wahle joined UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences in 2009. He is based at the University’s Darling Marine Center, where he will continue to teach and conduct research. In 1989, Wahle founded the American Lobster Settlement Index, a program that now monitors the number of juvenile lobsters that settle to the seafloor at over 80 sampling sites from Rhode Island to Atlantic Canada. The index sheds light on the ocean processes that deliver lobster larvae to their rocky coastal nurseries, and serves as a predictor of trends in recruitment to the fishery. >click to read<10:36

So that’s how you deal with lobsters

Christie Wilcox describes a terrible experiment. Investigators were mystified >click here< by an area around a Pacific island that was empty of lobsters, so they dumped a bunch of lobsters there to see what happened. And then… “Visibility was great that day, and virtually the entire sea bottom started to move,” he said. That movement was countless whelks. They started to climb onto the newcomers, sticking to their legs. “I didn’t know then, but they’d started to suck them alive, basically. It was like a horror movie,” Barkai said. “It actually was a bit frightening to watch.” The lobsters simply didn’t know how to respond. They were outnumbered and overwhelmed. “To my horror, in about 30, 40 minutes, all the lobsters were killed.”  Barkai managed to bring two whelk-coated lobsters back to the surface to show the crew—which is when the first photo in this piece was shot.>click to read<19:59

New England lobster fishermen are asked to keep an eye out for tagged lobsters

New England’s lobster fishermen are being asked to keep an eye out for tagged lobsters that are part of a survey of the valuable crustaceans. The lobsters are tagged with green bars that say “SNECVTS” and black acoustic tags. They are part of a tagging program that’s part of a southern New England lobster study being conducted from May to November by Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation and the University of Rhode Island. >click to read< If you find a lobster with a green “SNECVTS” t-bar tag behind the carapace or a black acoustic tag on the carapace, please contact: Michael Long at (401) 515-4892 or [email protected] >click to read<08:33

Epizootic Shell Disease – New findings suggests earlier springs and hotter summers foster increase in shell infections

New findings reveal that as coastal waters in the northeastern U.S. continue to warm — bottom temperatures in Long Island Sound have increased 0.7°F per decade over the last 40 years — resident lobsters are becoming increasingly susceptible to epizootic shell disease, a condition that has depleted the southern New England population and severely impacted the local lobster fishery.,,, As the name implies, epizootic shell disease occurs when the bacterial populations that normally inhabit the surface of a lobster’s carapace change and begin consuming the cuticle, causing it to erode. >click to read<09:18

Narragansett Bay – Invasive Asian Crab Outcompeting Young Lobsters

Speculation about the cause of the decline of lobster populations in Narragansett Bay has focused on an increasing number of predatory fish eating young lobsters, warming waters stressing juveniles, and a disease on their shells that is exacerbated by increasing temperatures. A new study by a scientist at the University of North Carolina points to another contributing factor: Asian shore crabs.,,, Adult lobsters live in much deeper water than the shallow intertidal zone inhabited by Asian shore crabs, so the two species seldom interact. But some larval lobsters settle in the intertidal and subtidal zones, which they use as nursery habitat. Prior to the arrival of Asian shore crabs, it was an area that had fewer predators and an abundance of food. But now the young lobsters are finding themselves in competition with the crabs for food and shelter. >click to read<09:25

Once in a blue moon: Crabber catches rare all-blue blue crab

Jim McInteer and his crew mate Alan Payne knew they had captured an oddity the moment they pulled their crab pot from the York River last Tuesday. “We were excited about it,” says McInteer. “Alan yelled, ‘Come look at this crab!’ He very carefully took him out of the pot and then I could see exactly what it was — I’d read about how they occur every now and then, so we knew what we had.” McInteer, who at 73 has been crabbing commercially for 10 years and recreationally for decades, says he’s caught blue crabs “with blotches of white, and some other slight discolorations, but never a solid-blue blue crab.”Recognizing its rarity, they donated it to the laboratory of Professor Rom Lipcius, an expert in crustacean ecology at William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science. >click to read<16:19

10-foot white shark accidentally caught off Massachusetts coast – Utilized for Science

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy shared photos of a white shark, described as a 10-foot, 657-pound immature female, that was captured unintentionally on Saturday. The animal was caught and killed by a gill net, or a fishing device that hangs vertically to capture and trap fish by their gills. The shark was brought back to Scituate where scientists from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and NOAA New England could take samples for research purposes. An online report from “Massachusetts Sharks” said researchers found the remains of seal and a striped bass in the shark’s stomach. >click to read<17:20

Undersea Power Cables – Electromagnetic fields have complex and possibly harmful effects on the valuable brown crab.

Over the past 10 years, Scotland has installed thousands of offshore wind turbines in the North Sea and is starting to deploy marine energy devices that generate power from tides and waves. It’s a green energy push that is slowly being replicated in coastal areas the world over. Though these installations are reducing coastal threats such as oil spills, they have the potential to cause other, more subtle, problems for marine life. From each offshore wind and tidal turbine, power cables snake to shore, connecting to power banks, converters, and the wider electrical grid. But these electrified cables could have odd and unexpected effects on seafloor life. >click to read<08:43

Whale News – Rare right whale last seen in Cape Cod Bay spotted in Iceland, Southern resident Orca calf dies soon after birth

A right whale last seen off Marshfield has turned up in Iceland. An Icelandic whale watch tour spotted the critically endangered mammal on Monday. Mogul, the 10-year-old male North Atlantic right whale, was last seen in Cape Cod Bay April 21. >click to readMogul the right whale’s appearance off Iceland puzzles scientist >click to read< Meanwhile, The first calf born in three years to the endangered orcas that spend time in Pacific Northwest waters died Tuesday – >click to read< Alexandra Morton Press release – Baby Orca death could be linked to salmon farm virus >click to readNOAA prioritizing West Coast Chinook salmon stocks for Southern Resident killer whale recovery >click to read<09:27

Bay lobster aquaculture developed in Tasmania

The Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), under the University of Tasmania, has paved the way for the bay lobster (Thenus oriental) aquaculture industry in Tasmania, after developing a unique method to breed the resource commercially. Based at IMAS’s Taroona laboratories, the ARC Research Hub for Commercial Development of Rock Lobster Culture Systems began researching hatchery techniques for the resource, better known as Moreton Bay Bugs, in September 2017. The starting point for this project was the technique developed for the tropical rock lobster, of the Panulirus family. >click to read<15:24

The impossible journey of the juvenile coho

As a Ph.D. student with the University of Washington’s Alaska Salmon Program, Jonny Armstrong — now assistant professor at Oregon State University’s Fish and Wildlife Department — snorkeled the Wood River in the Bristol Bay watershed. He soon encountered a mystery: juvenile coho as much as a mile from the nearest sockeye spawning ground had sockeye eggs in their stomachs. Sockeye lay their eggs in cold water, where there’s lots of oxygen. A juvenile coho, however, doesn’t best digest sockeye eggs in that water — cold slows its digestion, meaning if it stayed there, it might need a week to process just one meal. >click to read<22:38

Cocaine in the Water Is Hurting River Eels

The Earth’s waters are laced with drugs—from prescription and over-the counter medications, to caffeine, to antibiotics from personal care products. Marine environments are also tainted with illegal drugs, and a recent study demonstrates just how harmful these illicit substances can be to aquatic wildlife. As Michael Marshall reports for New Scientist, researchers in Italy have found that small amounts of cocaine in water can make eels hyperactive and cause significant muscle damage. >click to read<16:41