Category Archives: Marine Science

UMass Dartmouth awarded $1M for scallop, flounder fisheries research

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth scientists will receive $1 million in federal research funds to improve management of the scallop and flounder fisheries.The funding, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Northeast Fisheries Science Center and New England Fishery Management Council Sea Scallop Research Set-Aside Program, was awarded last week to the researchers at the UMass School for Marine Science and Technology.Projects will focus on bycatch reduction, scallop biomass and improving the understanding of scallop biology. The scallop survey research will be led by Kevin Stokesbury, while Daniel Georgiana will expand on previous sea scallop gray-meat research. Link 11:51

2017-2018 Sea Scallop Research Set-Aside Recommended Awards Announced – Click here to read about the projects

Not what I’m seeing: Crab fisherman thinks stock healthier than scientists say

Port de Grave snow crab fisherman says he’s baffled by a bleak stock assessment recently released by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. While federal scientists said there has been a whopping 40 per cent decline in the amount of harvestable crab off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, Dwight Petten says that doesn’t match what he is seeing on the water. Petten, 51, has been fishing for a quarter century. He and his 27-year-old son own two boats, employ six people and have a 500,000-pound quota which they caught easily in 2016. “We found catch rates the best we’ve ever had, so we’re not seeing what the scientists is saying is happening,” he told the St. John’s Morning Show. Petten, who fishes in Area 3L, from Bonavista to Cape Race, said he is seeing lots of healthy crab, despite the assertion by scientists that there are few small crab to replace the mature stock. continue reading the story here 07:51

Fish fight: Scientists battle over the true harm of mercury in tuna

Molly Lutcavage thought she had a deal. For more than a decade, she had collected hundreds of tissue samples from bluefin tuna in hopes of settling a question that has long vexed pregnant women and the parents of young children: Should they eat the big fish, a beneficial source of protein and fatty acids? Or did mercury contamination make them too dangerous? Lutcavage hoped to test the theory that selenium, a key chemical found in tuna, prevents mercury from being transferred to the people who eat them and that, therefore, the fish are safe to eat. So she gave her hard-won samples to a colleague, Nick Fisher, to analyze in his lab. But Fisher, it seems, didn’t have as much interest in Lutcavage’s selenium theory. Two years later, he produced a study focused almost exclusively on his own hypothesis: that lowering pollution emissions from power plants reduced the levels of mercury in bluefin tuna. Lutcavage was furious, and the two scientists went to war. continue reading the article here 14:55

Massive Rogue Waves Aren’t Rare

University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science scientist Mark Donelan and his Norwegian Meteorological Institute colleague captured new information about extreme waves, as one of the steepest ever recorded passed by the North Sea Ekofisk platforms in the early morning hours of Nov. 9 2007. Within the first hour of the day, the Andrea wave passed by a four-point square array of ocean sensors designed by the researchers to measure the wavelength, direction, amplitude and frequency of waves at the ocean surface. Using the information from the wave set—a total of 13,535 individual waves—collected by the system installed on a bridge between two offshore platforms, the researchers took the wave apart to examine how the components came together to produce such a steep wave. continue reading the article here 08:48

Study says seals eat more Chinook than Southern resident killer whales

Seals are eating more Chinook than Southern resident killer whales. That’s bad for both endangered species’ recoveries. “The seals might not be the enemy as much as the problem is that we’ve lost forage fish available to them,” said Joe Gaydos, science director of the SeaDoc Society on Orcas Island. According to a recent Canadian study, the amount of Chinook salmon eaten by seals in the Salish Sea has increased from 68 metric tons in 1970 to 625 metric tons in 2015. That’s double the amount Southern resident killer whales ate in 2015 in the same location, and six times more than commercial and recreational fisheries according to the study. Continue reading the story here 12:20

DMC researchers test technique to determine lobster’s age

Research professor Rick Wahle and graduate student Carl Huntsberger are testing a technique at the University of Maine Darling Marine Center to determine the age of lobsters. Unlike fish, mollusks and trees, Wahle says lobsters and other crustaceans molt—or cast off their skeletons thereby discarding external signs of growth. That means a lobster’s age is estimated on size, but it’s a rough determination because ocean conditions affect the crustacean’s growth rate. Not knowing a lobster’s age is problematic for scientists and fishery managers seeking to measure the health of the fishery and the sustainability of the stock. Continue reading the story here 10:06

Study: Seismic Testing Disrupts Fish Behavior

Almost anyone who’s thrown a hook in the water to catch a fish in a quiet atmosphere probably knows intuitively that loud noises spook them: you don’t scream at fish to bite, after all, you wait patiently. But intuition isn’t science, and seismic airguns don’t make just any loud noise, so when University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences doctoral student Avery Paxton and some colleagues got the opportunity to do some real science on an issue that’s germane to the hot topic of oil and gas exploration by seismic surveys, they jumped at the chance. What they found, back in September 2014 when they did a study during a U.S. Geological Survey seismic mapping effort in the Atlantic Ocean off Beaufort Inlet, not only confirmed intuition, but surprised them in its degree: 78 percent of the fish on a reef near the seismic survey “went missing,” compared to counts at the same time the three previous days during the evening hours, the peak time for fish, such as snapper, grouper and angelfish, to gather there. Continue reading the article here 10:27

UNH researchers ID bacteria contaminating seafood in seven Atlantic coastal states and Canada.

University of New Hampshire scientists in partnership with the FDA and public health and shellfish management agencies in five states have identified a new strain of a bacterial pathogen that has contaminated seafood, sickening shellfish consumers along the Atlantic Coast at increasing rates over the last decade. N.H. Agricultural Experiment Station scientists have discovered that a Vibrio parahaemolyticus strain identified as ST631 is a predominant strain endemic to the Atlantic Coast of North America and has been traced to shellfish harvested in seven Atlantic coastal states and Canada. ST631 is the second most prevalent strain isolated from patients sickened by product sourced to the Northeast United States. Vibrio parahaemolyticus is the leading seafood-transmitted bacterial pathogen worldwide with an estimated 45,000 infections in the United States every year. It causes gastroenteritis and, rarely, lethal septicemia. The findings were announced in a letter to the editor at the Journal of Clinical Microbiology “Sequence Type 631 Vibrio parahaemolyticus, an Emerging Foodborne Pathogen in North America.” Read the story here 09:31

New scientific paper throws conventional thinking about minimum sizes for fish out the window

At last, after decades of so-called reviews of minimum sizes which have basically just fiddled at the edges, an Australian fisheries management authority has finally fundamentally questioned and analysed the use of minimum sizes as an effective tool for sustainable fish species management. Our friends in WA have issued Fisheries Management Paper No. 279; Policy on the Application of Fish Size Limits in Western Australia. In eight concise pages it addresses one of the oldest types of management tools used in fisheries, the setting of minimum size limits for all popular species targeted by recreational and commercial fishers. It concludes that often setting these limits is a waste of time. The Policy has then been used as the basis of the subsequent Fisheries Management Paper No. 280 which outlines proposals for reviewing the appropriateness of all current size limits that apply to finfish species in WA. Read the story here 16:03

Price spikes for jumbo shrimp blamed on Gulf of Mexico dead zone

Every spring and summer when the low-oxygen dead zone forms off Louisiana’s coastline, the price of jumbo shrimp briefly spikes, affecting Gulf of Mexico fishers, consumers and seafood markets, according to a new study published Monday (Jan. 30) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And the price for smaller shrimp generally falls. The positive effect of the price increase on jumbo shrimp for Gulf commercial shrimpers are fleeting, however. That’s because the rise often triggers increased imports of large shrimp from foreign producers, including farm-raised shrimp, which quickly drive down prices. The dead zone is an area of low oxygen — with levels of oxygen at or below 2 parts per million — that scientists define as hypoxia. Freshwater rich in nitrogen and phosphorus from Midwest farms and from nutrient-rich sewage from cities and rural areas enters the Gulf each spring and summer, forming a freshwater layer over the Gulf’s saltier sea water. Read the full story here 18:41

Study says predators may play major role in chinook salmon declines

A new study shows that increased populations of seals and sea lions are eating far more of Puget Sound’s threatened chinook than previously known, potentially hampering recovery efforts for both salmon and endangered killer whales.  Seals and sea lions are eating about 1.4 million pounds of Puget Sound chinook each year — about nine times more than they were eating in 1970, according to the report, published online this month in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. Most of these chinook are small fish migrating to the ocean, which ultimately reduces the number of adults returning to Puget Sound. The study estimates that seals and sea lions are decreasing potential returns by about 162,000 adult chinook each year. That’s twice the number eaten by killer whales and roughly six times as many as caught in Puget Sound by tribal, commercial and recreational fishers combined. Read the rest of the story here 21:16

In Chesapeake Bay’s changing ecosystem, blue crab is king (and moving north)

In the face of an evolving ecosystem, experts agree many of the differences in Chesapeake Bay marine life can – at least in part – be attributed to a worldwide warming trend. Over the last three decades, water temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay have increased about 1.5 degrees Celsius, or about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, said Rom Lipcius, professor of marine science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. The change means populations of many native sea creatures in the Chesapeake have moved or expanded north in search of cooler water temperatures, and other non-native creatures have moved in. As the warming trend continues, experts say some marine species will thrive as others struggle to survive in the face of temperature, environment and predator and prey changes. “It’s not all bad news, and it’s not all good news,” said Jon Hare, science and research director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. “There are both winners and losers in this situation.” There have been a number of species, including blue crab, scup and black sea bass, that have shifted or extended northward along the Atlantic coast, said Hare. Read the story here 08:35

New SMAST camera can help assess cod stocks in Gulf of Maine

Researchers from UMass Dartmouth say they have successfully tested an underwater video-survey system that they hope will provide an accurate method to assess Atlantic cod stocks. In collaboration with fishermen, the research team recently placed high-resolution cameras in an open-ended commercial trawl net on Stellwagen Bank in the Gulf of Maine, known as one of the world’s most active marine sanctuaries. The cameras captured images of cod and other groundfish as they passed through the net. Periodically, researchers from UMD’s School for Marine Science & Technology closed the net for short periods to collect length, weight, and take other biological samples from some of the fish. The fish are unharmed and are returned to the sea. The system is design to be portable, so scientists can set it up on different fishing vessels. Professor Kevin Stokesbury, head researcher on the project, said the video system is an important tool at a time of uncertainty about the groundfish stock in the Gulf of Maine. Read the story here 17:57  Read the press release and watch the video here

‘Fish feel pain’ rhetoric is nothing but a myth

The anti-fishing brigade has once again rolled out the “fish feel pain rhetoric” in an effort to convince people that fishing is a bad thing to do. Any suggestion of equivalence between what fish and humans feel in relation to a hook lodged in the lip has been well and truly dismissed by science. The differences between humans and fish are pretty clear to most people. Fish live in a very different environment and have evolved a very different physiology to humans. Fish have tough mouths and eat hard, spiny and bony food including crabs, prawns, oysters, mussels and fish. It is simply not correct to accept that fish have a human-like capacity for feeling pain. Unfortunately this false argument is something that is continually peddled by groups with a vested interest in ending all recreational and commercial fishing. Read the story here 08:27

Study: How China maintains large catches and what it means for fishery management elsewhere

China, the world’s largest seafood producer, has done something extraordinary. For the past 20 years, despite minimal management and some of the most intense industrial fishing in the world, it has maintained large catches of key species in its most productive waters. A new study from UC Santa Barbara, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests another explanation: By reducing the population of predatory fish, China has increased populations of preyed-upon species. “If you fish down the large predatory fish, then you can catch more small prey fish, because they are no longer being eaten before you get to them,” explained lead author Cody Szuwalski, a fisheries scientist in UCSB’s Sustainable Fisheries Group. Key to the success of this approach is that predators typically need to eat 10 pounds of prey to add one pound to their own weight, so fishing out predators tends to increase prey catches by much more than it reduces predator catches. Read the story here 12:09

The Rise and Fall of a Shrimp Biologist

Yes, I am a marine biologist. But, before you get all doe-eyed, thinking about swimming with dolphins, or saving the whales, I need to explain that there are two very different kinds of marine biologists in the world, one kind triumphantly leaps off of boats wearing stylish wetsuits to study highly intelligent and beautiful marine mammals, these are the dolphin huggers, while the other kind of marine biologist studies the less popular animals in the ocean, things like worms and slugs, or in my case, shrimp. And to be precise, I don’t study just any shrimp. My career choice was to study sick shrimp, shrimp laden with bacteria. While my dolphin-hugging colleagues are inundated with students—all of which, by the way, look remarkable in scant swimwear—they travel the world giving invited seminars to large enthusiastic audiences and seem to get research support with the flick of pen, I on the other hand am basically the proctologist of the marine biology world in terms of popularity. And like all proctologists, my expertise is entirely unappreciated. Read the article here 19:57

Fish Seek Cooler Waters, Leaving Some Fishermen’s Nets Empty

Studies have found that two-thirds of marine species in the Northeast United States have shifted or extended their range as a result of ocean warming, migrating northward or outward into deeper and cooler water. Lobster, once a staple in southern New England, have decamped to Maine. Yet fishing regulations, which among other things set legal catch limits for fishermen and are often based on where fish have been most abundant in the past, have failed to keep up with these geographical changes. Reflecting these tensions, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Christopher S. Murphy, both Democrats of Connecticut, noted in a letter to the acting inspector general of the Commerce Department in June that fishermen in their state were experiencing “extreme financial hardship” because the apportionment of resources was so outdated. Although such shifts in allocations are possible, said Tom Nies, the executive director of the New England Fishery Management Council, in practice they are difficult to execute. “If you’re giving fish to somebody, you’re taking them away from somebody else,” Mr. Nies said. Read the article here 08:03

Dead lobsters, crabs and herring are washing up along this Nova Scotia shore, and we don’t know why!

Halifax resident Eric Hewey was home in Digby, N.S., visiting for the holidays when he got a call from friends on Boxing Day summoning him to the beach below Savary Park in nearby Plympton. “They said we’ve got to come down and look at the beach.” On Tuesday Hewey described when he found when he arrived at the beach as sad: lots of dead herring — an ongoing and as yet unexplained problem — but also dead starfish, lobsters, bar clams, scallops and crabs. Ted Leighton is a retired veterinary pathologist who has been tracking the dead herring reports. He hadn’t been to the beach to see the most recent findings, but he’s seen Hewey’s pictures and noted it’s a place dead herring have been found before.  More photos, read the rest here 13:09

New Report Identifies Sources of Nitrogen Loading in Local Waters

A new report has pinpointed sources of nitrogen loading in local waters. The New York Department of State released the Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve water quality report on Wednesday, which identifies sources of pollution in eastern bays and takes a closer look at ways to improving the environmental health of local waters, a release said. Nitrogen sources identified in the report include stormwater runoff, drainage or seepage — including seepage from septic systems and cesspools. Other sources include failing or inadequate on-site wastewater treatment systems discharging to the bays, the report says. The “Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve Eastern Bays Project: Nitrogen Loading, Sources, and Management Options” report was completed in cooperation with Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and is an important step in estimating the amount of nitrogen that causes water degradation to the South Shore of Long Island, officials said. Excess nitrogen has led to an increase in algal blooms, a reduction in seagrass beds that provide habitat for shellfish and finfish and a host of other water quality impairments. The nitrogen pollution has also contributed to the decline of shellfish and commercial fishing on Long Island, the report said. Read the story here 08:21

Fisheries management kills both fish stocks and fishermen

Fishery management seems only to reduce the fishery and to counterbalance that, fishermen are killed. The modern mathematical fishery management has been a total failure. Constant cuts in effort and quotas to protect stocks against supposed “over fishing” in order to build up stocks in order to get increased catches later have not lived up to the promises, least to say. But the orthodox science will not face the truth. Below is a link to a presentation I had on the subject at a recent conference in Faroe Islands. There they abandoned the quota system in 1996 and took up effort system, based on days at sea. But a constant reduction of days, to prevent over fishing, has ruined the fishing grounds. Please note that there is both English and Danish text in the presentation, saying the same thing. This presentation is about  the result of fishery management. The scientists maintained that by  reducing  the catch of small fish they would grow bigger and give more catch later. In most cases this has not been the case, and we are still waiting for the later to come. Examples are shown. Read the presentation by Jon Kristjansson, fisheries scientist, Iceland Click here 16:36

Backyard & Beyond: War against foreign marine species seems to be a losing battle

tunicate2On a cool Friday morning last month, a dozen curious Rhode Islanders lay down on the pier at Point Judith Marina to collect some of the squishy and crunchy creatures that were growing on the side of the docks. Using rusted metal spatulas, they scraped the unknown life into small aquarium nets and saved it in plastic tubs, then spent half an hour trying to identify what they had retrieved. With the exception of a few blue mussels, almost nothing was recognizable. There were sea squirts and shrimp-like things, seaweeds and green crabs, and just about everything was covered in a mushy yellow-brown mat called a colonial tunicate. Almost none of it was native to New England waters. In fact, most it came from the other side of the planet. Marine invasive species are a growing problem. Once a new species arrives, it’s almost impossible to get rid of it. Read the rest here 14:28

Canadian Perspective on Atlantic Cod Stocks & Management

CFOODLast week we released a two part feature on the status of Atlantic cod stocks. Click here  Part was a general overview of the status of stocks while Part 2 dove deeper into the reasons behind different statuses.

Jeffrey Hutchings, a fishery scientist at Dalhousie University was inspired to comment on our CFOOD feature below;

Despite voluminous research, science discussions of Atlantic cod can verge on the simplistic. Overfishing and ‘the environment’ unhelpfully portrayed as alternative or additive causes of decline. Temperature presented unequivocally as the driver of recruitment. Variable attention to how differential responses to natural and human-induced environmental stressors can be influenced by basic elements of demography — population size, age structure, natural mortality — especially when these fall outside a population’s norm. The collapse of Northern cod was unprecedented but the low temperatures that cod experienced prior to collapse were not (it has been as cold, or colder, if one’s temporal horizon extends beyond the mid 20th Century for this 500-year-old fishery). Recruitment failure is not affecting the recovery of some depleted stocks, such as Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence cod, but altered predator-prey interactions – predicated by prolonged overfishing – almost certainly are. Not all northeast Atlantic cod are doing well, as the current status of those along the Norwegian coast will attest. Read the rest here 14:07

Bioengineers look to Alaska Pollock to help save lives

alaska pollockWhen researchers at the University of Tsukuba in Japan were looking for biomaterials that could improve the performance of surgical sealants, they turned to a familiar cold-water fish: Alaska Pollock. The results of their tests on rodent and pig tissue were published in Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces, a peer-reviewed scientific journal that focuses on bioengineered materials, in October.  Surgical sealants are mainly used to stop bleeding in wounds from surgical cuts during a procedure. The first sealants were invented in 1909, and made from human plasma and an enzyme derived from cattle. But according to a rehash of the technology’s history, (“Evolution of hemostatic agents in surgical practice,” Indian Journal of Urology, 2010), they came with steep drawbacks. Patients’ immune systems often reacted poorly to the material. And at the time, human plasma screening was inadequate to prevent transmission of blood-borne viruses to patients. This led to new viral infections.  Read the story here 18:40

Utilizing sound technology, scientists assess northern shrimp population along the Maine Coast

shrimpThis winter, a small fleet of Maine fishermen will head out to hunt for northern shrimp, even though the fishery itself has been closed for three years. They won’t be landing the New England delicacy so it can be eaten. The fishermen will use acoustic transducers, and a few nets and traps, to help the Gulf of Maine Research Institute learn where these small pink crustaceans congregate in our near-shore waters over the winter, where they lay their eggs. Using sound waves to survey a species as small as shrimp is a new challenge for scientists. “We have found low-frequency sound waves are good at detecting big fish, like cod, and high frequencies are good at detecting small organisms like shrimp,” said research associate Adam Baukus of GMRI. “The technology allows us to cover a lot more of the ocean than we can with trawls or traps alone. With sound, we can do 40 miles at a time. … Traditional (trawl) surveys are lucky to cover a quarter mile.” Read the story here 11:34

Atlantic Cod: The Good, The Bad, and the Rebuilding – Part 1 and 2

“Fishing pressures…or environmental pressures…are different from place to place even within what is considered to be a single management area, and that effect is multiplied when you consider going from one management area to another” says Coby Needle. This implies that there is no singular reason for the observed differences in stock status. However, there do seem to be general trends based on the latitudinal position of stocks. In general, the northern stocks are doing better than the southern populations. “In the NE Atlantic, the more northerly stocks like Barents Sea and Icelandic cod are generally in much better shape than the ones further south…There is some long-term environmental trend affecting their recovery” says Robin Cook. However, “it’s not as simple as it was 2 or 3 years ago when we probably thought it was all related to global change; the southern stocks were suffering while the northern stocks were benefitting from a warming Arctic” says Chris Zimmermann. One example is the disappearance of North Sea cod from the southern spawning grounds, where there has been no spawning activity for the last 10-15 years. “Newspapers say ‘there’s no spawning of cod in the North Sea at all.’ That’s not the case – it’s just the southern spawning grounds. That’s certainly related to global change” says Chris Zimmermann. “Distributions are further north because the more southern populations are less successful” Robin Cook agrees. Five Audio reports, Read the rest here 09:39 Read Part 1 here

Atlantic Cod: The Good, The Bad, and the Rebuilding – Part 1

Atlantic cod have been emblematic of fisheries problems, with the 1992 collapse of the Northern cod stock in Canada setting the stage for the last 25 years of concern surrounding status of cod stocks. Mark Kurlansky’s book “Cod” sold over a million copies, increasing awareness and concern over cod fisheries. Further, the two U.S. cod stocks continue to be at very low abundance; an article in the Houston Press released September of 2011 stated “Atlantic cod has been fished nearly to extinction.” However, over the entire Atlantic Ocean, the abundance of cod is high and increasing (Figure 1). There are over two dozen cod stocks that are defined as management units, 6 of which are addressed in this feature: 2 on the western side and 4 on the eastern side of the Atlantic basin (see Figure 2). The two U.S. stocks are Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine, and the four European stocks occupy the shelves of Iceland, the Barents Sea, the North Sea, the Celtic Sea, and the Baltic Sea. Read the article here 15:18

A Rare Albino Haddock!

albino haddockFishermen have landed an extremely rare ‘albino’ haddock at estimated odds of one in 100,000,000. The incredible catch was made about 45 miles north of Unst — the most northerly inhabited island in Britain — on the weekend. And it has now been put in a freezer by scientists who want to preserve it for future research. The haddock was caught by the local fishing boat Resilient (LK 195) and taken to a fish market in Lerwick, Shetland. It was picked up by marine experts from the University of the Highlands and Islands who said they had never come across anything like it. Leanna Henderson, a marine technician at the university’s NAFC marine centre, said the ‘golden’ haddock had no pigment in its skin. Read the story here 10:54

Global Cooling? Stronger-Than-Expected La Niña May Be Brewing

Many have doubted forecasts calling for the onset of the first La Niña in almost five years, believing that its failure to materialize in convincing fashion last summer – as originally predicted – means that it may be off the table for 2016-17. But in recent weeks, the oceans and atmosphere have been pulling everything into place to facilitate a potentially stronger La Niña than previously thought, so those who follow commodities markets may want to take a second look. Cooling sea surface temperatures in the key Niño 3.4 region have touched the levels of early 2012. –Karen Braun, Reuters, 20 October 2016 Read the rest here  14:39

Scientists Are Closer To Understanding What Makes Ocean’s Toxic Algae Bloom

dungenesscrabLast winter was the first time the Dungeness crab fishery in Oregon closed temporarily because of toxic algae in the ocean.  And even just a week ago, another toxic bloom was happening off the coast. Scientists are just beginning to understand what triggers these conditions. A study this month from Oregon State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides a rare peak below the waves. The toxin, demoic acid, is sometimes produced by an algae called Pseudo-nitzschia, or PN.  PN does better than most algae when ocean temperatures are high and there isn’t much nutrients in the water.    When these nutrient-poor conditions are followed by upwelling of rich, cold water from the ocean bottom, the PN are in the perfect position to party.  Their numbers explode. Read the story here 08:46

Poor Striper Spawn Reported in Chesapeake

maryland-striper-index-2016The Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced yesterday that the annual Juvenile Striped Bass Survey indicates that the 2016 striper spawn in the Chesapeake was well below average.  However, it also found one-year-old striped bass from last year’s very successful year-class in abundance. Striped bass spawning success is strongly affected by environmental conditions such as rainfall and varies greatly from year-to-year, with occasional large year-classes interspersed with average or below-average year-classes. “While this year’s striped bass index is disappointing, it is not a concern unless we observe poor spawning in multiple, consecutive years,” said Fishing and Boating Services Director David Blazer. Read the rest here 15:03

The bones in the Smithsonian’s ‘whale warehouse’ are relics of a lost world

The smell hits you first: a nose-wrinkling, fishy stench, cut by the sharp reek of formaldehyde. Then your eyes adjust to the dim fluorescent light, and the sight takes your breath away. The National Museum of Natural History’s whale warehouse, a football field-sized facility in Suitland, Md., resembles a graveyard for giants. There are backbones as long as tennis courts, massive skulls, rib cages that could fit an entire school bus inside. There are fossil remains dating back 40 million years, to a time when whale ancestors, which lived on land, were just beginning their transition to creatures of the sea. A 24-foot pale gray jawbone at the center of the facility, taken from a blue whale slain by whalers 77 years ago, is the largest single skeletal element in any museum collection on Earth. “There are certainly no other museums that have this,” said NMNH fossil marine mammal curator Nick Pyenson, who oversees the collection.,,, Walsh was a young U.S. Coast Guard officer who had been assigned to the Ulysses in accordance with a 1937 international treaty to regulate whaling. His job was to document the factory ship’s catch and ensure that it abided by the new laws. Video, read the article here 18:16

Coast Guard, NOAA Discuss Safety Requirements For Vessels Chartered To Support Scientific Research

Commercial vessels, in particular commercial fishing vessels, are often chartered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to engage in scientific research. There is a long-standing agreement between the Coast Guard and NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) dating back to 1980, which requires NOAA to notify the Coast Guard prior to a commercial vessel being contracted. When that notification is made, the Coast Guard coordinates an inspection, if necessary, to ensure the vessel is in compliance with applicable safety requirements. Further, some vessels may be authorized to operate as research vessels; this also involves a Coast Guard inspection and the issuance of “letter of designation” as a research vessel. Read the rest here 10:06

Not Your Average Fish: Tuna Shares ‘Super Predator’ Genes With Great White Sharks

pacific bluefin tunaDespite independent evolution for 400 million years, sharks and tunas still share common genetic traits. They include higher metabolism, body temperature and fast swimming skills. In the lamnid group of sharks, great white sharks are a major presence. Some common genetics make them super predators with brisk swimming power and the ability to stay warm. This was revealed in a new research by Imperial College London which asserted the commonality of genes in the two groups as key to their predatory edge. Regarding the identical genes in both the groups, the team said they are mainly linked with metabolism and the ability to produce energy. The study, published in Genome Biology and Evolution Journal, had Professor Vincent Savolainen from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial as the Co-author. “Lamnid sharks and tuna both have stiff bodies and tails that allow them to swim in bursts. They can also keep their temperature up in colder waters. Both of these things make them more effective predators, allowing them to snatch prey in usually inhospitable waters,” Savolainen said. Read the rest here 16:41

“Talking” Cod Found To Have Regional Accents

Professor Simpson: ‘There is a vast ecosystem on our doorstep which we barely understand – but all rely on. It’s time to get out there and listen.’ The academic, who discusses the research at an event organised by the National Environment Research Council this week, suggested boats could avoid spawning grounds at key times. He hopes to use the new ‘quiet’ ship, RRS Sir David Attenborough, the vessel the public wanted to name Boaty McBoatface, to continue his study. Recordings of American cod are very different to those from their European cousins, so there is a precedent. This species is highly vocal, with traditional breeding grounds established over hundreds or even thousands of years, so the potential for regionalism is there.’However, there is also growing concern that essential fish ‘gossip’ is being drowned out by noisy boats and drilling. Sounds travel far further under the sea as water is hundreds of times denser than air. The work could help shed light on whether southern fish will be able to understand their northern counterparts if they are forced to seek out the colder waters they prefer because of climate change. (rolls eyes) Read the story here You can listen to these cod talking by clicking here  13:47

A Clean Sweep On The Ocean Floor

Most of the reporting in the media about commercial fishing and declining stocks in the Northeast dwells on how dire the situation has become with the fault generally attributed to fishermen and “overfishing.” The view on the waterfront is very different however. Fishermen have long maintained that there is a huge disconnect between what they see on the water and the conclusions derived from the NOAA surveys and stock assessments. Their claims have been dismissed as self-serving. Now it seems the fishermen have a strong case. On a recent bottom trawl survey, a typical industry net caught four times as many flatfish as the rig used on the government trawl surveys. Written by Don Cuddy, program director at the Center for Sustainable Fisheries Read the story here 17:17

Missing fish catch data? Not necessarily a problem, new study says

university_of_washington_seal-svgRecording how many fish are caught is one important requirement to measure the well-being of a fish stock — if scientists know the number of fish taken from the ocean, they can adjust management of that fishery to keep it from being overfished. Missing , however, are rampant, causing concern that fisheries around the world are overfished. A new study by University of Washington scientists finds that in many cases, this isn’t true. Specifically, misreporting caught fish doesn’t always translate to overfishing. The study was published online this month in the journal Fish and Fisheries. “While quantifying total catch is important for understanding how much is removed from the system, it is possible to manage sustainably even if we don’t know those numbers,” said lead author Merrill Rudd, a UW doctoral student in aquatic and fishery sciences. “This paper shows there are some situations where, just because there is unreported catch, it doesn’t mean we are overfishing.” Read the article here 11:56

Annual Irish Groundfish Survey Now Under Way

 RV Celtic ExplorerThe Marine Institute’s annual Irish Groundfish Survey (IGFS2016) began off the North West Coast on Sunday 25 September, continuing till Thursday 6 October, in fulfilment of Ireland’s Common Fisheries Policy obligations. IGFS2016 is a demersal trawl survey consisting of a minimum of 45 fishing hauls each of 30 minutes’ duration. Fishing in 2016 is taking place within a two-nautical-mile radius of positions indicated in Marine Notice No 41 of 2016, available to read or download HERE. The survey is being conducted by the RV Celtic Explorer (Callsign EIGB), which will display all appropriate lights and signals throughout and is also listening on VHF Channel 16. The Celtic Explorer will be towing a high headline GOV 36/47 demersal trawl during fishing operations. The Marine Institute requests that commercial fishing and other marine operators keep a two-nautical-mile area around the tow points clear of any gear or apparatus during the survey period outlined above. Read the rest here 09:52

Four New Papers Link Solar Activity, Natural Ocean Cycles To Climate – And Find Warmer Temps During 1700s, 1800s

sun-earthAs of mid-September, there have already been 77 peer-reviewed scientific papers authored by several hundred scientists linking solar activity to climate change.  There were 43 as of the end of June, as seen here. In other words, there have been 34 more papers linking solar forcing to climate change made available online just since July. This publication rate for 2016 is slightly ahead of the pace of published papers linking solar forcing to climate change for  2015 (95 Solar-Climate papers ) and 2014 (93 Solar-Climate papers). At this rate, it is likely that a list of 300+ scientific papers linking solar forcing to climate change will have been made available between 2014 and 2016. In addition, there have already been 41 papers published in science journals this year linking natural oceanic oscillations (i.e., ENSO, NAO, AMO, PDO) to climate changes. There were 27 such papers as of the end of June. The solar-ocean oscillation climate connection has gained widespread acceptance in the scientific community. For example, see “35 New Scientific Publications Confirm Ocean Cycles, Sun Are the Main Climate DriversRead the rest here 15:36

Dungeness crabs – Studies focus on acidic ocean impact

Millions of pounds of Dungeness crab are pulled from Pacific Northwest waters each year in a more than century-old ritual for commercial and recreational fishermen. But as marine waters absorb more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, federal scientists are worried that the ocean’s changing chemistry may threaten the sweet-flavored crustaceans. So scientists with the NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center are exposing tiny crab larvae to acidic seawater in laboratory experiments to understand how ocean acidification might affect one of the West Coast’s most lucrative fisheries. Research published this year found that Dungeness crab eggs and larvae collected from Puget Sound and exposed to higher levels of carbon dioxide — which increases ocean acidity — grew more slowly and larvae were more likely to die than those in less corrosive seawater. Read the rest here 14:14

At one time, they were close collaborators. Great White Shark researchers spar over studies off Cape Cod

ar-160919425In 2012, OCEARCH operated under state Division of Marine Fisheries shark scientist Gregory Skomal’s federal permit to catch and tag great white sharks off Chatham. The next year, with Skomal again on board, the state allowed the big Alaskan crab boat the organization uses into state waters, less than 3 miles offshore. This June, citing concerns that any additional research on great white sharks within state waters could jeopardize a five-year population study led by Skomal, Division of Marine Fisheries Director David Pierce denied OCEARCH’s application for a research permit to catch great whites off Monomoy. “I’m concerned your proposed work would compromise our research by jeopardizing our study’s validity,” Pierce wrote to OCEARCH president Christopher Fischer in his June 30 letter denying the permit for state waters. In January, OCEARCH received a federal research permit from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s highly migratory species program to capture and tag a total of 75 sharks of varying species, including eight great whites, anywhere from the Gulf of Mexico all the way up the Atlantic coast. Read the story here 14:16

NOAA research ecologist suggests, As climate change alters the oceans, what will happen to Dungeness crabs?

dungeness-crabIn my day job as a research ecologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, I study how changes in seawater’s acidity from absorbing carbon dioxide in the air, referred to as ocean acidification may affect the success of recreational crabbers like me and the fortunes of the crabbing industry. Contrary to early assumptions that acidification was unlikely to have significant effects on Dungeness crabs, we found in a recent study that the larvae of this species have lower survival when they are reared in the acidified ocean conditions that we expect to see in the near future. Our findings have sobering implications for the long-term future of this US$170 million fishery. Ocean acidification is a global phenomenon,,, Read the rest here 11:03

WHOI scientists/engineers secure funds to help commercialize their ropeless lobster pot to the public

Jim Partan and Keenan Ball had an idea for a way to deploy deep-water lobster traps that could help prevent whale entanglements and potentially reopen closed fishing areas off the New England coast. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution engineers even had a prototype in hand: a 340-pound, 42-inch-high spindle that would attach to lobster traps and keep fishing line underwater until the gear was ready to be retrieved. What they didn’t have was any funding to bring the spindle out of their their cramped Smith Laboratory workspace to do field testing, a vital step before they could put it on a fishing boat for a trial run. A few years ago, that might have been where their story ended. But thanks to a new initiative within the world-renowned oceanographic research nonprofit, the duo have not only some funding but some logistical support to help their vision for a so-called ropeless lobster trap get to sea. Read the story here, with two more images 11:53

Ridiculous study claims: elevated ocean CO2 gives fish brain impairment

doryFrom the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Scienceand the department of “let’s put some fish in a tank and gas them” comes this sub-par science fair level experiment where the only purpose seems to be to demonize CO2 by grabbng a headline. In essence, they’ve created “Dory” from the children’s movie Finding Nemo in an artificial environment that in no way is anything like conditions on a coral reef. Plus, by just dropping the fish into this elevated CO2 environment they aren’t used to, not only are they negating generations of fish and any adaptation that might occur, they are testing fish in a stressed environment that they have no experience with. This truly is bad science. Read the post here 15:41

Have you heard? Nutrient pollution is changing sounds in the sea

Nutrient pollution emptying into seas from cities, towns and agricultural land is changing the sounds made by marine life – and potentially upsetting navigational cues for fish and other sea creatures, a new University of Adelaide study has found. Published online in the journal Landscape Ecology, the research found that marine ecosystems degraded by ‘eutrophication’, caused by run-off from adjacent land, are more silent than healthier comparable ecosystems. This marine ‘soundscape’ comes largely from the snapping of shrimps, but also the rasping of sea urchins and fish vocalisations. The researchers – PhD graduate Tullio Rossi, Associate Professor Ivan Nagelkerken and Professor Sean Connell from the University’s Environment Institute – studied kelp forests and seagrass beds in South Australia’s St Vincent’s Gulf, many of which have been impacted by excessive nutrients washing into the sea, particularly along the metropolitan coast of Adelaide. Read the rest here 17:31

NOAA and Sea Grant fund $800,000 in research to understand effects of ocean changes on iconic Northeast marine life

620300c1768EDNmainDevelopOAresistantOysters_BeckyZeiberNHSeaGrantNOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program (OAP) and the Northeast Sea Grant Programs joined together to prioritize and fund new research on how ocean acidification is affecting marine life including lobsters, clams, oysters, mussels and sand lance that are so important to the Northeast region. Funding includes $800,000 in federal funds from the two programs with an additional $400,000 non-federal match. NOAA and Sea Grant drew on the work of the Northeast Coastal Acidification Network to set these priorities. The Network is made up of concerned fishermen, scientists, resource managers, and representatives from federal and state agencies who work together to identify critical vulnerabilities in the northeast, including regionally important and economically significant marine resources that are vital to the many livelihoods and the culture of New England. Read the rest here 00:23

North Atlantic right whales recovery hurt by entanglements, scientists say

North_Atlantic_right_whaleThe ability of an endangered whale species to recover is jeopardized by increasing rates of entanglement in fishing gear and a resultant drop in birth rates, according to scientists who study the animal. The population of North Atlantic right whales has slowly crept up from about 300 in 1992 to about 500 in 2010. But a study that appeared this month in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science said the number of baby right whales born every year has declined by nearly 40 percent since 2010. Study author Scott Kraus, a scientist with the New England Aquarium in Boston who worked on the study, said the whales’ population suffers even when they survive entanglements in fishing gear. Entanglements have surpassed ship strikes as a leading danger to right whales in recent years. Forty-four percent of diagnosed right whale deaths were due to ship strikes and 35 percent were due to entanglements from 1970 to 2009, the study said. From 2010 to 2015, 15 percent of diagnosed deaths were due to ship strikes and 85 percent were due to entanglements, it said. Read the article here 09:10

UMaine scientist – population size of scallops affects fertilization success

scallops2Scallop gonads may seem like fun and games to Skylar Bayer given that her missing samples landed her on “The Colbert Report” in 2013. But scallops are no laughing matter to Bayer. “When I was deciding on a Ph.D. project to pursue, I chose to work on a species that is commercially important and relevant to people’s daily life,” says Bayer, who is based at the University of Maine Darling Marine Center in Walpole. “Giant sea scallops in Maine seemed extraordinarily relevant.” In 2015, Maine fishermen brought in 452,672 pounds of scallop meat valued at $12.70 per pound — the highest in years. But scallops haven’t always done well in Maine and beyond. In the 1990s, after huge reductions in multiple fishery landings, including giant sea scallops, NOAA regulators instituted large fishing closures to try to bolster groundfish stocks. After four years, scallop stocks had increased 14 times what they were prior to the closure. Seeking a similar success story, Maine followed suit in 2009 and instituted a three-year scallop fishing closure. Read the story here 10:38

American Fisheries Society recognizes Bill Hogarth with top conservation award

122080_webThe American Fisheries Society is honoring recently retired Florida Institute of Oceanography Director Bill Hogarth with the Carl R. Sullivan Fishery Conservation Award – one of the nation’s premier awards in fisheries science – in recognition of his long career and leadership in preserving some of the world’s most threatened species, advocating for environmental protections and leading Florida’s scientific response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The award recognizes a wide span of achievements in Hogarth’s 51-year-career in marine science, beginning with his research into threatened fish species; his roles as director of the National Marine Fisheries Service and chairman of the International Whaling Commission; and his service as the former dean of the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science and Director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography. During his career, Hogarth is credited with,,, Read the rest here 09:59

If you find a crab with a green t-bar tag and/or orange knuckle tag marked with “AOLA” You could win money!

jonah tagsMassachusetts’s Division of Marine Fisheries, in collaboration with the Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association, is tagging Jonah crabs to investigate migration patterns and growth. Information will be used for Jonah crab stock assessment.  WHAT TO REPORT: date, location, tag #, crab sex, egg status and whether you kept or released the animal. For green tags only, if you have a way to measure   carapace width in millimeters, we would appreciate that information as well. REWARDS: Every tag report will qualify as one raffle entry.  Rewards will be drawn July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018: 1st place – $500, 2nd place – $300, 3rd place $200. Green tag reports with width measurement will be additionally entered into high  value cash raffles drawn July 1, 2017 and 2018: 1st place – $1,000, 2nd place $500 If you haul a tagged crab, please release it and contact (774) 251-9454 or [email protected]Click here 08:37

Whale wars: Humpbacks versus Orcas focus of new study

whale-warsIt’s a strange marine phenomenon: humpback whales actively defend other marine mammals like seals and grey whales from orca attacks, according to a new study. But while some people might call it a rare example of interspecies altruism, the study also found that these attacks are likely a survival behaviour due to orcas’ tendency to feed on humpback calves. Robert Pitman, a marine ecologist in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in southern California, is the lead author of the study recently published in the Marine Mammal Science journal. He told The Early Edition he first became intrigued about the phenomenon during a research trip to Antarctica.”One day, we saw a killer whale chasing a seal. [The seal] started swimming out towards where a humpback was at the surface, and the humpback rolled over, and lifted the seal up on its chest,” he said Read the rest here 09:53

Greenland shark named longest-living vertebrate living up to 400 yrs

img_0090-3A student job with the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources inspired Julius Nielsen, lead author of the new study, to research the Greenland shark, which roams the chill waters of the North Atlantic. “I encountered the sharks here for the first time, and I was fascinated that so little were known about such large sharks,” Nielsen said. They are the largest fish native to Arctic seas, with adults typically measuring between 13 and 16 feet and females consistently outgrowing the males. Still, their biology was mostly a mystery, explained Nielsen. “For example, their age was unknown but expected to be great,” he said, based on studies from more than 50 years ago. The extremely slow growth rates of these sharks — less than a centimeter per year — suggested they must live for many years.” So how do you discover the age of a mute primordial shark? Nielsen and his colleagues turned to radiocarbon dating. Read the rest here 13:53

Dr. Robert E. Hueter – I am writing to share my strong opposition to S. 3095, The Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act.

3156413August 5, 2016 – The Honorable Bill Nelson United States Senate Washington, DC  20510   Dear Senator Nelson:  I am writing to share my strong opposition to S. 3095, The Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act. As the Director of Mote Marine Laboratory’s Center for Shark Research, which was designated by Congress in 1991 as the nation’s research center for shark studies, I have more than 40 years of experience with this issue.  That experience includes biological research, collaborations with fisheries, conservation education, and domestic and international policy work.  As an independent, nonprofit research and education institution in Sarasota, Mote’s history of shark expertise goes back to its founding in 1955 by Dr. Eugenie Clark, our famous “Shark Lady.” While possibly well-intentioned as a measure to improve the conservation of sharks, S. 3095 will be ineffective in making a dent in the global problem of shark overfishing.  Instead, it will punish the wrong people by putting American commercial fishermen, who are fishing for sharks legally and sustainably, out of business.  I outline below the reasons behind my opposition and those of many of my colleagues who work closely with the fishing community:  Read the letter here Read Behind the Fins: Dr. Robert E. Hueter Click here 12:05

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission could increase menhaden catch

menhadenNew Jersey commercial bait fishermen want to see the coastwide catch of menhaden increased nearly 80,000 metric tons. “We’re focused on the science. If the science supports an increase, we want to take it,” said Jeff Kaelin from Lunds Fisheries, a commercial fishing operation in Cape May. The amount of menhaden fishermen will be able to take from the water next year will be decided Wednesday in Alexandria, Virginia, when the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meets. The Atlantic Menhaden Technical Committee has given the ASMFC options that would allow the catch to increase by as much as 10,000 to 80,000 metric tons. Kaelin said Jersey gill netters have been shut out of the fishery since July 4, after fishermen reached their allocation for this year. He said if they had more quota, they could be selling bait to New England lobstermen who are clamoring for bait. Read the rest here 19:22

Researchers use the North Atlantic Oscillation as a predictive tool for managing Gulf of Maine Cod

27-researchersuIn recent decades, the plight of Atlantic cod off the coast of New England has been front-page news. Since the 1980s in particular, the once-seemingly inexhaustible stocks of Gadus morhua—one of the most important fisheries in North America—have declined dramatically. In 2008, a formal assessment forecasted that stocks would rebound, but by 2012, they were once again on the verge of collapse. Two years later, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration instituted an unprecedented six-month closure of the entire Gulf of Maine cod fishery to allow stocks to recover. While overfishing is one known culprit, a new study co-authored by researchers at UC Santa Barbara and Columbia University finds that the climatological phenomenon known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is also a factor. And it contributes in a predictable way that may enable fishery managers to protect cod stocks from future collapse. Read the rest here 17:37

Shark liver, giant squid, and commercial fish species on seal sea-food-and-eat-it diet

A first of its kind study may make selfie-snapping tourists take a step back from the seemingly indolent New Zealand fur seals 806606-38d64714-f845-11e2-863a-a54f297353fascattered around our craggy coastlines. A study of the DNA in the seals’ faeces is revealing their true identity when they hit the water, from the bottom up – through their diet. Analysis of the samples collected around New Zealand gives a much more accurate picture of what they eat than before. It includes giant squid and sharks. Big sharks. However these Hannibal Lecters of the ocean are nonchalant about taking on the feared predators: they just eat the nutrient rich livers of the sharks and some stomach. Their diet also includes commercial fish species, which make up 10 per cent of the species identified. One of the study’s authors, Lincoln University Associate Professor Adrian Paterson, says up to 46 fish, and 18 squid and octopi, species were taken at any one sample site. Read the rest here 19:32

We have not published anything by a non-scientist… until today! A fisherman responds to George Burgess

D.Grachek_optRecently on CFOOD we started a new series where we talk to fishery biologists and let them steer the conversation. We (try to) post one per week and invite anyone to comment or respond to whatever statements our interview subjects make. Our special shark week conversation was with noted shark biologist George Burgess. Dick Grachek, a fisherman out of Point Judith, took issue with some of Burgess’s comments on shark fishermen and women and the spiny dogfish fishery. Here, he responds to Burgess and offers a fisherman’s perspective not often seen.

A response to George Burgess by Dick Grachek – There exists a carefully controlled and stringently regulated legitimate shark fishery! I have an issue with how George Burgess spoke about shark fishermen and women. He made inaccurate and misleading generalized statements about sharks and shark finning and claimed that, unless carefully scrutinized, “fishers will sneak in extra fins.” In particular, making silly statements about Spiny Dogfish as “high value,” implies a motive for overfishing and contributes to a perception of commercial fishing as greedy and uncaring plunder. These misinformed perceptions lead to baseless regulations. Such regulations are destructive to the fish and the fishermen. They can, and often do, prevent legitimate harvesting of a vital, healthy food source. Read the rest here 20:58

Do Lobsters Live Forever?

lobster-stomach-teeth 2Many animals that live in the deep, dark sea are subject to myths, and lobsters are no different. But one particular “belief” that lobsters would be immortal were it not for fishermen and hungry predators doesn’t exactly hold water, biologists told Live Science. “Lobsters age just like most other organisms,” said Thomas Matthews, a lobster biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Some lobsters, however, do have extraordinarily long life spans. The American Lobster (Homarus americanus) can live to at least 100 years, which is more than five times the life span of the Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) can live to at least 100 years, which is more than five times the life span of the Caribbean spiny lobster. Water temperature explains most of this difference in age, Matthews said. When lobsters are in warm water, such as the Caribbean, they have faster metabolisms. Conversely, when they’re in cold water, their metabolisms are slower. Read the rest here 14:42

MPAs: Closing parts of the ocean to fishing not enough to protect marine ecosystems

Ray_HilbornA University of Washington fisheries professor argues this week that saving biodiversity in the world’s oceans requires more than banning fishing with marine protected areas, or oceanic wilderness areas. In a three-page editorial published this week in the journal Nature, he argues that this increasingly popular conservation strategy is not as effective as properly managing recreational and commercial fisheries. “There’s this idea that the only way you can protect the ocean is by permanently closing parts of the ocean to fishing, with no-take areas,” said Ray Hilborn, a professor in the UW’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “You protect biodiversity better by regulating fisheries over the country’s entire economic zone. Several environmental organizations have set a longer-term goal of making 30 percent of the world’s oceans into no-take marine protected areas by the year 2030. But Hilborn believes this is not the best way to protect global marine ecosystems. Read the rest here 20:48

Greased Lightning! Self-Lubricating Swordfish Secrete Oil to Swim Faster

Pacific-swordfish_photo-credit-Britannica-KidsSwordfish may look like formidable beasts, what with their namesake prong jutting out from their noses. That pointy-looking nose, however, isn’t as strong as it may look, thanks to a thin section of bone at its base that shares the space with a particularly large gland. Now, after years of puzzling over its purpose, scientists believe they finally have the answer: the gland helps swordfish swim faster by coating their heads in oil. In a recent study published this week in the Journal of Experimental Biology, scientists from University of Groningen in the Netherlands say that the mysterious gland is linked to pores on the fish’s head through a system of capillaries. These pores then secrete an oily film that could potentially reduce the drag that swordfish experience when swimming—with top speeds reaching over 62 miles per hour. Read the rest here 17:47

What we know about lampreys — the arctic bloodsuckers that swarm Alaska rivers by the millions

grayling lampreyLast summer lampreys fell from the sky in Fairbanks. It’s hard to decide which is more astonishing, the aerodynamic mystery of how they got in the sky to start with or the fact that Alaska has lots and lots of the gruesome, prehistoric, flesh-sucking terrors. Millions of them. Squiggling and lurking in every suitable waterway from Southeast to the Arctic Ocean. There’s no reason to stay out of the water on their account, however. Lampreys only latch onto people if they’re starving. And in Alaska, it’s the humans that eat lampreys, not vice versa. University of Alaska Museum of the North curator of fishes Andres Lopez finds the arctic lamprey a truly intriguing animal. Unchanged for nearly half a billion years, it’s a genuine living fossil. “It’s a jawless vertebrate,” he said. “It has a spinal cord, but no skeleton. Just cartilage. Its teeth are not real teeth, but keratin, more like your fingernails.” Read the story here 20:18