Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Deepest Volcanic Sea Vents Found; "Like Another World"

Deepest underwater Volcano may harbor unknown creatures!!! NatGeo

Three miles (five kilometers) below the surface of the Caribbean Sea (map), great volcanic chimneys gush subterranean water hot enough to melt lead.

Found via robotic submersibles on April 6, these two-story-tall "black smokers" are the world's deepest known hydrothermal vents, scientists announced from aboard a research ship Sunday.

"It was like wandering across the surface of another world," geochemist Bramley Murton, speaking in a press statement, said of steering a submersible around the record-breaking volcanic vents.

"The rainbow hues of the mineral spires and the fluorescent blues of the microbial mats covering them were like nothing I had ever seen before," said Murton, who, like the rest of the team, works with the U.K.'s National Oceanography Centre.

The answer will have to wait. "We've only just started to study the marine life at this site and don't yet have a full picture of it," marine biologist Jon Copley told National Geographic News from aboard the James Cook. "It will then take more work to see how species here relate to those at other vents around the world.

"But once we have those results, these new vents should help to reveal what governs patterns of marine life at deep-sea vents," Copley said. "Those answers should also tell us about patterns of deep ocean life in general—and the deep ocean is our planet's largest habitat.

"Vents are great natural laboratories for understanding such patterns in that vast realm, just as terrestrial islands were for 19th-century naturalists."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Outrage as Japan ups whale hunt budget

Uh OH Japan is upping WHALE WARS budget 54%!! Business Report

Japan plans to increase its annual “whale research” budget in 2012, officials said Friday, in a move that has outraged animal rights' activists, who argue that the country exploits the research proviso to bring whale meat to its market.

The Fisheries Ministry told dpa it had asked for additional funds in order to protect whaling ships from attacks by animal rights groups.

In 2011, the ministry set aside 715 million yen (or 6.95 million euro) for the hunt. In its most recent budget request, it asked for 1.1 billion yen for 2012 - a 54 per cent increase year-over-year.

Japanese Fisheries Minister Michihiko Kano said earlier this week that an escort ship would, for the first time, accompany the fleet when it sets sail for Antarctic waters in November.

Japanese boats ended whaling earlier than usual last season after having been hounded by ships from the anti-whaling Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

New Zealand on Wednesday condemned Japan's announcement that it would resume whaling in the Southern Ocean this year.

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said Japan was isolating itself from the international community by continuing to catch whales under its “highly dubious” scientific research programme.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Desperate operation to pump oil from stranded cargo ship begins off New Zealand coast as conservationists battle to prevent ecological disaster

Trying to STOP a potential disaster!! Daily

A race against time is taking place to extract oil from a massive container ship stranded in New Zealand due to concerns of a major ecological disaster.

The 775-foot Liberia-flagged 'Rena' struck the Astrolabe Reef about 12 nautical miles from Tauranga Harbour early on Wednesday, and has been foundering there since.

The ship has been leaking fuel, leading to fears of a major environmental disaster if it breaks up further.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Salmon wars return to Portland courtroom: Can at-risk fish and hydroelectric dams coexist?

Salmon wars are back, watch out Oregan! Oregan Live

For the past eight years, the champion of Northwest wild salmon and steelhead has been an 82-year-old judge with a sharp pen and a willingness to use it. To date, U.S. District Judge James A. Redden has sunk two plans the federal government argued would allow it to operate hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River basin without jeopardizing the region's signature fish. In Portland on Monday, he holds what could be his last hearing in the salmon case, a final discussion of the government's third shot at a 10-year plan. He'll have to cut through the fog of fish numbers before handing down a decision with consequences for electricity ratepayers and farmers in four states. Helped by favorable ocean conditions and fishing restrictions, the numbers of salmon and steelhead returning to the Columbia have surged since 2001. Returns -- mostly hatchery fish -- hit post-dam-building highs for much of the past decade at Bonneville Dam, the first on an upstream journey that can run over eight dams and more than 900 miles.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

'Godzilla' lionfish threatening Cayman paradise

Lionfish threaten Caymen paradise with overpopulation! BBC

An explosion in the population of the predatory lionfish in Caribbean waters, where it has no natural predators, is posing a widespread threat to marine wildlife.

Just off the north shore of Little Cayman, I sink into the blue abyss.

Lionfish swimming by coral
No-one knows how the lionfish came to be in the Caribbean waters

I am descending the vertical coral wall at Bloody Bay Marine Park.

Straight ahead and straight down there is nothing but blue - a dizzying empty space where sunlight streams down and down into darker places well beyond my reach.

But up close, the wall of coral is covered in giant barrel sponges as tall as a man, bright purple vase sponges, green and red corals and creatures that creep, crawl and swim within and among them.

I spot a seahorse, clinging to a whip coral by its tail, a spider crab with legs almost 3ft (1m) wide and a baby hawksbill turtle rocketing to the surface for a breath of air.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Extreme Fishing, Chinese style: Flying fish leap straight into the hands of waiting anglers

Check out this extreme fishing by the Chinese! Mail Online

Even Robson Green never landed such a remarkable catch. Instead of waiting hours for a bite, these Chinese anglers have the fish jumping into their hands.

Fishermen fishing the Xiannv Lake, Xinyu, Jiangxi province, eastern China, have brought a whole new meaning to catching a fish.

The spring weather has brought them a bountiful supply of fish eager to be hooked. Let's hope they don't jump out of the frying pan...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pilot whales stranded off Lower Keys

More than a dozen mammals found in shallow waters off Cudjoe Key! KeyNet

Marine mammal rescuers worked Thursday night to help 16 pilot whales stranded in shallow waters off Cudjoe Key.

By 11 p.m., one of the whales had been brought to a quickly constructed pen near the boat ramp at the end of Blimp Road on the island's bayside. Another two were en route, while at least three more would have to wait for high tide to be moved.

Two more whales were confirmed dead, according to Karrie Carnes, spokeswoman for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Reports came in a little before 7 p.m. that the whales had been found. The Key Largo-based Marine Mammal Conservancy and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers responded, along with dozens of volunteers, students from Florida Keys Community College and sanctuary staff.

Dr. Doug Mader, owner of the Marathon Veterinary Hospital, was on scene and said the outlook was grim. He said in addition to the stranded whales, another three nearby look to be in frail health and won't make it. The future of the confirmed stranded, at an area known as Tarpon Belly, also isn't good.

Three of the whales were close to Cudjoe's shallow mangrove shoreline, within sight of the ramp, while others — including a mother and calf — were further out, among the small mangrove islands. Rescuers raced the setting sun and dropping tide to find and assess the whales.

A couple of hours later, in scattered locations hundreds of yards from shore under a starry night sky, teams of volunteers were trying to stabilize the whales they found — monitoring their breathing, keeping them wet and walking them to deeper water when possible. Some were in water shallower than knee deep.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

15 dead sharks wash ashore in Manatee County

Check out these 15 sharks washed up dead in Manatee county, which neighbors Sarasota's ND chapter! Baynews

A mystery is brewing on Manatee County's beautiful beaches -- researchers are trying to figure out why sharks are washing ashore dead.

Recently more than a dozen dead sharks were found on the north ends of Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island.

"There were no real indicators of what went wrong with them," Dr. Nick Whitney, Staff Scientist for the Center for Shark Research at MOTE Marine Laboratory said. "There are no obvious signs of damage from fishing or net damage or anything like that."

The species of sharks found were bonnetheads, blacknose and sharpnose.

Whitney said he's ruled out the possibility that the sharks died as a result of last year's oil spill.

"Oil spill is pretty unlikely because these animals tend to be coastal," said Whitney. "They move up and down coast, but they wouldn't tend to go off shore and in deep water where oil is."

For now, Whitney says what happened to these sharks remains a mystery.

Researchers have sent samples from the sharks to a different lab to try and see if red tide killed them.

However, they say this is highly unlikely since they have not detected any red tide in the area.

MOTE researchers say finding a dead shark now and then is not rare, but it is uncommon to find a group of them dead within a few days.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Study: 'Explosive' Evolution In Seen Pupfish, Changing Up To 130 Times Faster

Pupish in the news! Newstimes

DAVIS, California -- Two groups of small fish, one from a Caribbean island and one from the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, exhibit some of the fastest rates of evolution known in any organism, according to a new UC Davis study.

About 50 species of pupfish are found from Massachusetts to Venezuela — and they are all pretty much the same, said lead study author Chris Martin, a UC Davis graduate student working with Peter Wainwright, a professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis

eats other fish and another feeds on plankton. Sadly, these fish are now extinct in the wild and only found in labs and aquaria.

The pupfish evolved changes to their jaws to match their specialized diet, allowing Martin to construct an evolutionary map for the species.

If the evolution of all pupfish is like a steadily expanding cloud, Martin found that the San Salvador Island and Yucatan pupfish are like bursts of fireworks within it. They show explosive rates of evolution — changing up to 130 times faster than other pupfish, he said.

It's not clear why the pupfish in the two locations are evolving so fast. In both places, the lake water is hot and salty — but that's true in other places where pupfish live. And mosquito fish, found in the same two lakes, show no signs of rapid change.

Martin is continuing his research by taking lab-bred fish, including hybrids, back to the lakes to see whether they thrive. He hopes to see which fish succeed out of a spectrum of hybrids.

The research is published online in the journal Evolution. Martin is a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Fragile Empire

From tiny coral polyps grew a marvel: Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Could it all come crumbling down? NatGeo

Not far beneath the surface of the Coral Sea, where the Great Barrier Reef lives, parrotfish teeth grind against rock, crab claws snap as they battle over hiding spots, and a 600-pound grouper pulses its swim bladder to announce its presence with a muscular whump. Sharks and silver jacks flash by. Anemone arms flutter and tiny fish and shrimp seem to dance a jig as they guard their nooks. Anything that can't glom on to something rigid is tugged and tossed by each ocean swell.

The reef's sheer diversity is part of what makes it great. It hosts 5,000 types of mollusks, 1,800 species of fish, 125 kinds of sharks, and innumerable miniature organisms. But the most riveting sight of all—and the main reason for World Heritage status—is the vast expanse of coral, from staghorn stalks and wave-smoothed plates to mitt-shaped boulders draped with nubby brown corals as leathery as saddles. Soft corals top hard ones, algae and sponges paint the rocks, and every crevice is a creature's home. The biology, like the reef, transforms from the north—where the reef began—to the south. The shifting menagerie is unmatched in the world.

Time and tides and a planet in eternal flux brought the Great Barrier Reef into being millions of years ago, wore it down, and grew it back—over and over again. Now all the factors that let the reef grow are changing at a rate the Earth has never before experienced. This time the reef may degrade below a crucial threshold from which it cannot bounce back.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Officials respond to dead sharks

Someone left it, as officials respond to dead sharks! Caymen

The Department of Environment says it appears as if someone caught a Caribbean Reef Shark, cut its tail off and left it on the dock. It was pregnant with four pups. DOE officials took measurements and tissue samples on the shark. It's estimated to have been between 6 and 6 and-a-half feet and 200 to 300 pounds. Marine Conservation International's Oliver Dubock says it's unfortunate because the population of reef sharks in the caribbean has declined significantly over the last 50 years.

Mr. Dubock says as far as DOE can tell, nothing illegal happened in this incident. He says it's only illegal to catch sharks if fisherman intentionally throw chum in the water to get them into a particular area. But he says killing a shark -- especially a pregnant one -- could be considered unethical.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

FDA claims no need to test Pacific fish for radioactivity

No need to test the Pacific for radioactivity! ADN

North Pacific fish are so unlikely to be contaminated by radioactive material from the crippled nuclear plant in Japan that there's no reason to test them, state and federal officials said this week.

Even with dangerous levels of radiation reported recently just off the coast from the Fukushima reactor complex, the ocean is so huge and Alaska fisheries so far away that there is no realistic threat, said FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey. The Food and Drug Administration has oversight of the nation's food supplies.

The state's food safety program manager, Ron Klein of the Department of Environmental Conservation, said the FDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have demonstrated that Alaskans have no cause for worry.

"Based on the work they're doing, no sampling or monitoring of our fish is necessary," he said.

It's now a little more than a month into the nuclear crisis, and Japanese officials believe they have plugged the major leak that allowed tons of water containing highly radioactive isotopes of iodine and cesium to flow into the sea. Radiation levels went down after the alarming reports last week that they had risen to millions of times the legal limits, though on Saturday officials said the levels were rising again.

Monday, April 18, 2011

'Shark Man' roils waters with great white quest

Sharkmen! MSNBC

Great white sharks, the largest predatory fish in the ocean, are supreme fodder for headlines. Yet in recent weeks, it is the humans who study them that have grabbed the spotlight among a circle of bloggers and advocates for the iconic species.

One scientist and his methodology for studying the sharks have been at the center of the controversy: Michael Domeier, a marine biologist whose quest to study great white sharks and outfit them with satellite tags has been documented over several years and two seasons on theNational Geographic Channel's "Shark Men."

Domeier seeks to learn the mysterious migration habits of the sharks, specifically the females. Where they go on their two-year wanderings and where they give birth is a big unknown for researchers — and key information if the species is to be saved, some say. Domeier is the first scientist to attempt to track mature great white sharks with satellite tags that can deliver that information.

Around the world, shark populations suffered precipitous declines in recent years, and although much is unknown about great white sharks' population status, they are considered a vulnerable species.

In order to gather the data he's after, Domeier uses blunted hooks to bring a shark alongside a boat, then lifts the fish out of the water for 15 to 20 minutes. A hose is put in the shark's mouth to allow it to breath, a wet towel is placed over the eyes to calm it, and Domeier gets to work, taking blood samples, checking the sex of the shark, and attaching a satellite tag to the shark's dorsal fin.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Damage from oil spill lingers a year later

Still damage from the BP oil spill! iol

New Orleans - The worst maritime oil spill in history began nearly a year ago with a drop in pressure in a poorly drilled well deep in the Gulf of Mexico. It hasn't really ended even though BP's runaway well was eventually capped 87 days later.

As crews in Japan struggle to contain a nuclear meltdown at a poorly maintained plant in Fukushima, the April 20 anniversary of the BP spill is a stark reminder of the high costs of our energy needs and the far-reaching consequences of cutting corners on safety.

The massive explosion killed 11 workers and sank the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, unleashing a leak that spewed 206 million gallons of oil before it was finally contained.

Hundreds of miles of fragile coastal wetlands and beaches were contaminated, a third the Gulf's rich US waters were closed to fishing, and the economic costs have reached into the tens of billions.

Months of uncertainty caused deep emotional trauma for the fishermen and coastal residents who feared their way of life was being destroyed. More than 130,000 of them are still trying to push their compensation claims through a clogged system.

“They could give me $500 million and it wouldn't be enough,” said Dean Blanchard, who used to handle as much as 500,000 pounds (226,800 kilograms) of shrimp a day at his Grand Isle, Louisiana


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hammerhead shark meat sold causes concern

Shark meat being sold raises questions! Caymen

Following the recent capture and sale at a local fish market of a scalloped hammerhead shark by fishermen, the Department of Environment has received several inquiries from concerned members of the public regarding the protection and status of sharks in Cayman waters.

Despite the fact that globally shark populations are severely threatened with overfishing, there are currently no laws prohibiting the capture or sale of any sharks in the Cayman Islands.

Although several species of sharks are occasionally caught in Cayman they are not considered to be a target species, and fishermen do often take great care to avoid hooking these animals.

Sharks that are accidentally caught are often sold for meat so as not to waste the animal; it is rare that a shark is killed just for the sake of it. Buyers of shark meat should however be aware of the potential health risk of eating shark. Shark meat can contain high levels of trace metals such as mercury which if ingested frequently can become toxic to humans. Furthermore sharks build up a concentration of ammonia in their flesh.

There is legislation prohibiting the baiting or chumming of water with the intent of attracting sharks but this is primarily aimed at shark feeding activities. Sharks are of course protected within local Marine Parks and the Environmental Zones but as most species range over much larger areas than the boundaries of the parks, marine protected areas offer little protection for sharks generally.