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.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Feather-Loss Disorder: Emergence Of 'Naked' Penguins Baffle Experts

Peguin disorder unknown? Bronx Zoo

BRONX, New York -- Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Washington, and other groups are grappling with a wildlife mystery: Why are some penguin chicks losing their feathers?

The appearance of "naked" penguins—afflicted with what is known as feather-loss disorder—in penguin colonies on both sides of the South Atlantic in recent years has scientists puzzled as to what could be causing the condition.

A study on the disorder appears in a recent edition of the journal Waterbirds. The authors of the paper are: Olivia J. Kane, Jeffrey R. Smith, and P. Dee Boersma of the Wildlife ConservationSociety and the University of Washington; Nola J. Parsons and Vanessa Strauss of the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds; and Pablo Garcia-Borboroglu and Cecilia Villanueva of Centro Nacional Patagónico.

"Feather-loss disorders are uncommon in most bird species, and we need to conduct furtherstudy to determine the cause of the disorder and if this is in fact spreading to other penguin species," said Boersma, who has conducted studies on Magellanic penguins for more than three decades.

The feather-loss disorder first emerged in Cape Town, South Africa in 2006, when researchers for the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) first observed the disorder in African (or black-footed) penguins in a rehabilitation center. During that year, approximately 59 percent of the penguin chicks at the facility lost their feathers, followed by 97 percent of the chicks at the facility in 2007, and 20 percent of the chicks in 2008. Chicks with feather-loss disorder, it was discovered, took longer to grow to a size deemed suitable for release into the wild. The chicks eventually began growing new feathers.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nazi warplane lying off Kent coast is intact

Check out this rare warplane find off Kent! Stuff

A rare World War Two German bomber, shot down over the English Channel in 1940 and hidden for years by shifting sands at the bottom of the sea, is so well preserved a museum wants to raise it.

The Dornier 17 - thought to be world's last known example - was hit as it took part in the Battle of Britain.It ditched in the sea just off the Kent coast in an area known as the Goodwin Sands.The plane came to rest upside-down in 15 metres of water and has become partially visible from time to time as the sands retreated before being buried again.Now a high-tech sonar survey undertaken by the Port of London Authority (PLA) has revealed the aircraft to be in a startling state of preservation.Ian Thirsk, from the RAF Museum at Hendon in London, told the BBC he was "incredulous" when he first heard of its existence and potential preservation.

"This aircraft is a unique aeroplane and it's linked to an iconic event in British history, so its importance cannot be over-emphasised, nationally and internationally," he said.

Monday, April 11, 2011

'Shark Men' scout out shark nursery

Sharkmen are back! USA Today
Jaws may have forever frightened folks about great white sharks, but some real-life shark hunters this spring offer a gentler lesson about the species — front row seats on a search for a shark nursery.
Don't worry, there's still plenty of snapping jaws and saltwater drama, though. Starting Sunday with a double episode, Shark Men (National Geographic Channel, 9 p.m. ET premiere) returns for its second season of shark wrangling. This year, the team travels from theGuadalupe Island about 150 miles off the Mexican coast, to Malibu, to the Gulf of California in search for the breeding ground of great white sharks cruising California's coast.

"There are some fundamental puzzles of the great white sharks," says expedition leader Chris Fischer ofOCEARCH, a nonprofit ocean conservation group based in Washington, D.C. "The really big one is finding out where female ones are going to have their pups."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sharks become bait for great white tours

Check out this Cape Town killing of sharks! iol

Cape Town fishermen have been catching unprotected sharks for their livers, which are being sold to some white shark cage-diving companies in Gansbaai for use as chum. The strong odour of shark liver oil attracts great whites to the tourist boats, but the practice of killing one species of shark to attract another has been condemned by shark conservationists as well as veterans in the cage-diving industry.

A photograph of a number of sevengill cowsharks caught by fishermen off Cape Point on Monday has been published on the Dive Site blog. About 1.5 tons of sharks were believed to have been caught and sold to a popular dive site frequented by eco-tourists from around the world. The post said: “The bodies get exported to Australia and the livers (believe it or not) purchased by a couple of cage-diving companies in Gansbaai to attract white sharks… all in the name of shark conservation.”

Wilfred Chivell, of Kleinbaai shark-diving company Marine Dynamics, said that when he bought his boat in 2005 he vowed never to use shark products. The aim of cage-diving was to educate people and introduce them to the sharks as curious predators and animals in need of conservation, so he didn’t feel it was right to kill one species of shark to attract another. “It’s not illegal to use shark livers, but even if people are not breaking the law, they are breaking a code of honour.” Chivell said some operators were more concerned with making money. “You can see people using shark livers because they do better, but I’ve told my staff to rather be patient.” He uses tuna heads, usually a waste product, and a bit of sardine oil. Lesley Rochat, founder of the AfriOceans Conservation Alliance, said sharks like the sevengill cowsharks were very popular with eco-tourists.

“There are very few places in the world you can see sharks like this – we don’t even have to bait them – you just get in the water and they come to you.” Rochat has just returned from America and Britain where she has been promoting diving with sharks, especially in Cape Town. “We’ve always known these sharks were being targeted, but it is a big concern that in one day they can wipe out so many.” Rochat said the cowsharks were just one example of shark species that needed protection. Recreational fishermen are allowed to catch 10 cowsharks a person a day and the species are also caught by the Demersal Shark Sector, using longlines.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Forestries and Fisheries, the species was more a by-catch than a target for commercial fishers and was worth less than R5 a kilogram. It said there was not much information on the current stock status, but there were efforts to validate its growth and biological parameters. The department said cowsharks moved extremely fast and could hunt highly mobile prey such as the Cape fur seal, which constitutes up to 60 percent of its diet.Carol Moses, department spokeswoman, said no long-lining was allowed in False Bay.