Once a lush and healthy estuary, the Indian River Lagoon is now an enigmatic death trap. Running along 40 percent of Florida’s Atlantic coast, the lagoon’s brackish waters harbor a mysterious killer that has claimed the lives of hundreds of manatees, pelicans, and dolphins.
Nobody knows why.
In April, NOAA declared the spate of manatee deaths an Unusual Mortality Event, a designation granted when marine mammal deaths or strandings are significantly higher than normal, demand immediate attention, and are the result of a common but unknown cause. Soon, the bottlenose dolphin die-off may be given the same designation.
“We have to hope we can find the answer, because until we do, we don’t know how we can help prevent it in the future,” said Jan Landsberg, a research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Since last July, 51 dolphins, 111 manatees, and as many as 300 pelicans have perished in the lagoon. The deaths don’t follow an obvious pattern: Manatees are dying so quickly that some still have food in their mouths, while the dolphins and pelicans appear to be starving to death.
|The University of Western Australia|
|Monday, 10 June 2013|
Better land use is the key to preventing further damage to the world's coral reefs, according to a study published this week in the online science journal Nature Communications.
The study, by an international team including a researcher from The University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute, has important implications for Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
The study authors write that preventing soil erosion and sediment pollution arising from human activities such as deforestation are crucial to reef survival.
The study – ‘Human deforestation outweighs future climate change impacts of sedimentation on coral reefs' – looked at the effects of future climate change on the hydroclimate of Madagascar's reefs and different deforestation scenarios. Read the full article
Published Wednesday, April 3, 2013 3:57PM EDT
OTTAWA – A renowned Canadian scientist says there appear to be similarities between fish deformities found downstream from Alberta's oilsands and those observed after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and Florida's Deepwater Horizon disaster.
David Schindler of the University of Alberta has written two federal cabinet ministers pointing out the research similarities.
He's proposing that some chemical or suite of chemicals found in crude oil may be causing the malformations, and he'd like to see Canada take the lead in researching the issue.
2 April 2013
Canada's Information Commission is to investigate claims that the government is "muzzling" its scientists.
The move is in response to a complaint filed by academics and a campaign group.
BBC News reported last year instances of the government blocking requests by journalists to interview scientists.
Some scientists alleged that the muzzling could help suppress environmental concerns about government policies.
The former president of the Canadian Science Writers' Association, Veronique Morin, says that the commissioner's office will now have to find out if the federal government has in effect been operating a policy of censorship.
"Vital stories pertaining to the environment, natural resources, food safety, fisheries and oceans are not coming out in Canada because, for several years now, the government has imposed rules which prevents its scientists from speaking freely about their publicly funded research," she said. Read the full article
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill happened in the Gulf of Mexico nearly three years ago, but the estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil that it released are still killing dolphins, sea turtles and other marine life in record numbers, according to new research.
The report, “Restoring a Degraded Gulf of Mexico: Wildlife and Wetlands Three Years into the Gulf Oil Disaster,” found that dolphins were among the hardest hit animals. As of just earlier this year, infant dolphins were dying six times faster than they did before the spill. Scientists aren’t even yet sure of the extent of the massive spill, given that it was impossible to fully clean up the chemical-laden, carcinogenic oil.
“Three years after the initial explosion, the impacts of the disaster continue to unfold,” Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation and lead author of the report, said in a press release. “Dolphins are still dying in high numbers in the areas affected by oil. These ongoing deaths — particularly in an apex predator like the dolphin — are a strong indication that there is something amiss with the Gulf ecosystem.”
An infographic summarizes some of the findings.
The NWF also highlighted these findings:
* Dolphin deaths in the area affected by oil have remained above average every month since just before the spill began. (The infant dolphin data was gathered in January and February of 2013.)
* NOAA called the dolphin die-off “unprecedented” — a year ago. While NOAA is keeping many elements of its dolphin research confidential pending the conclusion of the ongoing trial, the agency has ruled out the most common causes of previous dolphin die-offs.
* More than 1,700 sea turtles were found stranded between May 2010 and November 2012 — the last date for which information is available. For comparison, on average about 240 sea turtles are stranded annually.
* A coral colony seven miles from the wellhead was badly damaged by oil. A recent laboratory study found that the mixture of oil and dispersant affected the ability of some coral species to build new parts of a reef. Read the full article
Nineteenth Century tools made from sharks' teeth suggest that two species of shark used to populate the Central Pacific but are no longer present.
Using artefacts from museums, a team of US researchers found that spot-tail and dusky sharks used to inhabit the reefs surrounding the Gilbert Islands.
The unusual historical data would help evaluate the success of ecological conservation measures, they added.
The findings have been published in the scientific journal PLoS One.
In their paper, the team from the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, and Columbia University, New York, said indigenous artefacts often represented an "under-utilised source of data". Read the full article
March 7, 2013. NOAA Fisheries Service
Today we released the report Fisheries Economics of the United States 2011. The report provides economic statistics on U.S. commercial and recreational fisheries and marine-related businesses for each coastal state and the nation. The report is the sixth volume in an annual series designed to give the public accessible economic information on fishing activities in the U.S., and is a companion to Fisheries of the United States.
This report highlights that U.S. commercial and recreational saltwater fishing combined, generated more than $199 billion in sales and supported 1.7 million jobs in the nation's economy in 2011. Both the landings and value climbed in 2011, demonstrating U.S. fisheries are moving in the right direction – even during this challenging time of transition in some of our fishing communities.
The seafood industry-harvesters, seafood processors and dealers, seafood wholesalers and retailers-generated $129 billion in sales impacts, $37 billion in income impacts and supported 1.2 million jobs in 2011, the most recent year included in the report.
Recreational fishing generated $70 billion in sales impacts, $20 billion in income impacts, and supported 455,000 jobs in 2011. Compared to 2010, the numbers are up for all of these impacts except commercial seafood sales.
The report is posted on the NOAA Fisheries, Office of Science and Technology homepage at http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/.
Stay up-to-date with the latest fisheries topics and join FishNews
NOAA Fisheries Communications
A new report commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) highlights how humans have massively altered global cycling of nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients. While this had huge benefits for world food and energy production, it has also created a web of water and air pollution that is damaging human health, causing toxic algal blooms, killing fish, threatening sensitive ecosystems and contributing to climate change.
The report – entitled ‘Our Nutrient World’ – highlights the problems of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution and proposes a goal for future intergovernmental agreement to improve nutrient efficiency by 20%, saving 20 million tonnes of nitrogen per year by the year 2020: ‘20:20 for 2020’.
Counting the nitrogen savings, implementation cost and the environmental and health benefits they estimate that such a goal would provide a net saving of £108 billion pounds per year. Read the report
7 February 2013, by Tom Marshall. http://planetearth.nerc.ac.uk
The chemicals that give some corals their luminous pink and red colours also protect them from damage caused by too much sunlight, scientists have shown.
The idea isn't altogether new, but this is the first conclusive evidence for it. Corals need light to survive, but too much can kill them, so they've evolved various countermeasures.
This research adds another to their arsenal – chemicals known as chromoproteins (CPs), which turn out to absorb potentially harmful portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Smith, E.G., D'Angelo, C., Salih, A., Wiedenmann, J. Screening by coral green fluorescent protein (GFP)-like chromoproteins supports a role in photoprotection of zooxanthellae. Coral Reefs. DOI: 10.1007/s00338-012-0994-9
ScienceDaily-Feb. 6, 2013 — Since the observations made by English naturalist Charles Darwin on the Galapagos Islands, researchers have been interested in how physical barriers, such as isolation on a particular island, can lead to the formation of new species through the process of natural selection. Natural selection is a process whereby heritable traits that enhance survival become more common in successive generations, while unfavorable heritable traits become less common. Over time, animals and plants that have morphologies or other attributes that enhance their suitability to a particular environment become more common and more adapted to that specific environment.
Researchers today are intimately familiar with how physical barriers and reproduction isolation can lead to the formation of new species on land, especially among plants and animals with short generation times such as insects and annual plants. Michael E. Hellberg, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at LSU, however, is interested in a more obscure form of speciation: the speciation of animals in the ocean.
"Marine plants and animals can drift around in the ocean extremely long distances," Hellberg said. "So how do they specialize?" Read the full article