IUCN finds ocean oxygen levels dropping at record rates

December 12, 2019 by  
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Marine life is in serious trouble if ocean oxygen levels continue to plummet. A new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reveals that ocean oxygen levels have decreased by about 2 percent since the middle of the 20th century, and continued deoxygenation will put wildlife and human survival in danger. The report, which involved work from 67 scientists in 17 countries, was released Saturday at the COP25 UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid. “Urgent global action to overcome and reverse the effects of ocean deoxygenation is needed,” said Minna Eps, director of the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Program. “Decisions taken at the ongoing climate conference will determine whether our ocean continues to sustain a rich variety of life, or whether habitable, oxygen-rich marine areas are increasingly, progressively and irrevocably lost.” Related: IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis Both the climate crisis and nutrient pollution cause ocean deoxygenation. Nutrient pollution includes nitrogen from fossil fuels and run-off from agriculture and sewage. This depletes oxygen by encouraging too much algae growth. However, scientists have recently realized that rising ocean temperatures are also lowering ocean oxygen levels. Scientists say that these higher temperatures are probably responsible for about half of the oxygen loss in the ocean’s top 1,000 meters, which is the highest in biodiversity . While reversing nutrient pollution is relatively easy, reversing oxygen loss from climate change isn’t. “To curb ocean oxygen loss alongside the other disastrous impacts of climate change, world leaders must commit to immediate and substantial emission cuts,” Dr. Grethel Aguilar, acting director general of IUCN, said in a tweet. Larger fish that require more energy, such as tuna, sharks and marlins, are especially threatened by dropping ocean oxygen levels. Changing oxygen levels have already pushed them closer to the surface, where they face greater risk of overfishing . Recent massive fish die-offs may also be caused by oxygen loss. Scientists predict that lowered ocean oxygen may have far-reaching effects, such as changing the Earth’s phosphorus and nitrogen cycles on land. + IUCN Via EcoWatch Image via Jeremy Bishop

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San Diego Tropical Fish Societys Annual Show celebrates natural, eco-minded aquascaping

November 26, 2019 by  
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Founded in 1948, the San Diego Tropical Fish Society (SDTFS) is one of the oldest continuously running fish clubs in the United States. In early November 2019, the nonprofit organization hosted its Annual Fish Show, which has been held since the 1970s at Balboa Park. More than 3,000 people attended this year’s two-day event to see aquariums featuring aquatic animals and plants. Join Inhabitat on an exploration of the show, its history and its members’ efforts — past and present — in sustainability and fish conservation. SDTFS has been bringing together fish hobbyists to promote interest in, further the study of and encourage the preservation of aquatic life. “As a club, we’re very concerned about conservation , stewardship and sustainability, and we’re very ecologically involved,” said Victor Tongco, president of SDTFS. “We do consider a lot of the hobby as living art, especially when keeping our fish and plants as healthy as possible, while also educating the public on what is their stewardly responsibility.” Related: Innovative fish adoption program protects San Marcos River from invasive species Besides exhibiting aquatic life , the Annual Show also recognizes the aquascaping efforts of the fishkeepers who participate. Three notable awards given during the Annual Show are the President’s Choice, the Dorothy Cobleigh Trophy for the People’s Choice Award and the Mark Ferguson Memorial Award for the Best Planted Aquarium. SDTFS treasurer Jimmy Cobleigh is popular among SDTFS members, because his mother, Dorothy, was a co-founder of the organization. Cobleigh fondly mentioned that his mother was a strong proponent for young children to also be included as junior members of SDTFS. Oftentimes, she would pay for the membership fees of youngsters who wanted very much to be a part of the team; she would also drive groups of SDTFS junior members to and from meetings. To this day, the San Diego Tropical Fish Society opens its membership to individuals as well as families. In the mid-1960s, Mark Ferguson was one of those SDTFS junior fishkeepers. Even before his membership, Ferguson was already interested in the natural world. “He lived near, at that time, where Qualcomm Stadium is now — that used to be all wild lands and ponds. He would go down there after school with his net and his bucket to collect stuff with his younger brother,” shared Ferguson’s wife, Arlene. “Then, there was a gentleman on his street who had aquariums in his garage. One day the garage doors were open, and Mark saw them, so he went over. He asked the man about his aquariums and found out about the San Diego Tropical Fish Society. Mark was still too young to drive, so his parents would drive him to the meetings. He started setting up a lot more aquariums; they were always natural. That led to his interest in fish as a career.” By age 14, Ferguson was a volunteer intern at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, caring for marine life . He eventually became head aquarist. When the Monterey Bay Aquarium was being built, Ferguson was one of the original biologists hired for his expertise with aquarium and exhibit design. He was vital to ensuring that the many exhibits were showcased in very natural ways. Ferguson and his wife were at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for over two decades, and he spent a lifetime working with aquatic life. One of the most prestigious prizes offered at the SDTFS Annual Show is the Mark Ferguson Memorial Award for the Best Planted Aquarium, in honor of Ferguson’s motif and vision of the natural look. The award is given to the entry that best simulates nature with all-natural plants in the entire tank, including substrate and background. There is to be no presence of anything artificial in the tank, just like the public aquarium exhibits Ferguson designed. Arlene elaborated, “He would design an environment for the animals to survive in and flourish in that would also look like their natural world. That captured everyone’s attention. He became known as the man with the magic touch when it came to aquatic plants. To him, that was the most important part of an aquarium. When he would look at aquariums, he would look at the overall environment approach — just this idea that you’re looking at a fish’s world, and you want to see it through their eyes. When he’d look at an aquarium, his eyes are those of the fish — I’m swimming through this, this is where I’m looking for fish, this is where I’d hide, this is where I’m looking for a mate. The [SDTFS] club recognized his expertise. So when we realized he had health issues and that he wasn’t going to be around for a long time, the suggestion [for the award] was a way to remember him and his influence.” Regarding this year’s entries, Arlene gushed, “This year I was excited to see as many entries as there were and to see that everybody had upped their game. The tanks looked better. There was obviously thought going into it. It wasn’t just sticking one plant here and there, or one plant for the whole tank. There were a lot of aquariums that had a variety of plants. Plants were healthy. They were set in a way that fish could be in them and around them, and yet not be hidden by them. The lighting was good — the choices of lighting. The choices of where things were placed — foreground, background, mid-ground, heights — there was a lot of thought that went into it.” Arlene hopes to see participants with better and better aquariums each year, “because Mark’s vision was always to inspire others to do the same thing. It was always to share. The people that he trained up in Monterey and Scripps, where we had his farewell party, all everyone said over and over again was what a mentor Mark was, and how he shared his vision so that they could succeed as well. To this day, when I go to Monterey, people up there always say, ‘All of this and what you see is because of how Mark trained us.’ That’s a beautiful thing to hear, just beautiful. I’m just thrilled the [SDTFS] club is doing this in his name. I think it’s a beautiful tribute.” + San Diego Tropical Fish Society Images via San Diego Tropical Fish Society and Mariecor Agravante / Inhabitat

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San Diego Tropical Fish Societys Annual Show celebrates natural, eco-minded aquascaping

High levels of plastic byproducts discovered in children, study finds

September 18, 2019 by  
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A “human biomonitoring” study, jointly conducted by the German Environment Ministry and the Robert Koch Institute, is sounding the clarion warning that plastic pollution is present — and not just in our oceans, estuaries and the fish we eat. Rather alarmingly, the study found toxic levels of plastic byproducts in 97 percent of the blood and urine samples gathered from 2,500 children tested. The children in the research study ranged from 3 to 17 years of age. Of the 15 plastics under scrutiny, researchers detected 11 in the children’s test samples. Presence of these plastic byproducts in the children’s bodies increases their risk of hormonal dysfunction. That’s because plastics , at the micro level, can mimic the action of particular hormones, thus confusing the human endocrine system. The disruption, in turn, can manifest as obesity, metabolic disease, cancers, reproductive disorders, behavioral aberrations or developmental delays. Related: How to teach children about climate change What’s disquieting is that exposure to these plastic substances can arise from the most mundane things — storage containers, DVD cases, receipts, package linings, PVC piping, imitation leather, treated furniture, carpeting, even toys and medical devices. Plastics and microplastics surround us; consequently, we cannot avoid being exposed. One of the scientific authors, Marike Kolossa-Gehring, stated, “Our study clearly shows that plastic ingredients, which are rising in production, are showing up more and more in the body.” The study also revealed that the most susceptible subjects were younger children and children from poorer families. Both at-risk groups registered more plastic residue than their counterparts. Similarly, the study addressed the issue of replacements, citing that substances classified as perilous to humans should not be replaced by similar chemicals. After all, the substitutes might be just as toxic and detrimental. Hence, replacing with similar chemicals does not mitigate the chances of being exposed to harm. Researchers expressed uneasiness about the high levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in the young subjects. The apprehension surfaces from the fact that PFOA is extremely persistent, bioaccumulative and rather toxic. PFOA is typically used in the process for making Teflon, which explains why it is usually found coating non-stick cookware and waterproof clothing. PFOA is a threat because it is toxic to both the reproductive system and the liver. The European Union is expected to ban PFOA in 2020. The scientists concluded that more research is needed to discover the pathways that plastics take to enter the human body. A solution is likewise needed to minimize the risks of children accumulating plastic byproducts at unsafe levels. Via Spiegel Online and TreeHugger Image via Ruben Rubio

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Impossible Foods tests a fish-less fish protein

July 17, 2019 by  
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The alternative protein industry is booming and even predicted to take over the animal-based meat market in the next two decades. Leading plant-based protein brand Impossible Foods recently announced it is experimenting with a fish-less seafood product and expects it to be on shelves soon. The company is best known for patties made from heme-based protein that have surged in popularity and are even available on the Burger King and White Castle menus. Impossible Foods is currently experimenting with using alternative and lab-grown proteins that can be genetically modified to have a seafood-like taste and texture thanks to the heme. Heme is made from fermenting a genetically modified yeast and then injecting it with genetic material from soy plants. Related: Cell-based meat could replicate and replace shrimp, lobster and crab So far, heme protein is the most successful because of its seafood-like flavor. Impossible Foods used it to make a broth that tasted like anchovies and was part of a paella recipe. Apparently, the results were excellent. The company’s mission is to eliminate meat from diets in order to save the environment from the devastating meat industry. Agriculture is responsible for 9 percent of all greenhouse gases , and 4 percent of that is directly from livestock. Impossible Foods’ plan is to have a replacement or alternative protein for every animal-based meat option available by 2035. Impossible Foods is not the first to experiment with a fish-less seafood product. In fact, Good Catch already has an alternative tuna product in Whole Foods, Wild Type has a salmon product grown in labs and Gardein offers fish-less filets at retailers like Kroger and Target. “The only way we can succeed is to make fish from plants that is more delicious than the fish that’s strip mined from the ocean,” Pat Brown, chief executive of Impossible Foods, said, highlighting the devastating impact that overfishing has on ocean ecosystems and fisheries . The United Nations estimates that 60 percent of the worlds fisheries are overfished. + Impossible Foods Via People Image via Impossible Foods

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Impossible Foods tests a fish-less fish protein

Endangered bluefin tuna sold for $3.1 billion to sushi tycoon

January 10, 2019 by  
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A recent predawn auction at Tokyo’s new fish market brought a record-breaking bid for the endangered bluefin tuna. Sushi tycoon Kiyoshi Kimura, who owns the Sushi Zanmai chain, paid $3.1 million for the enormous fish, more than double the price from five years ago. Kimura’s Kiyomura Corp has won the annual action in the past, but the high price of the tuna this year definitely surprised the sushi king. Nonetheless, Kiyomura says: “the quality of the tuna I bought is the best.” The 612-pound (278 kg) tuna was caught off Japan’s northern coast, and the auction prices this year are way above normal. Normally, bluefin tuna sells for about $40 a pound, but the price has recently skyrocketed to over $200 a pound, especially for the prized catches that come from Oma in northern Japan. The biggest consumers of the bluefin tuna are the Japanese, and the surging consumption of the fish has led to overfishing which could result in the species facing possible extinction . Stocks of Pacific bluefin have plummeted 96 percent from pre-industrial levels. “The celebration surrounding the annual Pacific bluefin auction hides how deeply in trouble this species really is,” said Jamie Gibbon, associate manager for global tuna conservation at The Pew Charitable Trusts. However, there have been some signs of progress when it comes to protecting the bluefin . Japan and other governments have endorsed plans to rebuild the stocks of Pacific bluefin, and the goal is to reach 20 percent of historic levels by 2034. Last year’s auction was the last at the world famous Tsukiji fish market. This year, it shifted to a new facility which is located on a former gas plant site in Tokyo Bay. The move would have happened sooner, but was delayed repeatedly over concerns of soil contamination. Via The Guardian  Image via Shutterstock

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Hunters issued permits to import lion trophies to United States

July 27, 2018 by  
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A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request has revealed that the U.S. government has issued over three dozen permits allowing trophy parts hunted from lions to be brought back into the United States from Africa. Despite the permits’ issue, lions remain on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to their threatened survival status in the wild. Friends of Animals obtained the documents and released them through The Huffington Post , which reported the animal rights violation on Thursday. The memorandum , released by the United States Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service on March 1, 2018, removes trophy import bans dating as far back as 1995. “If African wildlife is to survive the next few decades in their homelands, these elephants, lions and other animals—coveted by hunters for their strength and beauty—must be worth more alive than dead. That means safeguarding habitat along with photographic safaris and ecotourism must outpace blood-drenched trophy hunting expeditions,” declared Priscilla Feral, President of Friends of Animals, in a press release. Related: The Trump Administration decides to allow the import of elephant trophies after all New rules by the Fish and Wildlife Service require the filing of a FOIA request to see the details of government-issued permits that are determined on an individual basis – information that used to be publicly available . In this case, the majority of the permit recipients are Republican donors or are part of Safari Club International, a hunting advocacy group. While big game hunters argue that their activities help conservation efforts and local economies, animal rights supporters say that killing big game animals only further endangers their already at-risk populations. + Friends of Animals Via EcoWatch and The New York Times

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Hunters issued permits to import lion trophies to United States

500-mile-long shark highway could become a protected wildlife corridor

May 23, 2018 by  
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For the very first time, scientists filmed sharks traveling along a 500-mile-long shark highway in the Pacific Ocean  that stretches between the Galapagos Islands and Cocos Island. The reason for filming? While Cocos and the Galapagos have protected areas for fish , the shark highway is not included, and scientists want to transform it into a protected wildlife corridor . Costa Rica group Fundación PACÍFICO , a collaboration of four environmental funds, organized an expedition to videotape the shark highway. President Zdenka Piskulich told NPR it’s difficult to get people interested in a corridor out in the ocean , but “finally we have visual evidence that there is a huge abundance in this area that needs to be protected, that there really is a highway.” Related: Russia built a critical wildlife corridor to help save endangered big cats The scientists utilized GoPro-style cameras, fish bait and metal frames to create what are called baited remote underwater video systems, or BRUVS. They dragged these behind a research boat for nearly two weeks. Biologist Mario Espinoza said, “We actually documented over 16 species of sharks and fish, also sea turtles and dolphins …It’s really surprising to see that many animals .” Sharks — including hammerhead, thresher and silky sharks — were the predominant marine animal. The shark highway follows an underwater mountain range, or seamounts, according to Fundación PACÍFICO . Espinoza said this was “the first time we actually documented animals using these seamounts. We don’t know exactly whether they are feeding or they’re like stopping by or using these seamounts as navigation routes.” Lee Crockett of the Shark Conservation Fund said sharks straying outside of protected areas are at risk of being caught on the long lines of high seas tuna fishing. Some species of hammerhead sharks are endangered ; others are declining. He described protecting this shark highway as “the next step in conservation .” + Fundación PACÍFICO Via NPR Image via Depositphotos

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For 16 years, this stork has flown 8,700 miles to return to his one true love

April 16, 2018 by  
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Just when you thought the world was one raging garbage fire , along comes this amazing stork to brighten the day. For the past 16 years, without fail, one male stork has flown 8,700 miles to be with his mate who can no longer fly after being shot by poachers. Klepetan the stork travels from his winter nest in South Africa to his mate’s Malena’s home in Croatia every single March where they reunite and raise a new brood. Malena was injured by a gunshot in 1993, but a local hero took her home after finding her by a lake and nursed her back to health. “If I had left her in the pond foxes would have eaten her. But I changed her fate, so now I’m responsible for her life,” said Stjepan Vokic, the man who cares for Malena. Now, although she can’t migrate any longer, she has a pretty sweet life. Vokic has built an “improvised Africa” where she can stay warm, and he cares for her by bathing her, catching her fish in the river and making sure her feet are moisturized. He even watches stork documentaries with her so she won’t get lonely, and takes her fishing. Related: This friendly fish has visited a Japanese diver for 25 years Klepetan arrives every March as spring begins in Croatia after traveling for a month from his winter home. Every spring, Vokic builds a new nest on his roof so that when Klepetan arrives, the couple can mate, and so far, they’ve had 62 chicks together. In the fall, Klepetan migrates back to South Africa with his new little family, and Malena stays behind with her human friend. Vokic says that the couple struggles to say goodbye every year, and Malena hides and stops eating when she knows Klepetan is about to go. Via Oddity Central Images via HRT

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For 16 years, this stork has flown 8,700 miles to return to his one true love

Deep freeze in the UK causes massive die-off of sea creatures

March 6, 2018 by  
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Scientists and conservationists in the United Kingdom have observed a mass die-off of invertebrate sea creatures as a result of recent frigid weather . “There was a 3C drop in sea temperature last week which will have caused animals to hunker down and reduce their activity levels,” Bex Lynam of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said in a statement . “This makes them vulnerable to rough seas – they became dislodged by large waves and washed ashore when the rough weather kicked in.” Tens of thousands of mostly dead animals covered the beaches of the Holderness coast in Yorkshire, as well as locations in Kent and Norfolk. The bizarre, tragic phenomenon is all the more unsettling in context; while Europe froze, the Arctic thawed in the dead of polar winter . Although most creatures washed ashore were dead, some lobsters survived the frost . Those lucky few are being gathered up and cared for before they will be releasing back into the wild. “This area is very important for shellfish and we work alongside fishermen to promote sustainable fisheries and protect reproductive stocks,” said Lynam. “It’s worth saving them so that they can be put back into the sea and continue to breed.” While some fish did perish, most of the dead were invertebrate species. “Larger animals such as dolphins are more mobile and can save themselves by swimming away when this sort of thing happens,” explained Lynam. Related: World’s first floating wind farm performing better than anticipated While a specific deep freeze cannot be blamed on climate change , climate scientists predict that these extreme weather events will become more frequent as the change accelerates. Beyond confronting climate change, there are steps that humans can take to protect marine life. “We can’t prevent natural disasters like this,” Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s senior living seas officer Dr. Lisa Bassey said in a statement . “But we can mitigate against declining marine life and the problems that humans cause by creating enough protected areas at sea and by ensuring that these sites are large enough and close enough to offer fish , crustaceans, dolphins and other marine life the protection they require to withstand natural events such as this.” Via The Guardian Images via Bex Lynham/Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

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The disturbing reason so many farmed salmon are partially deaf

February 2, 2018 by  
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Farmed salmon are “three times more likely to be partially deaf” than wild salmon, according to the University of Melbourne ‘s Pursuit publication. Roughly every second farmed salmon that humans consume has lost a great deal of its ability to hear. And last year, scientists figured out why. Rapid growth causes a deformity in a salmon’s ear, leading to partial deafness. The scientists scrutinized salmon farmed in Australia, Norway, Canada, Chile, and Scotland and discovered the impairment was widespread – and that the fastest-growing salmon were three times more likely to be impacted than the slowest-growing ones. Study lead author Tormey Reimer told Pursuit, “We also found that we could reduce the incidence of the deformity by reducing how fast a fish grew. Such a clear result was unprecedented.” Related: FDA approves genetically engineered salmon for human consumption The otoliths, small crystals in a salmon’s inner ear, are where the deformity happens. Normal otoliths are comprised of aragonite, but deformed ones are partly comprised of vaterite – and fish with deformed otoliths can lose as much as 50 percent of their hearing, per Pursuit. Diet, genetics, and longer daylight exposure – some fish farms expose the creatures to bright lights 24 hours every day – seem to cause vaterite. Growth rate was the one factor linking them, according to Pursuit. Since fish farms are noisy, it’s possible hearing loss could actually reduce stress, but even so, study co-author Tim Dempster said their research raises “serious questions about the welfare of farmed fish.” And it could shine light on the failures of some conservation methods. With wild salmon in decline in some regions, farmed ones have been released into spawning rivers. But fish in the wild might use their hearing for detecting prey and predators. Reimer said, “Future research may find ways to prevent the deformity without compromising growth rate. Our results provide hope of a solution.” The Journal of Experimental Biology published the research last year . The University of Melbourne led the research with scientists from institutions in Norway contributing. + Pursuit/University of Melbourne Images via Depositphotos and Pixabay

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The disturbing reason so many farmed salmon are partially deaf

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