Giant manta ray nursery discovered in Gulf of Mexico

June 22, 2018 by  
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Researchers have identified the first recognized giant manta ray nursery in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico , about 70 miles offshore from Galveston, Texas . Graduate student and executive director of  Manta Trust Josh Stewart first made this discovery while studying adult mantas in the area for the first time. “I was there trying to get a genetic sample from a full grown manta, and that’s when I saw it. It was a juvenile male manta, which is a very rare,” Stewart told NPR . After expressing his excitement to local researchers, he was informed that young manta sightings were quite common there. He said, “And that’s when I knew that this was a really special, unique place.” The local researchers at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration had misidentified the young manta rays as another species, neglecting to recognize the importance of this place until the arrival of an outside perspective. Typically, adult manta rays live in deep tropical and subtropical waters, making the study of these majestic sea creatures quite difficult. Young manta rays are almost never seen with adults. Related: Microplastic pollution poses particular threat to filter-feeding rays, sharks and whales “The juvenile life stage for oceanic mantas has been a bit of a black box for us, since we’re so rarely able to observe them,” Stewart explained. “We don’t know much about their movements, their feeding behavior and how that compares to the adults. Now we have a pool of juveniles that we can study.” The recognition of the nursery will ensure that these young mantas, now an endangered species in the U.S., are protected while also providing a road map for the protection of juvenile habitats around the world. “This research backs up the need for protection of other critical habitat, especially since manta rays have recently been designated as threatened species,” study co-author Michelle Johnston told the Herald Sun . “Threatened species need a safe space to grow up and thrive and live.” + Scripps Institution of Oceanography Via NPR and  The Herald Sun Images via G.P. Schmahl / FGBNMS

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Giant manta ray nursery discovered in Gulf of Mexico

New SubCAS technology enables scientists to better study deep-sea ecosystems

June 5, 2018 by  
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Scientists at the California Academy of Sciences have created a new device that can capture and transport deep-sea  creatures to the  ocean ‘s surface without harming them, allowing scientists to better study the deep sea and potentially discover new species. The Submersible Chamber for Ascending Specimens, or SubCAS, works by first capturing wildlife within a small collecting jar. Once the SubCAS and its diver have ascended to approximately 200 feet below the surface, the jar is then moved into a larger chamber, which is sealed after an air bubble is also inserted. This air bubble expands as the pressure drops, which keeps the pressure within the jar at a constant level consistent with that experienced in the deep-sea creatures’ habitats. Until recently, technological challenges limited our knowledge of the mesophotic, or “middle light,” zone. The mesophotic ecosystems begin to exist roughly at the depth beyond which traditional diving technology ceased to effectively protect divers. On the other hand, this zone is also too shallow to justify the use of technology typically used for deep sea exploration. In the past decade, diving technology has improved, and with it our understanding of this unique part of the ocean. Related: Researchers discover a completely new ocean zone swimming with new species “When we started doing these deep dives, seeing whole ecosystems nobody’s ever seen… I wanted to bring those to the public floor,” Senior Director of the California Academy of Sciences’ Steinhart Aquarium and co-inventor of the SubCAS Bart Shepherd told Earther . The team has successfully brought 89 percent of captured mesophotic animals to the surface, while 143 of these creatures have been transported from locations all over the world to the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco , where many of them are on display in the Twilight Zone: Deep Reefs Revealed exhibit. “We’re showing a million-plus people a year these things nobody else will have the opportunity to see, and [using] that as a way to have a [conversation] about coral reef decline,” said Shepherd. The team is currently gearing up for a 2019 mesophotic expedition in the Indian Ocean. “There’s really nobody that’s done deep exploration diving on reefs in the Indian Ocean,” said Shepard. “We think we’re gonna find a ton of new species.” Via Earther Images via California Academy of Sciences

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New SubCAS technology enables scientists to better study deep-sea ecosystems

Florida coral reefs plagued with mysterious disease

May 16, 2018 by  
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With coral reefs under threat worldwide, researchers in Florida are racing to understand and treat a mysterious disease that threatens to decimate the third-largest coral reef on Earth. Over the past four years, the as-yet unidentified, potentially bacterial disease has already had a significant impact on Florida’s coral species, half of which are fatally vulnerable to the disease. “When they’re affected by this, the tissue sloughs off the skeleton,” Erinn Muller, science director at Mote Marine Lab’s Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration in the Florida Keys, explained to NPR . “And we see that once a coral is infected, it usually kills the entire coral, sometimes within weeks. And it doesn’t seem to stop.” After being hired by the State of Florida to study the health of coral reefs near Miami , scientist William Precht first observed the disease moving from coral to coral, with particularly devastating effects on star and brain coral. “This is essentially equivalent to a local extinction , an ecological extirpation of these species locally,” Precht told NPR . “And when you go out and swim on the reefs of Miami-Dade County today, it would be a very rare chance encounter that you’d see some of these three or four species.” Related: Scientists made a liquid ‘umbrella’ to protect coral reefs from sun damage Researchers at Mote Marine Lab are hard at work to determine how to protect coral from the mysterious disease . “Anything from… looking at chlorine-laced epoxy as an antiseptic, and even looking at how antibiotics interact with the disease,” Muller said. “Because if it is bacterial, then antibiotics would be a way to stop it.” Mote Marine Lab is also serving as a nursery for baby coral, which are released into the wild when they are ready. At this moment, the reefs under siege will need all the help they can get. “We’re really at a critical juncture right now, where we have corals left on the reef,” said Muller. “Before we lose more corals, now is the time to start making a change.” Via NPR Images via  NOAA National Ocean Service   (1)

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Microplastic pollution poses particular threat to filter-feeding rays, sharks and whales

February 6, 2018 by  
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Microplastics pose a huge threat to aquatic life, particularly large filter feeders such as whale sharks, manta rays, and baleen whales . A new study by an international team of researchers led by the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) and Murdoch University identifies risks faced by these marine giants from an insidious form of plastic pollution known as microplastics. Filter feeders are at particular risk because of their constant sifting through ocean water to capture their micro-plankton prey. These large creatures play an important role in oceanic ecosystems and huge problems in the food chain could arise if they were to become threatened or even extinct due to escalating threats. While much remains unknown about the specific impacts of ingesting microplastics, evidence suggests that plastic ingestion, whether directly or through eating animals that have consumed plastics, can lead to toxicity in fish and birds. The effects on large, filter feeders is even less understood, a knowledge gap that the study authors urgently sought to address. “Understanding the effects of microplastic pollution on filter-feeding megafauna is imperative because nearly half of the mobulid rays, two-thirds of filter-feeding sharks , and over one quarter of baleen whales are listed by the IUCN as globally threatened species and prioritized for conservation,” wrote the study authors . Related: Over 200 nations commit to ending ocean plastic waste Incorporating a review of data from related research, the new study identifies microplastic “hotspots,” such as the Gulf of Mexico, the Bay of Bengal, the Coral Triangle, and the Mediterranean Sea , as areas where filter feeders gather in high numbers likely due to plentiful food sources. This unfortunate confluence of plankton and plastic pollution has led to filter feeders consuming significant amounts of microplastics, with fin whales estimated to consume up to 2,000 plastic particles per day. While a greater understanding of the problem is helpful, this new research also emphasizes the sorely needed action needed to prevent further harm from plastic pollution to ocean life, large and small. Via IFLScience Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Microplastic pollution poses particular threat to filter-feeding rays, sharks and whales

"Garbage emergency" declared in Bali as clean-up unfolds

December 28, 2017 by  
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The Indonesian island of Bali recently declared a “garbage emergency” in response to the overwhelming amount of plastic waste that has floated ashore and spoiled pristine beaches. “When I want to swim, it is not really nice. I see a lot of garbage here every day, every time,” said Vanessa Moonshine, a traveler from Australia told 24Matins . Although places in Indonesia have been described as “paradise on earth,” the nation of more than 17,000 islands has some work to do to reclaim its title and is mobilizing clean-up efforts to do so. Indonesia is the world’s second largest contributor to marine debris, outdone only by China , the most populous country in the world. In addition to degrading the beaches , plastic waste blocks waterways, impacting transportation and increasing flooding risk, while posing a risk to marine animals. The waste issue has become so debilitating that Bali officially declared a “garbage emergency” over a 3.7 mile segment of coastline last month, prompting the mobilization of resources. 700 cleaners with 35 trucks removed 100 tons of debris each day from the area, which includes the popular beaches of Jimbaran, Kuta and Seminyak. Related: Indonesia pledges $1 billion annually to tackle ocean pollution problem While economic concerns may have motivated this particular cleanup, the dangers of plastic waste are more insidious than loss of tourism. “Garbage is aesthetically disturbing to tourists, but plastic waste issue is way more serious,” I Gede Hendrawan, an environmental oceanography researcher from Bali’s Udayana University, told AFP . “Microplastics can contaminate fish which, if eaten by humans, could cause health problems including cancer.” Fortunately, Indonesia is taking action. The nation of 261 million has pledged to reduce marine plastic waste by 70 percent by 2025, in part by boosting recycling programs and reducing plastic bag usage. Local inventors have even created a type of biodegradable plastic made from seaweed , an abundant crop in Indonesia. Via 24Matins Images via Depositphotos (1)

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"Garbage emergency" declared in Bali as clean-up unfolds

$10k reward to find horrible person shooting sea otters

August 30, 2016 by  
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Someone is shooting sea otters near Santa Cruz, California and they need to be brought to justice. Federal and state agencies are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the offender(s), as the southern sea otter is a “fully protected” species often threatened by coastal tanker traffic and oil spills . The question on everyone’s lips is: what kind of monster shoots a sea otter? Three male sea otters, two sub-adults and one adult, were found dead in Aptos, between California ‘s Santa Cruz Harbor and Seacliff State Beach in mid-August. Initial necropsy findings show they sustained gunshot wounds several days, even weeks, before being discovered, leading officials to believe they died between late July and early August. Related: Santa Cruz team proposes that sea otters could help slow global warming The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are spearheading the search for information, encouraging citizens who see something to say something. Southern sea otters, also called California sea otters, are protected as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act , as well as under California’s Marine Mammal Protection Act. They are also considered blindingly adorable by this author and a suspected majority of the worldwide population. Because of these protections, killing a southern sea otter is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and a potential jail sentence. Anyone with information can call the CalTip line at 1-888-334-2258 or the Special Agent of the USFWS at at 650-876-9078. If someone finds a deceased otter, they are encouraged to leave the body where it is, take a photo, and immediately contact the CDFW at 831-212-7010. Images via  Wikipedia , Flickr

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Marine scientists in Hawaii unearth an ancient minivan-sized sea sponge

May 30, 2016 by  
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We’ve all heard stories about enormous deep sea worms and sharks the size of a city bus. It turns out, those aren’t the only incredibly huge creatures hiding beneath the waves. A team of researchers in Hawaii have discovered the largest sea sponge known to science , and it’s as big as a minivan. Located near the Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monument , the sea sponge is thought to be several centuries old, if not more. The expedition took place in the summer of 2015. Researchers aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ship Okeanos Explorer, led by research specialist Daniel Wagner, Ph.D, discovered the huge sea sponge while exploring the deep water habitats surrounding the national monument. With the aid of remote-controlled vehicles, the expedition stumbled upon the 12-foot by 7-foot sponge at depth of 7,000 feet. That makes it the largest sea sponge ever found, by a long shot. Related: MIT researchers say the Earth’s first animal was most likely a humble sea sponge “The largest portion of our planet lies in deep waters , the vast majority of which has never been explored,” said Wagner in a statement. He was the science lead for the expedition with NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. “Finding such an enormous and presumably old sponge emphasizes how much can be learned from studying deep and pristine environments such as those found in the remote Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monument.” When it comes to determining how old this record-breaking sea sponge might be, it’s a little tricky. Some of the largest sea sponges found in shallower waters are known to live as long as 2,300 years. Further studies might help age the sponge, but for now, researchers are just thrilled to see it thriving at a time when so many marine creatures are struggling to survive. The results of the study were published recently in Marine Biodiversity. Via The Guardian Images via NOAA

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Marine scientists in Hawaii unearth an ancient minivan-sized sea sponge

Biodegradable plastics are the ‘enemy of the environment,’ says UN scientist

May 25, 2016 by  
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To combat the massive problem of plastic debris in the world’s oceans, manufacturers developed lightweight plastic products that are supposed to break down rapidly, thus reducing hazards to marine animals. The so-called ‘biodegradable plastics’ aren’t the answer, according to the United Nations’ top environmental scientist, because they don’t behave as promised. Instead, the ‘greener’ plastics contribute to the problem of ocean plastic just as much as other varieties. Previous…

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Biodegradable plastics are the ‘enemy of the environment,’ says UN scientist

SeaWorld admits to spying on activists

March 4, 2016 by  
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Something is fishy at SeaWorld , and it’s not the marine animals. After growing suspicions that the company was sending employees to infiltrate anti-SeaWorld protests, CEO Joel Manby finally admitted this Thursday that the decision was not only deliberate, but that it came from the aquarium’s management. Read the rest of SeaWorld admits to spying on activists

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SeaWorld admits to spying on activists

ring a ding ding.

September 18, 2010 by  
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If you’ve been shopping for soda and water in cans instead of plastic bottles lately, good for you! That’s a great green step.

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ring a ding ding.

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