A new study using satellite tracking by researchers from Nova Southeastern University's Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI), the University of Rhode Island and other colleagues shows that the fishing mortality rate of the shortfin mako in the western North Atlantic is considerably higher than previously estimated from catches reported by fishermen. These data suggest that this major ocean apex predator is experiencing overfishing, raising serious concerns about whether the current levels of fishery catches in the North Atlantic are sustainable.
Commercial fishermen may be able to catch more of the profitable fish they want with marine reserves than without them, according to a study in the journal PNAS led by the University of California, Davis. Using marine reserves as a management tool could also help the recently rebounded West Coast groundfish fishery sustain itself, the study notes. Marine reserves are a subset of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Some MPAs allow fishing, but marine reserves are areas of the ocean closed to fishing and other extractive activities.
A survey of tens of thousands of marine studies from the last decade reveals current threats to our marine environment. These include: the effects of climate change, marine plastic pollution, conservation, as well as social and economic impacts. It is hoped the method used to obtain this information, which has only just been made possible with advances in computational power, will enable the development of robust policies that ensure the future health of our seas.
Nothing in COL’s legislative tracker was signed into law this month, but several items did pass out of committee, the House, or the Senate. Notably, the Save Our Seas Act of 2017 (S.756) passed the Senate with unanimous consent last week. The legislation (and its counterpart in the House (H.R. 2748)) reauthorizes and amends the Marine Debris Act (P.L. 109-332) “to promote international action to reduce marine debris.”
Interpreting relationships between species and their environments is crucial to inform ecosystem-based management (EBM), a priority for NOAA Fisheries. EBM recognizes the diverse interactions within an ecosystem -- including human impacts -- so NOAA Fisheries can consider resource tradeoffs that help protect and sustain productive ecosystems and the services they provide. In the coastal ocean of California -- seabird predators, forage fish on which they feed, and the survival of salmon out-migrating to sea are each of particular interest, and an improved understanding of their interactions could in turn improve the management of the ocean ecosystem.
Prior to the Chesapeake Bay Program, the largest bay in the country was so polluted and disease-ridden that oysters, seagrass beds, and blue crabs declined in alarming numbers, threatening the economy of the region and wreaking havoc on ecosystems. Since the creation of the program in 1983, the conditions in the bay have been slowly, but surely, improving. The HELP for Wildlife Act (S. 1514), which passed out of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public by a vote of 14-7, is a comprehensive (though controversial) recreational hunting and conservation bill that reauthorizes the Chesapeake Bay Program.
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of fishing vessels. Millions of square miles of ocean. Billions of radio transmissions. The constant stream of data can overwhelm even the most dedicated fisheries managers trying to combat the $23 billion illegal fishing industry. In economically underdeveloped countries, a small team of analysts must pore over the surveillance profiles of thousands of fishing enterprises; often the environmental cops can be as much as six months behind. By the time they see that a vessel in their jurisdiction is acting suspiciously, the ship has sailed.
Only 31 years ago, fleets from foreign countries could fish as close as 12 nautical miles to the United States shoreline. Fish populations were severely depleted, impacting livelihoods for fishers and threatening biodiversity. As a result, Congress passed the bipartisan Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). This law extends U.S. jurisdiction to 200 nautical miles, uses science-based management to rebuild stocks and prevent overfishing, and ensures an economically sustainable yield via quotas and annual catch limits. The 1976 law created eight regional fishery management councils and has been updated twice, once in 1996 and again in 2007. Thanks to these efforts, U.S. fish populations are rebuilding, and now, 90 percent of fisheries fall below their annual catch limits. Last week, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a hearing to discuss areas for improvement to consider upon reauthorization. Both sides of the aisle praised the successes of the law and conceded need for change but had different ideas for what those alterations might be.
Humpback whales are skilled acrobats, emotive singers and the most ambitious migrators of all mammals. They are also incredibly creative foragers, capable of trying new approaches to catching a meal. Now, a study has found that these titans of innovation have learned to feed on salmon released from man-made hatcheries in southeast Alaska. “This is a new source of prey, as far as we can tell,” said Ellen Chenoweth, a doctoral candidate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and lead author of the study, published on Tuesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science.
New acoustic techniques that measure fish populations could potentially be used to help endangered species like the totoaba – and in turn the even rarer vaquita porpoise, which is on the brink of extinction.
Mysterious creatures called sea pickles are showing up in large numbers on the West Coast. These organisms are actually conglomerations of zooids—small, multicellular organisms—which come together into tubular shapes that in this case stretch from about 6 inches to 2 feet long, according to EarthFix, an offshoot of Oregon Public Broadcasting. Normally these animals, also known as pyrosomes, are found in tropical waters, and they also are bioluminescent, meaning they produce light. (Pyrosome is derived from the Greek pyro for “fire” and soma for “body.”) Not very well-studied, they can stretch up to 60 feet long, and look something like a living wind sock.
In July 2015, the United Nations General Assembly began the long process of developing an international, legally-binding treaty under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (UNGA Resolution 69/292).