Trading Whale Products, Ocean Nutrients and Purple Sea Urchins

Written by on April 10, 2013 in Marine Life

Daily Summary

Norway Defies International Trade Ban, Exports Tons of Whale Products to Japan

Minke whale.

Minke whale. Photo credit: NOAA.

International commercial trade of whale products is banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), but it looks like a Norwegian company is ignoring this ban. The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) recently found evidence that a Norwegian company shipped 4,250 kg (about 9,350 lbs) of frozen whale products to Tokyo, Japan. The shipment is expected to arrive on April 12 and AWI is calling for the U.S. and other governments to “convince Japan to reject Norway’s recent shipment of whale products.”

Ocean nutrients a key component of future change say scientists

A new paper suggests that variations in nutrient availability in the ocean could be a “vital component” of environmental change. Nutrient cycles influence climate change by fueling biological production. For example, marine algae require enough nutrients to grow and this algae and other microorganisms both depend on and contribute to nutrient cycling, which can include absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere.

In other ocean nutrient news: Pioneering study calculates Arctic Ocean nutrient budget

Scientists based at the National Oceanography Center, Southampton calculated the amount of nutrients entering and leaving the Arctic Ocean for the first time. They studied the transport of nitrate, phosphate and silicate which are all essential to marine life. Not only do their findings have implications for the marine life in the Arctic Ocean, but they also help shed light on surrounding marine ecosystems. For example, they found that the Arctic Ocean is an important source of phosphate and silicate to the North Atlantic, but that large amounts of nitrogen are lost to the atmosphere.

Surf’s up: Turbulence tells sea urchins to settle down

Purple urchins (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) and a bat star (Asterina miniata).

Purple urchins (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) and a bat star. Photo credit: Claire Fackler, CINMS, NOAA.

Purple sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) have two very different life stages. First, they start out as tiny drifters, floating in the upper levels of the ocean. After about a month, the settle down and transform into spiny adults. Researchers from the University of California, Davis have found that the sea urchin larvae know it’s time to settle down once they start hitting rocky shores. They then attach to one of those rocks and make the transformation. Although, the researchers note that it’s still unclear just how exactly the urchins sense the turbulence…

In other sea urchin news: Stanford seeks sea urchin’s secret to surviving ocean acidification

Stanford scientists have found that some purple sea urchins can rapidly evolve in acidic water. Ocean acidification continues to be a worrisome problem, so this ability could come in handy. The researchers found that it is the sea urchins’ high level of genetic variation that allows them to stay healthy in acidic conditions.

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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