This Week in Marine Science

Written by on October 25, 2013 in Other News

Other stories worth reading this weekend:

2013 National Saltwater Angler Survey
NOAA Fisheries just released the results of the first-ever national survey of recreational saltwater anglers’ opinions and attitudes. More than 9,000 saltwater anglers from 22 coastal states responded. They found that 95% of participants believe that “ensuring high quality fishing opportunities for future generations is important.”

An orca performing in the "Believe" show at SeaWorld Orlando in 2009.

An orca performing in the “Believe” show at SeaWorld Orlando in 2009. Photo credit: Magda Stremeski via photopin cc.

A win-win solution for captive orcas and marine theme parks
Captive orcas have been getting a lot of attention on CNN this week and the documentary Blackfish aired last night (Oct 24). There’s plenty to read about Blackfish and captivity, but this is one of the best articles because it has a solution that could actually work. Killer whales and other marine mammals in captivity could be moved to sanctuaries where they could be rehabilitated and retired.
Here’s another great piece inspired by Blackfish: ‘Blackfish’ sparks debate over taking kids to animal parks.

Baby whale has died after being entangled in a shark net at Mona Vale Beach
A baby humpback whale became entangled in a net designed to keep sharks away from the beach earlier this week. The death of the whale, estimated to be no older than three months, has reignited the debate about the use of shark nets. Now that there are possible alternatives to actual nets, many hope that they will be removed from Sydney’s beaches.

Brave diver pulls hook from mouth of tiger shark
Brave or crazy, we’re not quite sure, but it was an impressive act. Dive boat captain Matt Heath was swimming with sharks when he noticed a hook stuck in the mouth of one of the tiger sharks. Having studied sharks for years, he knew he had to help. Thankfully, both shark and diver are okay.

Chemical responsible for thousands of seabird deaths is banned
The International Maritime Organization has banned the discharge at sea of the chemical responsible for thousands of seabird deaths in the UK earlier this year. The chemical, polyisobutylene (PIB) is an oil additive that makes its way into the sea during the cleaning of ship’s tanks or the flushing of ballast water.

Dolphins inspire new radar system to detect hidden surveillance and explosive devices
Scientists have developed a new kind of radar that was inspired by the way dolphins hunt using bubble nets. The twin inverted pulse radar (TWIPR) can detect hidden surveillance equipment and explosives. Some dolphins hunt by blowing ‘bubble nets’ around schools of fish and they are able to distinguish between the bubbles, other clutter and the fish using sonar. TWIPR uses this same ability to distinguish between real targets and other metallic items like pipes and drink cans that could be mistaken for targets by traditional radar and metal detectors.

In China, shark fin soup is losing its fashion
Consumption of shark fin soup in China has declined by 50 to 70 percent in just the last two years. The decline in the demand for shark fins is credited to former NBA player, Yao Ming, who led a public awareness campaign with WildAid, a handful of business leaders and celebrities, and students.

Box jellyfish. Photo credit: Peter Southwood, CC-BY-SA-3.0.

Box jellyfish. Photo credit: Peter Southwood, CC-BY-SA-3.0.

Long-term study links box jellyfish abundance, environmental variability
A jellyfish counting effort began on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii in the 1980s after people noticed a pattern: box jellyfish, Alatina moseri, consistently showed up in big numbers on the beach eight to 12 days after each full moon. Researchers have now published an analysis of 14 years of monthly jellyfish collection data that covers 173 full moons and 66,000 jellyfish. Box jellyfish are one of the most venomous animals in the world and their presence can lead to beach closures to avoid painful, sometimes fatal stings. The analysis shows no net increase in box jelly populations, but an oscillating pattern with periods of increase and decrease.

Melanin pigmentation in salmon fillets – causes and risk factors
New research examined the unwanted discoloration, or melanin “black spots”, found on some farmed salmon. The study shows that the black spots are not caused by the use of certain vaccines like previously thought because black spots also occur in unvaccinated salmon. The research shows that the spots are caused by chronic inflammation sites in the muscles and can vary based on environmental conditions, genetics and disease. The presence of black spots causes salmon filets to be downgraded, which costs a lot of money.

No subsidies for new boats
The European parliament plenary has voted against reintroducing subsidies for new boats. Many were worried that if subsidies began again, it would lead to too many boats chasing too few fish, which would only increase overfishing. Additionally, EU subsidies will no longer be given to operators known to have fished illegally.

Steller sea lions in Vancouver.

Steller sea lions in Vancouver. Photo credit: Dan Arndt via photopin cc.

NOAA Takes Steller Sea Lions off Threatened List
NOAA announced this week that the eastern population of Steller sea lions will no longer be listed as threatened. These sea lions are the first species to be delisted by NOAA in 19 years. The population has grown from only 18,000 animals in 1979 to more than 70,000 in 2010.

Research shows Orca population in Puget Sound is dwindling
Research shows that the number of reproductive-age male orca in the Puget Sound population is down 26 percent since 2009. This is due to a number of factors including increased stress from an increase in whale watching boats, a decline in Chinook salmon numbers, and the toxins found in the orca’s own blubber. The population as a whole is on the decline, but there is an increase in the number of juvenile males, so hopefully the population will be stable in a few years.

Tiny. Ubiquitous. Vital. Delicate. Vulnerable.
Check out this beautiful photo gallery of pteropods, tiny marine snails that are also called sea butterflies because of their winglike swimming appendages. They play an important role in the food chain and are facing threats from ocean acidification.

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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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