Marine-Life Smugglers Headed to Federal Prison

Written by on December 5, 2013 in Policy & Ocean Law

Daily Summary

Lemon shark.

Lemon shark. Photo credit: WIlly Volk via photopin cc.

Judge orders federal prison for marine-life collectors
Operation Rock Bottom was a long-term investigation into illegal smuggling of live fish and coral from Florida Keys waters. This particular case involved the Idaho Aquarium and several defendants who confessed to illegally smuggling marine life, including corals, reef fish, sea fans, spotted eagle rays and lemon sharks. Those involved were sentenced to federal prison this week. The sentences range from four months to two years in prison, followed by two years of supervised probation.

New study identifies five distinct humpback populations in North Pacific
The first comprehensive genetic study of humpback whales in the North Pacific Ocean has identified five distinct populations. Over a three-year international study, researchers collected tissue biopsy samples from humpback whales in 10 different feeding regions and eight winter breeding regions. By analyzing the nearly 2,200 samples, researchers identified genetic differences between both breeding and feeding grounds. The study comes at the same time that a proposal to designate the North Pacific humpbacks as a single distinct population is being considered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). All humpbacks are listed as endangered under the ESA, but internationally they do not have the same level of protection. Recently, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed two population segments as endangered (one in the Sea of Arabia and one in Oceania). The researchers note that it is likely that one or more of the newly identified populations in the North Pacific may be considered endangered as well.

Scripps Leads First Global Snapshot of Key Coral Reef Fishes
A new report reveals that fishing has reduced “vital seaweed eaters” by more than 50 percent. A team of scientists led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography recently published the first global assessment on the impact of fishing on a group of fish known to protect the health of coral reefs. They assessed the status of plant-eating fish — known as ‘lawnmowers’ because they eat seaweed and prevent it from overgrowing corals and taking over the reef — at coral reef sites around the world. They found that populations of plant-eating fish declined by more than half in areas that were fished compared with unfished areas. The report also shows that fishing alters the entire structure of the plant-eating fish community, reducing the number of large fish and boosting the numbers of smaller species that actually enhance the growth of algae that can also damage the reef. This data will help set better management and conservation targets to protect and preserve coral reefs.

Bumphead parrotfish, the largest coral reef herbivores.

Bumphead parrotfish, the largest coral reef herbivores. Photo credit: PacificKlaus via photopin cc.

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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