Archive | Aquatic Life

Thousands of New Marine Species Found

SAN DIEGO, Feb. 19 (UPI) — More than 5,000 newly discovered marine creatures are in need of environmental policies that protect vulnerable habitats, scientists in San Diego said.

The new species, part of the Census of Marine Life, were highlighted at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in San Diego. The census, a decade in the making by more than 2,000 scientists from 80 countries, is to be released officially in October.

The findings reinforced evidence that delicate coral reefs, some of them thousands of years old, are in need of protection from deep-sea trawlers, said Jason Hall-Spencer, a marine biologist from Britain’s University of Plymouth.

“All but one of the reefs I’ve looked at has been very badly damaged by bottom trawling — where a fishing net is dragged along the sea floor,” Hall-Spencer said.

The census included a crab so unusual it was given a new family designation — Kiwaidae, the BBC reported Friday. The crab discovered near Easter Island was named Kiwa hirsuta because it was so hairy looking.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Aquatic Life, Policies & Solutions0 Comments

Manatees Struggling with Florida Winter

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Feb. 17 (UPI) — A state wildlife official in Florida said the state’s lengthy winter has wrought havoc on the manatee population, killing dozens and leaving others stressed.

Martine DeWit of the state Fish and Wildlife Research Institute said cold weather has been blamed for 167 of the 301 manatee deaths in Florida this year, and experts suspect cold may have killed another 50 manatees whose bodies could not be recovered, The St. Petersburg Times said Tuesday.

DeWit said manatees tend to die slowly when exposed to cold temperatures, with the animals’ immune systems eventually failing as their fat depletes.

Yet those manatees found dead of cold-related causes this year appear to have died quickly as the animals still had full stomachs and the majority of their fat remaining.

“It happened so quickly that even if we had been right there, I doubt we could have helped them,” DeWit said.

The Times said zoos and other animal sites throughout Florida have taken in a number of manatees stressed from the cold temperatures to help the wild animals survive the winter.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Air, Atmosphere, & Weather, Animals, Aquatic Life, Conservation, Fish0 Comments

Illegal Lobster Harvesters Going to Prison

MIAMI, Feb. 3 (UPI) — A federal judge said two men will each spend a year and a day in prison for illegally harvesting lobsters in the Florida Keys.

The Miami Herald said Wednesday in addition to the prison sentence, U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King ordered John Buckheim, 23, and Nick Demauro, 24, to serve two years of probation and pay nearly $23,000 in law enforcement costs.

Last October, the two men pleaded guilty to charges they illegally harvested 8,500 pounds of lobsters by using an artificial reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Authorities said the illegal harvesting took place in summer 2008 from Buckheim’s boat.

At the time of Monday’s sentencing, the two men had removed artificial habitats used for lobster harvesting from 300 sites, the Herald reported.

Since both Buckheim’s boat and truck were used in the perpetration of the defendants’ crimes, he was ordered to forfeit the truck and $1,000 for the sale of his boat.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Aquatic Life, Conservation0 Comments

Rescued Sea Turtles Sent to San Diego

NEWPORT, Ore., Jan. 29 (UPI) — Oregon Coast Aquarium officials said two sea turtles rescued after washing ashore were flown to San Diego as part of their continued rehabilitation.

Jim Burke, director of animal husbandry at the aquarium in Newport, Ore., said the sea turtles’ departure Thursday ended a unique experience for aquarium staff that began nearly two months ago, The (Portland) Oregonian reported.

“These turtles are pretty rare around here,” Burke said. “It’s been a great learning experience.”

While caring for the turtles proved to be an invaluable lesson to aquarium staff, the flight served as a training lesson for the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard C-130.

“It gives pilots practice getting in and out of these small airports,” Cmdr. Todd Lightle, assistant operations officer at Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento, said of the mission at Newport Municipal Airport. “And anytime we can expose our guys to unique loading exercises, we’re increasing our toolbox of expertise.”

The Oregonian said the two turtles, who were found in poor shape late last year, will now reside at the turtle rehabilitation center at SeaWorld.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Aquatic Life, Other0 Comments

Cause of Blue Crab Decline is Sought

CHARLESTON, S.C., Jan. 28 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’re seeking the cause of a recent decline in the Atlantic blue crab population.

Researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the College of Charleston, S.C., said the blue crab population has been declining in recent years under the assault of viruses, bacteria and man-made contaminants. But the signs of the attacks often are subtle, so the researchers now are trying to find clues that will identify the specific, yet elusive, cause.

The NIST/CofC research team says it’s using a technology similar to magnetic resonance imaging to identify and quantify metabolites — small chemical compounds created during metabolism — that increase under conditions that are stressful to blue crabs. The scientists said such metabolites could be used as biomarkers to identify the specific source of the stress.

The research, supported in part by the National Science Foundation, appears in the Jan. 20 online edition of the journal Metabolomics.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Whales Die After New Zealand Beaching

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, Jan. 24 (UPI) — Authorities say 15 pilot whales have died after beaching themselves near Christchurch, New Zealand.

Mark Simpson of the group Project Jonah speculated the whales came into Port Levy on Banks Peninsula early Sunday morning chasing fish and became stranded when the tide dropped, TVNZ of New Zealand reported.

An alarm went out about 6:30 a.m. and 80 locals re-floated about 30 of the mammals.

“We really just stood with them and as the tide came in and started floating, we were just able to push them out and away they went,” local Ted Haowden says.

Sunday’s beaching followed an event Saturday night when pilot whales came into the bay and the locals guided them back out, Haowden said.

“We thought everything was OK, we checked them in the boat and then we woke up this morning and saw a whole lot on the beach here,” he said.

Local residents expect to bury the whales on the beach Monday afternoon.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Aquatic Life, Fish, Mammals0 Comments

Weather Cooperates with Whale Watchers

DEPOE BAY, Ore., Jan. 19 (UPI) — The first few weeks of 2010 have been some of the best in years for whale watching from California to Washington, wildlife officials say.

Whale-watchers at 24 sites in Oregon and one site each in Washington and California have spotted nearly 1,000 whales heading south to winter feeding grounds near Baja California, Mexico.

That’s nearly three times as many whales as were spotted during sightings in 2005, when calm weather allowed for similar sightings, said Morris Grover, head of the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, Ore.

About 18,000 grays and 1,100 humpbacks began the southern migration, led by pregnant females, in late December to be in Baja by February.

“There are just so many whales going by, it is just stunning,” Grover told The (Portland) Oregonian in a story published Tuesday.

The females will give birth in the warmer waters of Baja and fatten their calves on 55 percent milk before starting north for Alaska about early March.

Whale milk “makes our shakes look like diet drinks,” Grover said.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

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Snowdrifts Built for Endangered Seal

SAVONLINNA, Finland, Jan. 8 (UPI) — Finnish researchers are trying to lure the endangered Saimaa ringed seal by heaping mounds of snow on lake ice in the Saimaa Waterway.

The seal, one of the world’s few freshwater seals, scoops out nests in snowdrifts for its pups. In recent years, however, warmer-than-usual winters often have meant a lack of snow and no place for the seals to nest, Helsingin Sanomat reported Friday.

The Saimaa population has dropped to fewer than 300 seals, which originally were trapped by rising land after the last Ice Age.

Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland were moving snow onto the lake ice and mounding it into 40 drifts to see if the seals would nest in it, researcher Miina Auttila said.

Half of the mounds were being piled in known nesting grounds and the other half in promising areas not previously used by the seals. Cameras were being placed along the shoreline to monitor the movement of predators that could threaten the seals and their pups, Auttila said.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Animals, Aquatic Life, Conservation0 Comments

Basking Sharks Thrive off Scotland

TARBERT, Scotland, Jan. 8 (UPI) — Basking sharks are making a comeback off Scotland after being hunted for generations for their livers and fins, researchers said.

The sharks have been seen in large groups, displaying mating behavior, in Gunna Sound between Coll and Tiree and around the islands of Canna and Hyskier, the Scotsman reported Friday.

Eighty-three were spotted recently one day off Canna and 94 off Coll, a report from the Scottish Natural Heritage said.

During courtship the sharks leap clear of the water and swim nose to tail or in contact with each other in a trance-like state, said Heritage spokeswoman Suzanne Henderson.

At maturity, the sharks are as long as 36 feet and can weigh seven tons. The sharks, which can live to be 50-years-old, swim close to the surface to feed on plankton and appear to be basking, hence their name.

Their numbers were depleted by generations of hunters who sought them for the high oil content in their large livers and for their enormous fins, considered a delicacy in Asia.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

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Coral Reefs Quickly Create New Species

BERLIN, Jan. 8 (UPI) — New species originated 50 percent more quickly in coral reefs than other tropical marine habitats during the last 540 million years, German scientists said.

Researchers at Humboldt University, Berlin, found coral reefs to be evolutionary “hotspots” that today are at risk from climate change, lead researcher Wolfgang Kiessling said.

“Our study shows that reefs are even more important than currently assumed. They are not only ecologically important for the marine environment, but also in an evolutionary sense,” Kiessling told the BBC in a story published Friday.

Kiessling, who likened coral reefs to rainforests in terms of enormous biodiversity, studied fossils dating to the Cambrian explosion to find the earliest evidence of animals that lived and died on the ocean floor.

The study, published in the journal Science, shows reefs are centers of marine biodiversity, said Carl-Gustaf Lundin, head of the marine programs at the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Aquatic Life, Biodiversity, Conservation0 Comments

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