Topic: Oceans


High Stakes on the High Seas: <br />A Call for International Reserves

Report

High Stakes on the High Seas:
A Call for International Reserves

by nicola jones
Marine protected areas in national waters have proven successful in helping depleted fish stocks to recover. Now, there is growing momentum for the creation of extensive reserves on the high seas as a way of reversing decades of rampant overfishing.
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As Arctic Ocean Ice Disappears, <br />Global Climate Impacts Intensify

Analysis

As Arctic Ocean Ice Disappears,
Global Climate Impacts Intensify

by peter wadhams
The top of the world is turning from white to blue in summer as the ice that has long covered the north polar seas melts away. This monumental change is triggering a cascade of effects that will amplify global warming and could destabilize the global climate system.
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How Climate Change Could Jam <br />The World's Ocean Circulation

Analysis

How Climate Change Could Jam
The World's Ocean Circulation

by nicola jones
Scientists are closely monitoring a key current in the North Atlantic to see if rising sea temperatures and increased freshwater from melting ice are altering the “ocean conveyor belt” — a vast oceanic stream that plays a major role in the global climate system.
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The Dungeness Crab Faces <br />Uncertain Future on West Coast

E360 Video Contest Award Winner — First Place

The Dungeness Crab Faces
Uncertain Future on West Coast

The winner of the 2016 Yale Environment 360 Video Contest explores how ocean acidification may be putting at risk a prized crustacean that is vital to the fishing industry and the marine ecosystem on the U.S. Pacific Coast.
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Interview

At Ground Zero for Rising Seas,
TV Weatherman Talks Climate

by diane toomey
John Morales is part of a new breed of television weather forecasters seeking to educate viewers on climate change and the threat it poses. In South Florida, where sea level rise is already causing periodic flooding, he has a receptive audience.
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How Growing Sea Plants Can<br /> Help Slow Ocean Acidification

Report

How Growing Sea Plants Can
Help Slow Ocean Acidification

by nicola jones
Researchers are finding that kelp, eelgrass, and other vegetation can effectively absorb CO2 and reduce acidity in the ocean. Growing these plants in local waters, scientists say, could help mitigate the damaging impacts of acidification on marine life.
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Can Virtual Reality Emerge <br />As a Tool for Conservation?

Dispatch

Can Virtual Reality Emerge
As a Tool for Conservation?

by heather millar
New advances in technology are sparking efforts to use virtual reality to help people gain a deeper appreciation of environmental challenges. VR experiences, researchers say, can be especially useful in conveying key issues that are slow to develop, such as climate change and extinction.
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Interview

Unable to Endure Rising Seas,
Alaskan Villages Stuck in Limbo

by diane toomey
As an advocate for Alaska’s Native communities, Robin Bronen points to a bureaucratic Catch-22 — villages cannot get government support to relocate in the face of climate-induced threats, but they are no longer receiving funds to repair their crumbling infrastructure.
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A Tiny Pacific Nation Takes the<br />Lead on Protecting Marine Life

Report

A Tiny Pacific Nation Takes the
Lead on Protecting Marine Life

by emma bryce
Unhappy with how regional authorities have failed to protect fish stocks in the Western Pacific, Palau has launched its own bold initiatives – creating a vast marine sanctuary and conducting an experiment designed to reduce bycatch in its once-thriving tuna fishery.
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A Rather Bizarre Bivalve Stirs <br />Controversy in the Puget Sound

Report

A Rather Bizarre Bivalve Stirs
Controversy in the Puget Sound

by ben goldfarb
The Asian market for the odd-looking giant clams known as geoducks has spawned a growing aquaculture industry in Washington's Puget Sound. But coastal homeowners and some conservationists are concerned about the impact of these farming operations on the sound’s ecosystem.
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Abrupt Sea Level Rise Looms <br />As Increasingly Realistic Threat

Analysis

Abrupt Sea Level Rise Looms
As Increasingly Realistic Threat

by nicola jones
Ninety-nine percent of the planet's freshwater ice is locked up in the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps. Now, a growing number of studies are raising the possibility that as those ice sheets melt, sea levels could rise by six feet this century, and far higher in the next, flooding many of the world's populated coastal areas.
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From Mass Coral Bleaching, <br /> A Scientist Looks for Lessons

Interview

From Mass Coral Bleaching,
A Scientist Looks for Lessons

by katherine bagley
For climate scientist Kim Cobb, this year’s massive bleaching of coral reefs is providing sobering insights into the impacts of global warming. Yale Environment 360 talked with Cobb about the bleaching events and the push to make reefs more resilient to rising temperatures.
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How Satellites and Big Data<br /> Can Help to Save the Oceans

Opinion

How Satellites and Big Data
Can Help to Save the Oceans

by douglas mccauley
With new marine protected areas and an emerging U.N. treaty, global ocean conservation efforts are on the verge of a major advance. But to enforce these ambitious initiatives, new satellite-based technologies and newly available online data must be harnessed.
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Interview

How Ocean Noise Pollution
Wreaks Havoc on Marine Life

by richard schiffman
Marine scientist Christopher Clark has spent his career listening in on what he calls “the song of life” in the world’s oceans. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he explains how these marine habitats are under assault from extreme—but preventable—noise pollution.
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Food Insecurity: Arctic Heat<br /> Is Threatening Indigenous Life

Report

Food Insecurity: Arctic Heat
Is Threatening Indigenous Life

by ed struzik
Subsistence hunters in the Arctic have long taken to the sea ice to hunt seals, whales, and polar bears. But now, as the ice disappears and soaring temperatures alter the life cycles and abundance of their prey, a growing number of indigenous communities are facing food shortages.
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In Mexico, Fish Poachers Push </br> Endangered Porpoises to Brink

Report

In Mexico, Fish Poachers Push
Endangered Porpoises to Brink

by ben goldfarb
China’s lucrative black market for fish parts is threatening the vaquita, the world’s most endangered marine mammal. The porpoises, who live only in the Gulf of California, are getting caught up as bycatch in illegal gill nets and killed.
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El Niño and Climate Change:<br /> Wild Weather May Get Wilder

Analysis

El Niño and Climate Change:
Wild Weather May Get Wilder

by fred pearce
This year’s El Niño phenomenon is spawning extreme weather around the planet. Now scientists are working to understand if global warming will lead to more powerful El Niños that will make droughts, floods, snowstorms, and hurricanes more intense.
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In Japan, a David vs Goliath<br /> Battle to Preserve Bluefin Tuna

Report

In Japan, a David vs Goliath
Battle to Preserve Bluefin Tuna

by winifred bird
A group of small-scale Japanese fishermen are waging an increasingly public struggle against industrial fishing fleets that are using sonar and huge nets to scoop up massive catches of spawning Pacific bluefin tuna.
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Eyes in the Sky: Green Groups <br />Are Harnessing Data from Space

Report

Eyes in the Sky: Green Groups
Are Harnessing Data from Space

by jacques leslie
An increasing number of nonprofit organizations are relying on satellite imagery to monitor environmental degradation. Chief among them is SkyTruth, which has used this data to expose the extent of the BP oil spill, uncover mining damage, and track illegal fishing worldwide.
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Unnatural Balance: How Food <br />Waste Impacts World’s Wildlife

Report

Unnatural Balance: How Food
Waste Impacts World’s Wildlife

by richard conniff
New research indicates that the food discarded in landfills and at sea is having a profound effect on wildlife populations and fisheries. But removing that food waste creates its own ecological challenges.
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The Sushi Project: Farming Fish <br />And Rice in California's Fields

Report

The Sushi Project: Farming Fish
And Rice in California's Fields

by jacques leslie
Innovative projects in California are using flooded rice fields to rear threatened species of Pacific salmon, mimicking the rich floodplains where juvenile salmon once thrived. This technique also shows promise for growing forage fish, which are increasingly threatened in the wild.
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How 'Third Way' Technologies <br />Can Help Turn Tide on Climate

Interview

How 'Third Way' Technologies
Can Help Turn Tide on Climate

by richard schiffman
In a Yale Environment 360 interview, Australian scientist and author Tim Flannery explains how the development of technologies that mimic the earth’s natural carbon-removing processes could provide a critical tool for slowing global warming.
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A Delicate Balance: Protecting <br />Northwest’s Glass Sponge Reefs

Report

A Delicate Balance: Protecting
Northwest’s Glass Sponge Reefs

by nicola jones
Rare and extensive reefs of glass sponges are found only one place on earth – a stretch of the Pacific Northwest coast. Now, efforts are underway to identify and protect these fragile formations before they are obliterated by fishing vessels that trawl the bottom.
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Global Extinction Rates: Why <br />Do Estimates Vary So Wildly?

Analysis

Global Extinction Rates: Why
Do Estimates Vary So Wildly?

by fred pearce
Is it 150 species a day or 24 a day or far less than that? Prominent scientists cite dramatically different numbers when estimating the rate at which species are going extinct. Why is that?
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As Ocean Waters Heat Up, <br />A Quest to Create ‘Super Corals’

Report

As Ocean Waters Heat Up,
A Quest to Create ‘Super Corals’

by nicola jones
With the world’s coral reefs increasingly threatened by warmer and more acidic seas, scientists are selectively breeding corals to create species with the best chance to survive in the coming century and beyond. Are genetically modified corals next?
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Photo Essay

The Wild Alaskan Lands at Stake
If the Pebble Mine Moves Ahead


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On an Unspoiled Caribbean Isle, <br />Grand Plans for Big Tourist Port

Report

On an Unspoiled Caribbean Isle,
Grand Plans for Big Tourist Port

by fred pearce
East Caicos is a tropical jewel – the largest uninhabitated island in the Caribbean and home to rare birds and pristine turtle-nesting beaches. But plans for a giant port for cruise and cargo ships could change it forever.
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A Little Fish with Big Impact <br />In Trouble on U.S. West Coast

Report

A Little Fish with Big Impact
In Trouble on U.S. West Coast

by elizabeth grossman
Scientists are concerned that officials waited too long to order a ban on U.S. Pacific sardine fishing that goes into effect July 1. The dire state of the sardine population is a cautionary tale about overharvesting these and other forage fish that are a critical part of the marine food web.
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Oil Drilling in Arctic Ocean: <br />A Push into Uncharted Waters

Analysis

Oil Drilling in Arctic Ocean:
A Push into Uncharted Waters

by ed struzik
As the U.S. and Russia take the first steps to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean, experts say the harsh climate, icy seas, and lack of infrastructure means a sizeable oil spill would be very difficult to clean up and could cause extensive environmental damage.
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Can the North Sea Wind Boom <br />And Seabird Colonies Coexist?

Report

Can the North Sea Wind Boom
And Seabird Colonies Coexist?

by fred pearce
Offshore wind farms have been proliferating in the North Sea, with more huge projects planned. But conservationists are concerned this clean energy source could threaten seabird colonies that now thrive in the sea’s shallow waters.
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How Long Can Oceans Continue <br />To Absorb Earth’s Excess Heat?

Analysis

How Long Can Oceans Continue
To Absorb Earth’s Excess Heat?

by cheryl katz
The main reason soaring greenhouse gas emissions have not caused air temperatures to rise more rapidly is that oceans have soaked up much of the heat. But new evidence suggests the oceans’ heat-buffering ability may be weakening.
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With Fins Off Many Menus, <br />A Glimmer of Hope for Sharks

Analysis

With Fins Off Many Menus,
A Glimmer of Hope for Sharks

by ted williams
For decades, the slaughter of sharks – sought after for their fins and meat – has been staggering. But bans on finning and new attitudes in Asia toward eating shark fin soup are leading to optimism about the future for these iconic ocean predators.
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Along Cuba’s Coast, The Last Best <br />Coral Reefs in the Caribbean Thrive

Photo Essay

Along Cuba’s Coast, The Last Best
Coral Reefs in the Caribbean Thrive

Decades of communist rule and a U.S. embargo have stifled coastal development in Cuba, which has had the beneficial effect of leaving many of the country’s coral reefs intact. In this gallery, photographer Robert Wintner documents the exquisite beauty and biodiversity of Cuba’s coral reef ecosystems.
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Why U.S. East Coast Should <br />Stay Off-Limits to Oil Drilling

Opinion

Why U.S. East Coast Should
Stay Off-Limits to Oil Drilling

by carl safina
It’s not just the potential for a catastrophic spill that makes President Obama’s proposal to open Atlantic Ocean waters to oil exploration such a bad idea. What’s worse is the cumulative impact on coastal ecosystems that an active oil industry would bring.
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Interview

Why Ocean Health Is Better
And Worse Than You Think

by fen montaigne
The good news is the world’s oceans have not experienced the extinctions that have occurred on land. But as ecologist Douglas McCauley explains in a Yale Environment 360 interview, marine life now face numerous threats even more serious than overfishing.
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As Extreme Weather Increases, <br />A Push for Advanced Forecasts

Analysis

As Extreme Weather Increases,
A Push for Advanced Forecasts

by cheryl katz
With a warmer atmosphere expected to spur an increase in major storms, floods, and other wild weather events, scientists and meteorologists worldwide are harnessing advanced computing power to devise more accurate, medium-range forecasts that could save lives and property.
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How Technology Is Protecting <br />World’s Richest Marine Reserve

Report

How Technology Is Protecting
World’s Richest Marine Reserve

by christopher pala
After years of fitful starts, the Pacific island nation of Kiribati this month banned all commercial fishing inside its huge marine reserve. New satellite transponder technology is now helping ensure that the ban succeeds in keeping out the big fishing fleets.
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For Vulnerable Barrier Islands, <br />A Rush to Rebuild on U.S. Coast

Report

For Vulnerable Barrier Islands,
A Rush to Rebuild on U.S. Coast

by rona kobell
Despite warnings from scientists, new construction continues on U.S. barrier islands that have been devastated by storms. The flood protection projects that accompany this development can have harmful consequences for coastal ecosystems being buffeted by climate change.
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After Steep Decline, Signs of <br />Hope for World’s Sea Turtles

Report

After Steep Decline, Signs of
Hope for World’s Sea Turtles

by ted williams
Nearly all sea turtle species have been classified as endangered, with precipitous declines in many populations in recent decades. But new protections, particularly in the U.S. and Central America, are demonstrating that dramatic recovery for these remarkable reptiles is possible.
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Fast-Warming Gulf of Maine<br />Offers Hint of Future for Oceans

Report

Fast-Warming Gulf of Maine
Offers Hint of Future for Oceans

by rebecca kessler
The waters off the coast of New England are warming more rapidly than almost any other ocean region on earth. Scientists are now studying the resulting ecosystem changes, and their findings could provide a glimpse of the future for many of the world’s coastal communities.
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Fostering Community Strategies For Saving the World's Oceans

Interview

Fostering Community Strategies For Saving the World's Oceans

by crystal gammon
To conservationist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, getting coastal communities involved in plans to protect their waters is critical for protecting the planet's oceans. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she talks about her work in one Caribbean island and how it shows how such a strategy can get results.
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Photo Essay

Cashes Ledge: New England's Underwater Laboratory

A little over 70 miles off the coast of New England, an unusual undersea mountain range, known as Cashes Ledge, rises from the seabed. The area teems with kelp forests, sea sponges, and a wide variety of fish and mollusks — much of it captured by ocean photographer Brian Skerry during dives made earlier this year
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How Norway and Russia Made <br />A Cod Fishery Live and Thrive

Report

How Norway and Russia Made
A Cod Fishery Live and Thrive

by john waldman
The prime cod fishing grounds of North America have been depleted or wiped out by overfishing and poor management. But in Arctic waters, Norway and Russia are working cooperatively to sustain a highly productive — and profitable — cod fishery.
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Scientists Look for Causes of <br />Baffling Die-Off of Sea Stars

Report

Scientists Look for Causes of
Baffling Die-Off of Sea Stars

by eric wagner
Sea stars on both coasts of North America are dying en masse from a disease that kills them in a matter of days. Researchers are looking at various pathogens that may be behind what is known as sea star wasting syndrome, but they suspect that a key contributing factor is warming ocean waters.
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Interview

Where Will Earth Head
After Its ‘Climate Departure’?

by diane toomey
Will the planet reach a point where its climate is significantly different from what has existed throughout human history, and if so, when? In an interview with Yale Environment 360, biogeographer Camilo Mora talks about recent research on this disquieting issue and what it means for the coming decades.
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Interview

Examining How Marine Life
Might Adapt to Acidified Oceans

by elizabeth grossman
In an interview with Yale Environment 360, marine biologist Gretchen Hofmann discusses how well mollusks and other shell-building organisms might evolve to live in increasingly corrosive ocean conditions caused by soaring CO2 emissions.
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Unsustainable Seafood: A New <br />Crackdown on Illegal Fishing

Report

Unsustainable Seafood: A New
Crackdown on Illegal Fishing

by richard conniff
A recent study shows that a surprisingly large amount of the seafood sold in U.S. markets is caught illegally. In a series of actions over the last few months, governments and international regulators have started taking aim at stopping this illicit trade in contraband fish.
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Scientists Focus on Polar Waters <br />As Threat of Acidification Grows

Report

Scientists Focus on Polar Waters
As Threat of Acidification Grows

by jo chandler
A sophisticated and challenging experiment in Antarctica is the latest effort to study ocean acidification in the polar regions, where frigid waters are expected to feel most acutely the ecological impacts of acidic conditions not seen in millions of years.
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Greenpeace’s Kumi Naidoo on <br />Russia and the Climate Struggle

Interview

Greenpeace’s Kumi Naidoo on
Russia and the Climate Struggle

by diane toomey
In a Yale Environment 360 interview, the outspoken executive director of Greenpeace discusses why his organization’s activists braved imprisonment in Russia to stop Arctic oil drilling and what needs to be done to make a sharp turn away from fossil fuels and toward a green energy economy.
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Documenting the Swift Change <br />Wrought by Global Warming

Photo Essay

Documenting the Swift Change
Wrought by Global Warming

by peter essick
Photographer Peter Essick has traveled the world documenting the causes and consequences of climate change. In a Yale Environment 360 photo essay, we present a gallery of images Essick took while on assignment in Antarctica, Greenland, and other far-flung locales.
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A North Atlantic Mystery: <br />Case of the Missing Whales

Report

A North Atlantic Mystery:
Case of the Missing Whales

by rebecca kessler
Endangered North Atlantic right whales are disappearing from customary feeding grounds off the U.S. and Canadian coasts and appearing in large numbers in other locations, leaving scientists to wonder if shifts in climate may be behind the changes.
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Using Ocean Robots to Unlock <br />Mysteries of CO2 and the Seas

Interview

Using Ocean Robots to Unlock
Mysteries of CO2 and the Seas

by todd woody
Marine phytoplankton are vital in absorbing ever-increasing amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, researcher Tracy Villareal explains how he is using remotely operated robots to better understand how this process mitigates climate change.
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A Year After Sandy, The Wrong <br />Policy on Rebuilding the Coast

Opinion

A Year After Sandy, The Wrong
Policy on Rebuilding the Coast

by rob young
One year after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the U.S. East Coast, the government is spending billions to replenish beaches that will only be swallowed again by rising seas and future storms. It’s time to develop coastal policies that take into account new climate realities.
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Rising Waters: How Fast and <br />How Far Will Sea Levels Rise?

Analysis

Rising Waters: How Fast and
How Far Will Sea Levels Rise?

by nicola jones
Although the latest U.N. climate report significantly increases its projections for sea level rise this century, some scientists warn even those estimates are overly conservative. But one thing is certain: Predicting sea level rise far into the future is a very tricky task.
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In Japan, Captive Breeding <br />May Help Save the Wild Eel

Report

In Japan, Captive Breeding
May Help Save the Wild Eel

by winifred bird
As eel populations plummet worldwide, Japanese scientists are racing to solve a major challenge for aquaculture — how to replicate the life cycle of eels in captivity and commercially produce a fish that is a prized delicacy on Asian dinner tables.
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Leaving Our Descendants<br /> A Whopping Rise in Sea Levels

Interview

Leaving Our Descendants
A Whopping Rise in Sea Levels

by fen montaigne
German scientist Anders Levermann and his colleagues have released research that warns of major sea level increases far into the future. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he raises important questions about how much we really care about the world we will leave to those who come after us.
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In Mekong Delta, Rice Boom<br /> Has Steep Environmental Cost

Report

In Mekong Delta, Rice Boom
Has Steep Environmental Cost

by mike ives
Vietnam has become one of the world’s leading rice producers, thanks to the construction of an elaborate network of dikes and irrigation canals. But these extensive infrastructure projects in the storied Mekong Delta have come at a high ecological price.
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New Initiatives to Clean Up<br /> The Global Aquarium Trade

Report

New Initiatives to Clean Up
The Global Aquarium Trade

by rebecca kessler
An estimated 30 million fish and other creatures are caught annually to supply the home aquarium market, taking a toll on some reef ecosystems. Now conservationists are working to improve the industry by ending destructive practices and encouraging aquaculture.
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No Refuge: Tons of Trash Covers<br /> The Remote Shores of Alaska

Opinion

No Refuge: Tons of Trash Covers
The Remote Shores of Alaska

by carl safina
A marine biologist traveled to southwestern Alaska in search of ocean trash that had washed up along a magnificent coast rich in fish, birds, and other wildlife. He and his colleagues found plenty of trash – as much as a ton of garbage per mile on some beaches.
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An Economic Boom in Turkey<br /> Takes a Toll on Marine Life

Report

An Economic Boom in Turkey
Takes a Toll on Marine Life

by sulmaan khan
The development-at-any-cost policies of Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan — a key factor behind the protests and clashes in Istanbul’s Taksim Square — are also playing a role in the steady decline of the nation’s porpoises, dolphins, and other marine life.
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As Extreme Weather Increases,<br /> Bangladesh Braces for the Worst

Opinion

As Extreme Weather Increases,
Bangladesh Braces for the Worst

by brian fagan
Scientists are predicting that warming conditions will bring more frequent and more intense extreme weather events. Their warnings hit home in densely populated Bangladesh, which historically has been hit by devastating sea surges and cyclones.
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China’s New Arctic Presence<br /> Signals Future Development

Report

China’s New Arctic Presence
Signals Future Development

by ed struzik
China’s recent admission to the Arctic Council under observer status reflects a new reality: the world’s economic powers now regard development of natural resources and commerce in an increasingly ice-free Arctic as a top priority.
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In Post-Tsunami Japan, A Push<br /> To Rebuild Coast in Concrete

Report

In Post-Tsunami Japan, A Push
To Rebuild Coast in Concrete

by winifred bird
In the wake of the 2011 tsunami, the Japanese government is forgoing an opportunity to sustainably protect its coastline and is instead building towering concrete seawalls and other defenses that environmentalists say will inflict serious damage on coastal ecosystems.
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A Key Experiment to Probe the<br /> Future of Our Acidifying Oceans

Report

A Key Experiment to Probe the
Future of Our Acidifying Oceans

by peter friederici
In a Swedish fjord, European researchers are conducting an ambitious experiment aimed at better understanding how ocean acidification will affect marine life. Ultimately, these scientists hope to determine which species might win and which might lose in a more acidic ocean.
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As Final U.S. Decision Nears,<br /> A Lively Debate on GM Salmon

Opinion

As Final U.S. Decision Nears,
A Lively Debate on GM Salmon

In an online debate for Yale Environment 360, Elliot Entis, whose company has created a genetically modified salmon that may soon be for sale in the U.S., discusses the environmental and health impacts of this controversial technology with author Paul Greenberg, a critic of GM fish.
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A Leading Marine Biologist<br /> Works to Create a ‘Wired Ocean’

Interview

A Leading Marine Biologist
Works to Create a ‘Wired Ocean’

by ben goldfarb
Stanford University scientist Barbara Block heads a program that has placed satellite tags on thousands of sharks, bluefin tuna, and other marine predators to better understand their life cycles. Now, using data available on mobile devices, she hopes to enlist public support for protecting these threatened creatures.
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Will Reform Finally End The<br /> Plunder of Europe’s Fisheries?

Analysis

Will Reform Finally End The
Plunder of Europe’s Fisheries?

by christian schwägerl
Maria Damanaki, Europe’s crusading fisheries minister, is making major headway in changing a cozy, “old boys” network that over-subsidized the European fishing industry and brought about the severe overfishing of the continent’s marine bounty.
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To Control Floods, The Dutch<br /> Turn to Nature for Inspiration

Report

To Control Floods, The Dutch
Turn to Nature for Inspiration

by cheryl katz
The Netherlands’ system of dikes and sea gates has long been the best in the world. But as the country confronts the challenges of climate change, it is increasingly relying on techniques that mimic natural systems and harness nature’s power to hold back the sea.
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Proposed Energy Exploration<br /> Sparks Worry on Ocean Canyons

Report

Proposed Energy Exploration
Sparks Worry on Ocean Canyons

by paul greenberg
The Atlantic Canyons off the Northeastern U.S. plunge as deep as 15,000 feet and harbor diverse and fragile marine ecosystems. Now, the Obama administration’s plans to consider offshore oil and gas exploration in the canyons is troubling conservationists.
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Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill<br /> Fails to Face Coastal Realities

Opinion

Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill
Fails to Face Coastal Realities

by rob young
As part of the sorely-needed aid package to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, Congress is also considering spending billions on ill-advised and environmentally damaging beach and coastal rebuilding projects that ignore the looming threats of rising seas and intensifying storms.
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What’s Damaging Marshes on<br /> U.S. Coast and Why It Matters

Interview

What’s Damaging Marshes on
U.S. Coast and Why It Matters

by kevin dennehy
A nine-year study led by researcher Linda Deegan points to the damage that human-caused nutrients inflict on salt marshes along the U.S. East Coast. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, she describes what these findings mean for an ecosystem that provides critical services, from nourishing marine life to buffering the coast from storms like Sandy.
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Too Big to Flood? Megacities<br /> Face Future of Major Storm Risk

Report

Too Big to Flood? Megacities
Face Future of Major Storm Risk

by bruce stutz
As economic activity and populations continue to expand in coastal urban areas, particularly in Asia, hundreds of trillions of dollars of infrastructure, industrial and office buildings, and homes are increasingly at risk from intensifying storms and rising sea levels.
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How Fishing Gear is Killing<br /> Whales in the North Atlantic

Report

How Fishing Gear is Killing
Whales in the North Atlantic

by rebecca kessler
Researchers have been documenting the deadly threat that fishing lines and ropes pose to large whales that become entangled in them. Now, new studies are pointing to another disturbing fact: the ensnared whales endure enormous pain and prolonged suffering.
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Easing The Collateral Damage<br /> That Fisheries Inflict on Seabirds

Report

Easing The Collateral Damage
That Fisheries Inflict on Seabirds

by jeremy hance
Two recent studies highlight the harm that industrial fisheries are doing to the world’s seabirds, either by overharvesting the birds’ favorite prey or by drowning birds hooked on longlines. But tighter regulations and innovative technologies are starting to significantly reduce seabird “bycatch,” slashing it by 90 percent in some regions.
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Shrimp Farms’ Tainted Legacy<br /> Is Target of Certification Drive

Report

Shrimp Farms’ Tainted Legacy
Is Target of Certification Drive

by marc gunther
As shrimp aquaculture has boomed globally to keep pace with surging demand, the environmental toll on mangroves and other coastal ecosystems has been severe. Now, conservation groups and some shrimp farmers are creating a certification scheme designed to clean up the industry and reward sustainable producers.
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Will Fish-Loving Japan <br />Embrace Sustainable Seafood?

Report

Will Fish-Loving Japan
Embrace Sustainable Seafood?

by winifred bird
In fish-crazed Japan, where eating seafood is a vital part of the nation's culture, conservation groups are working with companies to persuade more Japanese to eat certified, sustainably caught seafood. It's an uphill struggle, but one that could have significant impact on the world's fisheries.
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The Vital Chain: Connecting<br /> The Ecosystems of Land and Sea

Analysis

The Vital Chain: Connecting
The Ecosystems of Land and Sea

by carl zimmer
A new study from a Pacific atoll reveals the links between native trees, bird guano, and the giant manta rays that live off the coast. In unraveling this intricate web, the researchers point to the often little-understood interconnectedness between terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
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Melting Sea Ice Could Lead<br /> To Pressure on Arctic Fishery

Report

Melting Sea Ice Could Lead
To Pressure on Arctic Fishery

by ed struzik
With melting sea ice opening up previously inaccessible parts of the Arctic Ocean, the fishing industry sees a potential bonanza. But some scientists and government officials have begun calling for a moratorium on fishing in the region until the true state of the Arctic fishery is assessed.
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In Fight to Save Coral Reefs,<br /> Finding Strategies that Work

Interview

In Fight to Save Coral Reefs,
Finding Strategies that Work

by kevin dennehy
In four decades as a marine biologist, Nancy Knowlton has played a key role in documenting the biodiversity of coral reefs and the threats they increasingly face. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she assesses the state of the world’s corals and highlights conservation projects that offer hope of saving these irreplaceable ecosystems.
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Mysteries of Killer Whales<br /> Uncovered in the Antarctic

Dispatch

Mysteries of Killer Whales
Uncovered in the Antarctic

by fen montaigne
Two of the world’s leading experts on the world’s top marine predator are now in Antarctica, tagging and photographing a creature whose remarkably cooperative hunting behavior and transmission of knowledge across generations may be rivaled only by humans.
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Northwest Oyster Die-offs Show<br /> Ocean Acidification Has Arrived

Report

Northwest Oyster Die-offs Show
Ocean Acidification Has Arrived

by elizabeth grossman
The acidification of the world’s oceans from an excess of CO2 has already begun, as evidenced recently by the widespread mortality of oyster larvae in the Pacific Northwest. Scientists say this is just a harbinger of things to come if greenhouse gas emissions continue to soar.
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A World Centered on Sea Ice<br /> Is Changing Swiftly at the Poles

Analysis

A World Centered on Sea Ice
Is Changing Swiftly at the Poles

by fen montaigne
For eons, the polar marine food chain has been closely linked to the seasonal formation and retreat of sea ice. Now, as that ice rapidly melts in the Arctic and along the Antarctic Peninsula, this intricate web of life is undergoing major shifts, benefiting some creatures and putting others at risk.
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New Model for Aquaculture<br /> Takes Hold Far from the Sea

Interview

New Model for Aquaculture
Takes Hold Far from the Sea

With ever-greater quantities of seafood coming from aquaculture operations, some companies are working on ways to reduce the environmental impact of fish farming. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Josh Goldman of Australis Aquaculture talks about his highly praised closed-containment fish farm in Massachusetts.
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The Unfulfilled Promise of the<br /> World’s Marine Protected Areas

Analysis

The Unfulfilled Promise of the
World’s Marine Protected Areas

by bruce barcott
Biologists and conservationists maintain that establishing marine reserves — areas where fishing is off-limits or severely restricted — offers the best hope for recovery for our overstressed oceans. So why is such a small area of the world's oceans protected?
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As Arctic Sea Ice Retreats,<br /> Storms Take Toll on the Land

Report

As Arctic Sea Ice Retreats,
Storms Take Toll on the Land

by ed struzik
For millennia, the blanket of ice covering the Arctic Ocean protected the shore from damaging storms. But as that ice buffer disappears, increasingly powerful storm surges are eroding the coastline and sending walls of seawater inland, devastating Arctic ecosystems that support abundant wildlife.
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One Year Later: Assessing the<br /> Lasting Impact of the Gulf Spill

Opinion

One Year Later: Assessing the
Lasting Impact of the Gulf Spill

by carl safina
On the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the worst fears about the long-term damage from the oil spill have not been realized. But the big challenge is more fundamental: repairing the harm from the dams, levees, and canals that are devastating the Mississippi Delta and the Louisiana coast.
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After the Great Quake,<br /> Living with Earth’s Uncertainty

Essay

After the Great Quake,
Living with Earth’s Uncertainty

by verlyn klinkenborg
The Japanese earthquake and tsunami remind us that we exist in geologic time and in a world where catastrophic events beyond our predicting may occur. These events — and the growing specter of climate change — show how precariously we exist on the surface of a volatile planet.
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Tracking the Destructive Power<br /> Of the Pacific Ocean’s Tsunamis

Interview

Tracking the Destructive Power
Of the Pacific Ocean’s Tsunamis

The devastating tsunami in northeastern Japan is only one of many that have battered Japan over the eons. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, tsunami and earthquake expert Lori Dengler describes the historic and paleological record of tsunamis across the Pacific, and what it may mean in the future for Japan and the western United States.
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Deep-Sea Mining is Coming:<br /> Assessing the Potential Impacts

Interview

Deep-Sea Mining is Coming:
Assessing the Potential Impacts

by erica westly
Numerous companies are moving ahead rapidly with plans to mine copper, gold, and other minerals near hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. But in an interview with Yale Environment 360, marine biologist Cindy Lee Van Dover warns that without environmental safeguards the unique ecosystems of deep-sea vents could be severely damaged.
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How Fisheries Can Gain From<br /> The Lessons of Sustainable Food

Opinion

How Fisheries Can Gain From
The Lessons of Sustainable Food

by john waldman
As agriculture and energy production have made strides toward becoming more sustainable, the world’s fisheries have lagged behind. But restoring our beleaguered oceans to health will require an emphasis on diversification and conservation — and a more sensible mix of fishing practices.
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In Novel Approach to Fisheries, <br />Fishermen Manage the Catch

Report

In Novel Approach to Fisheries,
Fishermen Manage the Catch

by bruce barcott
An increasingly productive way of restoring fisheries is based on the counter-intuitive concept of allowing fishermen to take charge of their own catch. But the success of this growing movement depends heavily on a strong leader who will look out not only for the fishermen, but for the resource itself.
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Massive Outbreak of Jellyfish<br /> Could Spell Trouble for Fisheries

Report

Massive Outbreak of Jellyfish
Could Spell Trouble for Fisheries

by richard stone
The world’s oceans have been experiencing enormous blooms of jellyfish, apparently caused by overfishing, declining water quality, and rising sea temperatures. Now, scientists are trying to determine if these outbreaks could represent a “new normal” in which jellyfish increasingly supplant fish.
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Is the End in Sight for<br /> The World’s Coral Reefs?

Analysis

Is the End in Sight for
The World’s Coral Reefs?

by j.e.n. veron
It is a difficult idea to fathom. But the science is clear: Unless we change the way we live, the Earth's coral reefs will be utterly destroyed within our children's lifetimes.
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Hatch-22: The Problem with<br /> The Pacific Salmon Resurgence

Report

Hatch-22: The Problem with
The Pacific Salmon Resurgence

by bruce barcott
The number of salmon in the Pacific Ocean is twice what it was 50 years ago. But there is a downside to this bounty, as growing numbers of hatchery-produced salmon are flooding the Pacific and making it hard for threatened wild salmon species to find enough food to survive.
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Exploring the Links Between<br /> Hurricanes and Ocean Warming

Interview

Exploring the Links Between
Hurricanes and Ocean Warming

One of the more contentious issues facing climate scientists is whether rising ocean temperatures will cause more frequent and powerful hurricanes. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Kerry Emanuel, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that amid the uncertainty, one thing seems likely: an increase in the most potent — and destructive — storms.
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A Steady, Steep Decline for<br /> The Lowly, Uncharismatic Eel

Report

A Steady, Steep Decline for
The Lowly, Uncharismatic Eel

by james prosek
The freshwater eel, which spawns in the middle of the ocean, was once abundant in much of the world. But the proliferation of dams, coastal development, and overfishing have drastically reduced eel populations, with few defenders coming to the aid of these fascinating — though still not fully understood — creatures.
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The Legacy of the Gulf Spill:<br /> What to Expect for the Future?

Report

The Legacy of the Gulf Spill:
What to Expect for the Future?

by john mcquaid
The Gulf of Mexico’s capacity to recover from previous environmental assaults — especially the 1979 Ixtoc explosion — provides encouragement about the prospects for its post-Deepwater future. But scientists remain worried about the BP spill's long-term effects on the health of the Gulf and its sea life.
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A Looming Oxygen Crisis and<br /> Its Impact on World’s Oceans

Analysis

A Looming Oxygen Crisis and
Its Impact on World’s Oceans

by carl zimmer
As warming intensifies, scientists warn, the oxygen content of oceans across the planet could be more and more diminished, with serious consequences for the future of fish and other sea life.
READ MORE

High Above the Earth,<br /> Satellites Track Melting Ice

Report

High Above the Earth,
Satellites Track Melting Ice

by michael d. lemonick
The surest sign of a warming Earth is the steady melting of its ice zones, from disappearing sea ice in the Arctic to shrinking glaciers worldwide. Now, scientists are using increasingly sophisticated satellite technology to measure the extent, thickness, and height of ice, assembling an essential picture of a planet in transition.
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As the Far North Melts,<br /> Calls Grow for Arctic Treaty

Analysis

As the Far North Melts,
Calls Grow for Arctic Treaty

by ed struzik
The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a warning, conservationists say, of what could happen in the Arctic as melting sea ice opens the Arctic Ocean to oil and gas drilling. Many experts argue that the time has come to adopt an Arctic Treaty similar to the one that has safeguarded Antarctica for half a century.
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The Oil Spill’s Growing Toll<br /> On Sea Life in the Gulf of Mexico

Interview

The Oil Spill’s Growing Toll
On Sea Life in the Gulf of Mexico

by david biello
A prominent marine biologist says the impacts of the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico will persist for years, no matter when the flow finally stops. What’s more, scientist Thomas Shirley says that most of the damage remains out of sight below the surface, as creatures succumb to the toxic effects of the rapidly spreading tide of oil.
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Under Pressure to Block Oil,<br /> A Rush To Dubious Projects

Opinion

Under Pressure to Block Oil,
A Rush To Dubious Projects

by rob young
In response to the widening disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, government officials have approved a plan to intercept the oil by building a 45-mile sand berm. But scientists fear the project is a costly boondoggle that will inflict further environmental damage and do little to keep oil off the coast.
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The Microbe Factor and <br />Its Role in Our Climate Future

Analysis

The Microbe Factor and
Its Role in Our Climate Future

by carl zimmer
Within the planet’s oceans and soils are trillions of bacteria that store and release far more carbon dioxide than all of the Earth’s trees and plants. Now, scientists are attempting to understand how the world’s bacteria will influence — and be influenced by — a warming climate.
READ MORE

Anatomy of the BP Oil Spill:<br /> An Accident Waiting to Happen

Analysis

Anatomy of the BP Oil Spill:
An Accident Waiting to Happen

by john mcquaid
The oil slick spreading across the Gulf of Mexico has shattered the notion that offshore drilling had become safe. A close look at the accident shows that lax federal oversight, complacency by BP and the other companies involved, and the complexities of drilling a mile deep all combined to create the perfect environmental storm.
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After Two Decades of Delay,<br /> A Chance to Save Bluefin Tuna

Opinion

After Two Decades of Delay,
A Chance to Save Bluefin Tuna

by carl safina
The obscenely profitable market for bluefin tuna in Japan has led to years of overfishing and left the world’s bluefin population badly depleted. A ban on the bluefin trade, if adopted at international talks this month, would go a long way toward giving this magnificent fish a chance to recover.
READ MORE

An Ominous Warning on the<br />  Effects of Ocean Acidification

Analysis

An Ominous Warning on the
Effects of Ocean Acidification

by carl zimmer
A new study says the seas are acidifying ten times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred. And, the study concludes, current changes in ocean chemistry due to the burning of fossil fuels may portend a new wave of die-offs.
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How High Will Seas Rise?<br /> Get Ready for Seven Feet

Opinion

How High Will Seas Rise?
Get Ready for Seven Feet

by rob young and orrin pilkey
As governments, businesses, and homeowners plan for the future, they should assume that the world’s oceans will rise by at least two meters — roughly seven feet — this century. But far too few agencies or individuals are preparing for the inevitable increase in sea level that will take place as polar ice sheets melt.
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In Search of New Waters,<br /> Fish Farming Moves Offshore

Report

In Search of New Waters,
Fish Farming Moves Offshore

by john mcquaid
As wild fish stocks continue to dwindle, aquaculture is becoming an increasingly important source of protein worldwide. Now, a growing number of entrepreneurs are raising fish in large pens in the open ocean, hoping to avoid the many environmental problems of coastal fish farms.
READ MORE

The Nitrogen Fix:<br /> Breaking a Costly Addiction

Analysis

The Nitrogen Fix:
Breaking a Costly Addiction

by fred pearce
Over the last century, the intensive use of chemical fertilizers has saturated the Earth’s soils and waters with nitrogen. Now scientists are warning that we must move quickly to revolutionize agricultural systems and greatly reduce the amount of nitrogen we put into the planet's ecosystems.
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A Total Ban on Whaling?<br /> New Studies May Hold the Key

Opinion

A Total Ban on Whaling?
New Studies May Hold the Key

by fred pearce
As the International Whaling Commission debates whether to ban all whaling or to expand the limited hunts now underway, recent research has convinced some scientists that the world’s largest mammal should never be hunted again.
READ MORE

NOAA’s New Chief on Restoring<br /> Science to U.S. Climate Policy

Interview

NOAA’s New Chief on Restoring
Science to U.S. Climate Policy

by elizabeth kolbert
Marine biologist Jane Lubchenco now heads one of the U.S. government’s key agencies researching climate change — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Lubchenco discusses the central role her agency is playing in understanding the twin threats of global warming and ocean acidification.
READ MORE

Twenty Years Later, Impacts<br />  of the Exxon Valdez Linger

Report

Twenty Years Later, Impacts
of the Exxon Valdez Linger

by doug struck
Two decades after the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s waters, the Prince William Sound, its fishermen, and its wildlife have still not fully recovered.
READ MORE

Opinion

A Call for Tougher Standards
on Mercury Levels in Fish

by jane hightower
In response to industry pressure, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has failed to set adequate restrictions on mercury levels in fish. Now the Obama administration must move forcefully to tighten those standards and warn the public which fish are less safe to eat.
READ MORE

Regulators Are Pushing<br /> Bluefin Tuna to the Brink

Opinion

Regulators Are Pushing
Bluefin Tuna to the Brink

by carl safina
The international commission charged with protecting the giant bluefin tuna is once again failing to do its job. Its recent decision to ignore scientists’ recommendations for reducing catch limits may spell doom for this magnificent – and endangered – fish.
READ MORE

A Corporate Approach to <br />Rescuing the World’s Fisheries

Report

A Corporate Approach to
Rescuing the World’s Fisheries

by nicholas day
The commitment by Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, and other major companies to buy only sustainably-caught seafood is an encouraging sign in an otherwise bleak global fisheries picture. After decades of government inaction and ineffective consumer campaigns, corporate pressure may finally be starting to turn the tide on reckless overfishing.
READ MORE

Alaska’s Pebble Mine:<br /> Fish Versus Gold

Report

Alaska’s Pebble Mine:
Fish Versus Gold

by bill sherwonit
With the support of Gov. Sarah Palin, mining interests have defeated an Alaska ballot measure that could have blocked a huge proposed mining project. Now, plans are moving forward to exploit the massive gold and copper deposit at Bristol Bay, home of one of the world’s greatest salmon runs.
READ MORE

The Arctic Resource Rush is On

Report

The Arctic Resource Rush is On

by ed struzik
As the Arctic's sea ice melts, energy and mining companies are moving into previously inaccessible regions to tap the abundant riches that lie beneath the permafrost and the ocean floor. The potential environmental impacts are troubling.
READ MORE

Analysis

Carbon’s Burden on the World’s Oceans

by carl safina and marah j. hardt
The burgeoning amount of carbon dioxide in oceans is affecting a lot more than coral reefs. It is also damaging marine life and, most ominously, threatening the future survival of marine populations.
READ MORE

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RELATED e360 DIGEST ITEMS


19 Sep 2016: Arctic Sea Ice Extent in 2016 Ties
As Second Lowest in the Satellite Record

Arctic sea ice extent shrank to 1.6 million square miles earlier this month — tying 2016 with 2007 as the second lowest sea ice minimum since satellite records began.

Sea ice extent in September 2016.
The lowest year remains 2012. The new measurements follow a decades-long trend of declining sea ice extent in the Arctic as global temperatures rise. According to NASA, “September Arctic sea ice is now declining at a rate of 13.4 percent per decade, relative to the 1981 to 2010 average.” The ten lowest sea ice extents have all happened in the last ten years. Since 2016 is considered likely to be the warmest year on record, scientists had anticipated an even worse year for sea ice. But “unusually cool, cloudy conditions” in the region for much of the summer helped reduce ice melt, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
PERMALINK

 

15 Sep 2016: Obama Announces First
Marine Protected Area off U.S. East Coast

President Obama is creating a 4,913-square-mile marine monument off the New England coast, adding to a long list of marine protected areas established in recent years by the Obama and Bush administrations. The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, 130 miles southeast of Cape Cod, contains massive undersea canyons and towering seamounts and is the first fully protected federal marine reserve off the eastern seaboard. The area is home to deep-sea corals, sharks, deep-diving marine mammals, whales, and sea turtles, and is a rich fishing ground. The fishing industry objected to the creation of the marine monument, arguing that existing fisheries management laws were sufficient to protect the area. Under the new designation, commercial fishing will be phased out over seven years. Obama has also recently created massive marine reserves off Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast, and today a quarter of U.S. waters are under strong federal protection.
PERMALINK

 

12 Sep 2016: Dolphins Speak in Ways Similar
To Human Conversation, Finds New Study

Dolphins communicate in a way very similar to how humans talk, saying up to five complex “words” in a sentence and pausing to listen to each other before speaking, according to a new study. Researchers at the T. I. Vyazemsky Karadag Scientific Station in Russia observed the conversation in two Black Sea bottlenose dolphins, known as Yasha and Yana. “The dolphins took turns producing pulse packs [words and phrases] and did not interrupt each other, which gives reason to believe that each of the dolphins listened to the other's pulses before producing its own,” the scientists wrote in the study. “This language exhibits all the design features present in human spoken language, [indicating] a high level of intelligence and consciousness in dolphins.”
PERMALINK

 

02 Sep 2016: Scientists Have Found
Another Massive Reef In Australia

Scientists have discovered a massive, deepwater reef along the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef in northeastern Australia. The newly charted,

A newly mapped bioherm reef in Australia.
1.5 million-acre marine ecosystem contains thousands of donut-shaped rings known as bioherms, built by the green algae Halimeda, each of which measure 650 to 1,000 feet across and 66 feet thick. Scientists have known the rings were there since the 1970s, but had no idea how extensive the reef was, said Robin Beaman , a marine geologist at James Cook University and one of the co-authors of the research. Using LiDAR surveying technology, the Australian scientists found the bioherm reef is three times larger than previously estimated. The structures have likely been built over the past 10,000 years, the scientists said, and will provide clues on how the environment has changed over that time. The research was published in the journal Coral Reefs.
PERMALINK

 

24 Aug 2016: How Elephant Seals Are
Helping Scientists Study Climate Change

A group of southern elephant seals is helping scientists monitor how climate change is impacting Antarctica by tracking water temperature, depth, and salinity as they swim and dive around the frozen continent.

An elephant seal wearing a data tracker.
Most recently, data from the seals — which routinely dive to depths of 1,000 to 2,000 feet — showed that water melting off the Antarctic ice sheet is causing the surrounding seas to become less salty, disrupting a conveyor belt-like system that transfers heat and nutrients around the globe. The new findings were published this week in the journal Nature Communications. The elephant seal data, as well as records from monitoring devices on other marine mammals, have generated more than 500,000 vertical profiles of temperature and salinity in the world’s oceans and helped inform nearly 100 scientific studies. “"At the moment it's all about filling gaps” in the environmental records, lead author Guy Williams of the University of Tasmania told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “The [seals] have gone to areas where we've never had an observation before."
PERMALINK

 

18 Aug 2016: Urine From Large Fish Critical
To Reef Health—And Fishing Is Reducing It

Studies have shown that large fish such as grouper, snapper, and barracuda release key nutrients essential for healthy coral reefs through their urine and body tissue.

A barracuda swims along a Caribbean coral reef.
Now, new research in Nature Communications has found that in areas where fishing occurs, nearly half of these nutrients are missing from the reefs, threatening their well-being. The study was conducted by four U.S. scientists, who surveyed 143 fish species at 110 sites across 43 Caribbean coral reefs, with varying levels of fishing activity, from marine preserves where anglers are banned to heavily fished reefs. “This study is useful to understand alternative ways fishing is affecting coral reef ecosystems,” said Jacob Allgeier, an ecologist at the University of Washington and lead author of the new study. “Simply stated, fish biomass in coral reefs is being reduced by fishing pressure. If biomass is shrinking, there are fewer fish to pee.”
PERMALINK

 

15 Aug 2016: Researchers Discover Ocean
Crust Dating Back 340 Million Years

Scientists have found what they believe is the world’s oldest piece of ocean floor — dating to more than 300 million years ago — in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Herodotus Basin in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Because shifting tectonic plates continuously drag seafloor rock into the earth’s mantle, most ocean crust is younger than 200 million years. The new discovery, found in the Herodotus Basin between Cyprus, Crete, and Egypt, indicates that area of seafloor is likely a remnant of the Tethys Ocean, which existed at the time of the Pangaea supercontinent, according to a new study in the journal Nature Geoscience. To determine the rock’s age, scientists dragged a magnetometer behind a research vessel on four different trips, measuring the magnetic signals in the underlying seafloor, and comparing them to signals of the African continental plate and the earth’s shifting magnetic alignment over millions of years. They determined that the oceanic crust in the Herodotus Basin is between 315 and 365 million years old.
PERMALINK

 

11 Aug 2016: Shipping Noise Causes Whales
To Dive More Slowly and Forage Less

Ocean noise caused by shipping can cause humpback whales to dive more slowly and forage less frequently, according to new research in the journal Biology Letters.

A humpback whale diving.
A team of U.S. and U.K. researchers tagged 10 humpbacks in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of Massachusetts, with devices that simultaneously tracked the whales’ movements and underwater noise. They found that as ship noise increased, the whales dove 15 percent more slowly and did one-third fewer side-roll feedings, a foraging technique humpbacks use to catch fish near the seafloor. The findings are the latest addition to a growing list of negative impacts from ocean noise on marine mammals, including disrupted communication, higher stress levels, and increased vulnerability as acoustic pollution masks predator movement. “Chronic impacts of even small reductions in foraging efficiency could affect individual fitness and translate to population-level effects on humpback whales,” the scientists wrote.
PERMALINK

 

04 Aug 2016: UNESCO Moves To Expand
World Heritage Sites Into the Deep Ocean

UNESCO has launched a campaign to include deep-sea ecosystems in its list of World Heritage Sites. Previously, only sites within national jurisdiction,

A Dumbo octopus in the deep sea.
either on land or close to shore, could be given heritage status and UNESCO protection. But ecosystems within the open ocean, which covers more than half the planet, deserve similar classification, UNESCO says. In a new report, World Heritage in the High Seas: An Idea Whose Time Has Come, the organization presents five biodiversity hotspots—many of which are at risk from climate change, pollution, over-fishing, and deep-sea mining—worthy of recognition: the Costa Rica Thermal Dome; the White Shark Café, a shark gathering point in the Pacific Ocean; the Sargasso Sea; the Lost City Hydrothermal Field, with its 200-foot carbonate towers, in the Atlantic Ocean; and the Atlantis Bank, a sunken fossil island, in the Indian Ocean.
PERMALINK

 

03 Aug 2016: Roughly 2 Percent of U.S. Homes
At Risk from Sea Level Rise, Report Finds

Almost 1.9 million homes in the U.S. — roughly 2 percent of the nation’s housing stock, worth $882 billion — could be underwater by 2100 with six feet of sea level rise,

Boston homes at risk of flooding.
according to a new report by Zillow, an online real estate database. One in eight Florida homes, representing $413 billion in property value, could flood by the end of the century. In Hawaii, one in 10 homes are at risk and in New Jersey, one in 13. The new analysis is based on climate projections and mapping from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as Zillow’s database of 100 million U.S. properties. It found coastal cities, such as Miami and Honolulu, are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. More than 1 in 6 Boston homes could be underwater by 2100. These estimates don’t include commercial buildings or government properties.
PERMALINK

 

01 Aug 2016: Bacteria in Sea Ice Could Play
Role in Mercury Pollution in Oceans

Scientists have discovered bacteria living in Antarctic sea ice that could play a role in mercury contamination of fish, birds, and other marine species.

Antarctic sea ice.
The bacteria, Nitrospina, can transform mercury found in sea ice — originating from sources such as coal-fired power plants — into the more toxic methylmercury. The heavy metal pollutant—which impacts brain development and can cause mental and physical ailments—accumulates in higher concentrations in marine life as it moves up through the food chain. The findings were published Monday in the journal Nature Microbiology by scientists at the University of Melborne, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Lawrence Livermore National Lab. John Moreau, a geomicrobiologist at the University of Melbourne who helped lead the study, said in a statement that the findings beg further study into the sources and behavior of mercury in the oceans, "particularly in a warming climate and when depleted fish stocks means more seafood companies are looking south."
PERMALINK

 

21 Jul 2016: South Africa’s Great White
Shark Population At Risk of Extinction

South Africa’s great white sharks are at risk of disappearing due to pollution, human interference, and a limited gene pool, according to a new study in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.

A great white shark.
Scientists from Stellenbosch University spent six years tracking great white populations in Gansbaai, a fishing town and shark hotspot in western South Africa. They estimated there are 350 to 520 great whites remaining along the country’s coastline — 52 percent fewer than previously thought. "The numbers… are extremely low. If the situation stays the same, South Africa's great white sharks are heading for possible extinction," Sara Andreotti, a marine biologist and lead author of the study, said in a statement. The scientists said shark nets, poaching, habitat encroachment, pollution, and loss of food were all to blame for the sharks’ demise. Low genetic diversity among the remaining sharks would make it difficult for the population to bounce back, they said.
PERMALINK

 

At Ground Zero for Rising Seas,
A TV Weatherman Talks Climate

John Morales is part of a new breed of TV weather forecasters seeking to educate viewers on climate change and the threat it poses.
John Morales

John Morales
In South Florida, where porous limestone geology and sea level rise are already causing periodic flooding, he has a rapt audience. The chief meteorologist of the NBC affiliate station in Miami, Morales uses his broadcasts and Twitter feed to tie weather trends in South Florida to the broader influences of climate change. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Morales discusses a heartening shift away from climate change skepticism among the nation’s television weather forecasters, the positive public reaction to his discussion of climate change, and the daunting threats facing the Miami area, ranked as one of the regions in the world most vulnerable to sea level rise.
Read the interview.
PERMALINK

 

13 Jul 2016: Six Years After BP Spill,
Remaining Oil More Toxic Than Ever To Fish

Six years after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig spilled nearly three million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, scientists have found that ultraviolet light

Juvenile mahi-mahi.
is transforming the remaining oil into a more toxic substance that hinders the development of heart, eye, and brain function in fish. The research, led by scientists at the University of California, Riverside and the University of Miami, exposed embryos and larvae of mahi-mahi from the Gulf of Mexico to what they called weathered (exposed to years of sunlight) and un-weathered oil (taken from the drilling site) from the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010. Compared to fish exposed to un-weathered oil, the fish exposed to the weathered oil experienced impaired eye and neurological function, reduced heart rates, and a buildup of excess fluid in the heart.
PERMALINK

 

06 Jul 2016: As Oceans Become More Acidic,
Mussels Could Lose Ability to Hang On

Rising carbon dioxide emissions have caused the world’s oceans to become 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution, affecting everything from marine life’s ability to build shells

Trossulus byssus mussels.
to the pH level of fishes’ blood. Now, scientists have discovered that more acidic water also prevents mussels from attaching to rocks and other surfaces, which could have ramifications on the global food chain, the economy, and ecosystem health. Oceans today have a pH of about 8.1. When the pH drops below 7.6, the adhesive plaque that cements mussels to hard surfaces becomes weaker, according to the new research by scientists at the University of Washington. Unattached mussels are easy prey for predators like crabs, fish, and sea stars. Mussels play an important role in filtering pollutants from waterways. They are also a critical food source for coastal communities, with the industry worth an estimated $1.4 billion.
PERMALINK

 

23 Jun 2016: Scientists Discover Contagious
Cancer in More Species of Shellfish

Last year, scientists discovered a type of contagious cancer in soft-shell clams in which free-floating cells transmitted the disease from one animal to another.

Mussels
Now, a team of Columbia University researchers is reporting that contagious cancers in the ocean may be more common than previously thought and can not only jump from animal to animal, but across species. According to the new study published in Nature, the leukemia-like cancer, known as disseminated neoplasia, has been found in three more species of bivalves: mussels, cockles, and golden carpet shell clams. The cancer cells were genetically distinct from their hosts, indicating they originated elsewhere. Transmissible cancer had previously been found in Tasmanian devils and dogs, but there’s no indication that humans are at risk. “I would only worry deeply if I was a mollusk,” Stephen P. Goff, a molecular biologist at Columbia University and co-author of the study, told The New York Times.
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Unable to Endure Rising Seas,
Alaskan Villages Stuck in Limbo

A number of Alaska Native villages have been impacted so severely by sea-level rise and other climate-induced threats, they have decided to relocate.
Robin Bronen

Robin Bronen
But there is no U.S. agency designated to help pay for and implement an entire community’s move. Robin Bronen, a senior scientist with The Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska, says that’s a huge problem. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she explains that because there is no government process to facilitate such relocations, none of these villages have been able to move, despite their resolve to do so. And in a bureaucratic Catch-22, these communities no longer receive the infrastructure repair funds they were once entitled to. Pointing to future sea level rise along U.S. coasts, Bronen says that “if we don't figure out how to create this relocation institutional framework, we're talking about humanitarian crises for millions of people living in the United States.”
Read the interview.
PERMALINK

 

16 Jun 2016: Some Coral Reef “Bright Spots”
Remain, Despite Devastating Bleaching

After decades of being overfished and mismanaged, and the worst bleaching event on record this year, scientists reported in the journal Nature this week that there remain some “bright spots” among the world’s coral reefs

Coral reef on the Palmyra Atoll in the Pacific.
– systems that are doing better than anyone expected. The study examined 18 different factors at 2,514 reefs in 46 nations, including water depth, tourism, fishing, and population density. Those systems that were still thriving — defined by the scientists as having more fish than expected — tended to be managed by, and accessible only to, local fishermen and indigenous groups. This included reefs in places like the Solomon Islands, parts of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Kiribati. “There’s been a narrative about local involvement, but it’s often very token,” Joshua Cinner, a research fellow at James Cook University in Australia and lead author of the study, told The Atlantic. He said there should be more opportunity for “communities to creatively confront their own challenges.”
PERMALINK

 

09 Jun 2016: Fish Can Recognize Human
Faces, According to One New Study

Fish now join humans, monkeys, primates, and birds as one of the few animals able to distinguish faces, according to new research published in the journal Scientific Reports this week.

James St. John/Wikimedia
The skill requires a sophisticated combination of perception and memory— and generally, a neocortex. But scientists at the University of Oxford in England and the University of Queensland in Australia were able to train archerfish to recognize human faces, despite the fact that these tropical fish don’t have complex brain structures. Archerfish typically feed by spitting water at prey, like insects. So the scientists taught the fish to spray water at images of particular human faces in exchange for food. Archerfish identified the correct person 81 percent of the time.
PERMALINK

 

08 Jun 2016: Sea Ice Hits New Spring Low
In the Arctic, Says Federal Agency

Sea ice extent in the Arctic hit a new record spring low last month, measuring 537,000 square miles below average — an area twice the size of Texas, the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced this week.

NASA/GSFC
Sea ice breaking up in the Beaufort Sea in May.
Last month’s Arctic sea ice extent was the lowest May sea ice measurement since satellite monitoring began 38 years ago and follows a string of record low ice this winter. “We didn’t just break the old May record, we’re way below the previous one,” NSIDC Director Mark Serreze told Climate Central. The Arctic’s snow cover also hit record lows this year, with April having the lowest snow cover for that month on record and May the fourth lowest. The Arctic has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the world in recent decades, but scientists say that this year’s strong El Niño in the Pacific Ocean could be ramping up temperatures even more. Temperatures at the pole have been 4 to 11 degrees F above average this winter. “Will we end up with very low sea ice extent this September?” Serreze said. “I think pretty much absolutely.”
PERMALINK

 

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