Tagged: Marine Mammals

A North Atlantic right whale and calf. (Credit: Wikiwand)

Endangered Species Act In Danger?

What do blue whales, loggerhead sea turtles, southern bluefin tuna, dugongs, manatees, sea otters, hammerhead sharks, and Elkhorn corals have in common? They’re all listed as endangered – and therefore federally protected – under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). With alarming numbers of North Atlantic right whale deaths and fishing entanglements this summer, this 1973 law is at the forefront of marine scientists’ minds. In a House Natural Resources hearing on Wednesday, the full committee gathered to discuss five Republican-authored bills to reform the landmark act. The majority press release identifies the goals of the bills as increasing responsibilities of states, improving data transparency, altering listing and delisting processes, and discouraging costly lawsuits.

Air gun array on a research vessel, used for reflection seismic profiles in the ocean (Credit: Hannes Grobe, Wiki Commons)

Expand Offshore Drilling Or Focus On Renewables?

At a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing, as lawmakers explored the potential for offshore drilling in Alaska and the Atlantic, seismic testing was once again a controversial topic. Seismic tests are used to determine the presence and abundance of oil; registering at 120 decibels, Representative Jared Huffman (CA-2) said the blasts have “an enormous and obvious impact” on marine mammals. Witness Nikki Martin (President, International Association of Geophysical Contractors) disagreed, claiming that there is no scientific evidence showing harm to marine mammals (despite studies showing otherwise).

A new rule aims to protect marine mammals from becoming bycatch. (Credit: Boyd Amanda/ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Fishing Rule Aims To Do For All Marine Mammals What It Did For The Dolphin

The vaquita is a small porpoise found only in the northern Gulf of California, in Mexico. Today, the species is critically endangered, with less than 60 animals left in the wild, thanks to fishing nets to catch fish and shrimp for sale in Mexico and America. The animal is an accidental victim of the fishing industry, as are many other marine mammals.

NOAA announced a recovery plan for Beluga whales in Alaska. (Credit: Mike Johnston/Flickr)

NOAA Releases Plan for Alaska Endangered Beluga Whales

A federal plan for the recovery of an endangered Alaska beluga whale calls for a reduction in threats of high concern while scientists try to pinpoint what has kept the population from growing. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday announced its recovery plan for Cook Inlet beluga whales, a population listed as endangered since 2008.

Deep sea corals will be protected from destructive fishing gear in a new protected area in the Atlantic. (Credit: NOAA National Ocean

Atlantic Ocean Area The Size Of Virginia Protected From Deep-Water Fishing

Coral in an area in the Atlantic Ocean stretching from Connecticut to Virginia has been protected from deep-sea commercial fishing gear, by a new rule issued this week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The protected area covers some 38,000 square miles of federal waters, NOAA says, which is about the size of Virginia. It’s the “largest area in the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico protected from a range of destructive fishing gear,” according to the NRDC, an environmental advocacy group.

The new resilience area spans from north of the Bering Strait, shown here, to north of Bristol Bay, which is farther south. (Credit: NASA/GSFC/JPL/MISR-Team)

Obama Creates ‘Resilience Area’ To Protect Bering Ecosystem

President Barack Obama responded to appeals from Alaska Native villages and gave them more of a say in the federal management of marine resources of the Bering Sea. Obama signed an executive order Friday to create a Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area that will focus “locally tailored” protections on marine resources. The newly created resilience area covers 112,300 square miles and stretches from north of the Bering Strait to north of Bristol Bay. The order requires more focused federal consultation with Alaska tribes and 39 communities that line the west coast of Alaska, along with state officials. The area supports what may be the world’s largest annual marine mammal migration of bowhead and beluga whales, Pacific walrus, ice seals and migratory birds.

(Click to enlarge) The Northeast Ocean Plan and the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan were released today. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Nation’s First Ocean Plans

Today, the National Ocean Council (NOC) finalized the Nation’s first ocean plans, taking a historic step toward fulfilling President Obama’s commitment to healthy ocean ecosystems and a strong, sustainable marine economy. The two regional plans, the Northeast Ocean Plan and the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan, promote the use of integrated ocean data and best practices for informed and efficient management of the Nation’s shared marine resources. This approach is designed to work across all levels of government and to advance economic, environmental, and cultural priorities within each region. In addition to years of historic collaboration among states, tribes, Federal agencies, and Fishery Management Councils, the Plans are a result of extensive participation and input from marine stakeholders representing fishing, recreation, energy, transportation, telecommunications, and many other interests.

The melting of sea ice in Antarctica has global impacts. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Antarctica: More Than Penguins

Most homebuyers don’t think about Antarctica when buying beachfront property. But maybe they should. The 5.4 million-square-mile Antarctic ice sheet is melting, and scientists estimate that if it disappeared completely, sea level would rise by 200 feet. While no one expects complete melting to happen in the immediate future, competing pressures are increasing the rate of ice melt, whose impacts will be felt in varying ways around the globe – and could even affect that beachfront buy sooner rather than later. In addition to Antarctica’s globally significant role in sea level rise, ocean and atmospheric circulation, and carbon cycling, it has a unique ecosystem that offers myriad opportunities for scientific research. Last week, at a congressional briefing hosted by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), scientists discussed the changing Antarctic and research opportunities in light of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s strategic vision for NSF-supported research in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean over the next ten years.

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing on reducing regulatory burdens. (Credit: Kris Krüg/WikiCommons)

Six Years After The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

On April 20, 2010, the Gulf of Mexico and the lives and livelihoods of those dependent on it changed after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sent oil gushing from the sea floor for 87 days. Efforts are still being made to understand how the 3.1 million barrels of oil and 1.8 million gallons of chemical dispersant (used to break the oil into smaller droplets) have and will affect life in the Gulf of Mexico – both aquatic and human – and the ecosystem itself. At a congressional briefing sponsored by retiring Representative Sam Farr (CA-20), experts came together to discuss the state of understanding of the effects of the spill and direction for the future.