Scientists Provide First Large-scale Estimate of Reef Shark Losses in the Pacific Ocean


Shark! (Photo credit: guitarfish)

First study to provide estimates of reef shark losses in the Pacific Ocean are sobering. Researchers noted the enormous detrimental effect that humans have on reef sharks.

Many shark populations have plummeted in the past three decades as a result of excessive harvesting — for their fins, as an incidental catch of fisheries targeting other species, and in recreational fisheries. This is particularly true for oceanic species. However, until now, a lack of data prevented scientists from properly quantifying the status of Pacific reef sharks at a large geographic scale.

In a study published online April 27 in the journal Conservation Biology, an international team of marine scientists provide the first estimates of reef shark losses in the Pacific Ocean. Using underwater surveys conducted over the past decade across 46 U.S. Pacific islands and atolls, as part of NOAA’s extensive Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program the team compared reef shark numbers at reefs spanning from heavily impacted ones to those among the world’s most pristine …

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Countdown to Extinction Continues for World’s Rarest Dolphin

Just 100 Maui’s dolphins left alive

There are just 100 Maui's dolphins left alive. Credit NABU image

There are just 100 Maui’s dolphins left alive. Credit NABU

January 2012. Another one of the world’s last 100 Maui’s dolphins died in fishing net in New Zealand. Its death is a another stark reminder that measures to protect the world’s most endangered marine dolphin against fisheries bycatch are inadequate to prevent their extinction.

Another one of the world’s last 100 Maui’s dolphins died in a fishing net in New Zealand.

“Despite overwhelming evidence that Maui’s dolphins are being killed faster than they can breed, there is a conspiracy of silence concerning these unique marine mammals”, says Thomas Tennhardt, Vice President of NABU and Chair of NABU International. Unless we can break it, Maui’s dolphins simply don’t stand a chance. Their extinction is unlikely to flatter New Zealand’s international image”.


Consumer Demand for Fish Depletes the Ocean’s Resources

Ocean fish are the last wild creatures that people hunt on a large scale. We used to think of the ocean’s bounty as endless, until recently — we have now discovered its limits. Between 1950 and 1994, ocean fishermen increased their catch by 400 percent by doubling the number of boats and using more effective fishing gear, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

Chinese cuisine Shark fin soup image

"I don't blame the fishermen for this," says marine biologist Sylvia Earle. "We — the consumers — have done this, because we have a taste for fish and 'delicacies' such as shark-fin soup".

In 1989, the world’s catch leveled off at a little more than 82 million metric tons of fish per year. We have reached “peak fish,” and no amount of boats will help us catch more. Today, only 10 percent of all large fish — both open-ocean species (including tuna, swordfish and marlin) as well as the large groundfish (such as cod, halibut, skates and flounder) — are left in the sea, according to research published in National Geographic.

“From giant blue marlin to mighty bluefin tuna, and from tropical groupers to Antarctic cod, industrial fishing has scoured the global ocean,” lead author Ransom Myers told National Geographic. “There is no blue frontier left. Since 1950, with the onset of industrialized fisheries, we have rapidly reduced the resource base to less than 10 percent — not just in some areas, not just for some stocks, but for entire communities of these large fish species, from the tropics to the poles.”

Co-author Boris Worm said, “The impact we have had on ocean ecosystems has been vastly underestimated. These are the megafauna, the big predators of the sea, and the species we most value. Their depletion not only threatens the future of these fish and the fishers who depend on them. It could also bring about a complete re-organization of ocean ecosystems, with unknown global consequences.”

“I don’t blame the fishermen for this,” says marine biologist Sylvia Earle. “We — the consumers — have done this, because we have a taste for fish and ‘delicacies’ such as shark-fin soup. Our demand for seafood appears to be insatiable … driven by high-end appetites. I’ve always believed that even when there is only one bluefin tuna left in the sea, someone will pay a million dollars to be able to eat it.”

Earle, who is also an author and sustainability advocate, points out that “most people also don’t know how bad it is for us to be eating so much fish, not only because of the destruction of an ecosystem vital to survival, but also because the big, predatory fish are full of the toxins and other pollutants that we cast into the oceans.”

“It’s not as healthy to eat fish as most people believe,” she says.

Three factors are responsible for the depletion of our oceans:

  • Coastal wetlands are a fertile habitat for fish and shellfish but also popular places for people. More than half of the world’s people live near a sea coast, which places most of our large cities next to the ocean. Sewage, oil, chemicals and agricultural fertilizer pollute bay waters. Paved surfaces near wetlands and tidal areas increase storm-water runoff.
  • Trawling and dragging are fishing methods that destroy habitat by dredging up the sea floor. Some trawlers put rockhopper gear, including old tires, along the base of their nets in order to roll over rocky reefs, giving sea life no place to hide. Dredges drag nets with a chain mesh base through soft sand or mud to catch scallops and sea urchins, crushing other life on the seafloor and damaging places where fish feed and breed. Some scientists believe that fishing with rockhoppers and dredges harms the ocean more than any other human activity.
  • According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, one in four animals caught in fishing gear dies as bycatch (unwanted or unintentional catch). Tons of fish are tossed out because they’re not what the fishing boat was after, have no market value or are too small to sell. Bycatch often takes young fish that could rebuild depleted populations if they were allowed to grow up and breed. It is estimated that for each pound of shrimp caught in a trawl net, an average of two to 10 pounds of other marine life is caught and discarded as bycatch.

Some seafood can be sustainably farmed. Clams are raised in special beds on sandy shores, where their harvest does little to disturb the ecosystem. Oysters and mussels are often raised in bags or cages that are suspended off the seafloor, doing little damage during harvest.

Many farmed fish such as salmon, however, are grown in net pens, like cattle in a feed lot. This is as environmentally damaging to the ocean as cattle feed lots are to land. Additionally, mangrove forests have been cut down and replaced with temporary shrimp farms that supply shrimp to Europe, Japan and America, until the water becomes polluted.

This article was first published on August,10 2011 by Shawn Dell Joyce – Consumer Demand for Fish Depletes the Ocean’s Resources – The Paramus Post – News and Lifestyle Webzine.

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Would You Like an Endangered Species With Your Tuna Sandwich?

Would You Like an Endangered Species With Your Tuna Sandwich?Tonight I watched Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Hugh’s Fish Fight: The Battle Continues, the follow-up to the influential BAFTA-winning Fish Fight series broadcasted in January.

I was well impressed by the campaign’s achievements so far and amazed by how some of the most complicated issues and threats to our oceans were so simply explained. I was less impressed by Hugh using a plastic carrier bag to do his shopping at TESCO … Surely he could have used his own Fish Fight tote bag! but eh! I guess one can’t battle all battles at once …

Amongst the campaign’s successes, the Fish Fight helped pile the pressure on supermarkets and tinned tuna brands that were still addicted to destructive fishing using indiscriminate deathtraps known as FADs (Fish Aggregation Devices) getting commitments from some of the most influential companies to dump FADs and switch to pole and line and FAD-free purse seine fishing.

According to Greenpeace, these commitments can reduce bycatch by up to 90%, giving the juvenile and threatened tuna, as well as sharks, rays, turtles and even dolphins a fighting chance. These changes have come about with thousands of emails, phone calls and more, that have led to the commitments that will make the UK the world’s most sustainable tuna market. It is reassuring and refreshing to see that people’s voice (including mine) is being heard! When people join forces, politicians can’t ignore it!

By reading on the sustainable tuna market and bycatch topics I stumbled upon this great blog post worth reading:
This week I’m going to be highlighting the issue of Tuna as it’s possibly one of the most common fish products on our shelves, but also one that harbors some of the greatest environmental issues. The issue with Tuna is that although many of us have the impression that Dolphin friendly Tuna is sustainable and environmentally sourced, this is just a huge misconception. The truth is that the Dolphin friendly label is very ambiguous and can identify … Read More or watch this great video clip.

via moralcoral

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NOAA steps up effort to address sea turtle mortality, seeks public input

Published on: June, 24 2011NOAA steps up effort to address sea turtle mortality, seeks public input.

Shrimp trawler imageAs part of stepped-up efforts to address an increase in sea turtle strandings in the Gulf of Mexico, NOAA announced today it will explore new rules to reduce unintended catch and mortality of sea turtles in the southeastern shrimp fishery.

NOAA has documented an increase in sea turtle strandings in the northern Gulf, particularly throughout the Mississippi Sound area. Between January 1, 2011 and June 17, 2011, 379 sea turtle strandings have been reported along the Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana coastline. The majority of these strandings, 238 turtles, occurred in Mississippi. NOAA leads the National Stranding Network, and is actively monitoring trends and investigating the cause of the strandings.

Results of the necropsies done to date indicate many of the turtles likely drowned. The exact causes of all of the drownings and any contributing factors have yet to be determined.

NOAA has scheduled a series of public scoping meetings in mid-July in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and North Carolina, to solicit public comments to assist  the  agency in identifying  issues and options for evaluation in a draft Environmental Impact Statement assessing the environmental impacts of  potential regulatory approaches reduce sea turtle mortality.

Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs), required in most shrimp fisheries, are effective at reducing sea turtle drowning when properly installed and maintained. However, one type of gear, shrimp skimmer trawls, is currently allowed to operate without TEDs, and is instead regulated using tow time limits. The focus of this scoping process is to assess options to reduce sea turtle bycatch in the southeastern shrimp fishery.

In other efforts to increase compliance, NOAA’s Fisheries Service gear experts and enforcement personnel have hosted several turtle excluder device workshops throughout the Gulf states to provide information and assistance to fishermen on federal requirements and proper installation of the devices. These experts have conducted numerous courtesy inspections on the docks and at-sea to improve compliance within the Gulf shrimp fishery.

NOAA is also actively working to improve compliance by conducting numerous enforcement patrols throughout the Gulf. “Violations of turtle excluder device requirements are being documented, and warnings and citations issued,” said Alan Risenhoover, acting director of NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Law Enforcement. “These actions, combined with increased visibility on the water and outreach on the docks, seem to be resulting in increased compliance.”

The shrimp industry has also directly reached out to its members to provide information about turtle excluder device compliance. The Southern Shrimp Alliance scheduled more than a dozen meetings to inform their members that turtle excluder device compliance is a serious issue, stressing the importance of proper installation and maintenance.

Today’s announcement is another step to address a problem recognized by fishing industry leaders. NOAA scientists and managers will continue to work closely with the fishing community and the states to improve compliance, and enhance use of fishing gear and techniques to prevent sea turtles from being caught in fishing nets.

In responding to the increased number of sea turtle deaths in the Gulf region, NOAA is also assessing potential impacts to sea turtles resulting from the Deepwater Horizon spill. Those injury assessment efforts are ongoing.

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