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Marine Resources


August 2016 Issue

Tagging Sea Turtles
In Solomon Islands

The Nature Conservancy and local conservation officers launched the first hawksbill sea turtle satellite tagging program in the largest rookery in the South Pacific, the Arnavon Community Marine Conservation Area (ACMCA) in the Solomon Islands, a crucial breeding ground for this critically endangered species. The new data will show whether the current Arnavon boundaries are sufficient to protect nesting turtles and where they migrate between nesting years.

The Nature Conservancy placed Argos/GPS Fastloc satellite tags on 10 hawksbill turtles to track where turtles travel and their specific locations when they are at nesting and foraging grounds. Ten more hawksbills will be tagged per year in 2017 and 2018.

This study will help protect turtles throughout their lifespans. The live tracking map can be seen at www.nature.org/seaturtle.

Coral Reefs Declining,
But ‘Bright Spots’ Exist

When it comes to coral reefs, there’s good news and bad news, according to one of the largest global studies of these imperiled habitats. While overfishing has led to coral reef degradation, it seems certain “bright spots” exist.

Researchers from 34 different universities and conservation groups, including the Moorea Coral Reef Long Term Ecological Research site (MCR LTER) overseen by UC Santa Barbara, conducted more than 6,000 reef surveys across the globe. They discovered 15 places where, against all odds, coral reefs were home to more fish than expected based on their exposure to pressures such as human population, poverty and unfavorable environmental conditions.

The team’s analysis identified places not previously known to be successful. Bright spots were typically found in the Pacific Ocean in places like the Solomon Islands, parts of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Kiribati. They have in common: strong local involvement in how the reefs were managed, local ownership rights and traditional management practices.

The investigators also identified 35 “dark spots”, where fish stocks were in worse shape than expected. They’re defining characteristics are: intensive netting activities and easy access to freezers for fish stockpiling. Dark spots were more globally distributed and found in every major ocean basin.

Marine Mammal Sound
Database Now Online

Over his more than 40 years as a scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), William Watkins led the effort to collect and catalog the vocalizations made by marine mammals. In the last decade of his career, he strove to digitize his recordings, with the goal of making them publicly available.

Watkins passed away in 2004, but his ambition for his collection has finally been realized. A team from WHOI has launched the online, open-access William Watkins Marine Mammal Sound Database at http://cis.whoi.edu/science/B/whalesounds/index.cfm.

WHOI marine biologists Laela Sayigh and Michael Moore helped spearhead the development of the site. The database includes approximately 1,800 complete master tapes, along with more than 10,000 extracted digital sound clips.

Sound files on the website are free for scientists, teachers, students and the general public to download for personal or academic use.

Canada’s Fish Stocks in
Unhealthy, Uncertain State

Oceana Canada and Canadian marine scientists released the most comprehensive public study ever conducted on the state of Canada’s fish. The results revealed that less than a quarter of Canada’s fish stocks are considered healthy and the status of almost half is unknown. The report also outlines the extent to which overfishing and decades of poor management practices have severely depleted fish populations.

Canada is making more money from its seafood industry than ever before, but this is based primarily on a small number of shellfish stocks, mainly lobster, crab, shrimp and scallops. The lack of diversity makes coastal communities and the Canadian seafood industry vulnerable, as communities could have little to fall back on if these stocks decline. For instance, the collapse of the cod industry in 1992 led to tens of thousands of people out of work and financial losses of $4 billion. Today, only one stock has a rebuilding plan.

Crowdsourcing Coastal
Data for Open Database

Today, any boater can buy an echosounder kit, add a GPS system, record depth measurements, and make geospatial observations in a common reference frame. Rose Point Navigation Systems is working with system developers at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and with hydrographic experts at NOAA Coast Survey and others on an international effort to maintain crowdsourced bathymetry.

In a beta test, Rose Point added a new feature to Coastal Explorer that gives users an option to send anonymous GPS position and soundings data to a new international database managed by NCEI. After getting permission from users, Rose Point systems will generate data log files of positions, depths and time, and automatically transmit the files to the data center, where Coast Survey can pull the data to compare it to nautical charts. Data can come from anyone in the world, and everyone can access it.

Crowdsourced reports can focus attention on trouble areas. The data help cartographers determine whether a charted area needs to be re-surveyed, or if they can make changes based on the information at hand.

Seabed Mineral Resource
Exploration off Japan

Tokyo University has engaged Kaiyo Engineering to undertake seabed research using two Saab Seaeye robotic systems, the Leopard and the Falcon, to explore the feasibility of mining the gold-, cobalt- and copper-rich manganese crust.

The Leopard and the Falcon will also be used to examine the biodiversity surrounding the hydrothermal vent activity so that methods to protect the interconnecting ecosystems at and above target sites can be developed.


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